The power consumption of blockchain technology has become its latest flashpoint. Critics condemn it as an energy hog while proponents hail it for being less intensive than the current global economy.
The trading of Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation, currently consumes an estimated 150 terawatt-hours of electricity annually — more than the entire country of Argentina, a population of 45 million. It represents not only a climate dilemma – when the world is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, but possibly a social one – cryptocurrency operations have already been blamed for blackouts in places like Iran and Kazakhstan due to its strain on national power grids.
While there are those who think the very foray into blockchain is a profligate misallocation of resources, others say the technology’s youth means there is still much room for innovation in using power more efficiently and connecting systems to greener grids.
There’s also the benefits which blockchain technology brings to the world – especially in making financial transactions faster, safer and more transparent. The technology is also already being developed to improve the integrity of ESG mechanisms like verifying sustainability reports and monitoring supply chains.
How do these benefits weigh against the industry’s power consumption and the need to rapidly decarbonise? Is the technology a zero-sum game against the environment, or are there ways to exploit it sustainably? How do we get stakeholders to care more about its risks to environment and people?
Join the discussion on Cryptocurrency and Sustainability: The Energy Debate.