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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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Bitcoin

Top 10 Bitcoin Mining Countries & Their Renewable Electricity Mix

Bitcoin miners worldwide use about 348 TWh of electricity per year, as much as some countries, but just where does all that power come from?

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Teaser to an infographic showing the top 10 countries for Bitcoin mining, led by the U.S. Kazakhstan, and China, and their renewable electricity mix. Only China, Canada, Germany, and Ireland had renewable mixes above the global average of 30%.

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The following content is sponsored by HIVE Digital Technologies

Top 10 Bitcoin Mining Countries & Their Renewable Electricity Mix

Bitcoin miners use an estimated 348 terawatt hours of electricity per year, and with the world increasingly moving to renewables, some are asking the question: just where does Bitcoin get its electricity?

To answer that question, we partnered with HIVE Digital to visualize data from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance and Ember, a climate-oriented energy think tank, to look at the Bitcoin network’s electricity mix. 

This is part one in our How Green is Bitcoin? series, which examines the cryptocurrency’s sustainability.  

The World According to Bitcoin

The top 10 countries for Bitcoin mining represent 93.8% of the entire network by hashrate—a measure of computational power—with the U.S., China, and Kazakhstan rounding out the top three. Together these three countries hosted nearly three-quarters of the network at the end of 2021. 

CountryHashrate (%)Renewable (%)
U.S.37.8%22.5%
China21.1%30.2%
Kazakhstan13.2%11.3%
Canada6.5%69.7%
Russia4.7%18.5%
Germany3.1%43.0%
Malaysia2.5%19.1%
Ireland2.0%38.6%
Singapore2.0%2.4%
Thailand1.0%15.5%
Rest of the World6.3%30.1%

Source: Hashrate (%): Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance as of December 2021; Renewable (%) Ember, as of 2022.

China used to be the top spot for Bitcoin mining, up to 75% of global capacity, but a crackdown in the summer of 2021 saw their share drop to nil in just a couple months. Many miners relocated to nearby Kazakhstan, attracted by cheap electricity, loose regulations, and a ‘stable’ political climate, while others opted for the United States. A sizable covert mining scene has also emerged in China, now that the dust has settled.

At the bottom of the top 10 are Ireland, Singapore, and Thailand, which together host 4.9% of the network. Ireland’s reported share—and this applies to sixth-place Germany, as well—is thought to be a significant overstatement caused by miners in other countries masking their true locations.

The Role of Renewables

On a national basis, the U.S., China, and Kazakhstan each had renewable shares of 22.5%, 30.2%, and 11.3% respectively. For context, renewables made up 30% of the world’s electricity generation in 2022 (not including nuclear). 

Kazakhstan’s dismal renewable share is due to their heavy reliance on coal (60%), which is also a major export of the central Asian country. At the same time, coal contributes a similar amount of the electricity in China (61%), but their overall renewable share is higher because of their breakneck expansion of wind and solar power.

Wagons Ho?

Just where a Bitcoin miner sets up their rig is important, because unlike many other industries with factories or big head offices, they are mobile (Google ‘Bitcoin mining shipping containers’ if you need convincing).

Where they choose to put out their shingle is based on things like the regulatory regime, price of electricity, and because Bitcoin rigs generate a lot of heat, the average outdoor temperature. On this last point, here is how the top 10 breaks down by mean annual temperature:

Increasingly, though, with climate change driving the push to renewables, many Bitcoin miners are looking more closely at where their electricity is coming from. This could be why Canada—with its embarrassment of hydroelectric riches—has crept up the ranking from less than one percent of the network in 2019, to six-and-a-half percent at the end of 2021. 

But considering that top renewable countries such as Iceland, Paraguay, and Norway together only hosted just over one percent of the global network, there’s still a lot more room left for growth.

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Learn more about how Bitcoin miner and data center operator HIVE Digital is using clean, renewable energy at its facilities in Canada, Sweden, and Iceland.

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