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Ethereum completes ‘merge’ that slashes blockchain’s energy consumption

By | Published on Friday 16 September 2022


The long-awaited upgrade to the Ethereum blockchain, making the way it all works much more energy efficient, has now been completed. As most music NFT ventures to date have utilised Ethereum – or sidechains linked to Ethereum – it’s an important development, given the many environmental concerns that have been raised about blockchain-based products and services.

The upgrade, often referred to as the ‘merge’, changes the way new transactions are verified on the Ethereum blockchain, so that the system moves from a ‘proof of work’ to ‘proof to stake’ system. The Verge explains the difference in this article here.

But the key point is that the change greatly reduces the energy required to run the blockchain. By, like, more than 99%. In fact, an organisation called the Crypto Carbon Ratings Institute estimates energy consumption will drop by 99.988%.

As for what that means in more practical terms, the CCRI says in a new report that the network will go from using about 23 million megawatt-hours per year to just over 2,600 megawatt-hours per year, which, the CCRI reckons, is “slightly less than the amount of energy 100 homes in the US would use in a year”. It means carbon dioxide emissions caused by the running of Ethereum will drop from about eleven million tons to about 870 tons

Now, that report was commissioned by ConsenSys, an Ethereum software company founded by Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin. But other analysts have made similar predictions about the impact the ‘merge’ will have on the blockchain’s energy consumption.

Completion of the shift to the new system was confirmed on Twitter yesterday by Ethereum’s inventor Vitalik Buterin. He wrote: “And we finalised! Happy merge all. This is a big moment for the Ethereum ecosystem. Everyone who helped make the merge happen should feel very proud today”.

Although it’s still unclear quite how blockchains in general – and the non-fungible tokens that can be minted on the blockchain – will impact on the music industry in the long-term, it seems certain the impact will be significant in one way or another.

And, of course, plenty of start-ups are currently collaborating with artists, labels and others in the music community on various music-based products and services utilising blockchain technologies and NFTs.

However, a lot of that activity has raised concerns in parts of the music community because of the widely documented environmental issues regarding the energy consumption involved in operating a blockchain. And for those artists who are particularly vocal about climate change, getting involved in NFT projects has been something of a PR challenge as a result.

Blockchain and NFT enthusiasts in the music community will be hoping that – while minting NFTs clearly still uses more energy than just not minting NFTs – the climate-based backlash to such activity might subside a little. And, after all, anything we do digitally with content uses some energy. Including you reading this article. You climate destroyer you!