February 1, 2018 / 11:08 AM / 3 months ago

Italy's Enel not interested in powering cryptocurrency miners

MILAN (Reuters) - Europe’s biggest power utility Enel has taken a stand against the energy-hungry industry of mining cryptocurrencies, saying it has “no interest whatsoever in selling power” for the purpose.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Italy's biggest utility Enel is seen at the Rome headquarters, Italy, March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

In a brief statement on Thursday, the Italian company said it had reached the decision after careful study and analysis.

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Enel was in talks to sell power from renewable energy plants to the Swiss cryptocurrency company Envion AG.

Utilities worldwide have seen rising demand from miners of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which need large quantities of energy to power computers to solve complex maths puzzles to validate transactions and earn more of the currency as a reward.

“Enel has undertaken a clear path toward decarbonisation and sustainable development and sees the intensive use of energy dedicated to cryptocurrency mining as an unsustainable practice that does not fit with the business model it is pursuing,” the company said.

In a recent report, Morgan Stanley said global power demand from cryptocurrency mining was around 22 terawatt hours (TWh), but that increasing demand meant consumption could surge in 2018 to 125-140 TWh - or about 0.6 percent of world consumption.

Most bitcoin mining is carried out in China, where energy costs are comparatively cheaper.

But last month China’s Bitmain Technologies said it was looking at bitcoin mining sites in Quebec in light of expectations of a potential Chinese crackdown on cryptocurrency mining.

State-controlled Enel, which owns a majority stake in Spanish utility Endesa, is one of Europe’s top renewable energy players and is focusing on green energy to help offset the crisis in traditional power generation.

Regulators worldwide are voicing increasing concern about cryptocurrencies because of their volatility and risks.

Enel could not be immediately reached for further comment.

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Mark Bendeich; Editing by Mark Potter

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