Twitter debates the role of renewable energy in Bitcoin mining


It all started with a tweet from Dennis Porter, podcast host and self-proclaimed Bitcoin advocate, which led to a heady discussion about renewable energy and the role of Bitcoin miners. Porter claimed that Bitcoin (BTC) incentivizes renewable energy expansion, but environmental scientist Peter Gleick dismissed the claim as a “self-interested lie.”

The comments section got heated when Nic Carter, general partner of Castle Island Ventures and co-founder of Coin Metrics, entered the chat and called Gleick, claiming he knew nothing about energy.

Carter went on to explain how energy markets work and defended the use of cryptocurrencies in a thread of tweets. He first refuted Porter’s claim that every kilowatt-hour, or KWh, of renewable energy “is already being used productively and Bitcoin is redirecting that use.” He argued that Porter was wrong when he said that every unit of energy is consumed, citing market reports showing negative energy prices or restricted energy that has “no economically productive benefit”.

He pointed readers to initiatives led by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, an organization that runs most of the Texas power grid with an oversupply. In a presentation he gave at the Texas Blockchain Summit last year, he said bitcoin mining can improve the economics of renewable energy projects.

Related: Texas Should Use Bitcoin Mining to Extract Waste Natural Gas: Senator Ted Cruz

According to Carter, bitcoin mining has given wind and solar farms an opportunity to soak up excess supply that can’t be sold. Any energy that tends to be wasted when the generator stops feeding the grid or even shuts down temporarily can be used to mine Bitcoin. He added that there is already a movement of miners connecting to wind farm grids to buy energy during periods of low utilization or when prices are high, giving households better access during periods of high demand. He urged his critics to give credit to those miners who are currently evaluating how economically viable the infrastructure can be.

With over 400 comments, the thread was full of commenters siding with both Carter and Gleick, or asking for clarifications and additional reading material. A user, “@SGBarbour”, who builds bitcoin mines I Agree with Porter that bitcoin miners “do not incentivize renewable energy” but “help sink capital into unreliable generation.” So while Barbour agreed that mining is good, he doesn’t think it fixes the fact that “so much capital has been wasted installing unreliable power generation like wind and solar,” he explained in a Substack article.

Conversely, another user “@jyn_urso”, a climate change physicist and recently converted Bitcoin proponent, applauded Carter for “another great thread on how energy markets work.” According to her previous tweets, she believes community- and individual-level solutions like bitcoin mining can help accelerate the transition to renewable energy and reduce reliance on political structures.

Overall, this debate shows how Bitcoin and energy consumption are widely misunderstood. The disagreement as to whether bitcoin represents a good use of idle energy has yet to be proven. A growing number of scientists and climate change advocates are open to the idea that Bitcoin’s energy use could unlock renewable energy gains.

Carter eventually changed his Twitter name to “nic no credentials Carter” after Gleick pointed out their different degrees and expertise in the energy field. Another Carter supporter chimed in to ridicule Gleick for using his authority status as evidence to assert the truth.

One country that is a role model for bitcoin miners is Norway. A recent government report shows that Norway’s electricity mix consists of 100% renewable energy sources, giving miners there access to fully green and cheap electricity, particularly hydropower.