Ameren Missouri, the state’s largest utility with 1.2 million customers, began experimenting with bitcoin mining in April to manage grid variability. As an alternative to ramping up and down its power plants to match demand, the company plugs the bitcoin mining rigs when electricity is cheap and demand is low.
According to the report, “we have pretty dramatic changes in load minute by minute, second by second at times,” said Warren Wood, the utility’s vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs. “We need something with really quick ramping up and ramping down capability to be a really effective grid balancing tool.”
The pilot, which is entirely funded by utility shareholders and comes at no cost to Missouri ratepayers, piqued the interest of Missouri’s most prominent energy regulator, Public Service Commission chair Ryan Silvey. Even before learning about the Ameren initiative, Silvey, a former Republican state senator, told us that he is personally drawn to bitcoin and was interested in assembling a technical workshop on bitcoin mining. He believes Bitcoin has the potential to be used as a grid asset.
“I think it’s exciting when a company brings us a program that has very little or no risk to the consumer and will benefit them,” Silvey said. According to the report, the former senator also suggested that Amaren consider shouldering any project risk, despite the fact that state legislation allows utility companies to “run pilot programs and look at alternate sources of revenue that could be used to lower rates.”
Joshua Rhodes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin’s Webber Energy Group, investigated the impact of bitcoin mining on the southern state. Bitcoin miners, he observed, “can add a lot of value, particularly how fast they can move up and down…faster than some traditional generators can move, which is value.” Wood emphasized how quickly miners at Ameren could be online.
“We’re talking about a minute or less to turn on or off,” Wood explained. “You really have a good mechanism for attempting to achieve a better grid balance between your generation resources and load.”
In July, the Mechanicville plant, an old hydro-power station in upstate New York and one of the oldest in the country, shared how bitcoin mining could help them increase efficiency and profitability.