The Pot Industry’s Electrical Demands Soar

pot industry

Power-hungry pot industry taxing U.S. electrical grids

The Seattle Times, December 22, 2015. Image credit: EnriqueMendez

The facilities in the 23 states where marijuana is legal are responsible for greenhouse-gas emissions almost equal to those of every car, home and business in New Hampshire.

The $3.5 billion U.S. cannabis market is emerging as one of the nation’s most power-hungry industries, with the 24-hour demands of thousands of indoor growing sites taxing aging electricity grids and unraveling hard-earned gains in energy conservation.

With the industry just coming out of the shadows, utilities are without data to forecast its electrical needs.or efficient equipment, the facilities in the 23 states where marijuana is legal are responsible for greenhouse-gas emissions almost equal to those of every car, home and business in New Hampshire. While reams of regulations cover everything from tracking individual plants to package labeling to advertising, they lack requirements to reduce energy waste.

Some operations have blown out transformers, resulting in fires. Others rely on pollution-belching diesel generators to avoid hooking into the grid. And demand could intensify in 2017 if advocates succeed in legalizing the drug for recreational use in several states, including California and Nevada. State regulators are grappling with how to address the growth, said Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Pam Witmer.

Indoor growing operations in 2012 racked up at least $6 billion a year in energy costs, compared with $1 billion for pharmaceutical companies, Mills found in a seminal study he did independent of the research institution. Some larger facilities today suck down as much as $1 million in power a month.

ArcView, an Oakland, Calif., research firm, estimates the retail and wholesale marijuana market will reach $4.4 billion in 2016.

With the industry just coming out of the shadows, utilities are without data to forecast its electrical needs.

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