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Utilities Encourage Efficient Growing

A recent announcement by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), headquartered in San Francisco, California, is laying the groundwork for a more energy efficient cannabis industry.

As we’ve mentioned before, utilities want to offer energy efficiency programs and rebates to growers but are often prevented from doing so by the potential loss of federal funding. This announcement may signal a shift in that stalemate.

“Cannabis is a legal crop in our state, just like almonds and tomatoes,” said PG&E vice president of customer service, Deborah Affonsa. She went on to explain that cannabis growers would be able to apply for agricultural energy rates, which are less costly than the standard rates, and energy efficiency plans.

In order to qualify, PG&E customers must have a permit for cultivation from their local jurisdiction. Also, at least 70 percent of their energy use must go to agricultural needs like pumping water or “other uses that involve agricultural production for sale, which do not change the form of the product.” Grow lights fit neatly under that heading, meaning that indoor, as well as outdoor, grows qualify for the program.

The permitting requirement prevents any black market growers from getting in on the savings and neatly bars homeowners growing a handful of plants for their own use. They will be treated like utilities have treated cannabis growers thus far: just like any other customer.

With PG&E weighing in, it might be enough to tip the balance and encourage other utilities to follow suit. Sonoma Clean Power is already in the middle of planning a similar program and rate structure, which it will be expanding into cannabis-heavy Mendocino County in a few months.

Given the high power consumption of commercial indoor growing, something had to happen sooner or later. With an imminent recreational marijuana market driving industry growth, it happening sooner is a good thing. The type of good thing that prevents rolling brownouts.

“We met with representatives of the emerging legal cannabis industry and listened to their needs,” said Affonsa. “Now that cannabis is in California’s future, our next step is to work with these new agricultural customers, and make this industry as energy efficient as possible.” For many growers that is long-sought, welcome news.

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