Ethereum: blockchain's energy consumption expected to drop by 99.95

Written by Guillaume
Publication date: {{ dayjs(1622217635*1000).local().format("L").toString()}}
This article is an automatic translation

The transition from proof of work to proof of stake should revolutionize the Ethereum blockchain.

Praised by some, condemned to the gémonies by others, the cryptocurrencies do not generally leave indifferent. If some praise their aspect detached from the control of banks and states, others criticize their lack of ecological vision and their monstrous power consumption. It must be said that the most prominent crypto-currencies - Bitcoin or Ethereum for example - require colossal computing power to be viable today. This is a direct consequence of their so-called proof-of-work mode. In other words, to mine these currencies, but also to validate every single transaction, it is necessary to deploy a certain amount of computing power, drawn here on ASICs and there on GPUs.

The idea behind this mode of operation is to be able to validate the functioning of the blockchain without the intervention of a central body such as a bank or a state. The problem is that this computing power implies a considerable power consumption, which is exploding as the interest in crypto-currencies grows. If the values put forward by supporters or detractors of these crypto-currencies are always questionable, let's keep in mind some orders of magnitude: in April 2021, it is estimated that the power consumption related to Bitcoin would represent more than 40% of the consumption of a country like Austria, would be equivalent to that of a country like Nigeria (186 million inhabitants) and 20 times higher than that of Mali. A little less popular, Ethereum would logically lead to a lower consumption, but far from being ridiculous despite everything.

To remedy this problem, several solutions have been mentioned and various cryptocurrencies employ other "validation" systems. We've already talked about CHIA and its proof of space, which only seems to displace the problem by requiring large amounts of hard drives / SSDs. No, the solution that seems to be the most promising is the so-called proof of stake. In this context, validation of additional blocks of the blockchain can be performed by users being able to prove possession of a certain amount of cryptocurrency that is deemed to be their "stake" in the cryptocurrency in question.

In December 2020, Ethereum was the first "big" currency to begin its transition to proof of stake precisely in order to address criticisms of its power consumption. Carl Beekhuizen, a researcher for the Ethereum Foundation, has published on the foundation's official blog some work measuring the impact of this transition. Ethereum 2.0 and its proof of stake should allow a reduction in power consumption of 99.95%. While the proof of work consumes, to validate a single transaction, about as much as a house for 2.8 days, the proof of stake reduces this consumption to that of a simple television turned on for 20 minutes. Carl Beekhuizen estimates that the consumption of Ethereum in proof of stake would be about 2,000 times lower than that of Ethereum in proof of work. An important transition for Ethereum, but one that should not be completed for a few more months.