Bitcoin uses more electricity annually than the whole of Argentina, analysis by Cambridge University suggests.
“Mining” for the cryptocurrency is power-hungry, involving heavy computer calculations to verify transactions.
Cambridge researchers say it consumes around 121.36 terawatt-hours (TWh) a year - and is unlikely to fall unless the value of the currency slumps.
Critics say electric-car firm Tesla’s decision to invest heavily in Bitcoinundermines its environmental image.
The currency’s value hit a record $48,000 (£34,820) this week. following Tesla’s announcement that it had bought about $1.5bn bitcoin and planned to accept it as payment in future.
But the rising price offers even more incentive to Bitcoin miners to run more and more machines.
And as the price increases, so does the energy consumption, according to Michel Rauchs, researcher at The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, who co-created the online tool that generates these estimates.
“It is really by design that Bitcoin consumes that much electricity,” Mr Rauchs told BBC’s Tech Tent podcast. “This is not something that will change in the future unless the Bitcoin price is going to significantly go down."
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