According to figures compiled by Galaxy Digital, the yearly energy usage of Bitcoin stands at 114TWh, while the banking industry consumes over 260 TWh every year.
Amid ongoing misplaced concerns over Bitcoin’s energy consumption required to distribute newly minted coins, a new study has found that the traditional banking system consumes far more energy than the bitcoin network.
Michael Novogratz’ crypto firm Galaxy Digital released a report titled “On Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption: A Quantitative Approach to a Subjective Question,” providing open access to its methodology and calculations.
Compiled by the firm’s mining arm, the study approximates bitcoin’s annual energy consumption to stand at 113.89 TWh, which includes energy for miner demand, power consumption, pool power and node power consumption. According to the estimations, the figure is at least two times lower than the energy consumed by the legacy banking system as well as the gold industry on a yearly basis.
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While bitcoin’s energy consumption is transparent and easily tracked in real time with tools liek Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, it’s far more difficult to evaluate the gold and traditional financial systems, Galaxy Digital Mining stated.
“The banking industry does not directly report electricity consumption data,” the report said, adding that both retail and commercial banking systems have multiple settlement layers as opposed to bitcoin’s final settlement. Using their estimations of power usage by the old system, which includes data centres, bank branches, ATMs and card network data centres, the total consumption of this system was estimated to be 263.72 TWh globally.
To calculate the energy consumption of the gold sector, researchers implemented estimates for the industry’s total greenhouse gas emissions provided in the World’s Gold Council’s report titled “Gold and climate change: Current and future impacts.” The study estimated that gold roughly uses 240.61 TWh/year. “These estimates may exclude key sources of energy use and emissions that are second order effects of the gold industry like the energy and carbon intensity of the tires used in gold mines,” Galaxy noted.
The energy consumption analysis comes amidst a crypto market correction believed to be partly propelled by Tesla’s Elon Musk who raised concerns about bitcoin’s energy usage. Last week, the CEO wrote on Twitter: “Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment“.
Musk’s comparisons spurred wide-scale criticism from the crypto community, who pointed out the inaccuracy of comparing energy/transaction costs when most energy is actually needed to mint new bitcoins, not for transactions. Since bitcoin’s supply eventually tapers off (due to 21 million hard cap), the question of energy consumption is largely answered within the protocol itself. Still, bitcoin developers are not asleep at the wheel as discussions around renewable energy and reliable power continue to be a point of interest.
Just yesterday, MicroStrategy’s Michael Saylor elaborated on why bitcoin is the most efficient mechanism for turning energy into prosperity.
Overall, markets shed over $500 billion, with bitcoin today dipping below $43,000 for the first time since early February. The executive has provided mixed signals as to what Tesla plans to do with its bitcoin holdings, first agreeing to a tweet suggesting the company will unload its holdings, only to reverse that position a few moments later in another tweet.
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