By Marguerite Arnold
The city of Denver is currently experiencing a spike in energy consumption, and just under half of the new increase is directly tied to marijuana production. According to The Denver Post, the city’s energy use is rising about 1.2 percent a year, and of that, 45 percent of the increase is coming from legal marijuana grows.
The majority of the energy used by marijuana growers is in the form of grow lights. Officials from Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility supplier, have reportedly been working with the industry and the federal government to identify more efficient LED technology, humidifiers and ventilation, as well as other ways to lower overall usage and promote consumption strategies.
According to Xcel’s latest annual data, in-state cannabis grow facilities, the majority located in Denver, used as much as 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity last year. The 354 grow facilities in the city used approximately 121 million kWh in 2013, more than a 30 million kWh increase from 2012.
The Boulder Weekly, also quoting Xcel Energy and indoor growers, said that a single grow light used for a 16 foot square grow area consumes half as much energy as the average Colorado house in a full month.
This is not, however, just a Denver or even Colorado conundrum, but a national problem. According to a recent report in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, the national marijuana industry is currently facing an energy-consumption crisis. The report stated, “It consumes six-times as much energy as the pharmaceuticals industry and requires eight-times as much energy per square foot as the average U.S. commercial building.” The report also stated that the industry already uses at least 1 percent of the entire nation’s energy. In California, marijuana-related energy usage may consume as much as 3 percent of the entire state energy usage.
This problem is not going to go away anytime soon. It is also starting to capture the attention of the federal government which is trying to find ways to reduce and conserve energy in general.
Denver has a city goal of capping energy use at its 2012 levels, but so far no plans exist to create energy use caps for the industry.
For at least the last several years, many have been predicting this reality as state after state begins to establish legal grow operations. And as larger scale marijuana industrial grows begin to ramp up in states around the country, this great challenge also presents a unique opportunity. The so-called clean-tech movement, which develops technology that drastically cuts the use of both electricity and water in the production of crops and other production processes, may finally begin to find avid practitioners drawn from the front lines of the marijuana industry.