Polkadot Energy Consumption: why this is a game-changer for blockchains & for the environment
Updated: Nov 3, 2021
Update: Space Rossi's collaboration bringing more information about the subject.
Hello, friends! This is James Agenda here.
In my last post, I wrote about Polkadot's Nominated Proof-of-Stake being one of the main reasons I deeply invest in this ecosystem.
The energy consumption of Proof-of-Stake is absurdly lower than on Proof-of-work.
Today I'm diving into more about the energy aspect of Polkadot and Kusama.
I'm also comparing it with the traditional Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains.
⚡Energy vs. 💳Credit: The truth about Proof-of-Work vs. Proof-Of-Stake
There is a misconception that Bitcoin requires a massive amount of energy because of its transactions.
Indeed, Bitcoin uses a lot of energy.
But most of this energy is not used to create transactions at all.
Most Bitcoin energy (over 99,99%) is used just as "proof-of-work", and not to create valuable information about transactions.
Bitcoin use lot of energy to ensure that the miners will be economically discouraged to lie.
The energy is then basically used to incentivize miners to stay honest.
If we manage to do that without spending lots of energy, then it's much better!
And it's especially better for the environment since, right now, a single bitcoin transaction has a carbon footprint of 0.5 tons of CO2.
That's what proof-of-stake is aiming for:
Incentivize the validators ("miners") to tell the truth without spending enormous amounts of energy.
This idea was first suggested in 2011 by a user at bitcointalk.org:
Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake are arrangments applying game theory.
Both are not implemented to create transactions related info.
Both are implemented to manage people's behavior while they are then creating transactions related info.
If you want to know more about this subject, I suggest seeing this video from Coin Bureau.
⚡Energy Consumption: Bitcoin and Ethereum
According to the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance, Bitcoin consumes more than 90 TWh per year.
90,000,000,000,000 watts-hour each year.
This amount of energy would be enough to keep 3.2 trillion lightbulbs on for a whole year.
You may also visualize it in terms of AA alkaline batteries.
Ethereum already consumes about half of this amount: 44 TWh.
Despite being delayed by 5 years, Ethereum has plans to become Proof-of-Stake and reduce this energy consumption.
⚡Energy Consumption: Polkadot and Kusama
Now let's estimate Polkadot and Kusama's electric energy consumption.
First, I will assume that each validator has an Intel i7-7700K CPU, the standard hardware for a validator.
This assumption is already overestimated since many validators use less powerful machines or cloud servers.
But let's continue with these specs and use 100 Watt for the Intel i7-7700K electric power.
Finally, let's use about 1,000 for the total numbers of Polkadot's validators (active validators + waiting validators).
So, to operating for one year, the Polkadot blockchain requires:
365*24*100*1,000 = 876,000,000 Watt-hour, or 0,8 GWh.
Since Kusama has about twice the number of validators, it requires about 1,6 GWh.
And this energy consumption already contemplates the Parachains.
Parachains don't require extra energy for running their blockchains.
Comparison: ⚡Energy consumption on Bitcoin, Ethereum and Polkadot
As the numbers above show:
Polkadot's electric energy consumption is just 0,001% of Bitcoin's.
Beyond the relative numbers, let's illustratively comparing them:
The source for countries' consumption is the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Now the craziest part:
Since there are about 1 Million active addresses in Bitcoin, then each one consumes about 90,000,000 Wh per year.
Or 90,000 kWh yearly per Bitcoin's active address.
This is 30x the world's average consumption per capita.
By using the right resources (in this case, using credit instead of energy), Polkadot then implemented a solution on a whole other level.
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