Regardless of where you stand on Bitcoin, one thing is certain: Bitcoin is spurring innovation that will lift multiple industries out of their current status quo, not just the financial sector. From healthcare to energy, ancillary innovation and ingenuity coming from the bitcoin industry will reshape key pillars across society for the better.
But the emissions … It’s well documented that the power-hungry nature of bitcoin mining can create negative environmental impacts. Much of the documentation is from a single report. What’s less reported is that the environmental impact of bitcoin mining is due to its power consumption, which is a direct reflection of our existing power mix. The fact is, bitcoin mining companies are plugging into the same grid as all other industries. Manufacturing represents 81% of energy consumption in U.S. industries, with chemicals representing 37%.
Yet when was the last time we saw politicians tweet about chemical plants’ energy consumption?
Alexandra DaCosta is CEO of Aspen Creek Digital Corporation (ACDC). Prior to ACDC, she spent 18 years on Wall Street where she was most recently head of ESG and impact investing at Cantor Fitzgerald.
Bitcoin’s energy consumption and its thirst for cheap power should be seen for what it really is: an opportunity for innovation. Bitcoin is unlocking solutions to the most pressing challenge of our time, climate change. Banning Bitcoin, or trying to tax bitcoin mining out of existence, isn’t going to solve the issues this country has around the available mix of power and grid stability – but supporting Bitcoin and bitcoin mining just might. The industry’s massive energy requirements are exactly what we need to lead the renewable power revolution, and to upgrade transmission, because while the government has soundly solved the supply issue with the Inflation Reduction Act, the demand issue is still lacking. Renewables are intermittent, transmission is limited, and our existing power sources are not equipped to turn up or down flexibility. Throwing tens of billions of dollars at standing up fossil fuels-based dispatchable load seems misguided when you have gigawatts of dispatchable load in the form of mining already popping up, at no cost to taxpayers.
Simply put, we cannot rely on renewables to reach our decarbonization goals, nor can we blindly rely on our existing grids to remain stable without improving and supporting the infrastructure around them. Enter Bitcoin: a vast amount of money and effort in bitcoin mining is being funneled into building a new way of interacting with power – new financial technologies, new methods of interconnection, and new software to interact seamlessly with the grid. The industry is full of creative and strategic players who are economically incentivized to focus on accessing cheap power and work in close step with the grid’s supply and demand.
Some bitcoin industry actors are finding ways to turn the power consumption paradigm on its head. My company, Aspen Creek Digital Corporation (ACDC), is using mining’s intense energy demands to stand up new renewable assets like solar, wind and batteries. Over the next three years, ACDC will help stand up a three-gigawatt pipeline of solar energy, with current operations in Colorado and Texas – the equivalent of six million homes’ worth of power. Our facilities are powered by renewables that are sized greater than our needs, so we can send new, clean power to the grid. In the case of our Texas facility, we only consume 30 megawatts of the 87 megawatts of solar production; the rest is sent to Houston. Our facilities act as a giant battery for the power grid, using up power when demand is low and sending it back to the grid when homes and communities need it, such as during a storm or heat wave. ACDC proved this concept when we curtailed during the December storms in Texas: we sent our additional solar generation to the Houston grid, powering 10,000 homes over the holidays.
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Our country’s antiquated grid is the barrier to our energy goals, and the issues of power curtailment, flexible power demand and the reimagined relationship between power generation and power consumption are only going to expand in both popularity and necessity. We need to harness innovation that will fully unleash renewable energy and climate-tech breakthroughs, and bitcoin is a proven solution that’s right under our nose.
Innovation is going to get us from where we are, to where we need to be, from climate tech to financial policies and everywhere in between. Innovation and growth take many forms, and they disrupt and challenge the status quo. Nothing brings people together like a common foe; perhaps we can agree that the enemy is the existing state of affairs.