MORGAN STANLEY: Bitcoin could use more energy than Argentina this year

Go Ultra Low Kia Soul EV on charge on a London street. Ultra-low emission vehicles such as this can cost as little as 2p per mile to run and some electric cars and vans have a range of up to 700 miles.

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Go Ultra Low Kia Soul EV on charge on a London street. Ultra-low emission vehicles such as this can cost as little as 2p per mile to run and some electric cars and vans have a range of up to 700 miles.
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  • Bitcoin mining could use more electricity in 2018 than Argentina, Morgan Stanley said in a note to clients Wednesday. It could also use more energy than electric vehicle power demand in 2025.
  • The cryptocurrency could make up 0.6% of the world’s consumption in 2018 and force utility stocks to adapt.

Energy needed to mine bitcoin could be more than is used by the entire country of Argentina in 2018, Morgan Stanley said in a note to clients Wednesday.

“We project this consumption to be greater in 2018 than Electric Vehicle power demand in 2025, yet this level is still far from being material to utility power demand” analysts at the bank said. “Will this and other blockchain technologies become increasingly more important over time (and push thoughts away from Electric Vehicles? Potentially, but we would expect these new technologies to take time to develop.”

The bank estimates power for bitcoin mining, which has already been estimated to use more than 159 countries in 2017, will make up 0.6% of global demand, which is “not likely” to have any impact on utility stocks just yet.

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Morgan Stanley Research

“To successfully mine a coin (add to the blockchain ledger) requires a large amount of computational and therefore energy use, given the “proof of work” system that this deploys,” the bank said. “This is 0.2% of the world’s consumption currently. According to blockchain.info, Bitcoin accounts for c.62% of the cryptocurrency market,and so the total energy usage for cryptocurrencies is therefore likely higher than this.”

Bitcoin miners have already flocked to areas of the world where electricity and labor are cheap, like China and South Korea, but the bank warns that this could be impacted by regulation, much like has happened in South Korea this week.

Miners have reportedly begun to flee China as the authoritarian country clamps down even tighter with rules on cryptocurrency trading and mining. The move could increase bitcoin transaction times, which can often take more than 10 minutes.

Still, there are plenty of places left where bitcoin mining can be lucrative, Morgan Stanley says, like the midwest and northwest US – and it could even fuel new renewable energy efforts.

“Bitcoin demand may represent a new business opportunity for renewable energy developers. The ultimate question is whether this could be a positive for the global utility sector,” the bank said. “Big Oil is also moving in to renewables (and have much larger balance sheets). And ICOs could mean new entrants raising capital to enter the market.”

Bitcoin had an explosive year in 2017, rising over 1400% – but its gains have slowed to just 5% since the start of 2018.

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