At what point will greening crypto energy consumption be enough?
En+ Group, the world’s top producer of low-carbon aluminum and the largest private-sector generator of hydropower, has entered its first crypto mining joint venture.
The new venture, called Bit+, will focus on creating facilities that support crypto mining with a low carbon footprint. En+ Group’s partner in Bit+ is the Russian company BitRiver, which provides hosting services and turnkey solutions for large-scale, institutional crypto mining operations.
BitRiver currently operates the largest data center offering colocation services for Bitcoin (BTC) mining in the Russian Federation and offers similar services across the country and to CIS neighbors.
The first result of the Bit+ venture is the installation of a new facility close to BitRiver’s existing data center in Bratsk, located in the Irkutsk region of the Russian Federation. En+ Group has committed 10MW of electricity to the facility, which is composed of modular crypto mining units and is already operational. The companies have plans to scale the facility’s capacity to roughly 40MW.
For its initial phase, the facility is composed of 14 modular units, each of which is a converted shipping container that is as large as a full-scale crypto mining data center. Each unit can accommodate up to 400 of Bitmain’s S19 Pro miners.
In an official statement, En+ Group provided some context regarding the choice of the Irkutsk region and its apparent viability for lower-carbon solutions to cryptocurrency mining:
“Our energy assets in the [Irkutsk] region produce low-carbon, inexpensive electricity from renewable sources, and we are able to offer surplus energy to these partnerships. Moreover, the low average annual temperature reduces the energy required by the datacentres, making them more efficient and further minimising their carbon footprint.”
As reported, high energy consumption remains an Achilles’ heel for the crypto sector, particularly for coins such as Bitcoin, whose consensus algorithm is computationally intensive and thus demands exceptionally high levels of energy to maintain.
Several energy experts have attempted to reorient the energy debate surrounding Bitcoin away from energy consumption. They have instead focused on analyzing where that energy is produced and how it is generated, and have argued that it is most important to ensure that less harmful choices are made at the power generation stage.
With financial and geopolitical actors now entering the endgame of global climate politics, it remains to be seen how far greening crypto’s energy consumption, instead of aiming to reduce it, will be enough to make the sector truly sustainable.