University of Cambridge’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI)

Bitcoin, for all of the buzz around its rise as a cryptocurrency, is also environmentally damaging. The energy required to maintain and cool the servers that store Bitcoin’s massive network is phenomenal. A study conducted by Peter Howsen in 2019 compared the energy required to bitcoin to that of the entirety of Cuba or Poland. There is a rising public awareness about the strain that cryptocurrencies put on energy grids, and to that effect, the University of Cambridge created the Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI) to model and monitor the energy usage of Bitcoin’s network worldwide. The CBECI model of tracking consumption was originally designed by Mark Bevand in 2017 and the final product appears to have been rolled out in 2018 by the University of Cambridge. Because there is no corporate entity managing transactions, Bitcoin depends on a highly complex blockchain procedure to ensure the validity of trades and purchases, and this process is incredibly energy-intensive. Essentially, quality monitoring has been delegated to the digital realm, which required a lot of energy to effectively function. The CBECI tracks and models the amount of so-called digital “miners” maintaining Bitcoin’s network integrity and quantifies usage on their interactive website model, where you can also see historical trends in Bitcoin’s energy usage. There is a general consensus that as the world (and our economies) move online, intensive energy use is contributing to climate change by necessitating finding cheap (coal/oil/gas) sources of energy to keep pace with demand. The creators of the CBECI are quick to caution that it is difficult to place where and what kind of energy Bitcoin derives energy from because the process of trading Bitcoin is so globalized, and finding out how to quantify and model Bitcoin’s climate impact is the next step in keeping tabs on Bitcoin.


Blockchain, Data, Ecological Modelling, Internet of Things, Regulation