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Here’s how blockchains are helping to advance the global energy grid

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Here’s how blockchains are helping to advance the global energy grid

The blockchain industry’s impact on the energy sector has been a major source of controversy over the past five years. Governments and environmental protection advocates have routinely expressed concerns about the amount of energy required to keep the Bitcoin network secure. Data shows the network’s energy consumption now rivals the yearly energy consumed by some small countries.

Historical Bitcoin network power demand. Source: CCAF

While much of the debate has centered around the negative environmental impacts of Bitcoin (BTC) mining, the drive to maximize earnings from mining and integrate blockchain technology with the energy grid has also introduced new developments that have the potential to be beneficial in the long term.

Here’s a look at several developments that have arisen out of the demand for energy to operate blockchain networks and the positive effects cryptocurrency mining is having on the energy industry.

Recapturing wasted energy

One of the fastest-growing segments of the cryptocurrency mining industry is the monetization of historically wasted sources of energy such as natural gas that is flared at oil drilling facilities.

Discovering natural gas pockets is a common part of the oil drilling industry, and up until recently, this gas was typically burned in a process called “flaring” because the infrastructure needed for its collection was non-existent or there had not been sufficient demand for LNG.

As the value of Bitcoin rose over time, the search for inexpensive energy sources led to the installation of shipping containers filled with mining equipment at drilling sites that can utilize the energy generated from flaring to mine BTC.

While the process still results in carbon dioxide emissions, income is generated during the process and these funds could be redirected toward mitigating environmental concerns.

Most recently, several companies have been exploring the integration of mining via flared gas in the Middle East, which accounted for over 38% of the global flaring in 2020 and presented one of the biggest opportunities to turn wasted energy into value.

Blockchain technology can make energy generation more efficient

A second side-benefit of the push to maximize crypto mining profits is improvements to the energy infrastructure and an increased focus on developing sustainable forms of energy generation.

Studies by the Bitcoin Mining Council have shown that there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of energy derived from sustainable sources, as opposed to sources like oil and coal.

Less developed countries like Kenya and El Salvador have also been able to benefit from improvements in energy generation from sustainable sources like geothermal power plants, which have given their economies an additional source of income.

Whether it’s the utilization of excess power generated by hydroelectric power plants or an increase in the use of wind and solar power, crypto mining is providing a financial incentive to help further optimization of energy efficiency and generation.

Related: Marathon Digital moves Montana BTC mine to pursue carbon neutrality

Smart grid technology

Another energy-related blockchain development is the formation of blockchain-based smart grids that aim to improve energy distribution on a large scale.

Inefficiencies in electricity distribution have largely been traced to the retail level, where smaller firms who own very little of the electrical grid infrastructure mainly provide simple services such as billing and monitoring meter usage.

These types of services can easily be handled by blockchain technology and Internet-of-Things- (IoT)-devices that help consumers bypass retailers and connect directly with wholesale distributors, potentially reducing electricity bills by up to 40%.

Connecting consumers with a smart grid also allows them to shop around with different providers to obtain the best rates possible. This could help to level the playing field in an industry that has historically been dominated by one local energy company.

Projects like Grid+ and Energy Web Token are helping to lead the way in this field as the old grid design of physical substations and monitoring equipment is replaced with a network of distributed energy resources (DERs) that include battery energy storage systems, solar arrays and natural gas generators.

While the sector is still in a nascent phase, it’s a trend worth keeping an eye on because, in the coming years, blockchain technology is bound to be further integrated into the energy sector.

Want more information about trading and investing in crypto markets?

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

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Bitcoin Miner Sell-Offs Could Keep Prices Low, Says JP Morgan

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Bitcoin Miner Sell-Offs Could Keep Prices Low, Says JP Morgan

Strategists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. believe the current Bitcoin sell-off by miners could make it difficult for the price of the asset to bounce back, especially if the trend continues.

In a note released yesterday, they pointed out that publicly listed Bitcoin miners account for 20% of all reported Bitcoin sales in May and June. It’s likely that private miners are also selling at the same rate or even higher, given that they have limited access to the capital markets.

The massive sell-off is a sharp turn in the strategy that has mostly been about holding block rewards until the market conditions get better. But the drop in Bitcoin prices and its effect on miners’ profitability means many are now struggling to meet operating costs.

According to the strategists,

Offloading of Bitcoins by miners, in order to meet ongoing costs or to deliver, could continue into Q3 if their profitability fails to improve.

Already, it has likely “weighed on prices in May and June, though there is a risk that this pressure could continue.”

However, JP Morgan strategists point out that it’s not all gloomy. One silver lining is a drop in the cost of mining Bitcoin from around $18k – $20k earlier in the year to $15k this month. This is due to the drop in hash rate and mining difficulty over the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, the cost of production varies based on the size of the miner. According to Arcane Crypto, large miners spend around $8,000 to produce one Bitcoin. Meanwhile, Securitize Capital says the cost of production might be over $20k for some miners after adding overhead costs and interest rates.

Bitcoin Price 69% Away From ATH

Bitcoin price has declined by more than half compared to its value at the beginning of the year. It’s also down 69% from its all-time high as it hovers around the low 20k range in the last few weeks.

Several factors have pushed the crypto markets over the edge, including the crash of Terra’s ecosystem and the near-insolvency of crypto firms such as Celsius and 3AC. But the Fed hike in interest rates has been the primary factor behind the drop.

Almost every other niche in the space, like non-fungible tokens and decentralized finance, has reported losses too. With most miners also having debt obligations, selling their Bitcoin stash appears as the best course of action to stay afloat.

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All the information contained on our website is published in good faith and for general information purposes only. Any action the reader takes upon the information found on our website is strictly at their own risk.

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Bitcoin Energy Consumption Declines as Miners Grapple With Falling Revenue

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Bitcoin Energy Consumption Declines as Miners Grapple With Falling Revenue

Bitcoin mining is no longer consuming as much energy as before, according to a Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index report, which shows a 25% decline in energy use since the start of the month.

Per the index, the current energy consumption of Bitcoin is 10.65 gigawatts, significantly lower than the 14.34-gigawatt on June 6. This means its annualized consumption is at 93.33 terawatt-hours, putting it below countries like Argentina and Norway in energy consumption.

At its peak, the BTC network needed 16.09 GW of power. The drop in the consumption from its record high of 150 terawatt-hours in May is likely due to the drop in mining hash rate. 

Bitcoin hash rate is the computing power needed to create a block on the Bitcoin network and has dropped to 199.225 exahash per second (EH/s) over the last two weeks. This came after the mining difficulty reached a record high of 231.428 EH/s on June 13. It has now dropped by almost 14% since then.

The index estimates the energy consumption by using a profitability threshold using “different types of mining equipment as the starting point.” 

With Bitcoin prices nosediving to below $20,000 this month, some miners have also gone offline as mining proved less profitable. This explains the consecutive drop in the consumption and hash rate.

Miners are Selling Their Bitcoin Holdings

Additionally, the drop in the price of Bitcoin has left several miners in a lurch as they struggle to sustain their operations. A recent report by Arcane research shows that publicly traded Bitcoin miners sold all the coins they mined in May.

This is usually against the strategy of most miners, which is to hold their Bitcoin for better market conditions. But with profitability nosediving and many miners struggling to generate a positive cash flow, they are selling their holdings. 

According to the report, many miners sold their Bitcoin to cover operational expenses and pay off debts. One of such is Bitfarms which decided to sell 3000 Bitcoin for $63 million to improve corporate liquidity.

Energy consumption of Bitcoin mining has been one of the major criticisms of the network and cryptocurrency industry. But recent research by Michel Khazzaka reveals that the traditional banking sector uses 56% more energy.

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Coinbase to Offer Nano Bitcoin Futures Contracts via Third Party Brokerages

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Coinbase to Offer Nano Bitcoin Futures Contracts via Third Party Brokerages

Coinbase will list a derivatives product called the nano futures contract on Monday.

This will be the first product listed on the Coinbase Derivatives Exchange, offering investors the opportunity to buy a contract linked to the price of one-hundredth of a bitcoin. Customers can purchase the Nano futures contract through third-party brokerages. Customers will not be able to buy the nano futures contract from Coinbase directly until the exchange receives a license to operate as a futures commission merchant. The exchange first applied for the license on Sept. 16, 2021.

U.S. customers have a healthy appetite for crypto derivatives

Coinbase floated the idea of bringing derivatives to its U.S. customer base after purchasing derivatives exchange FairX in January this year.

Americans have long been trading derivative products on foreign exchanges, sinking their teeth into high-leverage products that U.S. exchanges have lacked, indicted by the volume of crypto derivative trades in December 2021 surpassing that of spot trading. Binance alone recorded $52.5 billion in derivative trade volume during the 24 hours ending Friday afternoon, compared to $12.7 billion in spot products. Coinbase enjoyed $1.7 million in spot trading during the same period.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the new nano futures contract will not offer leverage-type bets that drive volume on exchanges like Binance.

Challenges Coinbase faces

A report by Barron’s suggests that it would take a long time for derivatives products to generate significant income for the company.

The new Coinbase product will enter a market of established crypto derivative products, while the company battles cash flow problems.

In March, the CME Group announced micro futures contracts linked to one-tenth of the price of bitcoin and Ethereum.

To add pressure, Moody’s Investors Services recently reduced Coinbase’s guaranteed senior unsecured notes from Ba2 to Ba1, relegating its corporate debt to “junk” status, with the potential for future downgrades. Ba ratings are assigned by Moody’s to credit obligations containing speculative components, considered to be a serious credit risk. Moody’s cited Coinbase’s reduced revenue and cash flow due to the current crypto market downturn as reasons for the downgrade. Coinbase’s recent employee layoff did not count in its favor, with the rating agency still seeing threats to the company’s profitability.

Dan Dolev, a senior analyst at Mizuho, believes that the new product does not address the central issue of competitors offering zero trading fees, which would severely affect revenue if Coinbase were to compete.

Coinbase’s shares fell precipitously on May 3, 2022, from $130.15 to $62.71 at market close on Friday.

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