Article by Grace Hood, Colorado Public Radio
As Denver’s marijuana industry grows, so does its power needs. CPR News has obtained new data from Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment that shows the energy-hungry plants soak up nearly 4 percent of the city’s total electricity use.
“It’s significant,” said Emily Backus, sustainability advisor for the department. Marijuana’s share of the energy pie is “growing overall at a much faster rate than the overall energy use in the city,” which has increased 1 to 2 percent in recent years.
There’s good news in the data: the amount of energy used per pound of marijuana grown is on the decline. The challenge is that the growing demand for marijuana is prompting facilities to produce more and more plants.
“It actually means that they’re becoming more efficient in their facilities,” she said, and yet the energy use trajectory continues to plot upward for the industry.
Cannabis plants represent an obstacle for Denver city officials who want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
The majority of the city’s marijuana plants are grown indoors. The industry has traditionally used energy-intensive lights to maximize yields. But city officials are encouraging more sustainable growing practices that involve LED lights and fine-tuning cooling systems to use less electricity. The city started a working group to discuss sustainable cannabis cultivation, and even released a report explaining the best ways for the industry to save on lighting and cooling.