Crypto mining threatens Abkhazian power grid

Nevertheless, it can help the region overcome economic woes

In Abkhazia, cryptocurrency mining farms located in abandoned industrial facilities can leave regular customers without electricity in case of a cold snap. On the other hand, the business can support the region's troubled economy.

Rampant cryptocurrency mining is threatening the shaky electrical network in the Republic of Abkhazia, says Eurasianet. The region's authorities are considering putting regulations on the money-making scheme in order to prevent power supply interruptions this winter.

In Abkhazia, cryptocurrency-producing operations have been set up in abandoned industrial facilities. ''We have the so-called mining farms set up on the premises of abandoned or partly abandoned factories,'' said Head of state-run Chernomorenergo energy company Aslan Basaria. According to Basaria, computers that churn out cryptocurrency spend a lot of electricity, putting additional load on the company's grid, the transmission lines and substations. Given that the infrastructure is loaded to capacity even without the mining farms, there is a risk that electricity will not reach regular customers in case of a cold snap.

Former Parliament building in Sukhumi, Abkhazia. Photo: Clay Gilliland

However, some people in Abkhazia believe that cryptocurrency can become a solution to the country's economic woes. After the republic broke away from Georgia in 2008, it was recognised only by Russia and few other countries, while to the rest of the world Abkhazia remains a de jure part of Georgia. ''Given the limitations associated with the status of the republic… we always seek nonconventional solutions to reach an acceptable level of [economic] development,'' said Abkhazia's Minister of Economy Adgur Ardzinba. The Abkhazian authorities appear to support cryptocurrency development plans. There is even an effort underway to launch Abkhazia's own cryptocurrency.

Last year, Head of BCSG blockchain company Yevgeniy Galiakhmetov said at a blockchain conference in Moscow that cryptocurrency could entirely transform Abkhazia, delivering the region into the future of economic prosperity and bustling international trade.

Georgia has recently become a surprise cryptocurrency powerhouse. In terms of power consumed, it is currently the world's second after China for cryptocurrency mining. Abkhazia and Georgia share a large hydropower complex, and electricity in Abkhazia is even cheaper. However, the complex can't meet the region's need for power in winter, as water levels are low and electricity consumption is high. Besides, stealing electricity remains a major problem: officials claim that 30-40% of customers don't pay for power at all. Thus, Abkhazia needs to reconcile its big cryptocurrency plans with the problem of electricity shortage and introduce regulations to keep the digital money farming in check.

By Anna Litvina

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