back to article Canadian utility makes blockchain upstarts bid for their ravenous rigs' electricity supply

One of Canada's largest utilities is planning to make blockchain companies bid for access to electricity. Hydro Quebec says it will set aside a 500MW block of power that will be reserved for companies that are "using cryptography as applied to blockchain technology." Access to that block will be subject to a bidding process …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Quebec has ridiculously cheap power - it's all hydro

    So Quebec has lots of Aluminium smelters

    The market for shiny metal south of the border is problematic

    You find a new customer for huge amounts of electricity and one that is willing to scale demand to meet your spot market price

    And you make it hard for them to buy it from you ...

    1. Ian 69

      Re: Opportunity

      I'm probably an antique so take this with the appropriate dose of salt but..

      Shiny metal (possibly recycled) - useful and likely someone will buy somewhere (maybe at a lower price though)

      Cryptocurrency - meh!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Opportunity

        If you are the one selling shovel s you don't care about the value of the gold the prospectors find

        1. lglethal Silver badge

          Re: Opportunity

          Aluminium smelters will still be there and working (barring some unforeseen major global problem in the Aluminium market) in 10 years time and well beyond.

          Cryptocurrency miners? Well Bitcoin is all but past the point of being profitable to mine, whilst also now being blocked from being traded or used as a currency in a lot of major market places. So in 10 years, it will probably only be a hardcore still using/trading it. And they wont be mining it anymore. Other cryptocurrencies? Well since people finally are beginning to wake up to the scams, I expect that the bubble wont be too long in bursting. 10 years time? I have my doubts if it will still be such a power draw.

          Now if you're the power company supplying electricity in this area, and you have a choice of supplying an industry that maybe uses a little less electricity, but is guaranteed to be there long term, or an industry that might use a lot of energy now but is definitely only a short term prospect. You would definitely always go for the long term option. And this IS an either/or situation - investing in more energy generation capacity is very expensive and takes years to come online. You're not going to make that investment based on the crypto mining bubble. Well not unless your either crazy, or have drunk the crypto currency kool aid...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @YAAC - Re: Opportunity

      They can always buy it from somewhere else.

  2. doublelayer Silver badge

    How does this work?

    If they intend to charge me extra, what stops me from lying about what I'm doing? No, these servers aren't mining, they're running machine learning workloads. Or collecting data for a massive search engine over a database. Or anything that requires a lot of processing. In fact, the electricity company might have trouble figuring out whether that's processing power or power from something else. True, there aren't many things that run 24/7, but how could they tell that a given kilowatt for one of those things was for mining versus anything else I could use it for.

    1. hellsend

      Re: How does this work?

      Well, I might be wrong of course, but don't most of the mining companies advertise their trade on their website?

      I'd guess the power company can discriminate on that - and probably cut the power if they find their client lied on their contract. Maybe sue them, too ..?

      Apart from that I'm actually not sure about the law regarding differential pricing based on your clients' trade or activity... In Québec at least.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: How does this work?

        The discount for employing more people seems a good way of avoiding a negative jury response should any crypro-miners try going to the courts, Québec is still very french in many ways.

    2. Blank Reg

      Re: How does this work?

      Well if you are an independent trying to use 100's of KWH above what is typical for a home, then you're either mining or you have a grow-op.

      If it's a mining business then you have told Revenue Canada what is your line of business, and I expect they aren't too happy when you lie to them about that.

  3. David Roberts Silver badge

    Wonder what they do with all the waste heat?

    Off at a tangent, but if the mining rig was in a metropolitan area and all the heat generated by the processors was used to heat houses and offices then I would be inclined to give them favourable access.

    If they are out in the wilds (where I hope most smelters are) then they are just warming up the planet.

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Tech equivalent of the Golden Triangle ?

    (for those whose history is up to scratch).

    I guess the holy grail here, is to be able to charge twice or three times for the same electricity. A bunch of cryptominers strategically placed below a town means you can charge twice ... maybe making the town a tourist destination means you get to charge thrice ???????

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't somebody think of the planet...?

    So while hoi polloi are being told we have to have low energy kettles and LED lights to keep our consumption down, there's plenty of kWh for bitcoin mining?

    I wonder if Quebec Hydro will fit their customers with Smart Meters: "You have used $999.00 of electricity - but you generated $000.03 in Bitcoins"

    1. thegroucho

      Re: Won't somebody think of the planet...?

      I hear you on the energy savings front.

      Although I like LED lights whereas the old energy savings bulbs cause some people migraines, skin problems, etc.

      One thing which irks me is the limit on vacuum cleaner power.

      Like I will be standing all day long with one of those turned on.

      FFS, it takes 10-20 minutes to clean the house, what are they banging on about.

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        Re: Won't somebody think of the planet...?

        "One thing which irks me is the limit on vacuum cleaner power."

        Yeah that all came about due to amisunderstanding. A politician was on a train and overhead some people complaining saying "The suckers waste so much energy! They go on and on all day. They've got way too much power. If we could reduce their power, it would be better for the whole country. But of course the suckers will never get regulated. They just suck!"

        He walked into the office the very next day and got high power vacuum cleaners banned and considered it a job well done.

        True story... *

        *Disclaimer: This is most likely not a true story...

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: Won't somebody think of the planet...?


          I'm willing to bet the sucking power is limited for safety reasons .

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Won't somebody think of the planet...?

      The special irony being that in Quebec where the electricity is all hydro but the heating is mostly natural gas - and it gets cold in winter.

      You switch to LED lights, the thermostat just kicks in and replaces each Watt of wasted heat from renewable hydro-electric powered bulb with a Watt of climate changing methane

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Won't somebody think of the planet...?

        You don`t get it. In Quebec we used 100% electricity. No gas for most homes and industry...and cars for many of us now. It cost me less than $30 per month for my car (no gas too).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Won't somebody think of the planet...?

        We heat/cool houses electric also. Gas is too expensive.

        I pay less than $3500 CDN per year for all electricity for my entire house, heating/cooling and my electric car. For my car alone it is about $30 per month.

    3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

      Re: Won't somebody think of the planet...?

      AC mentioned, "low energy kettles".

      No such thing as a "low energy" kettle, in terms of the heat capacity of water.

      Low *power* kettles may exist, but would be precisely pointless in aggregate - and worse: counter-productive on the time axis. Boiling a cup of water requires a certain amount of energy, and the faster it is accomplished, then the less time for energy to escape as waste heat.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Won't somebody think of the planet...?

        If the kettle had lower than atmospheric pressure inside it, the water would boil at a lower temperature and thus use less energy (assuming the energy to lower the pressure was less than the energy saved by not heating it to 100C)

        I don't drink tea so I don't know what effect this would have on one's tea, but it seems like it might be - I mean obviously no one is drinking tea at 100C...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Won't somebody think of the planet...?

          "I mean obviously no one is drinking tea at 100C..."

          No, but you need it at near as dammit 100C to brew it. (depends on the type of tea of course)

  6. jonathan keith

    Filthy Goddamned Commies.

    Excellent work, Canadia.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @jonathan keith - Re: Filthy Goddamned Commies.

      Er, I don't get you. You call them communists because they want to use capitalist predatory pricing ?

      1. jonathan keith

        Re: @jonathan keith - Filthy Goddamned Commies.

        No, it's because they're planning to protect the civic body from honest god-fearing (etc. etc.) rapacious companies. Obviously *deeply* suspect values, these Québécoises.

  7. deive

    Good. Proof of work is such a waste of time and energy. If a chain was based on something useful like protein folding then I could get behind it.

  8. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

    Server Farms and Mining Rigs should be...

    ...packaged to resemble electric baseboard heaters. Wall mounted thermostat would merely control boot-up and orderly shut down.

    Does the Blockchain really have a future when each transaction reportedly requires $140 in power?

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

      Re: Server Farms and Mining Rigs should be...

      Jeffy's 1st Law of Eco Computing: It shall be considered to be a sin to heat with hot tungsten while there remains proteins to be folded.

      2nd: Proteins shall only be folded during winter.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Server Farms and Mining Rigs should be...

        But what if it's summer but it's been chilly for a bit. Might I fold some proteins then?

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