The White House just published a 46 pages memo investigating the energy implications consumption of crypto assets in the USA.
For context. Cryptocurrency mining operations are going where the electricity is the cheapest they can get. Texas has one of the cheaper electricity rates in the US.
There are many interesting figures and insights in the memo. The most interesting for me was concrete numbers about the current and planned electricity consumption of mining operations in Texas, page 17:
“Many crypto-asset miners have moved their operations to Texas. The Electricity Reliability
Council of Texas (ERCOT) is the grid system operator for the majority of Texas, and has a peak
summer electricity demand of about 76 gigawatts (GW), and current crypto-asset mining activity
of about 2 GW.”
“ERCOT has about 17 GW of crypto-asset facilities that are in the process of
connecting to the grid, with an expected 5 to 6 GW of new demand in the next 12 to 15 months
(equivalent to the power demand of the city of Houston). ERCOT may also see an additional 25
GW over the next decade.”
“While many of these projects may not be completed, the prospect of
up to 25 GW of new electricity demand from crypto-asset mining — equivalent to a third of
existing peak electricity demand in Texas — raises potential challenges for maintaining
electricity reliability, especially with rising power demands and extreme temperatures over
(page 6) “As of August 2022, Bitcoin is estimated to account for 60% to 77% of total global crypto-asset electricity usage, and Ethereum is estimated to account for 20% to 39%“.
For reference, a nuclear reactor can generate 500-1000 MW continuously. Coin mining facilities are intended to operate at capacity at all times (base load), continuously minting coins.
The figures provided by the White House / ERCOT put active cryptomining operations at 2 GW of demand in Texas, that’s equivalent to the electricity generated by 2-4 nuclear reactors.
There are 17 GW of mining facilities waiting to be connected in Texas, or the electricity generated by 17-34 nuclear reactors. (That would explain why new facilities are getting delayed, there’s simply no electricity to supply them?)
The White House is expecting Texas to have to cover a demand of 47 GW from coin mining operations in the next decade. That’s the output from 47-96 nuclear reactors.
Not all operations may go live in the end and not all operations may be running simultaneously at full capacity (they certainly cannot). This makes little difference, since a fraction of the expected demand is a monumental number in its own right.
For another comparison, the nuclear capacity of France is around 61 GW, though not all nuclear power plants may run simultaneously and at peak capacity. At the time of writing this article, France is producing 23 GW of nuclear power (total is 42GW across all sources).