Bitcoin Can Drop 50% and China Miners Will Still Make Money

Bitcoin mining is so profitable in China that the cryptocurrency could fall by half and miners would still make money, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Even at the country’s highest regulated electricity tariff, miners can profit from bitcoin as long as it’s worth more than $6,925, BNEF analysts including Sophie Lu wrote in a report Wednesday. The digital currency was last in that range back in mid-November and currently trades at about $13,900.

Bitcoin’s 1,400 percent surge last year saw greater demand for electricity to run the computers used in the cryptocurrency’s mining. About three-quarters of those machines ended up in China, the world’s largest electricity user, which is now seeking to discourage the practice given a surge in power use in some provinces.

“Bitcoin mining under the current price is likely to be profitable under any electricity price regime in China,” Lu wrote.

Cryptocurrency power use is facing more scrutiny, particularly in China, which is concerned miners are taking advantage of low electricity prices. Digital currency transactions require energy-intensive computer networks, with the industry now using as much power as 3.4 million U.S. households, according to Digiconomist Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index. China is said to be planning to limit power use by miners, which are starting to look elsewhere.

Rising Demand

Electricity demand for bitcoin mining rose to about 20.5 terawatt-hours a year by the end of 2017, according to BNEF. That equates to more than half the 38 terawatt-hours of electricity used annually by the world’s biggest traditional miner, BHP Billiton Ltd. — or a 10th of the electricity needed to power South Africa.

In China, miners used 15.4 terawatt hours, which is just a blip in the country’s massive power industry. Even though it plays host to the world’s biggest community of bitcoin miners, they only used 0.2 percent of the country’s annual electricity production, according to the report…

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