Energy efficiency is one of the key problems the young and budding legal cannabis industry needs to solve moving forward.
A number of studies published this year have highlighted the massive electrical costs involved with most pot cultivation.
One of the primary reasons for these high costs is that most legal grow operations are indoors. This means they have to use tons of lamps, ventilation systems, and air conditioning in order to create and maintain the perfect growing conditions for cannabis.
The Columbia Journal of Environmental Law published an article that found that, on average, a square foot of indoor marijuana cultivation requires 200 watts of electricity.
The study also found that, in total, marijuana plantations are now using up at least 1% of the nation’s electricity. This adds up to a whopping $6 billion yearly energy bill.
Another study, this one published by ArcView Group, found that in the wake of legalization efforts in various states, marijuana sales have gone up by 74% in recent years.
Working with similar numbers, High Country News has concluded that if all states legalized pot the amount spent on electricity by all cannabis growers in the country would surpass $11 billion.
So far, electricity use trends in both Colorado and Oregon seem to confirm these troubling predictions.
According to Xcel Energy, which provides electricity to much of Colorado, marijuana growers have contributed to a steady rise in electricity usage since 2011.
Similarly, there have been numerous power outages in Oregon. Many have attributed these outages to the strain placed on the power grid by the increasing number of marijuana growers.
And it’s not just big commercial operations that are sucking up all the power. The equipment required to grow marijuana plants at home force home growers to use electricity at unusually high rates as well.
Some organizations in Oregon have begun offering rebates and training to encourage growers to choose more energy efficient setups. The problem, of course, is that these setups are notoriously more expensive to purchase and install than cheaper, less energy efficient pieces of equipment.
As cannabis becomes legal in more and more states throughout the country, energy efficiency will need to be a primary concern for growers to address.