Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Chart of the Day
13 May 2021updated 06 Sep 2021 2:15pm

Bitcoin consumes more electricity than Sweden and Ukraine

The cryptocurrency accounts for as much electricity usage as a medium-sized European country. 

By Michael Goodier

Billionaire crypto-speculator and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced that the car manufacturer will stop vehicle purchases using Bitcoin because of environmental concerns.

The currency, which dropped in value by more than 10 per cent after the announcement, relies on “mining” – which involves computers solving increasingly complex and energy intensive mathematical problems in order to generate the currency.

But just how energy intensive is it? Cambridge University’s Centre for Alternative Finance runs a Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBCEI), which puts the current electricity consumption of the cryptocurrency at 149.6TWh a year.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

When compared to data from the International Energy Agency for 2018 (the latest available year), that places it above Sweden and Ukraine for final electricity consumption.

The CBCEI also offers a lower Bitcoin electricity estimate of 46.8TWh (somewhere between Portugal and Hungary) and a higher estimate of 514.69 (between France and Germany).

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery

[See also: More than three million UK voters have no form of photo ID]