Chinese Bitcoin Miners Eye Sites in Energy-Rich Canada

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MANITOBA ALSO ATTRACTIVE

Stephane Paquet, a vice president of Montreal International, which promotes foreign investment in the province’s largest city, has called Quebec a place for “green bitcoin.”

According to Hydro Quebec, the province has an energy surplus equivalent to 100 Terawatt hours over 10 years. One terawatt hour powers 60,000 homes in Quebec during a year.

Neither Hydro Quebec nor Montreal International would divulge names of interested miners. Vincent said companies are eyeing operations from about 20 megawatts, the size of a data centre, to sites as large as 300 megawatts, about the size of a small aluminum smelter.

 

 

He expects some of the large companies to begin operations in Quebec this year and in early 2019. Bitmain’s spokesman said that Bitmain has been mining in Canada since 2016, but did not say where.

The challenge for miners is finding existing facilities in Quebec that already have buildings and other infrastructure in place to use the large energy supply required for cryptocurrency mining. A new facility would take about a year to be operational.

“We have the energy available,” said Eric Filion, customer vice-president for Hydro Quebec’s distribution division. “It’s a question of finding land and buildings quickly.”

Hydro Quebec, which offers some of the lowest electricity rates in North America, charges an industrial rate of $0.0248 per kilowatt hour (Kwh) (2.48 U.S. cents) for data centres and $0.0394/kwh (3.94 U.S. cents) for cryptocurrency customers. Customers would have to assume other start-up costs, Filion said.

 

Textiles and pulp and paper factories are particularly attractive to cryptocurrency mining companies

Alain Bourdages, a company vice president at Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc <RFP.N>, said by phone that the company has been contacted by cryptocurrency companies about possibly sharing their existing production sites, or ones that are no longer in use.

“We are looking at this prudently,” he said. “It’s an interesting opportunity that could generate value.”

 

 

In central Canada‘s Manitoba province, provincial government-owned utility Manitoba Hydro has fielded more than 100 inquiries from cryptocurrency miners in the past three months about specific sites, a company spokesman said.

The interest includes North American brokers who represent Chinese investors, attracted by Manitoba’s cheap power and potential reduced cooling requirements, spokesman Bruce Owen said. It is working with two large-scale cryptocurrency operations that want to set up in Manitoba, he said.

Manitoba’s power rates may soon rise, however. Manitoba Hydro is asking the province’s utilities board to approve a rate increase of 7.9 percent across the board, effective April 1, 2018. That is far larger than utility rate changes proposed last year in other provinces, including 0.7 percent in Quebec, according to Manitoba Hydro data.

 

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal, Alexandra Harney and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Calgary; Editing by Grant McCool and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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