Quebec wanted tech giants but got loads of bitcoin miners

David Vincent, business development director at electric utility Hydro Quebec, launched a campaign in 2016 to lure the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft to build their data centers in the Canadian province. But the outcome, as he believes, is that Quebec was fishing for tech giants but caught bitcoin miners.

The sales pitch was simple: the province offers plentiful, cheap and renewable electricity, along with cold weather and a politically stable environment. And while Hydro Quebec has gotten plenty of bites from traditional data center operators, the company also quickly discovered those same traits are equally attractive for cryptocurrency mining operations.

Nonexistent just six months ago, interest in Quebec from commercial-scale bitcoin miners has skyrocketed, Vincent said, amid the surge in cryptocurrency prices and political uncertainty in other jurisdictions. For Hydro Quebec, 35 cryptocurrency mining organizations are asking the company for information regarding connecting to the power grid there. Those companies now account 70 percent of the total wattage capacity in Hydro Quebec’s development pipeline. Vincent stated:

“I have so much demand right now there’s no need for marketing. Pretty much every day I have a new one.”

And sentiments from others suggest that what Hydro Quebec is seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg. Austin Hill, the former CEO of Blockstream, who is now investing in and backing some of the mining projects looking to Quebec, also stated:

“Based on what I’ve seen in equipment purchase, real estate and power deals, things are exploding in Quebec”

Another driver behind Quebec’s accidental emergence as a cryptocurrency mining hub is that miners are increasingly looking for stable political environments where they can deploy their capital investments and plan their business efforts four to five years in advance with a higher degree of confidence. But for now, Hydro Quebec has to find enough buildings and locations that are suitable to be used as mining farms, as well as to hire more people who can help meet all of the requests from these types of potential clients, as quickly as they are coming in. As a final note, Vincent said:

“The miners have this impression that they’re losing money every day, so they’re asking for big buildings with big interconnections and they want it tomorrow. We have the capacity, but we’re not used to having so much big demand like this. It’s a good problem to have.”

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Written by Brad Chillum

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