Mining cryptos is a resource-intensive computational labor that consumes huge amounts of power and this has led to the industry leaving a huge carbon footprint. A few years ago, cryptocurrencies posed little to no threat to the environment but since the rise of Bitcoin back in 2018, more people have become interested in cryptocurrencies.
This has led to the reduction of mineable coins, making it even harder to mine a single block. To counter this, individuals and companies alike have upgraded their computers to include GPUS, a better cooling system, and a good power supply. All the hardware additions are energy-intensive and given that some companies have mining farms, it was only a matter of time before its energy consumption blew up.
With pressure from governments and climate lobbyists, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are realizing the effect mining has on the environment and are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. While major cryptocurrencies have a long way before reaching their goal, there are a few environment-friendly coins that are worth looking into.
Is Bitcoin climate unfriendly cryptocurrency?
In 2021 Elon Musk announced that Tesla would allow customers to purchase products with Bitcoin. He even went further by purchasing Bitcoin worth $1.5 Billion, making the coin bullish. But a few months in, he withdrew his statement claiming that the company would not support Bitcoin transactions until the mining process became environment friendly.
Bitcoin and Ether are considered to be the most environmentally unfriendly cryptocurrencies in the market. Individuals and companies alike are setting up huge mining warehouses to cash in on the huge crypto frenzy. These warehouses consume a gigantic amount of power, given that there are rows of high-performing computers that have to be on every time.
So the total energy consumption from all nodes on the Bitcoin is huge and can be compared to that of a small country. Well, that is a lot of energy and with pressure from corporations and individuals to curb their carbon footprint, the company has aligned its future toward zero emission.
How much energy does Bitcoin mining consume?
With Bitcoin being the most popular cryptocurrency, it is heavily mined and requires resource-intensive computational labor. Over 18.5 Million Bitcoin has been mined since it was founded back in 2008. Back then you could mine using an average computer, but there is a finite number of Bitcoin (21 Million) to be mined.
Mining now requires special hardware like GPUs and cooling systems that can handle the intense power required to mine Bitcoin. This means that for the 10 minutes it takes to mine a BTC block, it consumes up to 72 Terawatts.
The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF), researched how much energy Bitcoin actually consumes. The results show that to mine one BTC, it takes up to 72 Terawatts hours (72,000 GW) of power using average power consumption provided by ASIC miners. Annually, Bitcoin consumes 110 Terawatt Hourly which is 0.55% of the global electricity production, this is the amount of energy small countries like Sweden or Malaysia consume.
What are environmentally friendlier alternatives to Bitcoin?
Since the shocking announcement by Elon Musk, people are more aware of the impact mining has on the environment and are looking for eco-friendly alternatives to Bitcoin. Not all cryptocurrencies are as energy-intensive as Ether or Bitcoin, this is because of different models for creating blocks and validating transactions.
For example, Cardano which claims to be the most environmentally sustainable cryptocurrency uses the proof-of-stake model which requires less power compared to the proof-of-work model being used by Bitcoin. There are a few environment-friendly coin alternatives, like Stellar, CHIA, XRP, and Nano which claim to reduce energy consumption. $2.16
Why are these less polluting than Bitcoin?
The reason these cryptocurrencies pollute less than Bitcoin boils down to the business model which is used to generate blocks and validating transactions. The proof-of-work model is widely used by major crypto coins like Bitcoin. The model is a form of cryptographic zero-knowledge authentication where the prover proves to verifiers that a certain amount of specific computational effort has been expended.
Proof-of-work requires huge amounts of energy and a critical element in making mining less environment friendly. On the other hand, the proof-of-stake/ mine model allocates mining power based on the miner’s coin percentage. This saves a lot of power because instead of giving unlimited power to create new coins, the cryptos will give you power equivalent to your coin holdings.
For example, if a miner owns 5% of a certain coin, then the platform will allocate them 5% worth of power. Proof-of-stake eliminates the need for energy-intensive computers which means an average laptop or desktop can mine successfully, rather than a warehouse full of computers.
Is Ethereum more energy efficient than Bitcoin?
While the margins do not make a huge difference in terms of leaving a greener environment, you could say that Ethereum is more energy efficient compared to Bitcoin. The rivalry between Ethereum and Bitcoin is well known with Bitcoin taking the lead in terms of market cap and trading volume.
Ethereum miners were estimated to consume 44.49 Terawatts per hour annually which accumulates up to 5.13 gigawatts when running continuously. Bitcoin consumes more, standing at 72 Terawatts per hour it is so energy-intensive that the energy needed to mine a coin could power a small country.
Giving in to public demand, Ethereum announced it would change from proof-of-work to a proof-of-stake model for Ethereum 2.0. This model is estimated to be two thousand times more efficient than their current model, which translates to at least a 99.95% reduction in total energy consumption.
Top environmentally friendly cryptos
There is a finite number of mineable coins globally and since the rise of cryptocurrencies, more people have mined them aggressively reducing their numbers by more than half. This has led miners to upgrade their computers to accommodate the huge amount of power they demand.
To make matters worse, most cryptocurrencies use proof-of-work to validate transactions that consume a lot of energy. But new coins, are riding on the mistakes of bigger cryptocurrencies. Their blocks are much easier to mine and they have adopted a proof-of-stake model which is less energy-intensive. Here are some of the most environment friendly cryptos in the market.
CHIA – XCH
CHIA is quite new, its Business Whitepaper was released on February 9th, 2021. The network develops a smart transaction and blockchain platform and was created by Bram Cohen, the inventor of BitTorrent. CHIA replaced the energy intensive proof-of-work for the new Nakamoto consensus algorithm called proof-of-work.
Since XCH is fairly new, it’s simple to mine and you don’t require a high performance computer. The new business model also reduces its carbon footprint.
Cardano – ADA
After the Elon Musk announcement, Cardano was one of the biggest gainers. Founded back in 2015 by Charles Hoskinson the Ethereum co-founder, it was already considered eco-friendly and easier to mine. Using proof-of-stake from the beginning, Hoskinson estimates that the entire platform uses less than 0.01% of Bitcoin’s network.
Cardano’s price value gained by more than 20% in early 2021 reaching its all-time high of $2.16 after the Tesla announcement. While Bitcoin experienced a 20% drop in value, Cardano held its own with a total increase of 57.81% in its value as people dumped coins that were not eco-friendly.
Stellar – XLM
Stellar Lumens is one of the top gainers in 2021, its value has risen by nearly 300% since the beginning of the year. It was founded in 2014 by Jed McCaleb founder of Mt.Gox and co-founder of Ripple together with Joyce Kim a former lawyer.
XLM implements a unique consensus model for validating transactions. Similar to proof-of-stake, the transactions require a few distributed nodes to confirm them. Stellar doesn’t demand a huge energy supply like major cryptos, making it attractive for big projects. Like Ukraine is planning to rebuild its national currency based on XLM technology.
Ripple – XRP
XRP is among the top cryptocurrencies globally, commanding 2.78% of the market cap translating to $42.805 Billion, Ripple coin ranks seventh globally. Launched in 2012 by Chris Larsen and Jed McCaleb, the coin is committed to the Crypto Climate Accord (CCA) which aims to make the crypto industry 100% renewable.
Currently, ripple mining has been exhausted, meaning no more mining farms or energy-intensive hardware to create new coins. This reduces the amount of energy required for transactions as well, in contrast for every one million transactions, BTC could power 4,51 Billion lightbulb hours whereas Ripple powers 79,000 lightbulb hours.
Nano cryptocurrency is marketed and based on being eco-friendly. Its development was started in 2014 by Colin Lemahieu under the name RaiBlocks. Using a block-lattice structure, each Nano account has its own blockchain and it was the first coin to be created on a directed acyclic graph (DAG). This is where the block marks one transaction, and every transaction must have the account’s current balance.
The coin has no mining process and instead of using the lightweight version of the proof-of-work model which takes a few seconds to process transactions on an average consumer computer.
Like the Nano coin, Hedera Hashgrach is based on directed acyclic graphs (DAG) which creates an asynchronous Byzantine Fault-Tolerant (aBFT) consensus algorithm. It was created in the mid-2010s by Leemon Baird, the cofounder of Swirlds, the company that holds the patent for the hashgraph patent.
Hashgraph is the continuation of the blockchain technology, which increases fairness, speed, security constraints, and is cheap. In his whitepaper Baird explains “at the end of each round, each node calculates the shared state after processing all transactions that were received in that round and before,” and it “digitally signs a hash of that shared state, puts it in a transaction, and gossips it out to the community”
Notable mentions: SolarCoin & PowerLedger
SolarCoin was developed by SMA Solar Technology, a German solar inventor. It is still a small coin considering its value is $0.004095, but it was developed as a commitment to the Crypto Climate Accord. Solarcoin started as an idea and a Litecoin fork back in 2014 but has grown to be one of the most eco-friendly coins available.
PowerLedger is also a fairly small cryptocurrency that is used to facilitate the trade of electricity and environmental commodities. It has a price value of $0.2728 but its whole business model is set up to be renewable and environment friendly.
1. Why Does Bitcoin Consume So Much Energy?
With a reduced number of mining blocks, mining now requires high performance computers to generate the few remaining costs. Also since it uses a proof-of-work model and has a vast Bitcoin Network, it takes much longer for transactions to be validated by miners. For an improved transaction time, energy-intensive nodes have to be used in the network.
2. Is XRP eco friendly
Ripple can be defined as being eco-friendly since there are no more XRP coins available to mine. Mining is the most energy sensitive part of cryptocurrency creation, and since there are no more blocks to mine, it saves a lot of power. Ripple transactions are also fairly quick and take several seconds to be validated making XRP the largest eco-friendly cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalization.
3. Is proof of work sustainable?
Yes, proof of work can become sustainable. Satoshi Nakamoto described how to improve his business model and new cryptocurrencies are implementing lightweight proof of work models or using customized models. This has reduced the amount of energy required to run a proof of work model.
The Nano cryptocurrency implements a customized or proof of work model and is considered among the most sustainable cryptocurrencies available in the current market.
4. Why does crypto use energy?
Cryptocurrencies do not exist physically, they exist as pure digital currencies and are created digitally as well. The amount of energy consumption depends on the cryptocurrency you are dealing with. For example, to mine the depleted Bitcoin, you will need energy-intensive desktops to work as the transaction is passed through the millions of nodes in the Bitcoin Network.
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