In this electrifying episode of BitBuyBit, Max and Jon speak with energy market expert and Pleb Miner Mafia Capo, Bitcoin Bassload as well as Philosopher and Bitcoin enthusiast Troy Cross from the Bitcoin Policy Institute.
The relationship between Bitcoin mining and the American energy industry is complex, nuanced, wrought with acronyms, oversight, and regulation. The purpose of this conversation is to find where we agree and disagree on the relationship between Bitcoin mining and the energy industry and what we as Pleb Miners can do when our energy is focused and pointed in the same direction. Troy and Bassload come from different perspectives when looking at the relationship between Bitcoin mining and energy, but their hearts and minds are focused on making sure that Bitcoin wins.
In this discussion Bassload defines terms like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO), and Independent Systems Operators (ISO) and explains how regulation and government policy steer energy markets. He discusses the Physical Grid versus Policy Grid, balancing authorities, generation fleet mix, and Meredith Angwin’s fatal trifecta for the grid: over reliance on renewables, backing up the renewables with just in time resources, and overdependence on neighbors. Bassload offers advice on creating relationships with energy providers: 1. Print the load 2. Pay an invoice. Bitcoin Bassload’s Energy Market Inflows can be found on his Substack in which he puts out frequent updates.
Troy discusses the unique characteristics of Bitcoin mining and its relationship with energy, particularly in the context of environmentalism and regulatory arbitrage. He highlights that Bitcoin’s decentralized nature and algorithmically fixed production makes it resistant to local regulations and taxes. His point in conveying this, is that Bitcoin mining can take advantage of excess energy in regions with corrupt governments, it can bypass restrictions, and potentially disrupt the energy market. The discussion emphasizes that Bitcoin’s fundamental value is tied to the cost of energy rather than fiat currency. Over the long term, government regulations and subsidies may not significantly impact Bitcoin mining, or its adoption. Troy expands on this theory in this recent article.
Treble and Bass = Grid Harmony
Terms and Definitions
FERC- FERC was originally called the Federal Power Commission to then become the Federal Regulatory Commission created on October 1 1977. The FPA was originally designed to coordinate federal hydropower development (in 1920) then in 1935 it was given the independent regulatory status to then regulate both hydropower and electricity. Then in 1938 the natural gas act gave FPA jurisdiction over interstate NG pipelines and wholesale sales. FERC was created due to a response to the oil crisis of 1973 and thus passing the Department of Energy Organization act of 1977 in an effort to consolidate agencies into a ‘department of energy’. DOE was born. Congress insisted that the independent regulatory body be retained.
- FERC originally was to determine whether wholesale electricity prices were unjust and unreasonable
- If so regulate the pricing and give some refunds to ratepayers
- FERC an independent organization that its commissioners are appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate
- Order 888 was issued in 1996 which created the RTO’s (regional transmission organizations) in response to the Energy Policy Act in 1992.
RTO’s- Organized by FERC to have what were the former power pools to ‘rebrand’ themselves as independent transmission operators that would be able to compete in a wholesale electric market administered by RTO’s. PJM, NYISO and ISONE were first in line. Like an ISO they operate transmission systems and develop innovative procedures to manage transmission equitably.
ISO’s- Independent System Operators were designed to consolidate and manage the operation of transmission facilities to provide nondiscriminatory open transmission service for all generators and transmission customers.
Traditional wholesale markets were in the SE, SW and NW and most were vertically integrated where they own generation, transmission and distribution systems to serve electricity consumers. They also many include federal systems:
- Bonneville Power System
- Tennessee Valley Authority
- Western Area Power Administration
At the wholesale level, the RTO’s and the ISO’s is managing economic dispatch of generators and its auctions to the clearing price. Less expensive power gets dispatched first. RTO controls the bids, they know the cost of fuel, and they know the marginal cost of the next kwh your generator plant makes. One can add a risk premium to the bids but the RTO’s are checking. (Meredith Angwin)
TYPES of RTO’s and ISO’s
- CAISO- California Independent System Operator
- ERCOT- Electric Reliability Council of Texas
- SPP- SouthWest Power Pool
- MISO- Midcontinent Independent System Operator (15 states and canadian province of Manitoba)
- SouthEast Power Pool
- PJM- Pennsylvania New Jersey and Maryland
- NYISO New York Independent System Operator
- ISONE Independent System operator of New England
Vertically integrated- this is where the same entity owns all of the generation, transmission and distribution to service electricity consumers in the given region that they are in.
PUC’s- Public Utility Commission were designed to do a couple of things:
- Balance the needs of consumers AND utilities
- Ensure safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates
- Protect public interest
- Educate consumers to make independent and informed utility choices
- Typically the PUC’s were designed for the consumer, but they are also heavily “in bed’ with the utilities
- Regulate electric, gas, telecommunications, water and wastewater facilities
- Typically appointed by the governor serving 4-6 year terms.
- Typically regulate all investor owned utilities in their state
- Municipalities and cooperative utilities are often exempt from PUC regulations
PUCs often use non-adjudicatory processes to address new and evolving issues. This would include traditional rulemakings, in addition to informal stakeholder collaborative processes. Over the past decade, the stakeholder process has become one of the mainstays of issue resolution. In these proceedings, professional facilitators are often used and the parties work toward a narrowing of issues or their complete resolution through a negotiated or shared agreement. Typical participants include utilities, ratepayer advocates, environmental advocates, and industry advocates.
Load Shape- the amount of energy consumption one uses, measured in watts or kilowatts over a period of time. When looking at the curve of how that energy is consumed, the shape of that curve is what is monitored. If flat, good. If not and seeing spikes means that the shape is inconsistent with the amount of watts consumed over time
BTU- A British Thermal Unit, the base unit of measure for measuring energy in the US. a btu is the amount of energy required to heat one pound of water
Joule- joule, unit of work or energy in the International System of Units (SI); it is equal to the work done by a force of one newton acting through one metre. Named in honour of the English physicist James Prescott Joule, it equals 107 ergs, or approximately 0.7377 foot-pounds.
Watt- the SI unit of power, equivalent to one joule per second, corresponding to the power in an electric circuit in which the potential difference is one volt and the current one ampere. 1 watt = 1J/s
Baseload– Baseload electricity generation creates 24/7 power to the grid to meet the base energy needs of the U.S. While peaking generation must follow the varying hourly electricity needs as demand rises and falls, base load generation operates constantly to support the increment of demand that is always there no matter the time of day or day of the week.
Balancing Authority- The BA makes sure that the supply of power on the grid is exactly matched with the requirement for power always. The BA must keep voltage within a narrow range and balance demand on the grid. The BA must also make sure that the VARs (Volts Amps Reactive) are in balance. Refer to page 28-30 of shorting the grid. “A well run grid is like a good bicyclist on a smooth road, while a more difficult grid (more sudden ups and downs in power or energy requirements) requires more of a balancing-type energy (Meredith Angwin).
- 60Hz or 60 cycles per second in the US
- 50HZ or 50 cycles per second everywhere else
- The responsible entity that integrates resource plans ahead of time, maintains load-interchange-generation balance within a balancing authority area, and supports interconnection frequency in real time.
Energy Auction House- mentioned above and see pages of Mereidth Angwins book shorting the grid pages 91-93
Generation Fleet Mix
- Natural Gas
Renewable energy- Renewable energy is energy produced from sources like the sun and wind that are naturally replenished and do not run out. Renewable energy can be used for electricity generation, space and water heating and cooling, and transportation.
Non-renewable energy, in contrast, comes from finite sources that could get used up, such as fossil fuels like coal and oil. (DOE definition)
- energy from a source that is not depleted when used, such as wind or solar power.
“the environmental benefits of renewable energy” (Oxford Dictionary)
Net Zero- net zero means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, by oceans and forests for instance.
- To ‘go net zero’ is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or to ensure that any ongoing emissions are balanced by removals. (university of oxford)
REC- Renewable Energy Credits
A renewable energy certificate, or REC (pronounced: rěk, like wreck), is a market-based instrument that represents the property rights to the environmental, social, and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation. RECs are issued when one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy resource.
RECs include several data attributes, including:*
- Certificate data
- Certificate type
- Tracking system ID
- Renewable fuel type
- Renewable facility location
- Nameplate capacity of project
- Project name
- Project vintage (build date)
- Certificate (generation) vintage
- Certificate unique identification number
- Utility to which project is interconnected
- Eligibility for certification or renewable portfolio standard (RPS)
- Emissions rate of the renewable resource
*Note: This list is not exhaustive and, depending on the market in which the REC is generated, other attributes may be associated with the certificate
o financial– everything to do with pricing, hedging, derivative markets for energy, from wholesale to retail
o physical– infrastructure related, engineering and design of the implementation and installation of large equipment
o regulatory– politics, rules and regulation from governing bodies aka FERC, DOE, PUC, ISO, RTO and alike.
We hope this to be the first of many discussions on Bitcoin’s relationship with energy markets and energy providers. If you enjoyed the discussion in this episode, let us know by boosting on Fountain.