This report aims to explore the emerging mining landscape in Georgia, which is increasingly gaining attention as a potential hotspot for mining activities in the United States. However, the growth of this industry might face challenges due to the uncertain nature of power rates. This report will delve into several key areas, including the electricity market dynamics, regulatory background, mapping of public mining sites, assessment of the electricity mix, and exposure to natural gas.
A Hybrid Energy Structure: Deregulated Natural Gas and Regulated Power Grid
Previously, our reports delved into analogous forms of deregulated grids in Texas and New York. Despite differences, each grid sets its electricity costs according to the “marginal price setter principle” and individuals are free to select their electricity provider.
In contrast to deregulated grids, Georgia operates under a regulated wholesale market structure where prices are determined differently. In this system, vertically integrated utilities are responsible for the entire electricity supply chain, including generation, transmission, and distribution of power.
In Georgia, the pricing of electricity is determined by considering the operating and investment costs incurred by utilities, ensuring a fair return on their investments. The aim is to provide access to electricity at reasonable prices for consumers. To regulate and maintain fairness in pricing, the Public Service Commission in Georgia has the responsibility of overseeing and approving the rates established by these utility companies.
The grid management in Georgia is shared between two operators the Southern Company Services (SOCO), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The SOCO manages a major part of the state’s grid through its subsidiary the Georgia Power Company (GPC), whereas the TVA share remains residual.
The SOCO is covering the Southeast region comprising Georgia, Alabama, North of Florida, and South of Mississippi which explains why we decided to focus on industrial prices rather than grid prices in this report. SOCO only provides data from their unified grid leading to potentially misleading conclusions when it comes to scrutinizing Georgia power prices.
Georgia’s legal stability and favorable jurisdiction have made it a reliable and attractive destination for Bitcoin mining. Regulators have enacted tax exemptions for high-tech data centers, providing significant benefits to mining farms in the state.
In an interesting departure from the traditional rules of the regulated market, CleanSpark, a public miner, received authorization from the chairman of the Public Service Commission in Georgia to procure cheaper and cleaner power from a non-profit generation organization. This authorization allowed CleanSpark to bypass the requirement of purchasing electricity from the largest utility in the region. This decision highlights a shift towards alternative arrangements that promote cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability in the power procurement process for mining operations.
May — In May, House Bill 696 was passed into law, granting exemptions from Georgia sales and use taxes to high-technology data centers. Although not specifically aimed at the Bitcoin mining industry, this legislation made Georgia an appealing location for data centers involved in mining operations that met the specified legal criteria. To qualify for the exemption, data centers were required to meet certain thresholds in terms of capital investment (ranging from $100 million to $250 million) and job creation (a minimum of 20 “quality” jobs).
February — The House of Representatives in Georgia proposed a bill, HB 1342, to extend tax exemptions to the “sale or use of electricity used in the commercial mining of digital assets at a colocation facility.” However, the bill did not pass.
April — House Bill 1291, which amended the previously passed Bill 696 from May 2018, was introduced. This bill extended the expiration date of the tax exemptions from the end of December 2028 to 2033. Additionally, the bill revised the job and investment requirements, reducing them to lower levels overall.
Distribution of Miners
By the end of 2022, Georgia secured the second position in terms of deployed MW by public mining farms, boasting a total capacity of 343 MW. This achievement can be attributed to the favorable combination of affordable power, clean energy sources, and a supportive regulatory environment, establishing Georgia as an emerging mining hub.
Despite this progress, the number of miners operating in Georgia remains relatively small, representing only 13.23% of the total MW deployed by public miners across the United States. However, it is worth noting that every state falls behind the mining powerhouse of Texas, known as “The Lone Star State.”
Currently, there are only two public mining companies actively running rigs in Georgia: Core Scientific and CleanSpark. Previously, Bit Digital also had a limited number of miners in Dalton, hosted at Core Scientific’s mining facility. However, their hosting agreement was terminated in February 2023.
Core Scientific’s data center, located in Dalton, Georgia, is historically one of the miner’s earliest acquisitions and the largest facility in the state. Originally an unused factory, Core Scientific purchased the Dalton facility in 2018. Approximately three years later, the company announced plans to expand the site, adding additional capacity. Currently, the 195MW facility stands as the miner’s most significant computing data center among its various mining sites, which include locations in Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Texas.
CleanSpark, on the other hand, has its roots in Georgia. Unlike large-scale data centers, most of CleanSpark’s sites do not exceed 50MW in capacity. However, there is an exception with the Sandersville data center, which was acquired from Mawson in Q3 2022. This particular facility has a total capacity of 80MW, with a potential planned expansion to reach 230MW. It’s worth noting that managing small-scale infrastructures is generally less complex, and the single point of failure commonly associated with larger farms is absent.
CleanSpark has recently announced the acquisition of two facilities in Dalton, which have the capacity to host approximately 6,000 ASICs. This strategic move further solidifies CleanSpark’s presence in Georgia, providing an additional power capacity of nearly 20MW.
Although we ignore the hosting/self-mining mix in Dalton, CleanSpark’s activities are solely focused on self-mining.
It is important to note that while the location of mining sites plays a crucial role in accessing renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro, and wind power, nuclear energy remains a viable option regardless of geographical location. While patterns of energy usage among miners have been relevant in understanding the energy mix in states like New York and Texas, the narrative in Georgia differs. To gain a deeper understanding of the energy sources utilized by miners in Georgia, we will explore this issue further in the Miner Electricity Mix section.
In 2022, conflicting dynamics emerged within the Bitcoin mining industry. On one hand, the global hashrate consistently reached new all-time highs (ATH). However, the industry’s economics faced significant challenges and imbalances. This divergence became apparent during the first quarter of 2022, with the global hashrate experiencing a remarkable upward trajectory, surging by 69.46% over the course of one year.
Zooming in at the state level, Georgia’s hashrate witnessed a more modest increase of 18.11%. Analyzing the granularity of these growth rates can help us better understand the disparity between the two levels of growth.
Bit Digital’s mining presence in Georgia was relatively insignificant. In February 2021, the company entered into a two-year Master Services Agreement with Core Scientific to host and maintain its miners. However, in November 2022, Core Scientific terminated the hosting agreement for a small batch of 100 S19 Pro miners, which consumed approximately 0.3MW within the 195MW data center. As a result, Bit Digital relocated these rigs to the Coinmint facility in New York.
To avoid overlapping, we have subtracted Bit Digital’s hashrate from Core Scientific’s total hashrate in Georgia.
On the other hand, CleanSpark capitalized on the bear market to acquire distressed assets. They started with the acquisition of a data center in Washington in August, with an expected capacity of 2.6EH/s and 86MW. A month later, they purchased Mawson’s data center, which has a maximum capacity of 230MW, representing over 7.00EH/s, along with 0.56EH/s of additional machines. These acquisitions significantly contributed to CleanSpark’s rapid hashrate growth from Q3 to Q4 2022.
To accommodate their increased rack space capacity, CleanSpark secured a series of mining contracts. From Q2 to Q4 2022, it is estimated that the company purchased 23,172 ASICs. In February 2023, they placed an order for another batch of 20,000 S19j Pro+ miners, and more recently, 12,500 S19XP miners. Their latest hashrate guidance indicates a year-end target of 16EH/s. While CleanSpark used its operating cash flow from bitcoin sales to fund this significant growth, they also diluted their equity in the process.
CleanSpark invested $9.3 million in cash to acquire two data centers in Dalton. With the addition of approximately 6,000 new rigs, these data centers have the potential to contribute just under 1EH/s to the hashrate in the coming months.
During the bear market last year, Mawson made the strategic decision to sell its infrastructure in order to focus on cost minimization and access liquidity. In Georgia, where electricity prices surged due to natural gas pressures, Mawson reached a hashrate of nearly 1.75EH/s in Sandersville before selling its assets, including the mining facility and 6,468 ASICs, for a total of $42.48 million in September 2022.
Core Scientific has a history in Georgia, having started operations in 2018 and expanding to reach a capacity of 195MW in 2021. According to estimates, the Dalton facility reached a hashrate of 5.7EH/s in 2022 before increasing its hosting rates and decommissioning some hosted miners due to the rise in power rates in Georgia. Across its sites in Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia, Core Scientific shut down over 37,000 Celsius rigs, its largest client, which explains the significant decrease in hashrate by the end of March 2023. The miner filed for bankruptcy in December.
In response to challenging mining economics, several miners undertook strategic changes to sustain their operations. Mawson sold a key asset and exited the state, while Core Scientific significantly reduced its hosting fleet, managing 52,000 machines by the end of March 2023 compared to 90,000 in November 2022. Meanwhile, a private miner, Compass Mining, also closed two facilities that powered 25MW of machines due to the increase in electricity rates. On the other hand, CleanSpark expanded its production and strengthened its leading position in Georgia through strategic deals.
In 2023, we anticipate strong growth in Georgia's hashrate, primarily driven by CleanSpark's ambitions and Core Scientific's renewal at full capacity, whether through self-mining or negotiating new hosting contracts like the one with Greenidge in April. A conservative estimate suggests a hashrate range of 19EH/s to 21EH/s could be achieved by the end of the year.
Miner Electricity Mix
Georgia’s electricity portfolio is mainly concentrated in natural gas representing almost half of the mix. Then, comes nuclear exceeding a quarter and coal ranks third representing 13.22% of the mix.
Despite the dominance of fossil fuels, 60.69% in the power mix of Georgia and 39.31% carbon-free energy, our research unveils a much more sustainable mix. Nearly 81.94% of the electricity used by Bitcoin miners comes from clean energy. Breaking down into the mix, nuclear energy is the centerpiece of the sustainable share with 77.00% of the total mix whereas renewable sources represent only 4.94%.
Although none of the mining data centers in Georgia are behind-the-meter of the state’s two nuclear energy facilities, the overall energy mix for Bitcoin mining in Georgia consists of a significant proportion of nuclear power, nearly three times that of the grid. This composition is influenced by the energy sources used by both Core Scientific and CleanSpark.
For example, in Dalton, where Core Scientific operates, the energy supply is primarily derived from 93.06% nuclear energy, with the remaining portion sourced from coal. CleanSpark, on the other hand, receives a major portion of its energy from clean sources through its main energy provider, MEAG. The company has disclosed that 94.02% of its energy originates from clean sources. However, it is unclear if this calculation includes the energy credits they purchase from the solar program. To provide a conservative representation of the mining mix in Georgia, adjustments were made. Furthermore, CleanSpark’s recent acquisitions in Dalton are expected to further strengthen the dominance of nuclear power in the miners’ energy mix in Georgia.
Despite miners relying less on natural gas (12.01%) compared to the grid (47.20%), it does not necessarily mean that miners are not exposed to natural gas volatility. In Georgia, due to the regulated price system, miners can experience changes in their power costs based on decisions made by the utility rather than market forces, as demonstrated by the case of Compass Mining. Only miners operating behind-the-meter or with power purchase agreements (PPAs) can hedge against this risk.
In contrast, miners draw a smaller proportion of their power from renewable energy (4.94%) compared to the grid (12.54%). Notably, biomass energy is absent from the miners’ energy mix in Georgia.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning that there is no utility-scale wind-powered electricity generation in the state, resulting in the absence of wind power in Georgia’s energy mix.
Georgia Electricity Mix
In the current landscape, as the energy transition gains importance, we observe a rising integration of renewable energy sources into countries' and states’ energy mixes. This acceleration of renewable projects is often facilitated by the implementation of carbon-neutral or renewable energy targets.
However, it is noteworthy that the changes witnessed in Georgia’s energy mix over the past ten years have not been driven by any specific renewable energy portfolio standard or voluntary renewable energy targets. Instead, significant shifts have occurred in the coal, natural gas, and solar segments during this period. Looking ahead, the share of nuclear power in the energy mix is also likely to undergo evolution.
Yet, changes over the last ten years in Georgia have not been driven by any renewable energy portfolio standard, nor a voluntary renewable energy target. Over the decade, major changes occurred in the coal, natural gas and solar segments. Going forward, the nuclear share will certainly evolve too.
After hitting 35.74% of the mix, the share of coal has gradually declined since 2014 with the retirement of two-fifths of the state’s coal-fired generation capacity representing 4.9GW. As it stands today, 13.22% of the electricity consumed comes from coal.
In the same period, natural gas took an opposite trajectory. From 32.24% in 2014, the share of fossil fuel soared up to almost half of the state’s power usage in 2022. To offset the decline in coal the state strengthened its natural gas imports.
Concerning nuclear energy, from 2012 to 2022 the state electricity consumption ranged from 32.57 to 34.48 million MWh per year, averaging a 26.62% share during the past ten years. Two nuclear plants are operating in Georgia, Plant Hatch in Appling County and Plant Vogtle in Burke County, respectively with a generating capacity of 924 and 1,180MW.
Additional reactors, units 3 and 4, have been built at Plant Vogtle; they are expected to double the current nuclear-generating capacity in Burke County. Unit 3 has successfully been connected to the grid last April, Vogtle unit 4 is expected to enter service between late 2023 and early 2024. As a result, the nuclear share will certainly ramp up in the coming years.
Interestingly, biomass is an important piece of the renewable energy supply. According to IEA, while biomass share in Georgia mix ranks fourth relative to other U.S. States led the nation in the use of wood and wood-derived fuels for electricity generation and in the amount of generation from all biomass resources.
Georgia lagging development in wind power is partly explained by the poor potential of onshore wind. However, studies have shown that offshore wind potential is substantial, it could provide 112% of 2019 electricity usage of the state alone.
Dealing With The Natural Gas Exposure
Although Georgia is among the top 10 electricity-producing states, it typically uses more power than it generates. This imbalance can lead to greater exposure to natural gas. As one of the most flexible loads, states usually import natural gas to offset their generation deficit.
Associated with a mounting share of the fossil fuel in the electricity mix, all the ingredients are there for power prices to embrace the natural gas sensitivity. A pattern noticed during the last supply shock in gas markets in 2022, when Georgia power prices sharply reacted.
Analyzing the Henry Hub prices versus Industrial prices in the U.S. and Georgia offer a lens into the common behavior patterns seen in areas relying heavily on natural gas.
Before the last spike in the Henry Hub occurred during the winter storm in February 2021, natural gas prices were consistently below $5. At this time, despite the very short-term nature of the shock, both U.S. and Georgia industrial down-trending power prices rebounded, respectively by 22.62% and 19.14% from January to February 2021.
The second episode in 2022 was much more different. The unprecedented pressure on supply accelerated the rally in prices which gained momentum between the second and third quarter of the year, with the Henry Hub reaching $8.81 in August at the peak of the upsurge.
In Georgia, electricity rates remained elevated above $75MWh from April to December 2022, climbing up to $129.10MWh an ATH in the century. To put the electricity market disruption into perspective, in the past decade industrial electricity rates ranged from $52MWh to $73MWh averaging $63.50MWh. After a rapid decline, electricity prices returned to past levels as the Henry Hub dropped.
By contrast, U.S. industrial prices exhibited greater stability and remained below the $100MWh level, with a maximum rate hike to $95.10 in August. In 2022, from January to July, the whole country’s industrial prices grew by 28.90%, against 92.15% in Georgia.
Unavoidably, Georgia mining outlook will be highly dependent on the power price stability and levels. In spite of energy headwinds, new nuclear reactors are expected to strengthen the state’s baseload. Combined with the growing push of solar projects, it could foster the development of new mining data centers. In particular, miners could serve as a central economic incentive for massive solar projects.
On the contrary, Georgia’s Share of natural gas in its mix exposed the benefits but also the risks of such a strategy. The reliance could continue to rise, as regulators announced the retirement of coal replaced by 2,300MW of new solar resources but also 2,000MW of natural gas capacity.
In the meantime, some electricity bills could soon be impacted by the request from Georgia Power, a major electric utility in the state, to raise prices due to recent sky-high global fuel prices.
Additionally, singular mechanisms of regulated markets prevent the ability to engage in a power purchase agreement (PPA). A highly coveted solution for locking low fixed rates. The environmental protection agency detailed that “Market structure also significantly impacts an electricity consumer’s ability to engage in a power purchase agreement (PPA). To engage in a physical (direct) PPA, an electricity consumer must be in a competitive retail market, and the project must be in a competitive wholesale market that is interconnected with the consumer’s ISO”.
* Henry Hub NG Spot uses monthly data