Working with Local Cannabis Cultivators to Reduce Environmental Impacts
Boulder County values balancing a strong economy with protection of the environment and social equity. To promote prudent land and resource use, Boulder County is collaborating with local cannabis cultivators to help them reduce their environmental impacts while simultaneously reducing their production costs.
Reducing Energy Waste
Currently, the lighting and cooling systems that are used to grow marijuana indoors have extremely high rates of electricity consumption, and corresponding greenhouse gas pollution. Since the majority of electricity in Colorado comes from coal-fired power plants, the dirtiest source of power, Boulder County is taking steps to reduce the impact of the cannabis industry on the environment.
Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund
Because of its proportionally significant contribution to climate change, Boulder County is requiring commercial cannabis cultivators to either offset their electricity use with local renewable energy, which now includes RenewableConnect, or pay a 2.16 cent charge per kWh. The fees from this surcharge are then placed into the Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund. This fund in turn, can be used to educate and support best in industry practices with regards to energy usage as well as for funding other carbon pollution reducing projects such as low income renewable energy. Lastly, this program is collecting high-quality energy usage data that will provide researchers with the information they need to develop the most efficient lighting and ventilation systems for this rapidly growing industry.
Energy Impact Offset Fund: Reports, Studies, and Workshops
Energy Impact Offset Fund Energy Assessment Summary Report
Between July 2019 and February 2020, Energy & Resources Solutions (ERS) conducted on-site energy assessments on 14 cannabis cultivation facilities that were operating at that time in Unincorporated Boulder County. By paring these assessments with utility consumption data and modeling analysis, ERS was able to provide each participating cultivator with a highly individualized report and recommendations for managing energy loads in a manner that reduces operating costs lowers their carbon footprint and maximizes product yields. This summary report describes the scope of the energy assessments, examines the data analyzes the opportunities, and provides guidance for the cannabis cultivation facilities across the Boulder County portfolio.
Energy Impact Offset Fund Study
Funding for this project was provided from The Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund which was created using fees assessed to cannabis cultivation facilities, to offset carbon emission impact of their energy use loads on the environment.
Boulder County has released phase one of the Energy Impact Offset Fund’s Demand Side Management Study. This study assessed the collective energy management potential across the 16 cannabis facilities currently regulated by Boulder County. Policy actions are recommended to facilitate market forces to aid on-site energy productivity improvements and distributed energy generation for the reduction of carbon pollution in the cannabis industry.
Energy Impact Offset Fund Credit Program
Recognizing that the cannabis cultivators in unincorporated Boulder County may need to set aside funds to pay their required Energy Impact Offset Fund (EIOF) fees and that this expense could impact their investments in energy efficiency upgrades, the county has established an EIOF credit program to free up Cultivators’ capital to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Under the EIOF program, eligible Cultivators can receive a credit against future EIOF fees for these out-of-pocket upgrade costs.
Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund Credit Program Workshop
The Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund program hosted an energy assessment and new Boulder County Conscious Certification workshop on November 20, 2019. Below are some of the presentations from this workshop as well as a video of the meeting.
- Boulder County Cannabis Facility Energy Assessments – Energy Resources Solutions – Nick Collins
Update on assessments and findings, measures, range of calculated facility productivity and energy intensity values, LED lighting review and Efficiency Nova Scotia baseline lighting review.
- Boulder County Carbon Conscious Certification – The Cannabis Conservancy – Jacob Policzer
Benefits of certification, certification process and timeline, certification standards, and how to achieve compliance. The presentation is designed to align with the EIOF energy audits performed this year and help facilitate and guide companies in achieving greater energy efficiency while providing a consumer-facing tool that recognizes carbon reduction efforts in the marketplace.
What We Know About Cannabis Cultivation Facilities in Boulder County
- The average electricity consumption of a local 5,000 square foot indoor cannabis cultivation facility is about 41,808 kilowatt-hours monthly, while the average consumption for commercial use of that space is 5,750 kilowatt-hours monthly. For comparison, the average electrical consumption of a local household in Boulder County is about 630 kilowatt hours monthly.
- Since the majority of this electricity comes from coal burning power plants, a typical 5,000 square foot indoor grow facility contributes approximately 43,731 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per month to the atmosphere.
- Boulder County regulated cannabis cultivation and processing area increased from 114,197 sqft in 2015 to 170,341 sqft (3.9 acres) in 2016, a 49% increase.*
- Of that, 66% was indoor cultivation and 30.9% was in greenhouses.
- Electrical energy consumption increased from 5.8 Million kWh in 2015 to more than 10 Million kWh in 2016, a 71% increase.
- This is equivalent to the electrical consumption of over 1,300 households.
- The industry was still rapidly expanding with existing facilities being made larger, and new facilities being built.
As of March 2017:
- Boulder County regulated cannabis cultivation and processing facilities are collectively consuming 49,291 kWh per day.
- The electrical energy intensity of these facilities varies between 0.203 and 0.580 kWh/sqft/day, a variation of 186%. The average intensity through the rest of the commercial sector is 5 to 15 times lower.
- These facilities have a collective daily peak load of 2,983 kW (2.983 megawatts)** *** As of 2010 the entire City of Boulder had an annual peak load of 236,000 kW, so this small group of facilities is equivalent to over 1% of that, which is a large marginal effect for grid managers.
- The peak electrical power intensity of these facilities varies between 0.0104 and 0.0309 kW/sqft/day, a variation of 197%.
- These metrics don’t include the impact of cannabis facilities within the city limits of Boulder and other incorporated municipalities within the County. There are far more facilities within those jurisdictions.
- Both total energy and peak power will increase during the summer.
* These statistics include facilities that were regulated by Boulder County at the beginning of 2016, but were annexed into the City of Boulder in November of 2016. These figures do not include other facilities that have been consistently within the incorporated boundaries of the cities within Boulder County.
** The timing of these peak power draws is still under analysis, but many are concurrent. ***“Energy” is “power” use over time. The amount of energy use drives system cost via fuel use and wear and tear, while the peak power needed drives costs in the amount of grid capital equipment needed to instantaneously meet that need. Both effects affect carbon pollution.
Energy Impact Offset Fund
The Board of County Commissioners authorized the creation of the Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund in Resolution 2014-41 and the Energy Impact Offset Fund Steering Committee was established in February of 2018. For more information on the Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund, view Marijuana Licensing and the Boulder County Marijuana Licensing Regulations.
Electrical Use Data
Boulder County has made anonymized electrical energy use data available to the public in an effort to support the cannabisindustry in learning more about their energy impact and spurring innovation around best energy practices. This data has been collected from Boulder County cultivators and then stripped down to only include time stamps and average power across 15-minute intervals, allowing the identity of Boulder County cultivators to be protected. If you have any questions, please contact Ambra Sutherlin.