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Two technicians inspect bitcon mining servers at Bitfarms Quebec, Canada. Photo: Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images

Canada's largest utility, Hydro Quebec, says it is facing "unprecedented" demand from cryptocurrency mining, and has temporarily blocked servicing much of this demand until it finds a sustainable rate structure for blockchain-related processing.

Why it matters: Despite a precipitous drop in the value of many cryptocurrencies this year, the energy demands of the architecture behind such cryptocurrencies — blockchain and distributed ledger technologies — continue to grow. It is presenting challenges, but also opportunities, particularly for utilities in developed countries that are desperately searching for new sources of demand growth.

The big picture: Blockchain-related power demand already outstrips that of electric vehicles globally, and Quebec is not alone. From Beijing to Tbilisi and beyond, blockchain-based processing is searching for low-cost electricity wherever it can be found, whether due to abundant renewable resources or price-distorting subsidies.

Hydro Quebec had until recently been courting cryptocurrency miners — touting its cheap, abundant, hydro-derived electricity — but was quickly overwhelmed with blockchain requests that represented over a quarter of its total generating capacity.

What's next: It's now up to governments and utilities to work together to harvest this potentially significant new source of electricity demand in a way that maximizes low-carbon power output and still ensures the ability to meet moments of peak demand.

David Livingston is deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

World leaders react to "new dawn in America" under Biden administration

President Biden reacts delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

World leaders have pledged to work with President Biden on issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, with many praising his move to begin the formal process for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

The big picture: Several leaders noted the swift shift from former President Trump's "America First" policy to Biden's action to re-engage with the world and rebuild alliances.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with first lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.