Indoor cannabis cultivation and processing units eat up a lot of electricity, so much so that this year cannabis cultivation alone will consume 1.8 million megawatt-hours of electricity — about as much as the nation’s 15,000+ Starbucks stores.
2020 though is going to be worse in terms of power consumed, states a report by analytics firm New Frontier Data. And yet most states have thus far done little or nothing whatsoever to limit or track the energy being consumed by marijuana businesses.
Among the 11 states where adult-use marijuana is legal, only Illinois and Massachusetts have included energy-efficiency standards for indoor farms, which requires nearly nonstop use of lights and various heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.
Oregon might be the next to follow suit as the state requires simply that growers estimate and then report back on their energy use. “Even such small steps like these will be of immense help to the regulators to better manage an industry whose power demand has long been kept as ‘secret’ as the product itself,” says report co-author Derek Smith of Resource Innovation Institute, a non-profit organization aimed at promoting resource conservation in the marijuana industry.
What’s worrisome though is the fact that the cannabis industry has little data historically as growers were reluctant to share the information about how they were using energy, because of the illegal nature of the drug.
The report, however, takes into account only the legal facilities, thus the estimated figures are an understatement as tracking illegal cultivation places, especially those operating in secluded family homes, is a difficult task.
It’s surprising that California, which is the largest cannabis market, hasn’t put any limits to the power consumption. Reportedly, its Bureau of Cannabis Control won’t even begin asking cultivators for data on energy use until 2022, and hold them to statewide standards for renewable energy starting in 2023.