Crypto mining is an energy sapper

As provinces play the part of ‘parents trying to keep the energy bills down,’ crypto miners are playing the part of ‘little brother who stayed up all night gaming with the lights on.’

What happened: New crypto mining projects in B.C. will continue to be temporarily barred from tapping into the province’s energy supply after a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling. 

Catch-up: Crypto mining involves computers running 24/7 to solve complex math problems to unlock cryptocurrencies. It’s an astronomical energy suck, at a time when B.C. is being forced to import more power than ever. 

  • B.C. Hydro said one planned operation would have used 2.5 million megawatt-hours of electricity annually — enough juice to heat and power over 570,000 apartments. 

Big picture: Utilities for ManitobaQuébec, and Newfoundland and Labrador — which had all attracted mining projects due to relatively cheap energy — have passed similar measures to B.C.’s. New Brunswick even went so far as to ban selling energy to new projects outright.  

  • Even Alberta, a province more open to crypto, brought the hammer down recently, fining a crypto company $400,000 for running three unsanctioned crypto mines.

Why it matters: Provinces are struggling with higher power demands from a growing population, a shift to greener energy, and extreme weather like droughts. Crypto mining, with its colossal energy consumption, could hasten the decline of already languishing grids.

  • A new report estimated that bitcoin mining alone accounted for up to 0.9% of global electricity demand last year, as much as entire countries like Australia.

Yes, but: Crypto advocates argue that consumption numbers are overblown and that taking on projects would actually help places bolster power grids

What’s next: The U.S. will soon give us a clearer picture of crypto’s impact. This week, the  Department of Energy will start collecting data on crypto mines’ electricity use.—QH