How TNB is trying to stop illegal bitcoin mining


POWER theft in Malaysia for cryptocurrency mining is a problem that’s growing quickly. But the national utility has a few ideas of how to tamp down the practice. 

Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) has proposed a special tariff for bitcoin mining operators in a move to fight electricity theft, its top executive said last Thursday.

It has also proposed that the Energy Commission encourage bitcoin mining operators to apply for legal electricity supply.

TNB is seeing an increasing number of cases where electricity is used to mine the cryptocurrency illegally — and expects the tally to continue to grow — president and CEO Baharin Din said in an interview.

Crypto mining, an often energy-intensive computing process via which bitcoin and other tokens are created, has grown rampantly across the globe as digital assets increased exponentially in value.

While there are some efforts to make the process greener, it’s regarded in many situations as environmentally unfriendly. 

In Malaysia, crypto mining itself isn’t illegal. But some miners steal electricity, for instance by tampering with metre installation or bypassing the metre and gaining an illegal connection.

Cases of electricity theft involving illegal bitcoin mining operators surged to 7,209 in 2021 from 610 in 2018, according to TNB. 

“The irresponsible perpetrators are doing it at the expense of the security and reliability of supply for the public at large,” Baharin said. Unauthorised electricity connections can also be fire hazards, he added.

TNB has been working with Malaysia’s anti-graft agency, the police, the Energy Commission and the local councils to nab power thieves, especially among bitcoin miners. A total of 18 individuals have been arrested with an estimated electricity theft valued at RM2.3 billion from 2018 to 2021, according to Baharin.