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

SurveyMonkey poll: Trump improves, but not enough

Trump and Biden during the final debate. Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

President Trump's final debate performance exceeded Americans' expectations, but it wasn't enough to shift the dynamics that left him trailing Joe Biden across most measures, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

What they're saying: "Liar" was the word used most by debate watchers to describe Trump's performance, followed by "lies," "strong," "presidential" and "childish." "Presidential" was the word used most to describe Biden's performance, followed by "liar," "weak," "expected" and "honest."

Hunter Biden saga dominates online debate

Data: NewsWhip; Table: Axios Visuals

The mainstream media turned away. But online, President Trump's charges about Hunter Biden were by far the dominant storyline about the final presidential debate, according to exclusive NewsWhip data provided to Axios.

  • Coverage of business dealings by Joe Biden's son — and pre-debate allegations by one of his former business associates, Tony Bobulinski — garnered more than twice as much online activity (likes, comments, shares) as the runner-up.