The Bitcoin network consumes at least 2.6 gigawatts of electricity, nearly as much as Ireland does with its population of 4.7 million, according to a new study authored by analyst Alex de Vries. The report predicts that the energy footprint of the world's most popular cryptocurrency will reach 7.7GW by the end of the year, thus amounting to close to 0.5-percent of the global electricity needs. The Bitcoin network is now consuming 67TWh of energy on a yearly basis, up from 32TWh estimated by the same author in December.
The figures themselves are speculative to a degree as the decentralized nature of the blockchain technology behind Bitcoin eliminates the possibility of taking highly accurate measurements, according to the author. The estimates are hence largely derived from the computing capabilities of the Bitcoin network, though the fact that miners around the world are opting for highly diversified rigs makes direct conversions of processing power to energy consumption impossible. Mr. de Vries hence opted for the most conservative method and assumed every miner on the planet is using the most efficient rig available - the Antminer S9. Given how that's verifiably not the case, the actual energy footprint of the Bitcoin network is understood to be much higher and may even surpass a single percentage point of all energy consumption on the planet by early 2019.
The new figures underline concerns about the viability of mining Bitcoin as a business endeavor, with many critics maintaining that doing so remains nothing short of a gamble. The currency is still enjoying support from some high-profile industry veterans such as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, whereas a significant portion of the technology industry is presently exploring the blockchain segment in general, even if they aren't certain or even optimistic about the long-term prospects of Bitcoin itself. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are just some of the names that have already confirmed they're pursuing new use cases for digital public ledgers, i.e. blockchain solutions.