In brief

  • A recent estimate from researcher Carl Beekhuizen says ETH 2.0 will consume 99% less energy than the current Ethereum blockchain.
  • ETH 2.0 will see the Ethereum blockchain switch from the energy-hungry proof of work consensus mechanism to a proof of stake model.

Ethereum’s upcoming ETH 2.0 upgrade could help reduce the blockchain’s energy consumption and will no longer devour “a country's worth of power,” according to Carl Beekhuizen, a researcher at the Ethereum Foundation.

“By my (very conservative) calculations, Ethereum will see a greater than ~99.95% reduction in energy use post-merge,” Beekhuizen wrote in a research report published yesterday.

Taking the total number of validators, unique addresses, and the average energy consumed by hardware into account, the resulting figure was significantly lower than Ethereum’s current energy demands using the proof of work (PoW) consensus mechanism.

Comparing estimated power consumption between BTC, ETH (PoW), and ETH (PoS). Source: Ethereum Foundation
Comparing estimated power consumption between BTC, ETH (PoW), and ETH (PoS). Source: Ethereum Foundation

“In total, a Proof of Stake Ethereum, therefore, consumes something on the order of 2.62 megawatt. This is not on the scale of countries, provinces, or even cities, but that of a small town (around 2,100 American homes),” Beekhuizen wrote.

Ethereum upgrade on the horizon

Currently, Ethereum’s blockchain uses the same energy-hungry proof of work (PoW) consensus mechanism employed by Bitcoin. This will change soon, however, thanks to Ethereum 2.0. The ambitious multi-year upgrade will switch the network to a greener consensus mechanism called proof of stake (PoS).

This is because proof of stake relies on users locking up—or staking—Ethereum to support the production of new blocks instead of using energy-intensive mining rigs

In terms of energy required per transaction, ETH 2.0 uses the equivalent of “about 20 minutes of TV,” he added. By comparison, one transaction on PoW Ethereum requires the same amount of electricity that can be used to power a house for 2.8 days, while one Bitcoin transfer consumes “38 house-days worth.”

While ETH 2.0 is only in its preliminary stages, users have already locked up more than 4 million  tokens in it. 

The first testnets for the post-merge Ethereum—when the blockchain fully transitions to ETH 2.0—were launched in late April. A hard date for the full launch, however, has been notoriously hard to pin down.

Still, Beekhuizen concluded that “Ethereum’s power-hungry days are numbered, and I hope that’s true for the rest of the industry too.”

Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to clarify that there more than 4 million ETH tokens currently staked in ETH 2.0, not $4 million worth of ETH.