As marijuana cultivation becomes more popular, it also begins to take up a lot more energy, meaning that electric utilities all around the country are beginning to take note of this. Earlier this month, Utility Drive reported that Pacific Power saw seven power outages because of an overload of the demand for marijuana growing projects. Also, this week, a Seattle utility suggested that there may be a 3% load growth in the next few months from cannabis operations alone. And months ago, Denver, Colorado’s load growth was 45% from marijuana growing operations.

Because of a fear of the federal government, many utilities have taken a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to facing cannabis operations’ load growth. Trends such as this throughout the United States have earned the attention of the nation’s utility moderators. Regulators, utilities and efficiency experts debated how the energy industry is going to respond to the robust growth of what may be the “energy-intensive crop in the country.”

“When I first heard about this panel, the first thought that popped into my head was ‘Why do I care?’” Commissioner Willie Phillips of the District of Columbia stated. “Why do we care about marijuana more than any other plant, any other customer?”

“Are they different?” he questioned. “I think they are.”

The District of Columbia, as well as 24 other states, have legalized marijuana in some way, he stated, and “if that legalization continues, we’re looking at a $35 billion dollar a year industry, and a third of that is related to energy consumption.” According to Phillips, growing four marijuana plants takes as much power as running 29 refrigerators throughout a workday. Also, growing marijuana is becoming very common; in the District of Columbia, some developers have begun offering cannabis cultivation closets as an option in new apartments.

“We can debate the numbers,” he added, “but we know it’s high … We know the load growth is real.”

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