By Laila Kearney
(Reuters) -The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) will begin to more closely track electricity consumption by cryptocurrency mining companies operating in the United States, the agency said on Wednesday.
The EIA said it plans to launch a survey next week of select bitcoin miners, which will be required to respond with their energy use details, as part of an emergency data collection request authorized by the Office of Management and Budget on Jan. 26.
Miners of the digital coins have come under scrutiny in recent years for their electricity-sapping operations, and for the impact their activity has on power grids and carbon emissions.
The EIA's survey will focus on how power demand for cryptocurrency mining is changing, as well as identifying parts of the country where mining growth is concentrated and the electricity sources used for the operations.
"We do think it is a significant source of demand which is worthy of our efforts to quantify it," the EIA's Glenn McGrath
told Reuters. "However, until we are able to substantiate the activity with better data, we, too, have more questions than answers."
The EIA, which compiles data on vast areas of U.S. energy output and use, has received requests from various sectors to begin to quantify cryptocurrency mining energy use and hopes to have more information to share in a few months, McGrath said.
The Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based non-profit group focused on the transition to clean energy, estimated last year that bitcoin globally consumes a yearly 127 terawatt-hours (TWh), which is more than used by the entire country of Norway.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York, Deep Vakil and Ashitha Shivaprasad in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Evans)