Bitcoin is the energy saver the world is waiting for
In most opinions on Bitcoin and energy I sense a tendency towards the Bitcoin network being a polluting system wasting loads of energy… As that is the total opposite of how I see it, I think the time is now to share why I think that Bitcoin is the actual energy saver the world is waiting for.
Stating the energy consumption of Bitcoin is to be regarded as waste would assume a thoughtlessly or carelessly spending of money on behalf of Bitcoin. Of course this is a subjective matter, but there is more.
A vital stake
Spending money on energy on the network is a well thought through property of Bitcoin. The energy is used for mining which is a vital part for Bitcoin to function. Miners verify transactions and the state of the blockchain. Doing so they get rewarded for their effort with transaction costs and a bonus (new bitcoins). To be sure this system of mining is resistant to cheating, miners have to put something at stake: the costs of energy. This stake completes the consensus mechanism. If this wouldn’t be the case, the system would fail.
Cost saving mechanism
Of course these miners are always seeking for the cheapest energy to mine. This happens to be on geographic places where there is plenty of energy and not too much customers. More then often they tap in on unused sources or use green alternatives directly at the source to lower their costs. And this will happen more and more. Not because of regulations, but because of economics.
Please bear in mind that there is enough solar energy in 1% of the Sahara desert to supply the whole world. Will this cost money to deploy? Yes. Will it pollute? Not in the way we think of polluting now. Bitcoin miners will accelerate the development of facilities like this because of cost benefits. Other industries will benefit. And because it still requires investment in energy, Bitcoin stays secured.
But Bitcoin’s energy consumption keeps on growing!
Probably, but not necessarily. It’s not “the more transactions, the more energy consumption”. The energy consumption grows with the amount of miners active in mining. The more competition, the more power consumption. If Bitcoin becomes less popular to mine, and miners switch to other chains, power consumption could decrease for Bitcoin. The power consumption and maximum capacity of the chips which are used play a role too. In short: yes increase of power consumption is to be expected, but no, not exponentially.
And what about all these other chains?
Proof of Work (PoW), the consensus mechanism of Bitcoin, can offer us the most secure network of the world. The more miners, the more secure. This means as well that having a PoW chain with just a few miners is not really offering more security then any other database. What we will see over time is that the world only needs a few PoW blockchains. Bitcoin and some direct competitors to assure healthy innovation.
But can Bitcoin serve the world?
Bitcoin can serve the world. Especially when you look at it as the base layer of trust. Lightning Network is a second layer network making it possible to process millions of transactions while only settling in the Bitcoin blockchain at certain intervals. Komodo Platform is another example of a system leveraging the security of the Bitcoin network by using a consensus mechanism called delayed PoW (dPoW). With that Komodo stores a fingerprint of their current blockchain status in Bitcoin so there is no future doubt in what was the valid chain at that point in time. In fact, any system or dataset can secure itself with a timestamped fingerprint in Bitcoin, making Bitcoin widely applicable.
The efficiency of blockchain
So Proof of Work (PoW) is an energy consumer. But we also have other ways to come to consensus, like the close to zero energy consuming Proof of Stake (PoS) or the efficient way a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) secures itself. However, none are as secure as Bitcoin’s PoW. But now you learned they don’t have to. They can secure themselves in Bitcoin when and if needed.
And now think of the other efficiencies of blockchain as well. Blockchain’s immutability combined with conditions and smart contracts makes that audits can be performed on the system design up front, and not periodically afterwards (like is done now).
Try to imagine the implications… Take for example your companies book keeping. Now you need an accountant each year to sort out all your bookings and audit if it’s done correctly. In the blockchain future the accountant sets up your book keeping rules once, a contract enforces them and the blockchain shows the actual situation at any time. As you can’t cheat. no further audits are needed.
Of course, this only works in a closed digital system of crypto currencies and we aren’t there yet. But you kind of get the enormous potential of labor and energy savings here.
So why is Bitcoin an energy saver on the long term?
Bitcoin will be the top layer of security like gold once used to be for finance. Gold is a very polluting and energy consuming store of value itself, so replacing Gold with Bitcoin is one factor of energy saving. But think of all other systems that can be secured using Bitcoin, think of all the ‘underlying’ blockchain tech which saves energy and can get additional security from Bitcoin whenever and wherever needed.
Think of all that and add the sources of clean energy which become available faster for all industries because of miner economics. Just imagine and it is hard to think of Bitcoin as a polluter. Instead, Bitcoin is the energy saver the world is waiting for.