An online tool that launched this week called the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption CBECI, estimates how much energy is needed to maintain the Bitcoin network in real time, before using this to calculate its annual energy spend .
Currently, the CBECI says the global Bitcoin network is consuming more than seven gigwatts of electricity. Over the course of a year that’s equal to around 65 TWh or terawatt hours of energy consumption. That’s more than the country of Switzerland uses over the same time period (57 TWh yearly), but less than Colombia (69 TWh yearly).
Regardless of the exact figures, the energy usage of Bitcoin is certainly eyebrow raising. It’s increased rapidly, sometimes doubling in less than six months, and this sort of energy usages comes with a significant carbon footprint. Though, again, exact estimates of this environmental impact vary significantly because of the difficulty of determining how the electricity used to power Bitcoin’s mining hardware is generated.
The cryptocurrency also looks unwieldy in terms of day to day utility. Alex de Vries
a Bitcoin expert at PwC, told BBC News that the network processes fewer than 100 million transactions per year, a “completely insignificant” figure compared to the 500 billion payments processed by the traditional financial industry. de Vries estimates that Bitcoin uses more energy per transaction than all the rest of the world’s banks combined.