As the federal government prepares to unroll its countrywide Clean Power Plan, Denver struggles to rein in its own electricity use. The effort is complicated by increased energy consumption within the marijuana industry.
Denver is home to a majority of growers in the state of Colorado. The burgeoning industry is responsible for nearly half of the 1.2 percent increase in electricity use that Denver is experiencing each year. In tandem with the Clean Power Plan, which hopes to reduce national carbon pollution, Denver has its own goal to roll back its energy consumption to what it was in 2012.
Cannabis grow facilities are flourishing. Rapid success, however, poses challenges to building an industry that aligns with state and national energy goals. Local utility officials report that in 2012, 351 facilities in Denver used 86 million kwh of electricity. In 2014, the number was 200 million kwh for an increased number of facilities.
Sonrisa Lucero, a city sustainability strategist, said,
“Of course we want to grow economically. But as we do that, we’d like to save energy.”
Denver business leaders and government officials are looking to the federal government to assist the city in meeting its energy goals. Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr said that the U.S. Department of Energy has created an Office of Technology Transitions to help guide Denver and other cities toward more efficient practices.
The Clean Power Plan will encourage utilities to avoid high-carbon-producing coal, and look to cleaner sources of energy production such as wind, solar, and natural gas. Colorado has long been a leader in its efforts to promote statewide use of renewable energy.
For Colorado, and for Denver in particular, the key to compliance with the new standards may be a more efficient use of energy rather than reduced use. Increased population, along with a booming cannabis industry, has boosted the yearly need for electricity by 1 to 2 percent in the state.
One solution may be to improve the way growers design and build their facilities. Typically, cultivators use hot lights that raise the need for air conditioning. In addition, most facilities run dehumidifiers.
Installing improved light-emitting diode lights could potentially and significantly reduce the need for air conditioning, because LEDs do not give off heat. Lighting companies are currently testing options to determine if LEDs are a safe and productive option for plants.
Marijuana facilities used less than 2 percent of Denver’s total electricity consumption in 2013. While there are no industry-specific regulations planned for cannabis cultivation, its continuing success indicates a need to persist in the search for sustainable ways to grow.