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A Study on the Issue of Blockchain’s Energy Consumption

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Blockchain technology is one of the biggest innovative technology that has been developed and has potential usage in fields of education, business and industries. Since the creation of bitcoins, blockchain has emerged as a means for storing digital information without the intervention of any third parties. However, now, it is used for various other applications than just being a simple distributed ledger. With time, it has imposed a larger impact on different fields of economy and has gained popularity for its immutability. But, there are some issues faced by blockchain. One of such issues is the energy consumption. Blockchains are found to consume exorbitant amount of energy because of the algorithm followed for its creation. This paper explores the blockchain technology and the impacts of energy consumption due to the technology used.
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A study on the issue of blockchain’s energy
Eshani Ghosh1 and Baisakhi Das2
Department of Information Technology, Institute of Engineering and Management,
Salt lake Eletronics Complex, Sector V, Kolkata, India, and
Abstract. Blockchain technology is one of the biggest innovative tech-
nology that has been developed and has potential usage in fields of edu-
cation, business and industries. Since the creation of bitcoins, blockchain
has emerged as a means for storing digital information without the
intervention of any third parties. However, now it is used for various
other applications than just being a simple distributed ledger. With time
it has imposed a larger impact on different fields of economy and has
gained popularity for its immutability. But, there are some issues faced by
blockchain. One of such issues is the energy consumption. Blockchains
are found to consume exorbitant amount of energy because of the
algorithm followed for its creation. This paper explores the blockchain
technology and the impacts of energy consumption due to the
technology used.
Keywords: Blockchain, Proof of work, Energy Consumption
Being an immutable distributed ledger, blockchains have gained popularity in
the recent years. It was first introduced as a cryptocurrency (bitcoin) by Satoshi
Nakamoto [1]. He found bitcoin to be a digital way of transacting currencies
using the peer-to-peer network policy and presenting bitcoin as a highly secure
system for strong transaction histories without the intervention of any third
parties [3]. The technology behind the development of the bitcoin, known as
blockchain, became popular and emerged as a powerful system for storing any
kind of digital information [1].
The most attractive features of the blockchain is its irresistibility to any infor -
mation leakage. This property is acquired from cryptographic algorithms
which are used to join the blocks in the chain. Also, its peer-to-peer network
communication and decentralised structure has strengthened the security.
Blockchain architecture uses proof-of-work mechanism to mine a new block
and stores the digital information permanently in the blockchain. The
architecture of blockchain has paved the way for many applications [2].
Companies are nowadays trying to use blockchains for storing employee
records, project records etc. It is also used in the medical field for storing
various medical records. Its use is not only limited to this, in broader sense it
can be used for implementing IoTs, storing legal information, supply chain
management etc. in the near future [6]. Altogether it can be used for
digitalizing the world in a protected manner.
Eshani et al.
Blockchain technology, being so advantageous, faces many challenges in its
implementation. One of such challenges is the energy consumption issue. It
has been found that blockchains, for enhancing its security is consuming
enormous amount of energy and the root cause behind this is the proof-of-
work mechanism. Proof-of-work, a mechanism to mine block, is found to
consume maximum amount of energy out of the entire blockchain
architecture. This is of great concern as the sources of energy are the non-
renewable resources, so solving the energy consumption issue is the need of
the hour for implementing blockchains. This paper discusses a survey on the
blockchain architecture, the issues on energy consumption and methods to
overcome the exorbitant energy consumption. Section 2 explains the
blockchain architecture. The issues on energy consumption of blockchain is
defined in Section 3. Section 4 explains the methods to reduce energy
consumption and Section 5 concludes the paper.
Blockchain architecture
Blockchain architecture uses the mechanism of distributing the digital
information rather than copying it. It is intended to timestamp digital
documents so that it is not possible to tamper with them, whenever an
information is recorded. Blockchains can be defined as a chain of blocks which
can hold certain records and the blocks are linked to one another using the
principles of cryptography. Each block consists of three main sections- data,
hash and hash of previous block. The data that is stored depends on the type
of blockchain used. For instance, if it is a cryptocurrency then it stores
information about the transactions that have occurred. Hash in a block is the
fingerprint and is unique to that particular block. If any changes are made to
the block then the hash value also changes. So, hashes can be used to detect
changes to a block. Hash of the previous block helps to create the chain and
makes the system more secure as shown in Fig. 1. Block 2, contains its own
hash function (2BIF) and hash of block 1 (AQCN) as the previous hash and so
on and hence creates the chain of blocks. Whenever someone changes the
hash value of the block then that hash value needs to be updated in the next
block. The next block will have a changed hash value due to the insertion of a
new previous hash value. This is how the entire chain has to be updated to
change a particular block which is practically impossible and hence improves
the security of the system. That is why, blockchains are more commonly
known as immutable ledger because it is not possible to tamper with them.
Blockchains - An immutable ledger
As stated earlier, blockchains are distributed, decentralised and immutable
ledger system. In blockchain, the blocks are connected to each other via links
which are established by the hash of each block.
A study on the issue of blockchain’s energy consumption
Hash: A9CN Hash: 2 BJF Hash: E 4AL
Previous Hash: 0000 Previous Hash: A9CN Previous Hash: 2BJF
Fig. 1. Structure of Blockchain [3]
If any change is made to the block then the entire blockchain needs to be
updated. So, blockchains are said to be immutable ledger. Fig. 2 explains how
a digital data is certified using blockchain. The data is kept inside a blockchain
and it generates a hash value for that newly added block. The data is signed by
encrypting the hash value and then stamped as certified [3]. Then the
verification process is done by decrypting the hash value and matching it with
the one that is generated. If it matches, it means the data got verified and is
Fig. 2. Certification of digital data using blockchains [3]
Eshani et al.
Blockchain as a distributed peer-to-peer network
There can be a situation where someone tampers with a block and also
updates the entire blockchain to make the changes acceptable for all the
blocks. This can result in information hacking or changing or even deletion of
a block. To prevent such tampering, blockchain architecture has a distributed
peer to peer network system. The blockchain is not only available in one
computer but it is distributed to all the computers in a network. So, any
change made to the blockchain that information gets communicated to all the
computers in a network. So, if a hacker changes the contents of a block and
also modifies the immediately following blocks’ previous hash value, then that
modification is compared with blockchains in other computers in a network. If
any change is detected in one blockchain then that is cancelled and the
previous state of blockchain is preserved. This helps in making the system
more secure. Fig. 3 shows how the peer-to-peer network is working when a
transaction takes place and a new block gets added to the blockchain [4]. The
block is then shared to all other computers in a network.
Fig. 3. A simple transaction using blockchain [4]
It is a protocol which works by asking all the nodes in the network to solve a
cryptographic puzzle by using the brute force algorithm [2]. Whenever a block
is to be added it should have a hash.
A study on the issue of blockchain’s energy consumption
The hash is a 64-bit hexadecimal value which is generated using the sha256
algorithm. There is a field called nonce (number used only once) which is
present in every block along with the hash, previous hash and the block
number as shown in figure 4. There is a range generated within which the
hash value of the block should lie. On changing the nonce value, the hash value
that is generated is checked if it matches the required condition for block
generation or not. This process of checking consumes energy along with that
the values of hash that is generated requires long sequence of arithmetic
operations that needs a lot of energy to be evaluated. Also, the values of hash
abruptly change with the change in nonce and so a lot of evaluations are
involved in this step. Whenever a miner solves the cryptographic puzzle (the
entire process of hash generation) a new block is added to the blockchain and
the block is transmitted and added to all the blockchains in the different nodes
using peer-to-peer communication and this is how all blockchains get the new
block added to them. But the generation of each block involves a lot of
arithmetic computations which consumes a lot of energy. So, in blockchains
the mining process is the root cause for the energy consumption issue behind
Fig. 4.
Structure of a block
Issues on the energy consumption of blockchains
One of the major issues faced by blockchains is that it consumes exorbitant
amount of energy mainly during the process of mining. The algorithm used for
evaluating proof-of-work needs to be executed multiple times to match the
target value and as the hash value change in a non-uniform way so it is
completely based on trial and error method. For instance, in the case of
bitcoin, miners take about ten minutes to mine a new block. This process has
surely induced security but at the cost of enormous energy consumption.
Eshani et al.
In an article by Steven Huckle in 2016, named Socialism and Blockchain,
we get an alarming information. In this article we get an estimate that bitcoin
mining’s annual energy consumption is 3.38 Terawatt Hours (TWH). This
enormous amount of energy is equal to the total annual consumption of
Jamaica in the year 2014 [21]. As stated by [17], the energy consumption of
the entire bitcoin network is found to be higher than Ireland. Study says that
bitcoin will use 0.5% of electricity of the world by the end of 2018, as we know
that the electricity demand comes from complex computing and with days
more complex puzzles need to be solved. So, this has become a threat to the
environment for its enormous amount of energy consumption which in turn
increase the carbon footprint [17].
The mining cost of metals like gold are very high because of its extraction
and its demand in the markets. Similarly, energy cost associated with mining
of blocks is high because of the Proof-Of-Work mechanism used. According to
a study by Oak Ridge Institute in Cincinnati, it has been found that energy
cost of mining of bitcoins is nearly 7 megajoules of energy which is equivalent
to mining platinum [13]. Out of all the cryptocurrencies bitcoin consumes the
maximum energy as compared with the energy equivalent to mining copper,
platinum and gold and the energy cost for further mining increases over time
[13]. Figure 7 shows that the cryptocurrencies mining needs more energy per
dollar generated compared to mining of copper, platinum and gold.
However, the annual consumption of this currency is rising in an
exponential manner, currently which has approached a colossal amount of 55
TWH. This is obviously a matter of concern. [21] discusses that between 3 m
and 13 m metric tonnes of CO2 was released in the environment due to bitcoin
mining, that too only in the first half of 2018. If the utilization of bitcoin keeps
on increasing, then severe consequences might be faced by the future
generations. The effect of emission is such that it can contribute in an overall
global temperature rise of 2 degree Celsius, as approximated by a team in
Hawaii. Not only this, the global money supply in circulation is estimated as $
11,000 billion. This will lead to corresponding energy consumption exceeding
a huge amount 4000 GW [22]. This insane amount of energy is eight times the
electricity consumption of France and twice the United States. The bitcoin can
therefore be the burden for the climate.
Fig. 5 shows the relative energy consumption of bitcoins in different coun-
tries where the X-axis is representing the percentage that could be powered by
Bitcoin and the Y-axis is showing the various countries. According to this,
Czech Republic has the maximum percentage of energy consumption whereas
USA has the least energy consumed by bitcoins. A statistic of 2018 [7],[3] in
Table 1 shows the energy consumption of a bitcoin in terms of electricity
consumed, carbon footprint and global power consumption:
A study on the issue of blockchain’s energy consumption
Fig. 5. Statistics of Energy Consumption of Bitcoin [3]
Table 1. Energy consumption of a Bitcoin
Description Values
Current estimated annual electricity consumption(TWh)
Current minimum electricity consumption(TWh)
Annual carbon footprint(kt of co2)
Electricity consumed per transaction(kWh)
Carbon footprint per transaction(kg of co2)
Minimum global power consumption of software(TWh)
Peak power usage of bitcoin network(TWh)
The main reason for this high energy consumption is that in the process of
evaluating the proof-of-work algorithm all other computers in the network are
trying to find the solution. So, to solve the cryptographic puzzle all the
computers are free to participate but only the one which finds the solution will
be rewarded with some bitcoins. So, only one computer will come up with the
actual solution and it then shares the result with all other computers in the
network. This means, that energy is consumed not only by the winning
computer but also by all other computers in the network who are trying to find
the solution. This process of finding the solution actually uses a lot of energy
to repeatedly change and find a nonce value that matches the target. From the
environmental point of view a large source of electricity generation are the
non-renewable sources of energy which are responsible for increasing the
carbon footprint. It has also been found that blockchains use energy that is
approximately equal to the energy consumption of a nation annually, because
of this process of mining. According to [16], it has been found that a
dishwasher energy consumption for a year is equivalent to the energy
consumed by bitcoin network per transaction.
Eshani et al.
Table 2.
Bitcoin Mining Hardware
Power efficiency (W/Gh)
AntMiner S8
AntMiner S8
Antminer V2
BPMC Red Fury USB 0.96
Gekko Science 0.33
Bitcoins are mined using special mining hardware which were designed
and improved over time to reduce their energy consumption. Earlier CPUs
were used to mine blocks which were slow and used more power. So, GPUs are
used now, which calculates nearly 100 times faster than possible with a CPU
and also uses less energy comparatively. This was further improved by the
arrival of Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) which is faster and
consumes less power than FPGA, CPU or GPU [19]. Table 6 shows the
different bitcoin mining hardware and the corresponding power efficiency.
Figure 6 gives a comparison among the different mining hardware on the
basis of power efficiency.
Fig. 6. Comparison of power efficiency of mining hardware
Fig. 8 diplays one of the world’s largest bitcoin mines which is located in the
industrial park of SanShangLiang, the outskirts of Ordos city, Mongolia. It is
around 400 miles from Beijing, capital of China. As bitcoin mining consumes
huge enormous amounts of electricity, so miners found locations that offer
cheap energy. Founded in 2014, Ordos mine is China’s oldest large-scale
bitcoin mining facility. It was acquired by Bitmain in 2015. It is powered by
electricity mostly from coal-fired power plants. Its daily electricity bill
amounts to 39,000 USD [20].
A study on the issue of blockchain’s energy consumption
Fig. 7. Comparison chart of different energy consumption [13]
Fig. 8. Bitcoin mining machine [20]
Eshani et al.
Methods to reduce energy consumption in blockchain
One way of reducing the energy consumption is by lightning network, where
the transactions occurs off-chain by positioning channels between the users
and permitting the transactions to be recorded on closing of the channels [8].
It is used for fast transactions among the parties by directly setting up
channels across them. In this network, channels will be setup between users
and thus the transaction will only be recorded on the blockchain when the
channel is closed. But this would not lead to efficient solution for reducing
energy consumption as very small amount of energy is used by the nodes to
record transactions. The scheme was proposed by Thaddeus Dryja and Joseph
Poon in 2015 [12]. Here, a user-initiated channel is designed which permits
dealing with transactions without the engagement of any third parties.
Information is stored only when the channels are closed. It is not stored on
open state. Two parties are provided with a wallet differently (displaying the
amount of bitcoin) on start of the transaction. First the address of the wallet is
saved and then the virtual channel of the two parties are stored in blockchain.
Every transaction is updated only when the whole transaction is done or
completed [12]. This has minimized the energy consumption per transaction
and hence consumes much less energy. Though a bit of energy has been
reduced by faster transactions using lightning network method but the huge
energy consumption for mining could not be minimized by this method. So,
instead of using proof-of-work mechanism another algorithm called proof-of-
stake can be used. PoS uses economic game theory in order to maintain
network consensus. In this system, the network validators must deposit and
lock-up or stake the coins to the network. In case of any fake transaction or
any unfair means, the staked coins will be lost entirely. In PoS ,the amount of
coins staked ,along with the amount of time, the coins that have been staked in
the network will work as the parameters for choosing which validator will
likely to be given chance to validate the next block of transactions. The
validator will earn additional coins as a reward for its validation work. Thus
PoS becomes an energy-saving alternative of PoW and this is the reason why
bitcoin Oils Pos- based technology will be much more beneficial as compared
with bitcoins current PoW model.
This protocol uses less computations and can be used for Ethereum and
certain altcoins [2]. It was first implemented in a cryptocurrency named
Peercoin [5]. According to this protocol, the creator of the next block is chosen
randomly on the basis of wealth or age [6]. This means that miners with large
amount of digital currencies can add a new block to the blockchain. In this
case, not all computers are allowed to participate in the mining process
instead only one computer is participating in the mining process. This saves
A study on the issue of blockchain’s energy consumption
the power that all the computers in a network waste searching for the solution
in proof-of-work algorithm and cuts down the cost of mining by 99% [9]. So,
proof-of-stake proves to be more energy efficient and cost effective than proof-
of-work algorithm and this reduces the need to release too many coins for
keeping the miners motivated [5].
A modification of this protocol is the Delegated Proof-of-Stake protocol
commonly known as DPos. Unlike the Proof-of-Stake protocol where a user
put his coins on stake for acquiring the right to validate a transaction, DPos
protocol allows users to vote a witness and the witness who gets maximum
vote will get the right to validate a transaction. This protocol is also found to
consume less energy as compared to Proof-of-Work and is also better than
Proof-of-Stake [18].
1.All users participate
2.More energy
3.Slower than PoS
1.User having more
wealth participate
2.Less Energy
3.Faster than PoW
Delegated Proof-of-Stake(DPoS)
1.Few users participate
2.Less energy
consumption than PoW
3.Faster than Pos and
Table 3: Comparison of mining protocols
In Proof-of-Authority protocol, there is a small group of people who validate
the transactions and put their reputations at stake for validating a transaction.
This protocol is found to be fast for doing computations with very less
consumption of energy compared to Proof-of-Work [24].
Comparatively, it can be seen that Proof-of-Work uses the maximum energy.
So, switching to other protocols like Proof-of-Stake or DPos or Proof-of-
Authority can help in reducing the energy consumption for validating blocks
or transactions.
Renewable sources of power generation
In reality, the best solution for getting rid of such energy consumption
problem is using renewable energy for mining of crypto currencies. Inner
Mongolia, which is one of the main places associated with bitcoin mining, uses
coal power for the mining procedure and currently more than 70% of bitcoin
mining is done there only [23]. This inevitably leads to global warming along
with pollution of nature. Countries like Iceland and Norway produce more
than 90% of their energy from renewable resources. If mining is located in
such countries, then making use of renewable resources will be much easier
because they have plenty of these resources [23].
Eshani et al.
As blockchains uses enormous amount of energy so, instead of using the
non- renewable sources of energy, the renewable sources of energy can be
preferred for production of power. Renewable sources of energy are found to
cause less pollution and will not increase the carbon footprint. Renewable
sources of energy include solar, wind, water etc. Companies like IBM and Intel
are preferring green blockchains for the transaction process [10]. Also,
blockchains can themselves provide the solution for power generation.
Decentralisation of power is the first step towards it. Power will be generated
by small communities using wind or solar energy [10]. That means, the world
of passive energy consumers is getting replaced by new consumers who are
not only buying power but also selling it. Then comes, the use of blockchains.
Blockchains will create peer-to-peer communications among the different
consumers of power. This entire setup is known as microgrid [11]. Here the
consumers will pay using blockchains and they have to pay each other for
generating power. Using blockchains, power will flow from those producing in
surplus quantities to those who are in need of power without any human
intervention. This is how green blockchains can be used with decen-
tralisation of power that is renewable [11]. One of such microgrids is set up in
Switzerland that is named as MyBit. It is a decentralised energy grid. It uses
Iot, artificial intelligence and solar energy and have combined the three to
become a source of energy [14]. In UK, a startup named as Electron has been
set up that uses blockchain technology for energy trading [14]. The main idea
behind switching to green blockchains is promoting sustainable development
which means that apart from meeting the needs of the present generation we
need to think about the future generation.
Reducing the energy consumption of the blockchains is the need of the
hour. If these challenges can be overcome then blockchains will become the
best option for the future world. If blockchain could provide an accounting
system, it could turn the national grid from being the enemy of microgrids to
being their friend”-Philip Sandwell, Imperial College London [15].
Blockchains are designed to provide security to all types of data so that no one
can tamper with them. But also, at the same time they are found to be
consuming enormous amount of energy. So, various organisations and
companies are trying to find the solution for solving the energy issues of
blockchains and at the same time they are trying to switch to renewable
sources of energy for sustainable development and for reducing any
environmental hazard that is associated with the use of blockchains.
Blockchains are very useful if implemented, but to use it in every fields of the
economy the workers and the employees need to be given proper knowledge of
these blockchains. So, education is the main factor for the implementation of
the blockchains.
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Information and communication technologies (ICT) are increasingly permeating our daily life and we ever more commit our data to the cloud. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic put an exceptional burden upon ICT. This involves increasing implementation and use of data centers, which increased energy use and environmental impact. The scope of this work is to summarize the present situation on data centers as to environmental impact and opportunities for improvement. First, we introduce the topic, presenting estimated energy use and emissions. Then, we review proposed strategies for energy efficiency and conservation in data centers. Energy uses pertain to power distribution, ICT, and non-ICT equipment (e.g., cooling). Existing and prospected strategies and initiatives in these sectors are identified. Among key elements are innovative cooling techniques, natural resources, automation, low-power electronics, and equipment with extended thermal limits. Research perspectives are identified and estimates of improvement opportunities are mentioned. Finally, we present an overview on existing metrics, regulatory framework, and bodies concerned.
... [33] constructed a queueing system that provides two kinds of services for customers to choose, therefore, it could be assumed that different miners provide different mining services for transactions to choose. At the same time, the energy-saving problem of the blockchain system is becoming more and more important, and we need to pay attention to it when we study the system [34][35][36]. Yin et al. [37] analyzed a multi-server vacation queueing model to save the energy, so it can be supposed that miners would sleep for maintaining with probability after each service. ...
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With the rapid development of technology, the issues about blockchain are getting more and more attention from scholars. In order to study the operation of the blockchain system, this paper simulated the transaction confirmation process of a blockchain system with two miners. Combining with practice, factors such as adverse transactions, impatience phenomena of transactions, fault repairable conditions of the mining process and a spare miner are considered. An M/(M\(_1\),M\(_2\))/1 vacation queueing model with negative customers, impatient customers, optional services, repairable faults and a spare server is established. The stationary distribution of the system is obtained by using the matrix-geometric solution method, and expressions of the average confirmation time of transactions and other performance indexes are given. The influence of each parameter on the performance indexes of blockchain system is analyzed by using MATLAB software. Revenue function and equilibrium sleep rate of miners are discussed for optimizing the blockchain system.
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Blockchain has numerous benefits such as decentralisation, persistency, anonymity and auditability. There is a wide spectrum of blockchain applications ranging from cryptocurrency, financial services, risk management, internet of things (IoT) to public and social services. Although a number of studies focus on using the blockchain technology in various application aspects, there is no comprehensive survey on the blockchain technology in both technological and application perspectives. To fill this gap, we conduct a comprehensive survey on the blockchain technology. In particular, this paper gives the blockchain taxonomy, introduces typical blockchain consensus algorithms, reviews blockchain applications and discusses technical challenges as well as recent advances in tackling the challenges. Moreover, this paper also points out the future directions in the blockchain technology.
Bitcoins energy consumption is a concern but it may be a price worth paying
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