Pubdate: Thu, 24 Dec 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Jennifer Oldham, Bloomberg News


Indoor Growing Sites Tax Electric Grids, Unravel Conservation Efforts

DENVER - The $3.5 billion U.S. marijuana 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 electricity grids and 
unraveling hard-earned gains in energy conservation.

Without design standards or efficient equipment, the growing 
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.

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.

"We are at the edge of this," Witmer said. "We are looking all across 
the country for examples and best practices."

The corporatization of what was once off-the-grid agriculture is 
taxing electrical systems as the nation prepares to comply with the 
Paris climate agreement and the Environmental Protection Agency tries 
to reduce greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants, which are 
considered the single largest domestic source of emissions that 
contribute to global warming.

"Consumers seeking a green lifestyle are likely unaware that their 
cannabis use could cancel out their otherwise lowcarbon footprint," 
Evan Mills, an energy analyst for California's Lawrence Livermore 
National Laboratory, wrote in an email.

Indoor growing in 2012 racked up at least $6 billion a year in energy 
costs, compared with $1 billion for pharmaceutical companies, Mills 
found in a study he did independent of the research institution. Some 
larger facilities use as much as $1 million worth of power a month.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom