Bitcoin Mining And ERCOT – The Knowledge Tells The Story

A number of headlines just lately described a 25% drop in bitcoin community issue throughout Winter Storm Finn in January. Most attributed this drop to curtailment exercise in Texas. Whereas Texas does symbolize 17% of the worldwide bitcoin hashrate, ERCOT information exhibits that a few of the curtailment exercise was a mix of upper costs and “good grid citizenship.” In ERCOT, and to a lesser extent in different ISOs, costs are the very best proxy for grid stress. There are different proxies similar to PRC (bodily responsive functionality) however costs are a greater measure for many conditions. For that cause, as a way to forestall swings in costs and create tougher gird situations, an optimum setting is one during which the worth doesn’t swing wildly up and down. Nonetheless, worth volatility is a frequent incidence in ERCOT, as evidenced by Winter Storm Elliot in December 2022 (see graph under).

Bitcoin miners are the economically good shoppers of electrical energy. That’s not to say that bitcoin miners will eat electrical energy in an altruistic method, however slightly that margins for bitcoin miners are uniquely delicate to the worth of energy such that they’re economically incentivized to curtail consumption when energy costs exceed their breakeven threshold (present breakeven for many miners ranges between $100 and $200 per MWh). Which means they are going to eat electrical energy when costs are under their breakeven worth and switch off when costs are above it. There are some operational and sensible exceptions to this, for instance, if miners have information heart colocation agreements that stipulate or assure uptime.

Texans ought to need bitcoin miners to be on anytime energy is plentiful as a result of their constant consumption incentivizes the buildout of further era. And fewer counterintuitively, we naturally need bitcoin miners to curtail when costs are excessive and the grid is below stress.

That brings us to the January 2024 winter occasion of the week of January fifteenth. The headlines would have you ever assume that the Texas grid was once more pressured and that bitcoin miners curtailed because of this. The reality is rather more nuanced. The typical settlement worth within the ERCOT wholesale energy market throughout the worst three days of the storm was $100.76 per MWh, and costs by no means exceeded $600 per MWh. For context costs max out at $5,000 per MWh. As indicated by wholesale costs, the grid weathered the storm fairly effectively with ample reserves all through.

ERCOT did certainly challenge a conservation alert, however that was extra of a precautionary message for energy shoppers who don’t monitor the facility worth each second of day-after-day like bitcoin miners do.

We did see some financial curtailment, which means curbing energy utilization primarily based on worth indicators, from miners for prolonged intervals, and a few shorter intervals when the costs exceeded $200 MWh. Nonetheless, this exercise was much less pronounced than in earlier winter occasions or summer time warmth waves as a result of era reserves had been extra plentiful throughout the grid. Some bitcoin miners probably curtailed for longer intervals as a gesture of excellent “grid citizenship,” and to point out their dedication to a steady grid, however that’s hardly quantifiable.

All of this proof signifies that the issue drop final week necessitates a extra nuanced rationalization. A lot of it was a results of curtailment in Texas, however after evaluating ERCOT pricing information, it leads me to consider {that a} materials portion of that curtailment got here from different ISOs in North America as effectively. Briefly, everybody who has an opinion about bitcoin mining curtailment would do effectively to observe ERCOT settlement and LMP costs. The info and the economics ought to kind the spine of all future analyses. 

It is a visitor publish by Lee Bratcher. Opinions expressed are solely their very own and don’t essentially replicate these of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Journal.

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