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There are valid grounds for scepticism.
The Bitcoin Mining Council, formed earlier this year as a response to concerns about Bitcoin’s environmental impact, has shared a presentation claiming 56% of the electricity behind Bitcoin comes from “sustainable” sources.
The council cites its own “analysis, assumptions, and extrapolation” as the sole source for the number, and leaves the word “sustainable” open to interpretation. No precise energy breakdowns were provided.
There are reasons to be skeptical. The members of the Bitcoin Mining Council (Bitcoin miners) have skin in the game, and headlines about Bitcoin and the environment are bad for business. A press release accompanying the council’s new data comes with the celebratory headline, “Bitcoin Mining Council Survey Confirms Sustainable Power Mix.”
The council also claims to have gathered poll data from mining businesses that account for 32% of worldwide hashpower behind Bitcoin. Although 67 percent of respondents’ energy mix was deemed “sustainable,” replies to the study were optional, so miners with a less favourable energy mix were free to opt out.
Recent government crackdowns on Chinese Bitcoin miners may also be skewing the percentages—a huge exodus of miners from coal-heavy electricity grids in regions such as Qinghai and Inner Mongolia has resulted in a substantial reduction in network power usage over the last two months.
According to a September 2020 research from Cambridge University’s Center for Alternative Finance, just 39 percent of the energy used in crypto mining comes from renewable sources.