Jun 28, 2018

Utilities strained as blockchain's energy appetite continues to grow

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.

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NYC races to build field hospitals as coronavirus death toll tops 1,000

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces at the USTA Bille Jean King tennis center that the venue will be transformed into a 350-bed temporary hospital. Photo: Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference Tuesday of plans to triple hospital bed numbers to combat the novel coronavirus by transforming facilities into makeshift hospitals — including U.S. Open tennis courts.

The big picture: The city now accounts for a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. — more than 1,000 as of Wednesday morning. De Blasio said the city had "about 20,000 working hospital beds in our major hospitals" before the outbreak. "We now need to, in just the next weeks ... produce three times that number," he said.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 a.m. ET: 859,796 — Total deaths: 42,332 — Total recoveries: 178,300.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2 a.m. ET: 189,618 — Total deaths: 4,079 — Total recoveries: 7,109.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  6. Coronavirus in custody: Inmates in all U.S. federal prisons are set to enter a 14-day quarantine on April 1. A federal judge on Tuesday ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release 10 detained immigrants who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 while in confinement.
  7. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll tops 4,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 4,000 people in the U.S. — with over 1,000 deaths reported in New York City alone, per Johns Hopkins data. The number of deaths are still much lower than those reported in Italy, Spain and China.

Of note: Hours earlier, President Trump noted it's "going to be a very painful two weeks," with projections indicating the novel coronavirus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place. "They are going to be facing a war zone," he said of medical workers.

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