ERCOT Paid Bitcoin Miner $31 Million to Conserve While Texans Sweat

Bitcoin operations paid by ERCOT to conserve

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Texas paid Bitcoin miner Riot – the most power-intensive Bitcoin operation in the country – $31.7 million during the month of August to conserve energy, a CNBC article reported.

Riot, located in Rockdale, an hour west of Austin, is by no means a successful operation – CNBC reported that they only made about $8.9 million this month. So they and other failing Bitcoin operations are turning to “alternative sources of income,” as CNBC puts it – like the Texas grid operator – to generate profits.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) relies on large industrial consumers for “demand response” programs, where they offer credits in exchange for conservation. They rely on average residential customers for the same thing – just without the compensation. This practice has sparked outrage among Texans who have been repeatedly asked to conserve voluntarily amid triple-digit heat, while actually paying higher electric bills than usual. “This is a prime example of state officials putting corporate profits over people,” said Public Citizen’s Adrian Shelley. “It’s fundamentally unfair to average Texans, many of whom struggled to pay the monthly bill to keep their homes cool this brutal summer.”

And Riot is being paid by those same consumers: A recent New York Times investigation found that 10 Bitcoin mining operations in Texas have accounted for ratepayers’ electric bills rising by 5% annually, and five of those pocketed a combined $60 million since 2020. During the 2021 winter storm, the Bitdeer facility neighboring Riot got an $18 million windfall. The two combined use the same amount of energy as the nearest 300,000 homes.

Currently the only compensated demand response program available to Austin Energy ratepayers gives customers who install smart thermostats credits toward their electric bills.

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