Today’s webinar, hosted by the Energy Information Administration, outlined their plans for future data collection survey efforts targeting Bitcoin mining operations in the United States, following a an agreement has been reached to discontinue the previous emergency inspection on March 1 of this year and destroy all data collected during the implementation.

They clarified that no survey attempts have been conducted at the Federal Registrar and are not underway at this time. The purpose of the webinar was to solicit feedback from the public and ecosystem participants on the types of information they can collect, what types of data have already been collected that may be valuable to them, and what key factors they should consider when formulating a future survey.

They emphasized that they face two major challenges in getting a clearer picture of the state of Bitcoin mining in the United States. These challenges are the difficulty of identifying mining activity among the general energy consumers on the grid and the fact that mining activity can quickly move to areas with lower electricity prices, making it difficult to keep track of the current state of affairs.

They are currently planning to launch a survey sometime this year, possibly this quarter. They want to incorporate all feedback from industry participants and other members of the public into the structure of the survey.

The webinar featured several industry figures, including Thomas Mapes of the Digital Energy Council, Michael Postupak of the Blockchain Association, Margot Paez of the Bitcoin Policy Institute and Georgia Tech, Jayson Browder of Marathon Digital Holdings, Lee Bratcher of the Texas Blockchain Council, and others.

All speakers emphasized that Bitcoin mining can have a positive effect on energy infrastructure. In particular, it can help facilitate demand response programs to free up electricity during periods of large peaks in demand from regular consumers. It can also help build more renewable energy production capacity by absorbing excess production when there is no other source of demand during periods of electricity surplus.

Lee Bratcher specifically raised the issue of Bitcoin miners being singled out for a survey that was solely targeted at them. He also suggested that the survey be expanded to include data centers in general, specifically differentiating between data centers that are inflexible and need to maintain consistent power, and resilient data centers that can be dynamically powered down in response to consumer or grid operator needs.

Jayson Browder echoed this as a reason for hesitation and scepticism among mining companies in the sector, who questioned why they were being chosen as the target group for the study.

Dennis Heidner, an audience member who attended the webinar, expressed concern that the capital investment of miners could actually prevent miners from shutting down operations during times of high demand. This was a concern that the EIA raised when structuring future investigations as a factor to consider, as miners still need to work to recoup their hardware investments and curtailing operations results in lost revenue during that time.

Margot Paez suggested that Georgia Tech collaborate with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where researchers Arman Shehabi is currently conducting research on AI and energy consumption in data centers. Her reasoning was that there is already research underway to collect the type of data the EIA seeks in their studies, and given the relationships she has developed within the mining sector and the relevance of energy consumption in data centers to the EIA’s overall concerns about Bitcoin mining, this partnership could combine existing research to address the EIA’s needs.

This would allow an independent, non-governmental group to handle the actual data collection itself and anonymise the data, while still providing the EIA with the accurate picture it needs to make policy decisions without compromising the privacy of the sector’s mining operations.

Overall, the webinar indicates that there is a major rethinking of the EIA’s approach to data collection regarding Bitcoin mining activities in the United States. Following the court’s shooting down of the emergency survey, they appear open to a collaborative path forward with industry players to gain an accurate picture of power consumption upon which policymakers can base their decisions, rather than the adversarial and hasty path that the emergency survey attempted to take.

By newadx4

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