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The Energy Consumption of Blockchain Technology

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Bus Inf Syst Eng 62(6):599–608 (2020) https://doi.org/10.1007/s12599-020-00656-x CATCHWORD The Energy Consumption of Blockchain Technology: Beyond Myth Johannes Sedlmeir • Hans Ulrich Buhl • Gilbert Fridgen • Robert Keller Received: 10 February 2020 / Accepted: 9 May 2020 / Published online: 19 June 2020 Ó The Author(s) 2020 Abstract When talking about blockchain technology in academia, business, and society, frequently generalizations are still heared about its – supposedly inherent – enormous energy consumption. This perception inevitably raises concerns about the further adoption of blockchain tech- nology, a fact that inhibits rapid uptake of what is widely considered to be a groundbreaking and disruptive innova- tion. However, blockchain technology is far from homo- geneous, meaning that blanket statements about its energy consumption should be reviewed with care. The article is meant to bring clarity to the topic in a holistic fashion, looking beyond claims regarding the energy consumption of Bitcoin, which have, so far, dominated the discussion. Accepted after two revisions by Ulrich Frank. J. Sedlmeir 􏱦 H. U. Buhl 􏱦 G. Fridgen 􏱦 R. Keller Project Group Business and Information Systems Engineering of the Fraunhofer FIT, Bayreuth, Germany e-mail: hans-ulrich.buhl@fim-rc.de G. Fridgen e-mail: gilbert.fridgen@uni.lu R. Keller e-mail: robert.keller@fim-rc.de J. Sedlmeir (&) FIM Research Center, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany e-mail: johannes.sedlmeir@fit.fraunhofer.de H. U. Buhl 􏱦 R. Keller FIM Research Center, University of Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany G. Fridgen SnT - Interdisciplinary Center for Security, Reliability and Trust, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg, Luxembourg Keywords Blockchain 􏱦 Cryptocurrency 􏱦 Energy consumption 􏱦 Distributed ledger technology 􏱦 Sustainability 1 Introduction Blockchain technology entered public awareness with its first application, the cryptocurrency Bitcoin (Nakamoto 2008), which was established in 2009 and currently exhi- bits a market capitalization of more than 100 billion USD. In the last decade, blockchain technology has developed significantly and is now implemented in a wide range of scenarios, including Ethereum or Hyperledger Fabric, which allow distributed platforms to function with unprecedented versatility (Lockl et al. 2020). Conse- quently, many researchers and practitioners have realized that blockchain technology holds disruptive potential beyond its use in cryptocurrencies (Beck 2018; Fridgen et al. 2018a; Labazova et al. 2019). Generally speaking, blockchain technology permits secure transactions to be made without the involvement of intermediaries, and is, therefore, appealing to individuals as well as to industry and the public sector. However, Bitcoin still dominates many people’s perceptions of blockchain technology. Moreover, it is well-known that Bitcoin consumes an enormous amount of energy (De Vries 2018). (Strictly speaking, we cannot consume energy, but merely change its form from valuable (e.g., electricity) to less valuable (e.g., heat) energy. Nevertheless, we will stick to the common usage of the phrase here.) Consequently, one frequently encounters claims that the energy consumption ofblockchaintechnologyingeneralisproblematic (Truby 2018). Considering the current discussions regarding cli- mate change and sustainability, these statements could 123

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