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New UCL Research Report Reveals Energy Consumption Levels of Leading DLT Networks

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University College London (UCL), a top-10 globally ranked university, has published a significant new research paper on the varying environmental impacts of different distributed ledger technologies (DLT). The paper examined the energy consumption of second-generation consensus models such as Proof-of-Stake, which promise to provide more favourable energy consumption characteristics than their Proof-of-Work predecessors. Researcher’s at UCL’s Centre for Blockchain Technologies (UCL CBT) quantified and compared the energy demands of six second-generation systems: Algorand, Cardano, Ethereum 2.0, Hedera Hashgraph, Polkadot, and Tezos. The full paper can be found here.

The research paper found that Hedera Hashgraph had the lowest overall energy consumption of the systems studied. Dr. Paolo Tasca, Executive Director at UCL CBT, said: “At this point, the benefits of Proof-of-Stake are well-recognised and understood in the blockchain space. However, through this research we have found that not all Proof-of-Stake networks are created equally. This is something that both investors and adopters need to be wary of when selecting their network of choice. While it’s fantastic to see that Ethereum 2.0 will be Proof-of-Stake, looking at these results it’s clear that we need to remain vigilant of its potential environmental impact.”

The research was conducted by UCL CBT by formalizing a basic mathematical consumption model for validator-based Sybil attack resistance schemes. This model allows quantifying the energy consumption per transaction based on common input variables, such as the number of validators and the throughput characteristics of the system analysed.

Ultimately, the study found that the energy needs of the varying consensus protocols was dependent on the number of active validators. The UCL researchers warned that distributed ledger technology (DLT) networks need to be wary of the effect of different design choices in their architecture over energy consumption, as well as of the quality of the hardware used by the node operators. The research concluded that DLT networks must remain focused on environmental friendliness as scale increases.

Dr. Tasca concluded: “The findings of this study are a fantastic starting point for improving existing DLT design options, as well as developing new consensus protocols while keeping sustainability front of mind. We found that, through applying contemporary throughput and validator counts, Hedera Hashgraph has the most favourable energy consumption characteristics.”

For more information, download the full report at: http://blockchain.cs.ucl.ac.uk/blockchain-energy-consumption/

About University College London

Founded in 1826 in the heart of London, UCL is London's leading multidisciplinary university, with more than 13,000 staff and 42,000 students from 150 different countries. Ranked 8th in the world by QS World University Rankings in 2022, University College London is amongst the best universities in the world. It was the first university in England to welcome students of any religion and the first to welcome women on equal terms with men. UCL's founding principles of academic excellence and research aimed at addressing real-world problems continue to inform its ethos to this day through focusing its research endeavours on the Grand Challenges of Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Cultural Understanding, Human Wellbeing, Transformative Technology, and Justice & Equality. UCL’s dedication to world-class research, education and innovation is recognised through its globally recognised ranking. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework, UCL was the top-rated university in the UK for research strength.

About the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies (UCL CBT)

UCL CBT is the world’s largest research centre on blockchain technologies by number of associates. Founded in 2015 by Prof. Paolo Tasca and Prof. Tomaso Aste, its mission is to research the effects of Distributed Ledger Technologies and Blockchain into our socio-economic systems and to promote the safe and organic development and adoption of Blockchain-based platforms.

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