Vice President, Market Development
D + R International
The act of growing cannabis plants in mass quantities inside a building demands significant energy. This is a unique customer class that represents cultivators who have been growing cannabis for 30 + years with little market intervention. The relationship between a cannabis grower and the utility providing power has been challenging. If growers were not outright stealing power, it was most likely a “don’t ask, don’t tell” relationship making the interplay between grower and utility tenuous at best. However, the key measures that growers deploy to grow cannabis indoors are the same technologies that utilities have been incentivizing for over 20 years now.
Advances in lighting efficiency and HVAC efficiency are now expected by end users in more traditional customer classes such as industrial, commercial and residential. “New” technologies such as LED and ductless mini split systems have not gotten much exposure to growers of indoor cannabis until 2014. Furthermore, these technologies such as LED and ductless mini splits were not originally designed for the cannabis producer.
Thus we are in a very unique and newly regulated market that includes a medical grower, a commercial grower and a personal home grower. Each of these growers has specific constraints that impact how they grow, where they grow and how much cannabis they can produce. This presentation will make the argument that these growers do not easily fall into traditional utility customer segments such as agriculture, industrial, commercial, or residential. Rather, there are elements of these entire customer segments that blend together to create a new customer class with very specific energy needs and impacts.
It should be noted that there has been very little evaluation, measurement and verification of this customer class within the energy sector. In 2016, the Colorado Energy Office issued an RFP to better understand the energy impacts of commercial cannabis growers; however those results are yet to be released. In 2017, the Energy Trust of Oregon funded research to better understand energy impacts of recreational personal home growers and those results will be made public in May of 2018. National Grid funded a best practices report for lighting and HVAC use in commercial cannabis facilities in 2017. Most recently, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council is in the final stages of releasing a grower survey in Washington and Oregon.
Finally, the best way to address this challenge is through a market transformation model that is informed by meaningful (and desperately needed) data collection to link a number of critical market actors together and drive energy efficiency through education and outreach to each grower segment.
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