Part I: Implications for Utilities, Regulators
Roger Bezdek is currently the president of Management Information Services, Inc. (MISI), in Washington, D.C. He has served as a senior advisor in the office of the Secretary of the Treasury and as research director at the Department of Energy. He is the author of six books and over three hundred publications in scientific and technical journals, including a dozen articles in Public Utilities Fortnightly.
Mike Harshfield is the COO/CDO of Blackline Land Management Group, which executes scalable, technology-driven solutions to solve critical business needs in the cannabis market. An experienced senior executive, he has worked with start-ups as well as Fortune 50 companies.
Sean Tegart is President and CEO of BIOS, Biological Innovation and Optimization Systems. It is a provider of research, design, and development of biological lighting products to enhance the health and well being of people, plants, and animals. He has worked with several Fortune 100 companies, including Anheuser-Busch, Robert Bosch GmbH, Weber-Stephen Products, and Lighting Science Group.
Ujjval Vyas, a Principal at Alberti Group LLC, has decades of experience in sustainability, construction, and emerging technology working with the National Institute of Building Sciences, Willis North America, the Pro-Demnity Insurance Company, Bureau Veritas, and the Construction Specifications Institute. He has taught classes in sustainability and real estate and classes in emerging technologies and the law.
The authors would like to acknowledge the technical assistance of Tony Lindsay in the preparation of this article.
The legal cannabis industry in the U.S. is experiencing rapid growth. That growth and its commensurate energy demands have surprised utilities, public utility commissions, and government officials. The industry is extremely energy-intensive, and is placing strains on some individual utilities and local grids.
These problems may only intensify in the coming years, due to the success of recent cannabis ballot legalization initiatives in several states. It appears that many other states will be legalizing cannabis in the future.
In Part I, we forecast electricity demands that we believe are likely to be generated by the U.S. cannabis industry. We analyze the problems currently resulting from the immense energy requirements of the industry and their unintended consequences. We then assess some potential implications for the cannabis industry and for utilities.
In Part II, we will discuss possible options and solutions for utilities and the industry.
We estimate that in 2017, cannabis production may account for as much as three to six percent of U.S. electricity consumption, and as much as five to ten percent in California.1 Under that assumption, cannabis production would consume more electricity than all data centers and server farms combined. They currently consume between two and three percent of U.S. electricity.2