Addressing the Energy-Intensive Marijuana Industry in Oregon

July 28, 2015
With recreational marijuana now legal in the state of Oregon, there’s growing interest in how to address the energy-intensive marijuana industry. The energy Trust of Oregon offers incentives to growers and is taking part in an effort to address the environmental effects of growing pot.

With recreational marijuana now legal in the state of Oregon, there’s growing interest in how to address the energy-intensive marijuana industry.

Until the state works out the details of a law — effective July 1 — legalizing recreational marijuana, it is now only legal to grow medical marijuana in Oregon.  But there’s concern that once the industry gears up later this year, the growers will draw large amounts of energy. In fact, an article in a Portland paper, the Portland Business Journal, asked, “Is it Time for LEED Weed?”

“There is a great deal of interest and questions regarding the energy usage associated with grow operations,” said Hannah Hacker, a spokeswoman for the Energy Trust. “The Energy Trust is alert to this interest. Once the new regulations around commercial marijuana growing are determined, we will work with eligible customers upon request to determine energy-saving opportunities.”

In the meantime, the Energy Trust offers the same energy efficiency incentives it offers other industries, she said. They can be found here.

“Currently, customers of legal medical marijuana facilities are eligible for our standard program services and incentives through the Production Efficiency program,” said Hacker. “We serve these customers similar to all eligible agricultural customers looking to save energy and reduce costs in their facilities.”

Energy use by marijuana growers is a growing concern in states that have legalized marijuana. For example, in Colorado — the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use — the industry has been associated with high electricity usage in Denver.

A 2011 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report estimated that cannabis production in the US (legal and illegal) consumed one percent of the electricity used in the US, representing $6 billion a year.

“The unchecked growth of electricity demand in this sector confounds energy forecasts and obscures savings from energy efficiency programs and policies,” the study found.

About 13,000 kWh/year of electricity is required to produce one pound of pot. On a square-foot basis, it takes 356 percent more energy to run a marijuana growing operation than it takes to operate a hospital, the study found.

In Oregon, new legislation related to the legalization of marijuana, HB 3400, created a Task Force on Cannabis Environmental Best Practices. The Energy Trust of Oregon is one of several organization appointed by the governor to the task force, said Hacker.

“We will bring to the task force our expertise and experience related to serving agricultural customers in general as well as our recent, though limited, experience serving legal medical marijuana businesses,” she said.

For those interested in following efforts to reduce energy consumption in the marijuana growing industry, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on Oregon, which is well known for its progressive energy policies and environmental leadership.

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About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

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