The blackouts were made worse by cryptocurrency mining, which uses high-powered computer banks.
Cities across Iran have been shrouded in thick layers of toxic smog and clouded by blackouts, as the alleged use of low-quality fuel and cryptocurrency mining sucks energy aggravates the country’s difficulties.
Tehran’s Hamshahri newspaper, the country’s most widely read daily, published the headline “20 Days of Life in Smoke” on a photo of the smog-covered capital on Wednesday.
Power plants have been forced to switch to burning low-quality fuel oils to generate electricity because high levels of domestic consumption have led to shortages of natural gas, the semi-official news agency Iranian students. Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh earlier this week denied that any of Iran’s power plants use fuel oil to generate electricity.
Other factories have closed, causing blackouts in various cities, including the capital, Tehran. Local officials said on Wednesday that pollution levels had become “dangerous,” ISNA reported.
Gas has become scarce as it is used to heat most Iranian homes, and temperatures have been particularly cold this winter. Household use has also increased as people stay at home to avoid coronavirus infection, while private vehicle travel has increased as people avoid public transport.
Domestic gas consumption rose 30% at the end of November compared to a month earlier, Mohammadreza Joulaei, director of supply at the National Iranian Gas Co., told state television.
The outages were made worse by mining for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which uses high-powered computer banks to verify the legitimacy of transactions and create units of digital coins, government officials said.
U.S. sanctions that isolated Iran from global financial institutions have fueled a surge in cryptocurrency mining in the Islamic Republic, which has some of the cheapest electricity in the world.
Tensions on the power grid have led the government to start cracking down on illegal mining operations, and around 6,000 mining machines were recently confiscated in Markazi province, the general manager of Markazi Electricity Supply Co. told the ISNA.
A spokesperson for the country’s power industry apologized for the state television shutdowns and said power supply to Bitcoin’s miners and industry is strictly limited to meet national needs.
Heavy pollution and electricity shortages come as the country battles Covid-19.
Health officials in the capital have warned that high levels of pollution will worsen the effects of the pandemic, which has already caused more deaths in Iran than in any other country in the Middle East.
The head of Tehran’s coronavirus task force urged authorities to impose a complete closure of the city for several days to ease high levels of congestion, which he says is directly linked to the increase in hospitalizations of patients infected with the virus, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.