What if cryptocurrencies were an engine for the energy transition? As the industry is turning to more sustainable solutions, some players are pushing the approach further to support the development of these infrastructures. Meeting with Sébastien Gouspillou, boss of Bigblock Datacenter and Bigblock Green Service, who has placed this paradigm at the center of his business.
You know this question by heart: Is cryptocurrency bad for the environment? And his answer is clear: Quite the opposite, it is an extremely positive sector for the energy transition. It may seem counterintuitive because the press talks about Bitcoin only to say that it consumes too much energy, that it pollutes, etc. But it is a new paradigm for electricians the entrepreneur immediately asks.
Use renewable extra capacity
This new paradigm is the use of extra renewable capacity, the heart of Sébastien Gouspillou’s business. An activity that has established itself as the most economically logical. ” The idea of the mining project was born in 2016 and we opened the first datacenter in 2017 after a year of study on the subject, he says. First a farm in Ukraine, then in France, in Nantes. In 2018, falling cryptocurrency prices meant we were no longer profitable. It was then that we started looking for megawatts in other parts of the world, where they are cheaper. One thing led to another, we realized that cheap megawatts at a sustainable price are necessarily based on renewable extra capacity. For example, hydroelectric dams that have a production capacity that exceeds demand. Now it has two farms in operation and one under construction, for about twenty employees.
To fully understand this, you need to look at how electricity is produced and transported. ” So far, in order to produce electricity, we have tried to make it as controllable as possible, explains Sébastien Gouspillou. VSthat is to say that if we had a production capacity of 100 and only produced 50, it was enough to produce less. It is an economic aberration. There were no other solutions, no possibility of recovering this energy lost in the production sites. ”
If infrastructures produce more than the population can absorb, it is because they are built to support population and economic growth, explains Sébastien Gouspillou. ” There is always a leak, especially at the start and especially on green structures, especially on hydroelectric power plants, on run-of-the-river power stations. This is what we identify as the extra capacity of renewables, and there are many of them. We can put maybe 20 bitcoin networks on it. An observation that is particularly at the heart of the Power Ledger platform, accessible on LiteBit, and which allows its users to buy and sell green energy.
Withdrawal and non-competition clause
According to a study by the Judge Business School of the University of Cambridge, 76% of miners use renewable energy in their mix and 39% of the total energy used comes from renewable energy – and the trend towards renewables is confirmed with the decline in the price of cryptocurrencies and the increase of those of hydrocarbons, says Sébastien Gouspillou. “ This makes it the cleanest industry in the world, and it is the only one that has long been said to pose an ecological problem.. ”
One of the arguments of the killers of an allegedly harmful cryptocurrency is that even if the energy used is green, it could be used for other purposes. For Sébastien Gouspillou, the most effective proof to counter this argument is the low price at which his company buys electricity. ” If we can buy electricity at this price, it means that there are no other possible uses for this electricity. An electrician will never sell his megawatt-hour for $ 30 if he can sell it for $ 300. These are structural surpluses that can last five or ten years. To swallow them you would have to pull cables, install poles, create an electrical network: it is expensive. Very often these electricity production boxes, especially renewable ones, do not have the means to create new grids. And the economic crutch of mining makes it possible to finance this network. ”
The advantage of miners over other sectors is their mobility and flexibility. ” We work with transport containers, these are mobile mining farmsexplains Sébastien Gouspillou. It doesn’t change every week, implementing an agricultural move is a heavy logistics, but in our contracts with our electricians we have a withdrawal clause – temporary or total. For example, if we work on 5 MW of surplus and are told that in six months a cement factory will be set up and we will occupy 5 MW, we take responsibility for leaving. For comparison, the founder of the cryptocurrency Cardano (available on LiteBit) recently estimated that his entire network consumes 6GW per year.
“ One megawatt hour is not sent by postasks Sébastien Gouspillou. S.If an electrician doesn’t sell a megawatt today, he can’t sell it. Nobody will need it if we use it. In the paper proposed to the government of El Salvador, he says, it is written that mining should never compete with conventional, industrial and commercial uses.
From this point of view, crypto is not only green but is a valid support for the development of infrastructures in the territories. “ There are hundreds of new power plants being created. We need more electricity, especially in the countries of Southeast Asia or Central Africa. In Congo, 8% of people have electricity ; in the Central African Republic it’s the same. When there is a hydroelectric power plant project in such a country, it is long and difficult to make profitable. Because the networks have not been created, the population is not used to it… Switching to electricity is a domestic revolution. It is on this type of project that Sébastien Gouspillou and his teams are placed. ” We help fund new tools that will allow green (and inexpensive) electricity to reach homeshe says. They have grants from the UN, from the EU, but they always run after the money. We have a sum that is there, all the time, as long as they want. ”
Sébastien Gouspillou has placed the use of renewable energy at the heart of his companies’ DNA, but economic conditions should push the rest of the industry to favor this type of resource, he thinks. “ With hydrocarbon prices soaring, who will open a coal farm knowing that the price has doubled in two years? When we have carbon electricity, we depend on the will of the market. When we work on renewable extra capacity, we know that there is lasting structural overproduction and that the price will not follow the rise in hydrocarbons. Believing that the market and the environment can share the same interests …