Bitcoin
(Cesc Maymo/Getty Images)
  • Bitcoin now uses 80% more energy than it did at the beginning of 2020.
  • Bitcoin uses 128 terawatt-hours annually, according to estimates from Cambridge.
  • The cryptocurrency is responsible for 0.59% of total worldwide energy consumption.
  • See more stories on Business Insider SA's home page.

Bitcoin's energy consumption has jumped 80% since the beginning of 2020 amid a meteoric rise for the digital currency.

According to Cambridge's Centre for Alternative Finance, the cryptocurrency's estimated annualised electricity consumption at the beginning of 2020 was 71.07 terawatt-hours. On March 11 of this year, that figure hit 128 terawatt-hours.

For reference, in all of 2019, Australia's main electric grid used only 192 terawatt-hours. And the entire country of Argentina uses just 125 terawatt-hours annually.

Bitcoin now represents 0.59% of total worldwide energy consumption, according to Cambridge, and if you were to rank every country in terms of their total energy consumption including bitcoin, the digital asset would be the 29th largest consumer of power on the planet.

Bitcoin's excessive energy use and climate change impact have been under scrutiny from all sides lately. Experts have repeatedly warned about the "staggering" amount of energy required to mine the digital currency.

Even Bill Gates has critiqued bitcoin for its environmental impact.

"Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind," Gates said in a Clubhouse interview with New York Times reporter and CNBC co-anchor Andrew Ross. "It's not a great climate thing."

On the other hand, some experts say bitcoin's energy use isn't an issue as long as the energy comes from green sources, and it appears there has been a transition to using more green energy for digital currencies.

In September of last year the 3rd Global Cryptoasset Benchmarking Study, also from the University of Cambridge, showed 39% of the energy consumed by cryptocurrencies comes from renewable energy sources.

That's a significant improvement from the 2nd Global Cryptoasset Benchmarking Study, which revealed that just 28% of the total energy consumed by crypto mining came from renewable sources.

Still, many experts contend cryptocurrencies have a long way to go if they want to silence critics of the coin's climate change effects.

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