The amount of electricity consumed by bitcoin mining is not the global environmental crisis it is often portrayed to be. This is the professional assessment of Dr. Katrina Kelly-Pitou, a research associate in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
‘New Technologies Are Energy Intensive’
Writing in an article penned for non-profit academic media outlet The Conversation, Kelly-Pitou criticizes the characterization of bitcoin mining’s energy consumption as some sort of fatal design flaw, stating that the general narrative around cryptocurrency as an environmental risk is a gross oversimplification that encourages the spread of factual inaccuracies as received wisdom.
Explaining why she thinks of the so-called “bitcoin energy crisis” as a red herring, she says:
“I am a researcher who studies clean energy technology, specifically the transition toward decarbonized energy systems…New technologies – such as data centers, computers and before them trains, planes and automobiles – are often energy-intensive. Over time, all of these have become more efficient, a natural progression of any technology: Saving energy equates to saving costs.”
At a time when a lot of the conversation around the future of bitcoin mining is dominated by statistics such as the fact that it currently consumes almost as much electricity as the Republic of Ireland, Kelly-Pitou believes that to restrict the conversation to the energy consumption of bitcoin mining alone is to miss a larger truth about energy and environmental concerns.
In her opinion, the use of renewable energy allows for increased power consumption for any purpose including bitcoin mining without having any negative environmental impact. The conversation should instead, she says, be centered around where the electricity used to power cryptocurrency mining comes from and how it is generated.