Cambridge University Overestimated Bitcoin Mining Power Use

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  • Cambridge University has acknowledged that its CBECI Bitcoin mining model overestimated power usage and contributed to a false narrative about the industry
  • The Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index model has had a history of overestimating electricity consumption since 2017, impacting Bitcoin’s reputation.
  • The CBECI’s flawed data has been used widely to criticize Bitcoin’s energy use, and recent corrections show that it consistently overestimated power consumption for the past eight years.

Cambridge University has admitted that it overestimated the amount of power used by Bitcoin mining in a 2019 report that is still used to criticise the industry. The university says that its Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI) model has suffered from a “periodic overestimation of electricity consumption” since 2021 and has now rectified this error, although, this is of course years too late for those wishing to combat the false narrative perpetuated by mainstream media outlets that have used this data to this point.

Fullycrypto on It From the Start

Fullycrypto has been debunking the myths over Bitcoin mining since 2017, picking holes in Cambridge University’s data even before it became the CBECI, but this necessity has only increased over time as more false narratives have emerged. In March 2022 a new campaign group, Change the Code Not the Climate, cited CBECI data to underpin its claims that Bitcoin should switch to proof-of-work due to the damaging impact of mining, with the baton being picked up by the World Economic Forum just a month later.

Now, however, it seems that the data they used was erroneous, as evidenced by Cambridge University’s report:

The CBECI’s estimates remained relatively stable and consistent until 2017 when its estimates began to exceed the actual use. This was two years before the model was even awarded its name, at which point its erroneous data started to be used by outlets far and wide to criticise Bitcoin’s energy use.

2021 is where things really get out of hand, however; the previous CBECI model estimated an electricity consumption of 104.0 TWh, 15.0 TWh higher than the revised model estimate (89.0 TWh), marking the most egregious divergence from reality. The discrepancy was lower for the following two years but remains in place up to today, meaning that the CBECI has overplayed Bitcoin’s power consumption for each of the last eight years.

While the differences may not be a huge difference in real terms it goes to show that such supposed arbiters of authority shouldn’t be blindly trusted.