Story by: Brendan Doherty
Mining Bitcoin consumes vast amounts of energy – roughly the same as an economy the size of Switzerland. And most comes from dirty fossil fuel.
The future of blockchain promises improvements across transparency, access, and participation – but its current environmental toll makes many uneasy.
Enter bitcoinClean – a Bitcoin Hardfork that incentivizes miners to use green energy and keep them honest through peer review. I sat down with Walter Komarek, Cofounder of bitcoinClean, to peek into the future of a more sustainable Bitcoin.
Brendan Doherty: Walter great to catch up together. So tell me, what is this bitcoinClean and how’s it different than the myriad cryptocurrency offerings we see out there?
Walter Komarek: BitcoinClean is a Bitcoin Hardfork, basically another version of Bitcoin with some features that we believe will help create an environmentally friendly version of Bitcoin. The main difference from Bitcoin as well as 99% of all cryptocurrencies, is that bitcoinClean employs an innovative protocol that incentivizes miners to check each other’s energy sources. Miners that don’t use renewables won’t be accepted by the community. So all mining will happen with clean energy.
Doherty: What inspired you to start bitcoinClean?
Komarek: I always try to see a few steps ahead. I’ve been in crypto for a while and I know this world from the inside out. My friend Michael Marcovici, a real blockchain and Crypto enthusiast had the idea and we decided to bring this coin to the world. Michael is well known as a philanthropist in Vienna. As the world steps into this new digital blockchain era, it brings us a lot of benefits but at the same time can risk real damages too such as pollution. Our idea was to connect both of these together to give us the possibility of enjoying all the benefits but in an ecological and ethical way.
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Doherty: So what’s the current impact of Bitcoin on the environment?
Komarek: The Bitcoin network is powered and kept alive by miners and the computing resources they bring to the table. These computers, so called ASIC miners, currently consume more than 35 Terrawatt hours per year. 87% of this electrical energy is produced by burning fossil fuels, mostly coal. Just a short while ago, a coal powered plant in East Australia that was put out of service a while ago, was restarted to offer cheap electricity to Bitcoin miners.
The pollution caused by the Bitcoin network is currently on par with what a country like Hungary emits for its electricity production, or the same as produced by travelling 43 trillion kilometers in a gasoline powered car.
Doherty: That’s an intense footprint, and the reopening of an Australian coal mine is especially depressing. But doesn’t overall consumption stay the same with bitcoinClean, or are you reducing that too?
Komarek: The basic mode of mining stays the same. BitcoinClean can be mined by the same mining equipment as Bitcoin. Initial difficulty will be much lower, which means a fraction of the energy is used on the network at the start. Since miners have to use renewable energy sources and hand pick each other, we expect network energy usage to grow much slower than with Bitcoin, while providing the same level of security.
Also, we raised the block size, which governs the amount of transactions that can happen per second. This means: one transaction uses 1/8th of the energy one Bitcoin transaction uses, all other things being equal.
There’s another interesting angle too – if bitcoinClean means more demand for renewable energy, don’t you think this will lead to more innovation there? Look at startups like Nordicblocks or Hydrominer. Hydrominer uses small hydroelectric power plants to mine. These plants are past the time where they receive government subsidies and some of these plants would have been closed. Mining gives them a second life.
Doherty: How does this all get enforced among the miners?
Komarek: This is the heart of bitcoinClean, and the real differentiator.
PoG stands for “Proof of Greenness.” With bitcoinClean, every miner has to undergo verification by his peers. They confirm his claim to renewable energy use.
To get verified, a miner uses a platform like CleanMiners.com to upload documents, photos and a description of his mining operation. If other miners like what they see, they upvote his project and after 3-5 upvotes a miner can start his work.
PoG has some very clever design features that ensure a miner’s proof stays recent, like any vote only counts for about 14 months. Plus, when a lot of other miners find that an operation that once was good turned sour, they can quickly downvote a miner and effectively ban him from participating.