The strain that California’s legalized cannabis industry could place on the state’s power grid came into focus on Tuesday, as marijuana cultivators, energy regulators and utility companies huddled to begin hashing out how to square the state’s clean energy goals with the surge in electricity usage expected to accompany recreational pot.
The California Public Utilities Commission hosted a pair of panel discussions that brought together cannabis and energy industry professionals from California, Oregon, Washington State and Colorado — all of which have moved to legalize recreational marijuana in recent years — to share information and experiences about energy usage and conservation in growing marijuana in their respective states.
PUC President Michael Picker said California lacks “deep data” surrounding how the state’s electrical and water infrastructure might be impacted by the expected spike in marijuana cultivation when recreational pot becomes legal next year.
But he said he expects the PUC to consider “distinct set of (electricity) rates for cannabis to help ensure that electricity consumption in the sector supports our greenhouse gas reduction goals and energy efficiency goals.”
Indoor marijuana cultivation is an energy intensive process that relies on powerful lights, heating and cooling systems, ventilation and other processes to control the growing climate and ensure a more bountiful harvest. As much as 40 percent of new demand on Denver’s power grid has been attributed to cannabis cultivation since Colorado legalized pot in 2012, Picker said.
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