Bitcoin Transactions Pick Up Speed, Energy Use Through the Roof

The network overload of the past months suddenly resolved, while trading volumes also dwindled.

Bitcoin's network has been clogged for months, especially during large price swings, when traders tried to move BTC onto exchanges, or buy immediately as the price rose. But now, the speed of Bitcoin has risen to 21 transactions per second.

Bitcoin Sliding to $900? Expert Predicts Dot-Com Bubble Scenario

The backlog has shrank from a peak near 300,000 unverified transactions to as low as 4,100 pending transfers. In the past days, the transaction backlogs gradually cleared as the price of BTC sank below $9,000.

Some believed the exceptionally high volumes were deliberate spam to the network, or possibly traffic from Coinbase because of heightened buying interest.

The average transaction has fallen from the peak levels to about $3.20 per transaction - still steep compared to 2015 levels, but more reasonable compared to the $100 fees incurred by wallets, or even higher payments to miners.

Not Sustainable Anymore?

The high network speed at the moment comes at a cost. In the past three months, the energy for Bitcoin has doubled. A single transaction now takes about 634 KWh of energy, shows the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index. Bitcoin now consumes a small, but noticeable 0.22% of worldwide electricity.

According to statistics, one Bitcoin transaction now uses the same energy as 100,000 VISA transactions.

For the environmentally conscious, the carbon footprint of BTC is rather high, estimated at 310.53 kg of CO2 per transaction. The carbon footprint is based on an estimate, given that most Bitcoin mining happens in China, where electricity is primarily produced by burning coal.

While in the past an argument could be made for Bitcoin's still relatively slim use, the rather fast growth of energy usage is undermining that line of thinking.

As more mining farms came online, the price consumption grew more than three times in total. Now, Bitcoin uses as much energy as Singapore.

Mining Bitcoin at above 21 PH/s means new farms use only the latest, most powerful machines, with one Bitmain Antminer S9 allowing for the highest hash rate of 14 TH/s.