Kosovo bans the mining of cryptocurrency, after blaming the energy-intensive practice for the country’s rolling blackouts.
Kosovo, with or without cryptocurrency, is facing an energy crisis. All of Europe has seen a sharp increase in energy prices, and atop that, Kosovo had to shut down its largest coal-fired power plant last month. Since then, the government has been paying those high prices to import energy. All energy in the Balkan country is state-owned.
Cryptocurrency mining is undeniably a factor in the energy shortage. Other countries, even giant China, have cracked down on it. In mining, computer owners provide computer power for verifying transactions on the currency network. The computing power required is intense, and so is the power use. Crypto mining became popular in Kosovo because, until very recently, it had one of Europe’s cheapest electricity, as well as a percentage of the population that does not pay electricity bills because they do not recognize the authority of the state.
The blackouts that have been plaguing Kosovo, and in particular its capitol Pristina, have sparked protests and heavy criticism of the closure of the large plant, which is not expected to be approved for re-opening until late this year. Just after Christmas, the government declared a state of energy emergency, giving themselves power to allocate more funds for energy imports and to put tighter limits on power use. Such as the new ban.
“All law enforcement agencies will stop the production of this activity in cooperation with other relevant institutions that will identify the locations where there is cryptocurrency production,” Economy and Energy Minister Artane Rizvanolli said in a statement.
Energy security services will be monitoring use, looking for the massive spikes in use associated with crypto mining, and investigating. The government has not yet said what the penalties will be for violating the ban.