As the state of Texas faces a rapid influx of Bitcoin mining operations, its electrical infrastructure will have to support the industry’s expected 5,000 megawatts (MW) of additional power demands by 2023.
The Bitcoin mining industry in Texas currently consumes around 500 to 1,000 MW of power. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) anticipates that demand could increase as much as fivefold by 2023 and has planned an additional 3,000 to 5,000 MW according to reports. This expansion comes as the Lone star state plans to become the home to 20% of the world’s Bitcoin mining operations.
Texas emerged as the go-to destination for Bitcoin miners ever since the Chinese government officially banned Bitcoin mining earlier this year. The state government has capitalized on China’s clampdown by making Texas a haven for crypto miners who can now enjoy a 10-year tax abatement, sales tax credits, and state-sponsored workforce training.
Some Texas residents, however, are concerned that the existing power grid cannot be improved. ERCOT’s management of the state’s electrical grid came under heavy scrutiny in February 2021 when blackouts plagued the region during an extreme cold snap which left about 5 million residents without power for days.
A report issued by ERCOT on Nov. 19 has failed to inspire confidence that the grid problems have been fixed. Texas Observer reporter Amal Ahmed tweeted on Nov. 22,
“The new seasonal assessment report (basically, a forecast) from ERCOT seems to indicate that, unsurprisingly, the agency hasn’t changed it’s approach at all to really prepare for extremes.”
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Some miners have attempted to allay residents’ fears about the potential drain on resources. The Texas Standard reported on Oct. 21 that some Bitcoin miners have been working with local power providers to ensure the stability of the grid. Meanwhile, several others intend to transition to using fully renewable and potential alternative sources of energy such as natural gas flares as mining operations become increasingly greener.
There are currently no proposals from the Texas state government to deal with potential issues that may arise from the increase in electrical demand from Bitcoin miners. As suggested by the Texas Standard, miners could be flexible in shutting off their machines during periods of peak demand or be charged a premium per kilowatt-hour if they want to stay on during peak demand periods.