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Block Chain Summit Asked To Address Bitcoin’s Potential Power Drain

Richard Branson

Richard Branson this week kicked off the Block Chain Summit, a gathering of leaders in the cryptocurrency community at his private Necker Island.

Coinciding with the event, Australian sustainability think tank the Long Future Foundation released a tool to calculate the electricity required to mine bitcoin. The numbers are massive, and the Foundation’s creative director, Guy Lane, says something must be done.

“If bitcoin’s energy consumption isn’t reined in, we’ll end up being crowded out of electricity networks and sitting in the dark,” said Lane in a statement released today. “So long as people can make money from mining bitcoins, people will spend large amounts of money, resources and electricity to acquire them.”

Massive computers are used to “mine” bitcoin, a process by which the entire bitcoin economy is audited by the very people who use the currency. As the bitcoin ecosystem gets bigger the Bitcurrency Calculator unveiled last week shows how the amount of electricity needed to mine the system could change based different variables such as the future value of a bitcoin, and the price of a kilowatt-hour of electricity.

The modeling method shows that bitcoin could someday consume 13,000 terawatt hours, or about 60 percent of global electricity produced based on 2012 numbers. To give an idea of what that looks like in the real world, that’s about what it might take to power 1.5 billion homes, according to the statement.

Branson’s Block Chain Summit kicked off on Necker Island on Monday and ends on May 28. The event is co-hosted by San Francisco-based bitcoin security firm BitFury, which has raised $40 million venture capital and MaiTa Global the so-called “anti-conference” often compared to TED Talks.

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