Under pressure from crypto miners, NB Power places pause on electricity requests

·2 min read

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's electric utility imposed a moratorium on providing new service to cryptocurrency mining operations last year, saying it was concerned about its ability to meet the increasing demands from the power-hungry sector.

Details about the moratorium are contained in a cabinet order dated March 1, 2022, which endorses the indefinite pause and directs Crown-owned NB Power to conduct a review of the industry and submit its findings by Dec. 31, 2022.

The cabinet document, which recently came to light in a CBC report, confirms that NB Power had received several "large-scale, short-notice" service requests from cryptocurrency mining companies, which were not named.

In February 2021, Vancouver-based Hive Blockchain Technologies Ltd. announced it would pay $25-million in shares to acquire GPU Atlantic Inc., which at the time was operating its own 50-megawatt substation and crypto mining data centre in Grand Falls, N.B.

Hive said it would deploy next-generation bitcoin mining hardware that would by powered by "some of the lowest electricity costs in the industry."

In early 2022, NB Power said it would put a temporary hold on all new large-scale, short-notice requests for electricity, and all new requests from cryptocurrency miners, due to concerns about its ability to meet the growing demand.

According to the cabinet order, signed by Premier Blaine Higgs, the utility said the requests were putting "significant pressure" on the province's electricity supply.

In response, the cabinet cited the province's Electricity Act, which states that the provincial government must ensure NB Power is managed in a way that is "consistent with reliable, safe and economically sustainable service."

The cabinet order was posted online by the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board.

The New Brunswick government and NB Power did not respond to requests for an interview. It remains unclear what the review found or how the government or NB Power intends to deal with the crypto mining industry.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press