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Cryptocurrency mining companies welcome ruling keeping Quebec power prices low

Last Updated Apr 30, 2019 at 6:20 pm PDT

FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2018 file photo, a neon sign hanging in the window of Healthy Harvest Indoor Gardening in Hillsboro, Ore., shows that the business accepts bitcoin as payment. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus, File)

MONTREAL — Cryptocurrency industry members in Quebec are welcoming a ruling by the province’s energy board that maintains current electricity rates and obliges the provincial utility to set aside 300 megawatts for new entrants.

Hydro-Quebec wanted to create an auction system for electricity needed to mine digital currencies such as Bitcoin. It claimed that beginning in 2017, it received a rush of demands that exceeded available surplus electricity in its grid.

On Monday, the energy board rejected Hydro-Quebec’s request for an auction and maintained standard rates for the cryptocurrency industry. It also created economic and social targets that companies will have to meet to have access to the 300 megawatts.

Quebec-based digital currency mining company Bitfarms said today Hydro-Quebec’s auction proposal would have hurt development of the growing cryptocurrency mining industry in the province.

Hydro-Quebec spokesman Jonathan Cote says while the energy board rejected the auction, the board’s ruling was in line with the utility’s other proposals regarding selection criteria for companies getting access to the surplus energy.

Mining for digital currency is an energy-intensive process that requires large amounts of computing power and electricity. Companies around the world are looking to enter the Quebec market to take advantage of its abundant and relatively inexpensive electricity.

The Canadian Press