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.
|Name||Population||Annual Electricity Consumption (TWh)|
|All of the world’s data centers||-||205|
|State of New York||19.3M||161|
|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 Source||Asia-Pacific||Europe||Latin America|
and the Caribbean
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.
Visualizing U.S. Crude Oil and Petroleum Product Imports in 2021
This visualization breaks down U.S. oil imports by country for 2021, showing the split by OPEC and non-OPEC nations.
U.S. Petroleum Product and Crude Oil Imports in 2021: Visualized
Energy independence is top of mind for many nations as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted sanctions and bans against Russian coal and crude oil imports.
Despite being the world’s largest oil producer, in 2021 the U.S. still imported more than 3 billion barrels of crude oil and petroleum products, equal to 43% of the country’s consumption.
This visualization uses data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) to compare U.S. crude oil and refined product imports with domestic crude oil production, and breaks down which countries the U.S. imported its oil from in 2021.
U.S. Crude Oil Imports, by Country
The U.S. imports more than 8 million barrels of petroleum products a day from other nations, making it the world’s second-largest importer of crude oil behind China.
America’s northern neighbor, Canada, is the largest source of petroleum imports at 1.58 billion barrels in 2021. These made up more than 51% of U.S. petroleum imports, and when counting only crude oil imports, Canada’s share rises to 62%.
|Rank||Country||U.S. Oil Imports (2021, in barrels)||Share|
|#1||🇨🇦 Canada||1,584 million||51.3%|
|#2||🇲🇽 Mexico||259 million||8.4%|
|#3||🇷🇺 Russia||254 million||7.9%|
|#4||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||156 million||5.1%|
|#5||🇨🇴 Colombia||74 million||2.4%|
|#6||🇪🇨 Ecuador||61 million||2.0%|
|#7||🇮🇶 Iraq||57 million||1.9%|
|#8||🇧🇷 Brazil||52 million||1.7%|
|#9||🇰🇷 South Korea||48 million||1.6%|
|#10||🇳🇱 Netherlands||46 million||1.5%|
|#11||🇳🇬 Nigeria||45 million||1.5%|
|Other countries||459 million||14.7%|
The second-largest contributor to U.S. petroleum imports was another neighbor, Mexico, with 259 million barrels imported in 2021—making up a bit more than 8% of U.S. petroleum imports.
Russia was the third-largest exporter of crude oil and petroleum products to the U.S. in 2021, with their 254 million barrels accounting for almost 8% of total imports.
U.S. Crude Oil and Petroleum Imports from OPEC and OPEC+
Only about 11% of U.S. crude oil and petroleum product imports come from OPEC nations, with another 16.3% coming from OPEC+ members.
While imports from OPEC and OPEC+ members make up more than a quarter of America’s total petroleum imports, this share is fairly small when considering OPEC members currently control nearly 80% of the world’s oil reserves.
Which Countries are Part of OPEC and OPEC-Plus?
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a group of 13 petroleum producing nations that formed in 1960 to provide steady prices and supply distribution of crude oil and petroleum products.
In 2016, OPEC-plus was formed with additional oil-exporting nations in order to better control global oil supply and markets in response to a deluge of U.S. shale supply hitting the markets at that time.
- 🇮🇷 Iran*
- 🇮🇶 Iraq*
- 🇰🇼 Kuwait*
- 🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia*
- 🇻🇪 Venezuela*
- 🇩🇿 Algeria
- 🇦🇴 Angola
- 🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea
- 🇬🇦 Gabon
- 🇱🇾 Libya
- 🇳🇬 Nigeria
- 🇨🇩 Republic of the Congo
- 🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates
* Founding members
- 🇷🇺 Russia
- 🇲🇽 Mexico
- 🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
- 🇲🇾 Malaysia
- 🇦🇿 Azerbaijan
- 🇧🇭 Bahrain
- 🇧🇳 Brunei
- 🇴🇲 Oman
- 🇸🇩 Sudan
- 🇸🇸 South Sudan
Although OPEC and OPEC+ members supply a significant part of U.S. crude oil and petroleum imports, America has avoided overdependence on the group by instead building strong ties with neighboring exporters Canada and Mexico.
Crude Oil Imports Capitalize on U.S. Refineries
While the U.S. has been a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum products the past two years, exporting 3.15 billion barrels while importing 3.09 billion barrels in 2021, crude oil-only trade tells a different story.
In terms of just crude oil trade, the U.S. was a significant net importer, with 2.23 billion barrels of crude oil imports and only 1.08 billion barrels of crude oil exports. But with the U.S. being the world’s largest crude oil producer, why is this?
As noted earlier, neighboring Canada makes up larger shares of U.S. crude oil imports compared to crude oil and petroleum product imports. Similarly, Mexico reaches 10% of America’s crude oil imports when excluding petroleum products.
Maximizing imports from neighboring countries makes sense on multiple fronts for all parties due to lower transportation costs and risks, and it’s no surprise Canada and Mexico are providing large shares of just crude oil as well. With such a large collection of oil refineries across the border, it’s ultimately more cost-efficient for Canada and Mexico to tap into U.S. oil refining rather than refining domestically.
In turn, Mexico is the largest importer of U.S. produced gasoline and diesel fuel, and Canada is the third-largest importer of American-produced refined petroleum products.
Replacing Russian Crude Oil Imports
While Russia only makes up 8% of American petroleum product imports, their 254 million barrels will need to be replaced as both countries ceased trading soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In an effort to curb rising oil and gasoline prices, in March President Joe Biden announced the release of up to 180 million barrels from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves. Other IEA nations are also releasing emergency oil reserves in an attempt to curb rising prices at the pump and volatility in the oil market.
While the U.S. and the rest of the world are still managing the short-term solutions to this oil supply gap, the long-term solution is complex and has various moving parts. From ramping up domestic oil production to replacing oil demand with other cleaner energy solutions, oil trade and imports will remain a vital part of America’s energy supply.
Mapped: Solar and Wind Power by Country
Wind and solar make up 10% of the world’s electricity. Combined, they are the fourth-largest source of electricity after coal, gas, and hydro.
Mapped: Solar and Wind Power by Country
Wind and solar generate over a tenth of the world’s electricity. Taken together, they are the fourth-largest source of electricity, behind coal, gas, and hydro.
This infographic based on data from Ember shows the rise of electricity from these two clean sources over the last decade.
Europe Leads in Wind and Solar
Wind and solar generated 10.3% of global electricity for the first time in 2021, rising from 9.3% in 2020, and doubling their share compared to 2015 when the Paris Climate Agreement was signed.
In fact, 50 countries (26%) generated over a tenth of their electricity from wind and solar in 2021, with seven countries hitting this landmark for the first time: China, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Argentina, Hungary, and El Salvador.
Denmark and Uruguay achieved 52% and 47% respectively, leading the way in technology for high renewable grid integration.
|Rank||Top Countries||Solar/Wind Power Share|
|#10||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||25.2%|
From a regional perspective, Europe leads with nine of the top 10 countries. On the flipside, the Middle East and Africa have the fewest countries reaching the 10% threshold.
Further Renewables Growth Needed to meet Global Climate Goals
The electricity sector was the highest greenhouse gas emitting sector in 2020.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the sector needs to hit net zero globally by 2040 to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees. And to hit that goal, wind and solar power need to grow at nearly a 20% clip each year to 2030.
Despite the record rise in renewables, solar and wind electricity generation growth currently doesn’t meet the required marks to reach the Paris Agreement’s goals.
In fact, when the world faced an unprecedented surge in electricity demand in 2021, only 29% of the global rise in electricity demand was met with solar and wind.
Even as emissions from the electricity sector are at an all-time high, there are signs that the global electricity transition is underway.
Governments like the U.S., Germany, UK, and Canada are planning to increase their share of clean electricity within the next decade and a half. Investments are also coming from the private sector, with companies like Amazon and Apple extending their positions on renewable energy to become some of the biggest buyers overall.
More wind and solar are being added to grids than ever, with renewables expected to provide the majority of clean electricity needed to phase out fossil fuels.
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