Late last year, B.C. put an 18-month moratorium on new Bitcoin mines connecting to the provincial power grid.
They weren’t the only province to do so. Manitoba had also implemented a similar moratorium, and Quebec had tightened regulations and increased power costs for the miners. Ontario is also looking at stricter regulations.
Why are all these provinces suddenly turning against Bitcoin mining?
The answer is the Teslas and Kia Soul EVs and Ioniqs and electric TransLink buses that are increasingly visible on roads around Metro Vancouver. Not to mention the extra heat pumps that are replacing or augmenting natural gas heating systems.
A decade ago, you probably didn’t know a single person with an electric car. Now it’s almost certain that you do.
As of last September, EVs made up 17.5 per cent of all new car and light truck sales in B.C.
That’s almost certain to top 20 per cent this year, if it hasn’t already.
That’s great for our air quality and the fight against climate change. But it also means a lot more electricity demand.
Minister of Energy and Mines Josie Osborne said the Bitcoin mining moratorium was to “preserve our electricity supply for people who are switching to electric vehicles and heat pumps, and for businesses and industries that are undertaking electrification projects that reduce carbon emissions.”
She also noted Bitcoin mining uses vast amounts of power, but doesn’t generate many jobs.
That’s because Bitcoin mining isn’t mining. It’s just a whole bunch of computer processors, which help run the network of Bitcoin transactions. In exchange for doing the energy-intensive math calculations that are part of the system of maintaining the Bitcoin blockchain, every once in a while, a mining processor gets a new Bitcoin as a reward. Even after the cryptocurrency’s massive fall during the last year, a single Bitcoin is still worth, as of now, around $28,000.
To squeeze out as much profit as possible, Bitcoin miners look for cheap electricity and cool temperatures. That’s why Canada has been a popular destination.
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But Bitcoin is far from the best use for our power.
Sure, it could make a few miners money, and provide a little work for technicians and construction workers. But the same power could also be put to use creating industries with much more staying power, employing a lot more people – software and video game development, film and TV production, manufacturing, construction – almost anything would create more jobs per kilowatt.
The temporary moratoriums are good. But there are already about 13 mining sites either operating or in development in B.C.
Our province is still a net power exporter. But we’re going to need more electricity as we wean ourselves off fossil fuels.
A permanent ban on Bitcoin mining is one of the easiest things we can do to make sure power is there for our clean-energy future.
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