Crypto mining company loses bid to force BC Hydro to provide power

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A cryptocurrency firm has lost a bid to force BC Hydro to provide the vast amounts of power needed for its operations, upholding the provincial government’s right to pause power connections for new crypto miners.


Conifex Timber Inc., a forestry firm that branched out into cryptocurrency mining, had gone to the B.C. Supreme Court to have the policy declared invalid.


But Justice Michael Tammen ruled Friday that the government’s move in December 2022 to pause new connections for cryptocurrency mining for 18 months was “reasonable” and not “unduly discriminatory.”


BC Hydro CEO Christopher O’Riley had told the court in an affidavit that the data centres proposed by Conifex would have consumed 2.5 million megawatt-hours of electricity each year.


That’s enough to power and heat more than 570,000 apartments, according to data on the power provider’s website.


Energy Minister Josie Osborne said when the policy was introduced that cryptocurrency mining consumes “massive amounts of electricity” by running high-powered computers around the clock, but adds “very few jobs” to the local economy.


In a statement released Monday, the company said it’s “disappointed” with the court’s ruling and is mulling an appeal.


“Conifex continues to believe that the provincial government is missing out on several opportunities available to it to improve energy affordability, accelerate technological innovation, strengthen the reliability and resiliency of the power distribution grid in British Columbia, and achieve more inclusive economic growth,” the statement said.


Before the provincial government paused new power connections for cryptocurrency miners, BC Hydro released a report outlining the “conundrum” they represent to the utility provider.


The report said power demand from cryptocurrency mining operations would challenge clean energy and electrification goals as adoption of things such as electric vehicles and heat pumps increase.


The report said bitcoin mining requires enough energy to power “a small country,” and moratoriums on crypto mining in China, Algeria and some U.S. states “created a significant increase in demand for power in B.C. by cryptocurrency mining operations.”


The court ruling said connection requests over the last few years from cryptocurrency miners in B.C. “far exceeded” BC Hydro’s projections.


It said the pause ordered by the government was in response to “the very real prospect that devoting such a large proportion of the available electrical power supply to one industry would leave less energy for other uses which might result in increased costs to all other residential and industry customers in B.C.”


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2024.  

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