A Short History: How Bitcoin Reached Parity With Gold
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Chart: How Bitcoin Reached Parity With Gold

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Chart: How Bitcoin Reached Parity With Gold

Chart: How Bitcoin Reached Parity With Gold

Charting the fast and volatile rise of bitcoin

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Would you rather have one bitcoin, or a single ounce of gold?

The answer used to be obvious. Even at the climax of the legendary 2013 rally, bitcoin was never able to reach unit-for-unit parity with gold.

However, since an off-year in 2014, the enigmatic cryptocurrency has steadily climbed in price to take the title of the best-performing currency in both 2015 and 2016. And today? After continuing its rally into 2017, the price of bitcoin has now passed this arbitrary, but psychologically important measure of parity with an ounce of gold.

How did we get here so fast?

Bitcoin: A Short History

Here are some of the most important events that have shaped the bitcoin market:

May 2010: The famous “Bitcoin Pizza” transaction takes place.
This is one of the first “real world” transactions, in which one man indirectly paid 10,000 BTC for two Papa John’s pizzas. That works out to a pretty steep price of over $6 million per pizza using today’s prices, but we are sure they were delicious. Today, May 22 is still celebrated as “Bitcoin Pizza Day” throughout the Bitcoin community.

February 2011: Bitcoin hits “dollar parity”.

October 2012: Bitpay says 1,000 merchants accept bitcoin payments.
Early adopters of the cryptocurrency included WordPress.com, Reddit, OKCupid, and The Pirate Bay.

Mar 2013: Cyprus bank bail-in.
Generally speaking, the European Debt Crisis was a major boon for bitcoin. However, this specific event really put the potential downsides of the banking system and centralized fiat currencies in the limelight.

Oct 2013: Silk Road Bust
As prices were soaring at the end of 2013, the FBI seized 26,000 BTC from Silk Road and its alleged owner, Ross Ulbricht.

Feb 2014: Mt. Gox files for bankruptcy protection
The world’s biggest exchange, which at one point controlled 70% of bitcoin transactions, was plagued with hacks and other problems. It finally went under in 2014.

Aug 2015: By this point, 160,000 merchants accept bitcoin payments

Dec 2016: Bitcoin is the world’s top performing currency for 2nd straight year
See our charts on this for 2015 and 2016.

Bitcoin’s Rise in Context

For enthusiasts and speculators that have followed the cryptocurrency since the beginning, the meteoric rise of bitcoin has been a wild ride.

However, despite the feat of reaching unit-for-unit parity with gold, it is important to take in some context.

Firstly, there are about 16.2 million BTC in circulation – and there are 5.6 billion oz of gold that have been mined throughout history. For that reason the value of the gold market is still more than 300x higher.

Next, while the value of the bitcoin market has soared exponentially since the early days, it is still only worth about $20 billion in total – this is about half of the value of the average company on the S&P 500 (~$40 billion). Compare the bitcoin market to an Apple or Google, and it seems even less extraordinary.

But for those people that follow the crypto markets closely, this above context actually represents the potential upside of the digital cryptocurrency. It means bitcoin still has lots of room to soar – and since bitcoin supply is limited and cannot be created out of thin air, there is nowhere for the price to go but up.

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Technology

The Cost of Mining Bitcoin in 198 Different Countries

Mining bitcoin is costly. But the exact price fluctuates, depending on the location and the cost of electricity in the area.

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Cost of Mining Bitcoin in 198 Different Countries

View a higher resolution version of this map.

It takes an estimated 1,449 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy to mine a single bitcoin. That’s the same amount of energy an average U.S. household consumes in approximately 13 years.

Given the high amount of energy needed to mine bitcoin, it can be a costly venture to get into. But exact prices fluctuate, depending on the location and the cost of electricity in the area.

Where are the cheapest and most expensive places to mine this popular cryptocurrency? This graphic by 911 Metallurgist provides a snapshot of the estimated cost of mining bitcoin around the world, using pricing and relative costs from March 23, 2022.

How Does Bitcoin Mining Work?

Before diving in, it’s worth briefly explaining the basics of bitcoin mining, and why it requires so much energy.

When someone mines for bitcoin, what they’re really doing is adding and verifying a new transaction record to the blockchain—the decentralized bank ledger where bitcoin is traded and distributed.

To create this new record, crypto miners need to crack a complex equation that’s been generated by the blockchain system.

Potentially tens of thousands of miners are racing to crack the same code at any given time. Only the first person to solve the equation gets rewarded (unless you’re part of a mining pool, which is essentially a group of miners who agree to combine efforts to increase their chances of solving the equation).

The faster your computing power is, the better your chances are of winning, so solving the equation first requires powerful equipment that takes up a lot of energy.

The Costs and Profits of Mining Bitcoin in 198 Countries

Across the 198 countries included in the dataset, the average cost to mine bitcoin sat at $35,404.03, more than bitcoin’s value of $20,863.69 on July 15, 2022. Though it’s important to note that fluctuating energy prices, and more or less miners on the bitcoin network, constantly change the necessary energy and final cost.

Here’s a breakdown of what the cost to mine one bitcoin in each country was in March 23, 2022, along with the potential profit after accounting for mining costs:

#CountryCost to mine 1 bitcoinProfit (July 15, 2022)
1🇰🇼 Kuwait$1,393.95$18,362.58
2🇩🇿 Algeria$4,181.86$15,574.67
3🇸🇩 Sudan$4,779.27$14,977.26
4🇾🇪 Yemen$7,161.77$12,594.76
5🇪🇹 Ethiopia$7,168.91$12,587.62
6🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan$7,168.91$12,587.62
7🇦🇴 Angola$7,368.04$12,388.49
8🇶🇦 Qatar$7,368.04$12,388.49
9🇰🇵 North Korea$7,744.32$12,012.21
10🇰🇿 Kazakhstan$8,762.00$10,994.53
11🇿🇲 Zambia$9,160.27$10,596.26
12🇦🇿 Azerbaijan$9,558.54$10,197.99
13🇧🇳 Brunei$9,956.81$9,799.72
14🇮🇷 Iran$10,355.09$9,401.44
15🇺🇿 Uzbekistan$10,355.09$9,401.44
16🇽🇰 Kosovo$10,560.17$9,196.36
17🇸🇬 Singapore$10,952.50$8,804.03
18🇲🇳 Mongolia$11,151.63$8,604.90
19🇧🇹 Bhutan$11,749.04$8,007.49
20🇧🇭 Bahrain$11,948.18$7,808.35
21🇴🇲 Oman$11,948.18$7,808.35
22🇹🇯 Tajikistan$12,545.59$7,210.94
23🇺🇦 Ukraine$12,744.72$7,011.81
24🇬🇪 Georgia$13,143.00$6,613.53
25🇦🇬 Paraguay$13,143.00$6,613.53
26🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago$13,143.00$6,613.53
27🇸🇷 Suriname$14,337.81$5,418.72
28🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$14,736.09$5,020.44
29🇦🇲 Armenia$15,333.50$4,423.03
30🇹🇳 Tunisia$15,333.50$4,423.03
31🇸🇾 Syria$15,532.63$4,223.90
32🇨🇬 Congo (Republic Of The)$16,130.04$3,626.49
33🇲🇲 Myanmar$16,130.04$3,626.49
34🇷🇺 Russia$16,130.04$3,626.49
35🇮🇶 Iraq$16,926.59$2,829.94
36🇲🇩 Moldova$16,926.59$2,829.94
37🇹🇷 Turkey$17,723.13$2,033.40
38🇷🇴 Romania$18,320.54$1,435.99
39🇦🇱 Albania$18,718.81$1,037.72
40🇧🇩 Bangladesh$18,718.81$1,037.72
41🇱🇮 Liechtenstein$18,917.95$838.58
42🇱🇹 Lithuania$18,917.95$838.58
43🇲🇿 Mozambique$19,117.08$639.45
44🇪🇬 Egypt$19,316.22$440.31
45🇨🇩 Congo (Democratic Republic Of The)$19,913.63-$157.10
46🇳🇴 Norway$20,112.77-$356.24
47🇦🇹 Austria$20,311.90-$555.37
48🇨🇱 Chile$20,311.90-$555.37
49🇪🇪 Estonia$20,511.04-$754.51
50🇸🇪 Sweden$20,710.18-$953.65
51🇨🇫 Central African Republic$20,909.31-$1,152.78
52🇺🇸 United States$21,088.53-$1,332.00
53🇧🇬 Bulgaria$21,307.58-$1,551.05
54🇮🇩 Indonesia$21,307.58-$1,551.05
55🇷🇸 Serbia$21,307.58-$1,551.05
56🇦🇷 Argentina$21,506.72-$1,750.19
57🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates$21,705.86-$1,949.33
58🇳🇬 Nigeria$22,303.27-$2,546.74
59🇲🇬 Madagascar$22,502.40-$2,745.87
60🇱🇻 Latvia$22,701.54-$2,945.01
61🇰🇷 South Korea$22,701.54-$2,945.01
62🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina$23,099.81-$3,343.28
63🇹🇼 Taiwan$23,298.95-$3,542.42
64🇮🇱 Israel$23,498.08-$3,741.55
65🇪🇨 Ecuador$23,697.22-$3,940.69
66🇲🇾 Malaysia$23,896.36-$4,139.83
67🇳🇵 Nepal$23,896.36-$4,139.83
68🇳🇿 New Zealand$23,896.36-$4,139.83
69🇱🇺 Luxembourg$24,095.49-$4,338.96
70🇮🇸 Iceland$24,294.63-$4,538.10
71🇨🇦 Canada$24,493.76-$4,737.23
72🇲🇦 Morocco$24,692.90-$4,936.37
73🇿🇼 Zimbabwe$24,692.90-$4,936.37
74🇻🇳 Vietnam$24,892.04-$5,135.51
75🇨🇮 Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)$25,091.17-$5,334.64
76🇱🇾 Libya$25,091.17-$5,334.64
77🇹🇿 Tanzania$25,091.17-$5,334.64
78🇦🇩 Andorra$25,276.27-$5,519.74
79🇨🇳 China$25,489.45-$5,732.92
80🇱🇧 Lebanon$25,887.72-$6,131.19
81🇱🇦 Laos$26,285.99-$6,529.46
82🇫🇮 Finland$26,485.13-$6,728.60
83🇫🇷 France$27,082.54-$7,326.01
84🇨🇭 Switzerland$27,082.54-$7,326.01
85🇵🇱 Poland$27,281.67-$7,525.14
86🇷🇼 Rwanda$27,281.67-$7,525.14
87🇹🇭 Thailand$27,281.67-$7,525.14
88🇨🇿 Czech Republic$27,480.81-$7,724.28
89🇱🇸 Lesotho$27,679.95-$7,923.42
90🇲🇪 Montenegro$28,078.22-$8,321.69
91🇲🇱 Mali$28,277.35-$8,520.82
92🇨🇷 Costa Rica$28,675.63-$8,919.10
93🇳🇱 Netherlands$28,675.63-$8,919.10
94🇧🇾 Belarus$29,273.04-$9,516.51
95🇳🇦 Namibia$30,069.58-$10,313.05
96🇲🇰 Macedonia, North$30,866.13-$11,109.60
97🇸🇲 San Marino$30,866.13-$11,109.60
98🇸🇰 Slovakia$31,065.26-$11,308.73
99🇿🇦 South Africa$32,060.94-$12,304.41
100🇧🇼 Botswana$32,459.22-$12,702.69
101🇸🇿 Swaziland$32,857.49-$13,100.96
102🇧🇪 Belgium$33,255.76-$13,499.23
103🇺🇾 Uruguay$33,255.76-$13,499.23
104🇧🇷 Brazil$33,454.90-$13,698.37
105🇭🇷 Croatia$33,454.90-$13,698.37
106🇮🇹 Italy$33,454.90-$13,698.37
107🇺🇬 Uganda$33,654.03-$13,897.50
108🇨🇲 Cameroon$33,853.17-$14,096.64
109🇲🇽 Mexico$33,853.17-$14,096.64
110🇲🇼 Malawi$34,251.44-$14,494.91
111🇧🇮 Burundi$34,450.58-$14,694.05
112🇱🇰 Sri Lanka$34,450.58-$14,694.05
113🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea$34,649.72-$14,893.19
114🇧🇴 Bolivia$34,848.85-$15,092.32
115🇲🇷 Mauritania$35,047.99-$15,291.46
116🇵🇸 Palestine$35,047.99-$15,291.46
117🇹🇬 Togo$35,047.99-$15,291.46
118🇦🇫 Afghanistan$35,844.53-$16,088.00
119🇭🇺 Hungary$35,844.53-$16,088.00
120🇸🇱 Sierra Leone$35,844.53-$16,088.00
121🇲🇨 Monaco$35,922.73-$16,166.20
122🇵🇭 Philippines$36,043.67-$16,287.14
123🇰🇭 Cambodia$36,242.81-$16,486.28
124🇸🇳 Senegal$36,242.81-$16,486.28
125🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe$36,441.94-$16,685.41
126🇮🇪 Ireland (Republic Of)$37,835.90-$18,079.37
127🇲🇹 Malta$37,835.90-$18,079.37
128🇨🇾 Cyprus$38,035.03-$18,278.50
129🇬🇦 Gabon$38,035.03-$18,278.50
130🇸🇻 El Salvador$38,831.58-$19,075.05
131🇵🇪 Peru$38,831.58-$19,075.05
132🇨🇴 Colombia$39,628.12-$19,871.59
133🇩🇴 Dominican Republic$40,026.40-$20,269.87
134🇬🇹 Guatemala$40,026.40-$20,269.87
135🇬🇲 The Gambia$40,225.53-$20,469.00
136🇬🇳 Guinea$40,424.67-$20,668.14
137🇮🇳 India$40,424.67-$20,668.14
138🇦🇺 Australia$40,623.81-$20,867.28
139🇬🇷 Greece$40,623.81-$20,867.28
140🇲🇺 Mauritius$40,822.94-$21,066.41
141🇧🇯 Benin$41,221.21-$21,464.68
142🇭🇳 Honduras$41,420.35-$21,663.82
143🇭🇹 Haiti$42,017.76-$22,261.23
144🇹🇩 Chad$42,216.90-$22,460.37
145🇳🇪 Niger$42,416.03-$22,659.50
146🇰🇪 Kenya$43,212.58-$23,456.05
147🇫🇯 Fiji$43,411.71-$23,655.18
148🇪🇷 Eritrea$43,610.85-$23,854.32
149🇸🇸 South Sudan$43,809.99-$24,053.46
150🇵🇰 Pakistan$44,208.26-$24,451.73
151🇵🇹 Portugal$44,208.26-$24,451.73
152🇧🇿 Belize$45,004.80-$25,248.27
153🇳🇷 Nauru$45,378.54-$25,622.01
154🇹🇱 Timor-Leste$46,597.89-$26,841.36
155🇬🇭 Ghana$46,996.17-$27,239.64
156🇯🇵 Japan$47,195.30-$27,438.77
157🇧🇫 Burkina Faso$47,394.44-$27,637.91
158🇩🇰 Denmark$48,190.98-$28,434.45
159🇯🇴 Jordan$48,987.53-$29,231.00
160🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England$49,301.82-$29,545.29
161🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland$50,090.64-$30,334.11
162🇵🇦 Panama$50,580.62-$30,824.09
163🇩🇪 Germany$50,978.89-$31,222.36
164🇬🇧 Ireland (Northern)$51,536.83-$31,780.30
165🇪🇸 Spain$51,775.44-$32,018.91
166🇩🇯 Djibouti$52,173.71-$32,417.18
167🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Wales$52,194.19-$32,437.66
168🇨🇻 Cape Verde$52,372.85-$32,616.32
169🇯🇲 Jamaica$52,571.98-$32,815.45
170🇧🇧 Barbados$52,970.26-$33,213.73
171🇸🇮 Slovenia$52,970.26-$33,213.73
172🇹🇻 Tuvalu$53,887.02-$34,130.49
173🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau$54,364.21-$34,607.68
174🇰🇲 Comoros$55,957.30-$36,200.77
175🇧🇸 Bahamas$56,753.85-$36,997.32
176🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea$57,550.39-$37,793.86
177🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis$60,935.71-$41,179.18
178🇬🇩 Grenada$61,533.12-$41,776.59
179🇵🇼 Palau$63,922.75-$44,166.22
180🇱🇨 Saint Lucia$63,922.75-$44,166.22
181🇸🇨 Seychelles$63,922.75-$44,166.22
182🇬🇾 Guyana$65,316.71-$45,560.18
183🇳🇮 Nicaragua$66,511.52-$46,754.99
184🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and Grenadines$68,901.16-$49,144.63
185🇹🇴 Tonga$72,087.34-$52,330.81
186🇩🇲 Dominica$73,282.16-$53,525.63
187​🇻🇺​ Vanuatu$76,070.07-$56,313.54
188🇼🇸​ Samoa$76,667.48-$56,910.95
189​🇨🇺​ Cuba$76,946.27-$57,189.74
190🇱🇷 Liberia$77,663.16-$57,906.63
191​🇲🇻​ Maldives$78,459.70-$58,703.17
192🇲🇭 Marshall Islands$80,849.34-$61,092.81
193🇸🇴 Somalia$82,044.16-$62,287.63
194🇰🇮 Kiribati$82,243.29-$62,486.76
195🇫🇲 Micronesia, Federated States Of$82,442.43-$62,685.90
196🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda$89,412.20-$69,655.67
197🇸🇧 Solomon Islands$142,581.59-$122,825.06
198🇻🇪 Venezuela$246,530.74-$226,774.21

Venezuela ranks as the number one most expensive country to mine bitcoin. It costs a whooping $246,530.74 to mine a single bitcoin in the South American country, meaning the process is far from profitable. Energy costs are so expensive in the country that miners would be out $225,667.05 for just one bitcoin.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the cheapest place to mine bitcoin is in Kuwait. It costs $1,393.95 to mine a single bitcoin in Kuwait, meaning miners could gain $19,469.74 in profits.

The Middle Eastern country has some of the cheapest electricity in the world, with one kWh costing an average of just 3 cents. For context, the average cost of one kWh in North America is 21 cents.

The Race is On

Despite the steep costs of bitcoin mining, many people believe it’s worth the upfront investment.

One thing that makes bitcoin particularly appealing is its finite supply—there are only 21 million coins available for mining, and as of this article’s publication, more than 19 million bitcoin have already been mined.

While the price of bitcoin (BTC) is notorious for its volatility, its value has still grown significantly over the last decade. And if cryptocurrencies become mainstream as many people believe they will, this could boost the price of bitcoin even further.

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Energy

Visualizing the Power Consumption of Bitcoin Mining

Bitcoin mining requires significant amounts of energy, but what does this consumption look like when compared to countries and companies?

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Visualizing the Power Consumption of Bitcoin Mining

Cryptocurrencies have been some of the most talked-about assets in recent months, with bitcoin and ether prices reaching record highs. These gains were driven by a flurry of announcements, including increased adoption by businesses and institutions.

Lesser known, however, is just how much electricity is required to power the Bitcoin network. To put this into perspective, we’ve used data from the University of Cambridge’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI) to compare Bitcoin’s power consumption with a variety of countries and companies.

Why Does Bitcoin Mining Require So Much Power?

When people mine bitcoins, what they’re really doing is updating the ledger of Bitcoin transactions, also known as the blockchain. This requires them to solve numerical puzzles which have a 64-digit hexadecimal solution known as a hash.

Miners may be rewarded with bitcoins, but only if they arrive at the solution before others. It is for this reason that Bitcoin mining facilities—warehouses filled with computers—have been popping up around the world.

These facilities enable miners to scale up their hashrate, also known as the number of hashes produced each second. A higher hashrate requires greater amounts of electricity, and in some cases can even overload local infrastructure.

Putting Bitcoin’s Power Consumption Into Perspective

On March 18, 2021, the annual power consumption of the Bitcoin network was estimated to be 129 terawatt-hours (TWh). Here’s how this number compares to a selection of countries, companies, and more.

NamePopulation Annual Electricity Consumption (TWh)
China1,443M6,543
United States330.2M3,989
All of the world’s data centers-205
State of New York19.3M161
Bitcoin network -129 
Norway5.4M124
Bangladesh165.7M70
Google-12
Facebook-5
Walt Disney World Resort (Florida)-1

Note: A terawatt hour (TWh) is a measure of electricity that represents 1 trillion watts sustained for one hour.
Source: Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, Science Mag, New York ISO, Forbes, Facebook, Reedy Creek Improvement District, Worldometer

If Bitcoin were a country, it would rank 29th out of a theoretical 196, narrowly exceeding Norway’s consumption of 124 TWh. When compared to larger countries like the U.S. (3,989 TWh) and China (6,543 TWh), the cryptocurrency’s energy consumption is relatively light.

For further comparison, the Bitcoin network consumes 1,708% more electricity than Google, but 39% less than all of the world’s data centers—together, these represent over 2 trillion gigabytes of storage.

Where Does This Energy Come From?

In a 2020 report by the University of Cambridge, researchers found that 76% of cryptominers rely on some degree of renewable energy to power their operations. There’s still room for improvement, though, as renewables account for just 39% of cryptomining’s total energy consumption.

Here’s how the share of cryptominers that use each energy type vary across four global regions.

Energy SourceAsia-PacificEuropeLatin America
and the Caribbean
North America
Hydroelectric65%60%67%61%
Natural gas38%33%17%44%
Coal65%2%0%28%
Wind23%7%0%22%
Oil12%7%33%22%
Nuclear12%7%0%22%
Solar12%13%17%17%
Geothermal8%0%0%6%

Source: University of Cambridge
Editor’s note: Numbers in each column are not meant to add to 100%

Hydroelectric energy is the most common source globally, and it gets used by at least 60% of cryptominers across all four regions. Other types of clean energy such as wind and solar appear to be less popular.

Coal energy plays a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region, and was the only source to match hydroelectricity in terms of usage. This can be largely attributed to China, which is currently the world’s largest consumer of coal.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge noted that they weren’t surprised by these findings, as the Chinese government’s strategy to ensure energy self-sufficiency has led to an oversupply of both hydroelectric and coal power plants.

Towards a Greener Crypto Future

As cryptocurrencies move further into the mainstream, it’s likely that governments and other regulators will turn their attention to the industry’s carbon footprint. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however.

Mike Colyer, CEO of Foundry, a blockchain financing provider, believes that cryptomining can support the global transition to renewable energy. More specifically, he believes that clustering cryptomining facilities near renewable energy projects can mitigate a common issue: an oversupply of electricity.

“It allows for a faster payback on solar projects or wind projects… because they would [otherwise] produce too much energy for the grid in that area”
– Mike Colyer, CEO, Foundry

This type of thinking appears to be taking hold in China as well. In April 2020, Ya’an, a city located in China’s Sichuan province, issued a public guidance encouraging blockchain firms to take advantage of its excess hydroelectricity.

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