ERCOT conservation request doesn’t affect Fort Worth’s bitcoin mining operation

(AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

Last week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) asked businesses and residents to voluntarily conserve electricity during the current Texas heat wave. This included requesting that bitcoin mining operators across the state shut down their energy-hungry machines.

ERCOT is the power grid operator for the state of Texas.

According to the Texas Blockchain Council (TBC), nearly all industrial-scale mining in the state powered down in response to the request.

“Over 95% of industrial-scale bitcoin mines curtailed their power consumption during peak demand times over the past week,” Lee Bratcher, president of Texas Blockchain Council, wrote in an email to The Washington Post, which reported on the cutbacks in a story published by the Texas Tribune. “The bitcoin miners were able to push over 1,000 [megawatts] back into the grid for ten-hour plus periods multiple times during the week.”

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At Fort Worth City Hall however, bitcoin mining operations continued unabated. Fort Worth recently became the first city in the U.S. to begin mining its own bitcoin.

Carlo Capua, Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Mattie Parker’s office, said the city’s one machine has a small impact on the city’s energy usage and so was not shut down. Capua noted that ERCOT’s request was directed toward industrial-scale bitcoin mines that consume large amounts of energy.

“The city’s six-month bitcoin mining pilot program is still in progress as a flexible, exploratory program that allows the city to better understand the implications and opportunities of cryptocurrency at no cost to the taxpayers, even with recent fluctuations in the price of bitcoin,” Capua said.

“Monitoring the energy implications of the bitcoin mining is an important piece of the pilot program, which is in part why the program is small in scale (currently only one machine) to ensure a nominal impact on the city’s energy usage,” Capua added.

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The city’s initial bitcoin mining pilot program launched in April with the TBC donating three S9 mining machines. In June, the Fort Worth City Council voted to return those machines for a single S19 machine that is considered a significant upgrade, largely because it consumes up to 18% less energy and can mine up to 147% more bitcoin than the three older machines combined.

Capua said the program will still be evaluated after six months from the initial April launch, which would make the evaluation set for October if nothing changes.

“I plan to give a report to council the month following the conclusion of the pilot program to recap and assess the lessons learned,” he said.

One of the major criticisms of cryptocurrency is the amount of energy required to mine it. Many countries, such as China and Egypt, have banned cryptocurrency, while many others have passed restrictions prohibiting crypto exchanges and/or limiting banks’ ability to participate in crypto exchanges, according to numerous websites, such as lawyer-monthly.com and euronews.com.

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In a recent article in the Texas Tribune, Webber Energy Group Research Associate Joshua D. Rhodes was quoted saying that when an electricity grid is “within a few thousand megawatts of how much supply we have and how much demand we have, a 1% change can make a big difference.”