Mounting regulatory scrutiny and market pressures make crypto mining increasingly difficult, which makes participating in demand response programs more appealing.
The business case for crypto demand response is strongest when crypto prices are low and electricity prices are high, as they are now. Also, environmental advocates and lawmakers are pushing for environmental policy reforms around crypto mining energy consumption, which could impact miners’ expansion and operations.
Demand response meets miners’ needs on both the policy and business fronts. In participating in demand response, crypto mining organizations receive compensation for curtailing their electric consumption when electric demand on the grid exceeds the grid operator’s ability to supply it or when electricity prices are high. Miners can also show sustainability benefits by tracking exactly how much carbon dioxide pollution their facility prevents in helping the electric grid stay balanced without having to burn fossil fuels to produce electricity.
CPower has seen considerable interest from the crypto mining sector as operators and developers are looking to maximize value and showcase carbon offsets through demand response.
Crypto Miners May be Leaving Money on the Table Without DR
Operational efficiency is key in crypto mining, in which miners earn cryptocurrency by using computers to validate complex blockchain transactions before competitors do. The value of the cryptocurrency that miners earn has dropped while energy expenses have risen.
Already trending lower through most of 2022, crypto prices fell further in early November after FTX, a leading cryptocurrency exchange, collapsed, prompting broader concerns about the industry. Escalating energy costs could push crypto prices even lower as miners try to cover the additional operational expense for running their computers.
With large and growing loads, energy is a primary expense for miners. Small facilities consume 10s of MWs and bigger operations use 100s of MWs to power computers. Mining may be done at any time.
Demand response helps miners reduce their energy costs and increase their returns. Not only can miners save money by mining at less expensive times, but they can also earn significant revenue by quickly curtailing large amounts of electric load without impairing operations. Mining also becomes more profitable when currency is mined with less expensive electricity.
Showing Sustainability in Crypto Mining
In addition to managing the financial implications of the energy cost of cryptocurrency, many miners are facing concerns about the industry’s environmental impact. Globally, the cryptocurrency market consumes more than 68 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year, continuously running more than 19 coal-fired power plants, according to ENERGY STAR®.
In the US, which hosts about one-third of global crypto-asset operations, miners consume 0.9% to 1.7% of the nation’s electricity usage, or the equivalent of all home computers or residential lighting nationwide, according to a recently released White House study of the climate and energy implications of crypto-assets. Crypto-asset activity accounts for 25 to 50 Mt CO2/y, or 0.4% to 0.8% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which is similar to emissions from diesel fuel used by the nation’s railroads.
After assessing the impacts of crypto-asset operations, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) recommendations included:
- Developing evidence-based environmental performance standards for the design, development, and use of environmentally responsible crypto-asset technologies.
- Conducting reliability assessments of current and projected crypto-asset mining operations on electricity system reliability and adequacy.
- Encouraging federal regulators to promulgate and regularly update energy conservation standards for crypto-asset mining equipment, blockchains and other operations.
- Collecting and analyzing information from crypto-asset miners and electric utilities to enable evidence-based decisions on the energy and climate implications of crypto-assets.
Some members of Congress are looking into the impacts of crypto mining as well. Led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, seven lawmakers are probing Bitcoin’s impact on the Texas power grid. They asked the state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), for information such as energy consumption data for Bitcoin miners and details regarding crypto mining companies’ participation in demand response programs.
In response, The Texas Blockchain Council (TBC), an industry advocacy group, emphasized the environmental benefits that crypto miners have provided by using renewable energy and participating in demand response. TBC noted, for example, that:
- Bitcoin mining offers an alternative flexible load negating the reliance on legacy coal generation;
- Miners act as buyers of first and last resort for renewable generation that is constrained by transmission capacity; and
- Texas Bitcoin miners curtailed more than 50,000 MWh in July 2022 in response to record heat and energy demand.
Though Texas is the nation’s biggest market for crypto miners, the feasibility of Bitcoin mining as a grid resource is being contested in other states as well. New York has implemented a two-year partial cryptocurrency mining ban, creating the nation’s first temporary pause on new permits for fossil fuel power plants used in proof-of-work mining, which is a process that is used in the mining of some, but not all, cryptocurrency operations. The two plants in New York that currently use fossil fuel for generation can continue to run because they were in operation before the moratorium.
Optimizing Crypto Mining Energy Usage
CPower helps crypto miners drive emission reductions, energy-bill savings and revenue by determining how they can best help increase the amount of renewable power available to the grid and reduce their carbon impact.
For example, Digihost won an Environment + Energy Leader (E+E Leader) award for its work in enabling the energy transition by participating in demand response through CPower. Digihost avoided nearly 150 metric tons of marginal CO2, with just 29 hours of demand response participation. In avoiding the equivalent of 5,637 tons of coal burned per hour of demand response participation, Digihost’s site sequestered 182 acres worth of US forests for one year.
CPower has also helped crypto miners leverage their clean energy distributed energy resources (DERs). For example, a renewable energy-powered crypto mining site in the PJM energy market, which is served by the country’s largest grid operator, used CPower’s AI-based EnerWiseTM Site Optimization software to achieve grid revenue and on-bill savings. EnerWise Site Optimization helps DER owners and developers manage and monetize all their DERs across multiple energy markets and utility programs simultaneously by analyzing the latest market and grid conditions.
In integrating EnerWise Site Optimization with Verakari’s crypto mine design, including network components, electrical infrastructure, custom-built software elements, custom demand response hardware components, and innovative operations protocols, CPower helps the company’s Pennsylvania crypto mining site better align with price, demand and marginal emissions signals in PJM Interconnection, the largest grid operator in the U.S. As a result, Verakari will reduce its energy costs while helping to create a more reliable and sustainable grid.
CPower is the U.S. leader in energy flexibility and grid balancing solutions, serving more than 2,000 customers across the country. With 6.3 GW of customer-powered capacity at over 17,000 sites across the US, we unlock the full value of distributed energy resources to strengthen the grid when and where it’s needed most.
To learn more about how CPower helps crypto miners maximize value and show sustainability by participating in demand response programs, call us at 844-276-9371 or visit CPowerEnergy.com/contact to find out.
David is a CPower Account Executive for New York (NYISO). His expertise includes commercial & industrial demand response, distributed energy resources (DERs) and crypto mining demand management. Coming from the worlds of commercial lighting, IoT controls, and automation, the technological advances in battery storage and distributed generation — and the opportunity to monetize them — make the DR world an exciting place for him. He is also skilled in clean energy project and program management of both small business and large-scale commercial installations.
Mike is Market Development Director at CPower. He has extensive experience in analyzing and developing market rules in multiple energy markets across North America. His career has focused on advocating for demand side resources participation in the energy markets as a reliable low-cost option compared to traditional generation assets.