Bulletins

Bitcoin miners love renewable energy credits. We’re about to find out how effective they are.

A new approach promises to measure RECs' impact more precisely, with the potential to create a certification for bitcoin mining and other electricity-hungry industries.

A worker adjusting cryptocurrency mining rigs at a cryptocurrency farm.

Public pressure could be a powerful force in convincing the crypto sector specifically to embrace a more precise accounting of its emissions and REC purchases.

Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Crypto enthusiasts like Jack Dorsey have claimed bitcoin mining can spur a renewable energy revolution despite nearly all evidence to the contrary. But a new collaboration aims to help the industry kick its dirty reputation using tools and techniques that could apply to other polluting industries eventually.


On Monday, Energy Web, which builds operating systems for energy grids, and RMI, a nonprofit researching how to accelerate the energy transition, launched a new approach to evaluating purchases of what are known as renewable energy credits, or RECs. The groups will be focusing on the bitcoin mining industry, which is burning through an increasingly large share of the world's electricity.

While all efforts to switch to zero-carbon energy are generally good, some are better than others. Yet to this point, there has never been a way to measure the precise impact RECs have in creating a more sustainable grid. The new approach, dubbed Green Proofs for BTC, would create a certification process for energy-intensive industries on the path to decarbonizing.

It weighs several factors in determining if a bitcoin mine is actually helping clean up the grid, including the amount of renewables purchased, location and impact on the local grid and the specific renewables operations in determining a credit’s value. The groups point out that an REC from an existing clean energy power plant in California, where the grid is already well on its way to decarbonizing, is less valuable than one investing in clean energy generation in Poland, where coal is still in heavy rotation.

“With this approach, we can create an environment where more impactful renewable energy purchases are recognized,” Jesse Morris, CEO of Energy Web, told Protocol.

“We can do better,” Morris added. “By rewarding purchases of more impactful renewables, we can drive more money to renewable energy projects creating the most impact.”

While the approach is theoretically applicable to any electricity-hungry sector where REC purchases are widespread, the groups are using bitcoin mining as a case study. Mining the cryptocurrency has come under intense scrutiny from both the public and regulators given its ballooning carbon footprint. Energy Web and RMI have created the Crypto Climate Accord, which aims to get crypto miners in line with the Paris Agreement targets, and the groups say the new monitoring approach for RECs will "complement" that and other efforts to clean up the industry.

Eventually, the groups plan to create a certification program to credential renewable mining and hosting operations, which will assess a mine’s actual emissions and the emissions that its REC purchases mitigate. Assuming all goes smoothly, both the approach and the certification process can be essentially copy-and-pasted for other industries, with some tweaks of baseline electricity consumption.

Morris said the cryptocurrency sector is well-suited as a trial run because of the need for speed. The field is new enough that companies are willing to change on a dime and take some risks, whereas legacy electricity or data companies can be sluggish, and in many cases have taken decades to figure out how to reduce their emissions. A number of bitcoin miners advised Energy Web and RMI in developing the approach.

“The crypto industry, and Bitcoin in particular, is under immense pressure to go 100% renewable,” said Morris. “If crypto can be at the bleeding edge of innovation in decarbonizing the grid, it will go a long way towards eliminating the black eye the industry has gotten on the carbon-footprint front.”

RMI and Energy Web are currently soliciting stakeholder input until June 10.

Latest Bulletins

Coinbase said the SEC is looking into different aspects of the crypto company’s business, including “existing and intended future products,” according to a regulatory filing.

Keep Reading Show less

Microsoft accused its gaming rival Sony of trying to hurt the success of its subscription gaming platform by signing contracts with game developers that prohibit distribution through Xbox Game Pass, according to a new regulatory filing published in Brazil. The news was first reported by gaming outlet VGC on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less

Disney is getting ready to introduce an ad-supported Disney+ plan in December and will use that occasion to significantly raise the price of its existing ad-free subscription tier.

Keep Reading Show less

The CFPB said Wednesday that it has imposed a $2.7 million fine on Hello Digit, an app that claims to help users put aside money for rainy days but that the regulator said messed up their finances.

Keep Reading Show less

Facebook gave law enforcement in Nebraska private messages sent between a mother and a 17-year-old girl, who are now facing several charges in the state relating to a medication abortion the girl had. Facebook was served a search warrant, which was obtained by Vice, asking for their private data as part of the state's investigation.

Keep Reading Show less

Video game software company Unity can get bought by AppLovin or merge with ironSource, but it can’t do both.

Keep Reading Show less

Coinbase posted dismal results Tuesday as the crypto powerhouse got slammed by a downturn that “came fast and furious.”

Keep Reading Show less

Over the weekend, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act. The legislation is the largest investment in addressing climate change ever made at the federal level.

Keep Reading Show less

The U.S. has begun cracking down on imported goods from China that may have been made with Uyghur forced labor. That includes solar panels, which have been detained at the border or shipped back to China in recent weeks.

Keep Reading Show less

As pressure mounts on Big Tech to do more to protect the youngest users, Snap is launching a new family center that will allow parents to see who their kids are friends with on Snap and report suspicious accounts.

It’s part of a wave of new kid safety features being launched by tech giants, including Meta and Apple. But Snap has an arguably bigger hill to climb in implementing these features than either of those companies. To get parents of teens to use Snap’s parental controls, first, parents of teens need to actually use Snap.

Keep Reading Show less

North Korean hackers used Tornado Cash, a mixer platform for cryptocurrencies, to launder funds. That's according to the U.S. Treasury Department, which imposed sanctions on the USDC and ETH wallet addresses associated with the protocol Monday.

Keep Reading Show less

Google has filed a new patent infringement lawsuit against Sonos, alleging the violation of four patents. Most of the claims focus on voice assistant functionality; Google alleges that Sonos began violating its patents when Sonos introduced its own voice assistant this summer.

Keep Reading Show less

Twilio disclosed that a cyberattack involving the theft of employee credentials allowed attackers to access data from "a limited number" of customer accounts.

Keep Reading Show less

Block reported second-quarter earnings that just topped analysts’ estimates, but shares fell as investors digested the effect of the macroeconomic environment on the company’s core payments businesses. Bitcoin volume also dragged on total revenue.

Keep Reading Show less

Meta announced Thursday it had banned Cyber Front Z, a pro-Russia troll group that purported to mobilize harassment by supporters of Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine through a public Telegram channel.

Keep Reading Show less

Coinbase said Thursday that it has partnered with BlackRock to give the world’s biggest asset manager’s clients access to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Keep Reading Show less

Workers at Blizzard Albany, a subsidiary of game publisher Activision Blizzard formerly known as the studio Vicarious Visions that works on the popular Diablo franchise, said on Wednesday that studio management plans to fight their decision to unionize with the Communications Workers of America.

Keep Reading Show less

Binance co-founder Yi He will take over Binance Labs, the crypto powerhouse’s multibillion-dollar venture capital arm, the company said Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less

While the $280 billion Chips Act is largely focused on bolstering the U.S. semiconductor industry, it could also be a game changer for carbon dioxide removal. Buried within the sprawling bill is an authorization for research into the technology that, while not proven at scale, could nevertheless play an important role in addressing climate change.

Keep Reading Show less

A new Senate bill would give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission authority over the markets for bitcoin and ether, the two largest cryptocurrencies.

Keep Reading Show less

Robinhood said Tuesday that it was cutting more jobs as CEO Vlad Tenev acknowledged that the company got 2022 market trends wrong.

Keep Reading Show less

PayPal reported second-quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates, adding hopes for investors that the payments giant was seeing a bounce-back from its previous quarter, when economic jitters wiped out the company's pandemic gains.

Keep Reading Show less

Hackers stole nearly $200 million in cryptocurrency after the Nomad crypto bridge protocol was breached.

Keep Reading Show less

Robinhood has been fined $30 million by New York's top financial regulators over alleged shortcomings in the company's anti-money laundering and cybersecurity practices.

Keep Reading Show less

Real estate iBuyer Opendoor has settled charges with the FTC, agreeing to pay $62 million and cease practices the FTC called "deceptive."

Keep Reading Show less
Bulletins