Bitcoin miners are eating up Canada’s electricity
Bitcoin mining requires 24/7 baseload demand
The 42 megawatt contract between Medicine Hat and Hut 8 Mining is small potatoes in the context of the world: a May 2018 report indicated that bitcoin currently consumes more than 2.5 gigawatts of electricity globally and potentially as high as 7.6 gigawatts in the near future.
But even at a small scale, the operations may present serious challenges to grids as they mine 24/7 and 365 days a year — effectively adding an entirely new “baseload” demand, or the amount of electricity required just to meet constant needs.
Christina Hoicka, assistant professor in environmental studies at York University, said in an interview with The Narwhal that policymakers are intelligently attempting to introduce electric vehicles into the system by charging them at nighttime. That’s because electricity demand is lowest at night, when most people are asleep, making for lower costs and less strain on the grid.
But cryptocurrency mining will occur both at night and day, meaning new power plants may be needed to supply enough electricity to all consumers during the daytime.
That’s especially relevant during the “winter peak,” which is the few hundred hours of extremely high electricity demand during the coldest parts of the year.
Côté of Hydro-Québec said without a change in the rules, the provincial utility would have been forced to connect all applicants as it has an obligation to serve people who make a request.
“They would have quickly used up all of our available capacity,” he said. “We would have needed to buy new capacity on the market. The result of that is that the rates for electricity in Quebec would have gone up for all of our customers.”