Northern New York is a prime location for Bitcoin miners and block chain technology because of its low electric rates. But a number of communities have imposed moratoriums on new cryptocurrency operations because their use of electricity is so intensive. With such a potential lucrative and emerging technology facing challenges, the Adirondack North Country Association is sponsoring a summit at SUNY Plattsburgh today to explore the new industry’s impacts and potential.
In March the city of Plattsburgh made national and international headlines when it imposed an 18-month moratorium on new cryptocurrency mining operations in the city. Existing operations had used so much power that the city exceeded its low-cost power quota and local electric rates rose.
Several other communities in the region subsequently imposed moratoriums on data mining including Lake Placid, the Town of North Elba, Rouses Point, and Massena. Tupper Lake is considering a moratorium.
The Adirondack North Country Association is a Saranac Lake-based nonprofit that works to enhance the region’s economy. It is hosting a Cryptocurrency Summit Tuesday at SUNY Plattsburgh. ANCA Regional Advocacy Coordinator Jacob Vennie-Volrath says the discussion will focus on energy use vs. available resources. “When cryptocurrency mining comes into a community particularly communities with low cost power, which is a number of the communities in our region, it has the potential of raising rates for consumers, for commercial aspects, etc. So the main concern is the amount of energy being used by some of these cryptocurrency miners.”
Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read, an economist by trade, will present “Cryptocurrency 101.” He plans to discuss public policy, how cryptocurrency works, why it’s so energy intensive and if that can be reduced, and whether miners and cities can work together. “Is this a phenomenon that’s here to stay or is this some sort of a flash in the pan thing that’s here today and gone tomorrow? They really kind of need to know a little bit about what the currency is, how it works, what its future is, the energy and public safety and public nuisance aspects of it, and then are there ways we can create an industry that’s current a liability into some sort of an asset for our community? And I think we actually can but it’s going to require a fair amount of work.”
While attorney Brendan Owens is not directly representing cryptocurrency miners at the summit, he says his clients are increasingly using blockchain distributed ledger technology. “I think when people hear the word ‘blockchain’ they tend to see it as something more complicated and mysterious than it actually is, which is really just an electronic way of structuring a ledger of transactions. And I think that people get scared away from the technology as a result of that perceived complexity. It’s a broadly applicable system not just a system that’s limited to financial transactions.”
ANCA is partnering with State Senator Betty Little’s office to host the summit and her Director of Communications Dan MacEntee will be on the panel discussing public policy implications. “I look at crypto mining or cryptocurrency as somewhat similar to AirBnB, Uber, some of these new economies. We have technology coming in and targeting the market and in a unique way, a way that we may not have conceived of a year or two prior to it coming on line. And the challenge that we have as a legislative body and I think as a government too is to respond to those new technologies and the way that they impact the economy.”
The Cryptocurrency Summit at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Yocum Lecture Hall runs until 3:30.