Measuring your energy performance to mitigate the threat of cost pressures and regulations

Sustainability is a broad topic with deep engagement in a variety of industries, though it is a relatively new conversation in cannabis. That said, in today’s rapidly scaling and globalizing market, intelligent cannabis investors and operators are beginning to contemplate how sustainability can add value to their ventures.

Personally, after two decades of sustainability experience in a variety of industries, I prefer the term “resource efficiency” over sustainability because it is more clear and ties directly to the bottom line.

With impeccable timing given the state of today’s competitive market, Arcview hosted the first major cannabis investor discussion on sustainability a few weeks ago in San Francisco. I was honored to speak alongside Emily Paxhia of Poseidon, Frederick Schilling of Klersun and Francis Priznar of Arcview.

The Arcview speakers borrowed from their experiences in other sectors as they laid out the reasons why sustainability—or resource efficiency—matters in cannabis:

  • Mitigating cost pressures through improving the efficiency of operations
  • Enabling brand differentiation in a crowded marketplace
  • Protecting the industry’s reputation (i.e., ensuring the entire sector is not tarnished by the image of inefficient indoor energy hogs that disrupt electricity grids)
  • Attracting investor interest
  • Enhancing valuation
  • Getting ahead of oncoming regulations on natural resource use (Massachusetts recently mandated use of LED lighting in indoor grows and California will soon be writing its rules setting targets on efficiency and renewables.)

One question from the audience, while seemingly simple, was particularly insightful and generated an inspired response from the panel. “How do you get started on a sustainability journey?”

The responses essentially advised:

  1. Evaluate your business activities
  2. Take an inventory of your natural resource impacts
  3. Dive into the process of determining how to reduce one of your significant line items
  4. Take the savings you mined and plow them into additional profit-maximizing activities

Energy expenses generally range from 25 to 50 percent of an overall cost structure of a cultivation operation that incorporates controlled environments (indoor or greenhouse). I recommend starting there. We at the non-profit Resource Innovation Institute created a free, peer-reviewed energy benchmarking tool called the Cannabis PowerScore to point the way to an efficient industry future.

More than 100 cultivation facility operators have contributed data about their energy consumption, technology use and production output. In return, they receive an instant benchmark that compares their energy performance to their peers, while identifying operational weak points and resources to drive energy savings. All farm-identifiable data is kept confidential.

Resource Innovation Institute then uses the aggregate, anonymous data to inform governments, utilities and manufacturers how to shape policies, incentives and R&D to drive conservation and establish industry standards. In essence, we are playing a role much like the federal government does with the Energy Star label.

It’s critical that industry leaders take an initial step toward sustainability not just for their own benefit, but also to enable the industry to establish baselines and figure out the most efficient pathways forward so that geographies know how to compete in the global marketplace. We need to move away from our history of secrecy and elevate crowdsourced best practices.

We can only do this through objective analysis of data. After all, literally no one knows with a significant level of confidence how to optimize efficient techniques and technologies across a range of cultivation settings and climate zones. For example, running an efficient operation in Arizona is vastly different than doing so in Massachusetts.

Last week, we announced that RII will produce a Cannabis Energy Report in partnership with New Frontier Data and Scale Microgrid Solutions. This groundbreaking report will be the definitive guide to support investors, operators, policymakers and others to make decisions on how best to create a profitable, resource efficient future for cannabis. The analysis will be based on the crowdsourced Cannabis PowerScore data.

Start your sustainability journey and get your instant energy performance benchmark by encouraging one of your team members to invest a few minutes engaging with the Cannabis PowerScore. If you participate by August 31, your data will be incorporated into the analysis for the Cannabis Energy Report and will give you the best understanding of how competitive your facility is.

With your valuable input, we can simultaneously chart the best course for industry efficiency and help boost your bottom line.


This article was originally published,




Solar Water Pumping Solutions in Agriculture

I’ve been getting asked more and more lately about solar power and pumping water. If you are looking for better, more sustainable cost efficient ways to irrigate your fields this may be your hot ticket. Solar powered water pumps for hemp or cannabis grows.

You can check these guys out, Grundfos who offer products that can help you pump water if you’re far off the grid or in a remote power location.

Grundfos keeps lifecycle costs low for solar water supply. We were one of the first to offer an off-grid water pumping system. Today, we are a global player that leads the way developing sustainable solar water solutions.

  • Low operating costs and no energy costs – costs are known in advance
  • Favourable investment climate – solid return on investment
  • A robust system – long product life, low maintenance and manageable   service requirements
  • Advice and support to ensure delivery of the right optimised solar  water solution

Grundfos Solar Water Solutions deliver unmatched flexibility for reliable water  supply with no ongoing energy costs. From low-flow to large-scale solar-powered water supply, Grundfos has a highly optimised solar water solution that matches any application on the farm or ranch, in or around the home, and for communities in developing countries-

Arizona medical cannabis sales are projected to hit $1.2 billion over the next four years.

The United States’ legal cannabis industry is gearing up for immense growth. A total of 30 U.S. states have now legalized the plant for medicinal use and many more expected to follow suit. Let’s not forget about the nine states that have permitted the plant for adult-use, too.

Home to some 325 million people, the United States of America boasts a strong economy and perhaps the world’s most addressable cannabis market. With more U.S. states embracing cannabis reform and scientists unearthing the plant’s medicinal benefits, it’s not really surprising that the U.S. cannabis sales are fast-approaching an all-time high.

America is Dominating the Global Cannabis Market

By 2025, the global cannabis market is expected to pull in $150 billion, with the U.S. contributing to a significant portion of that figure. Based on statistics gathered by Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Americans say the use of cannabis should be legalized. This is in indication of a rapid shift in opinion on the five-fingered green plant. Back in 2000, a mere 31 percent of the population supported cannabis legalization.

According to the 2017-2018 edition of the Cannabis Benchmarks’ Annual Review and Outlookon the U.S. cannabis market, the market’s wholesale value in 2017 peaked at $5.7 billion; a figure that is four times larger than the value of the U.S. tobacco market and almost as big as the wheat market!

Cannabis Stocks are Skyrocketing in These U.S. States

If you’re an investor with your eye on the prize, make sure you seek out the most profitable cannabis markets that Uncle Sam has to offer. The following weed-friendly places on the map are contributing to the bulging U.S. cannabis market:

  1. California –Of course, The Golden State is featured on this list. California’s cannabis market is worth billions of dollars and just last year, $3 billion was spent on cannabis in the state. Fast-forward to the year 2022, and expenditure is forecast to hit $7.7 billion.

  2. Colorado –In 2017, Coloradoans spent $1.5 billion on both recreational and medicinal cannabis products. By 2022, an additional $1 billion will be spend on the green stuff. While the market may not be growing as quickly as California’s, it is a lot more mature, having legalized the plant for recreational use six years ago.

  3. Arizona – The medical cannabis market in Arizona is well-established. Last year, consumers forked out $461 million on cannabis-based products. Recreational cannabis has not yet been legalized in the State of Arizona, but ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics predicts that it may happen in 2021. Until then, the state will benefit from medical cannabis sales, which are projected to hit $1.2 billion over the next four years.

  4. Florida– The cannabis industry in Florida is expanding at a rapid rate. So much so, that it could be worth $3 billion by 2020. Many cultivators are in the process of expanding their growing facilities. After all, Florida’s MMJ market will account for 50 percent of U.S. nations by 2020. What’s more, Orlando-based attorney John Morgan has pushed to get recreational cannabis on Florida’s 2020 ballot.

  5. Washington – If we gaze into the future, Washington’s cannabis industry could be raking in the cash. Cannabis spending could top $1.5 billion within the next few years, with output expected to be just below $3 billion. The cannabis market in Washington is projected to grow with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent from 2016-2020.

  6. Michigan – Did you know that Michigan boasts one of the biggest medical cannabis markets in the U.S.? It’s true. A total of $812 million was spent on medical cannabis in 2017 and, if residents choose to legalize weed for adult-use in November, state cannabis spending could pull in $1.4 billion by 2022.

  7. Massachusetts –In July 2018, cannabis was legalized for recreational use in The Bay State. Now, the market is in full force and is forecast to pull in over $1.2 billion by 2022. Total output will be almost $2.3 billion, so watch this space.

Investing in the U.S. Cannabis Market

The growth rate for cannabis is in a league of its own. It is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet. One of the major appeals for investors is the diversity in cannabis stocks that are currently trading on over-the-counter (OTC) exchanges. Should you be interested in investing in cannabis stocks, remember that many businesses in the cannabis sector lack access to financial institutions. Nonetheless, it is possible to get a sizeable return on investment (ROI) if you keep a close eye on cannabis stocks. Moreover, the industry comprises more than just cannabis cultivators. Suppliers and ancillary cannabis businesses make up a major segment of the market, so you have plenty of investment options at your disposal.

This article was originally published by Beth Jenkins on Aug 3, 2018 @

A Greener Green Part 3: CO2 Emission

With the massive energy consumption of the cannabis industry comes the eminent emission of CO2. This output is posing a challenge for states with goals to reduce their greenhouse emissions and create sustainable cannabis programs.

As explored in Part One of this series, the cannabis industry is, and continues to be, the most energy-intensive agricultural sector, as well as one of the most energy-intensive businesses per square foot.  Production and distribution cost of the cannabis industry in the United States is approximately $6 billion a year, resulting in the emissions of 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of 3 million cars.  From a consumer standpoint, the energy expenditure of producing a single cannabis cigarette is comparable to burning a 100-watt light bulb for 25 hours. It is feared that the cannabis industry could wipe out the gains made over the past decade to stabilize energy consumption, as it is clear that the industry has no intention of slowing expansion.


How Cannabis Creates A Carbon Footprint

Greenhouse gasses are a group of compounds that trap heat in the atmosphere, thus causing the Earth’s surface to be warmer than it would be if not present.  Known as the greenhouse effect, the presence of these compounds is considered to be a cause of climate change and global warming.  Greenhouse gasses, the most common being CO2, can enter the atmosphere through both natural and human activities.  Natural activities, such as plant and animal respiration, are not comparable to the amount of CO2 released by human activities.  Countless human activities produce CO2 emissions (intensive livestock farming, industrial process), but the most significant contributor is fossil fuel combustion for energy supply.

The massive amount of energy used to support cannabis cultivation typically comes from existing energy infrastructures, or the grid, which is primarily powered by fossil fuels, such as coal.  Coal, as it just so happens is the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels


Taking A Proactive Stance Against CO2 Emissions

Within the cannabis industry, the paramount environmental concern is with the energy expenditure of, thus CO2 emissions created by, indoor productions.  The nation is achieving progress towards climate change solutions, yet state and federal policymakers are making little to no effort to hold indoor cannabis operations accountable for their CO2 contributions.  Policies and programs that improve energy- efficiency pass over the cannabis industry, as well as do any appropriate ratings for cultivating within specific energy-efficiency standards (LEED, ENERGY STAR).

Currently, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts is taking a proactive stance against the carbon footprint that the cannabis industry could potentially create.  They are recommending energy provisions for cannabis cultivators in regards to such areas as lighting, heating, and AC.  The goal is for these recommendations to become requirements to obtain a cultivator license.

Although most states have missed the opportunity to set impactful energy guidelines for the cannabis industry, some cultivators are taking measures into their own hands to reduce their carbon footprint.   By upgrading to energy-efficient lights, pumps and cooling systems, growers are proactively decreasing their carbon footprint.  Microgrids should also soon start appearing across the industry.  Microgrids, which use solar, sored and combined heat and power (CHP), will also reduce a cultivator’s carbon footprint as well as slash energy costs by as much as 20 to 25%.  Other forward-thinking companies are depending on solar and wind-powered energy for their grows.

Power companies that receive any federal subsidies are reluctant to provide rebates and incentives to the industry, which is still illegal under federal law.  Because of this, cultivators often make these energy-efficient upgrades to obtain some third-party certification, such as Clean Green.  Available in multiple states, Clean Green has modeled its program after existing national and international standards.

Can The Problem Be Solved Through Legalization?

As the industry is still in its infancy stage, the energy consumption and carbon footprint of the cannabis is expected to continue to grow over the next several years, while more efficient and green technologies are discovered and implemented.  Many tend to believe that one way to reduce the overall energy expenditure and carbon footprint of the industry is through legalization and decriminalization.  Legalization would allow for controlled energy costs, enforce energy limits and reward efficient growers.   What many may view only as a downfall of the industry should instead be perceived as an excellent opportunity for advancement in environmental practices.  The cannabis industry and legislators both have a unique opportunity to turn the industry into a cutting-edge, environmentally friendly one and lead other sectors by example concerning improvement and long-term sustainability.


This article was originally published on by 

Electric Utilities Work With Cannabis Growers to Save on Power Costs

Understanding how your utility is charging you for electricity and how to maximize your electricity consumption in order to maximize your yield is essential for your business.

Despite knowing for years that electricity is a major expense that can significantly affect everyone’s bottom line, marijuana businesses – especially growers – are still struggling to keep costs manageable.

The good news is that a burgeoning number of utility companies are working with cannabis cultivators to better manage costs by:

  • Conducting in-depth case studies to better understand energy-consumption issues.
  • Assigning employees to work exclusively with marijuana businesses.
  • Recommending lighting as well as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, which they say can save cultivators tens of thousands of dollars annually.

Here are some of the points growers are focusing on as they consider potential energy savings:

1. Keep an open mind

Electricity consumption typically is the second-largest cost incurred by indoor cultivation facilities.

That said, marijuana business executives can benefit from working with utility operators – provided an MJ exec is willing to as well.

“In May of 2017, I started devoting 100% of my time to the cannabis operations coming into our territory, knowing that all those companies were going to fill one portfolio of commercial account management,” said Matt McGregor, strategic account manager, cannabis operations, for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).

McGregor estimates he has roughly 200 marijuana customers, mostly growers, but also about two dozen customers involved in extraction, infusion, processing and packaging.

While more cultivators are accepting or seeking help from utilities, many remain leery.

“Some growers are extremely open and want us to learn,” McGregor said, “and some, we have just one conversation with and then we never see them again.”

2. Understand the public/private difference

Not all energy companies are willing to help. Their cooperation depends in large part on whether they are dependent on one of the nation’s four federal power administrations which serve most of the United States, or one of the nation’s federally owned companies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Utilities that receive their power from these federal entities generally balk at providing cannabis businesses because they fear federal interference.

Private utilities are less prone to those fears. Consider Puget Sound Energy (PSE), an investor-owned utility in Washington state, which has helped about 80 cannabis customers with about 100 energy-savings projects since 2014.

PSE doesn’t get power or conservation funds from the region’s federal power company, the Bonneville Power Administration.

Rather, PSE buys the power it sells to customers off the market or from its own power generation.

“So, we didn’t have to be concerned about losing federal funding by serving the cannabis sector,” said David Montgomery, an energy management engineer with PSE.

He added that cannabis businesses are “legal within the state and the state is our governing body, so we’re going to treat them like any other customer.”

Xcel Energy – a private utility operator serving eight Western and Midwestern states including Colorado – goes by the same premise.

“We work with marijuana companies because they are legal operating entities in the state of Colorado,” Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said.

“We are regulated at the state level, and to deny services would be in violation of state law.”

3. Consider the mutual benefit for both growers and utilities

It’s also in the interest of utilities to help growers cut their costs.

As more customers demand more energy, utility companies may have to build new power plants to supply customers’ demands, which is costly.

It’s cheaper to persuade existing customers to reduce energy usage by using conservation practices and buying newer, more efficient lighting and HVAC.

“It was difficult in the first several years of legalization from an operational distribution standpoint to meet the needs of some of the growers,” Xcel’s Stutz observed.

The utility had historically set up electric distribution systems in warehouse areas that were meant to meet certain loads.

Later, these districts became home to cannabis cultivators, and the energy consumption increased dramatically, he explained.

“This meant that we often had to upgrade distribution to meet the higher, 24-hour demand for use,” Stutz said.

Now, utilities are looking to the cannabis industry as a place where they can help customers take pressure off the grid.

“With the legalization of the cannabis market in Massachusetts, and the fact that this business is extremely energy-intensive, this is an agricultural area where there is opportunity to proactively influence the design of these facilities in order to mitigate their very significant energy demand,” noted Robert Kievra, a spokesman for National Grid, a major utility in Massachusetts.

About 70% of the cannabis facilities in National Grid’s service area participate their rebate and incentive programs, Kievra added.

4. Consider LED and HVAC technologies 

Energy companies say the best way for marijuana growers to reduce their energy consumption is to switch from conventional lights to LED, and to upgrade HVAC.

But many growers remain skeptical of LED lights, something that McGregor blames on a lack of education.

“Trying out LED technology from two years ago is like trying out a 10-year-old laptop,” McGregor said.

Because cultivators also have a lot to gain from marijuana-related energy rebates and incentives, lighting companies are often the ones connecting utilities with growers.

“The folks who are really out there pushing LEDs, and saying PSE has money available, are the lighting companies and their reps,” PSE’s Montgomery noted.

“They’ll bring us growers with whom we can do projects with,” added Montgomery, noting that his company works with about six lighting firms that provide customers with LED technology.

“The lighting companies are aware of our incentive programs, so when they’re selling lights they tell the growers, ‘Hey, we can work with PSE. They have cash available to help pay for these lights because they’re more efficient.”

Montgomery estimated he saves his marijuana customers about 50 million kilowatt hours per year.

A kilowatt hour is a unit measuring the amount of watts used over 60 minutes. For example, 1,000 watts of power used for one hour represent one kilowatt hour.

Despite outreach from PSE and lighting companies, cannabis businesses may have not taken much advantage of incentive programs.

For example, Montgomery reckoned that LED lights should be installed at about one light per a 4-foot-by-4-foot area of canopy.

That means 10,000 square feet of canopy would require about 625 lights, with each light costing about $1,000 each.

Montgomery said PSE typically picks up 50%-70% of that cost through rebates, although it’s sometimes lower based on the types of lights that are chosen.

“Even if we can pay a big part of it, they’re still on the hook for their portion of the project costs,” he observed.

This article was originally published in MJ Biz Daily. written by

Omar Sacirbey  who can be reached at