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California examines cannabis effect on power demand

UNITED STATES: The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is holding a workshop in February to look at how energy demand will increase on the back of legalising personal use of cannabis in the state, and whether excess renewables capacity could help.

Growing cannabis is very energy intensive (pic: Cannabis Training University)
Growing cannabis is very energy intensive (pic: Cannabis Training University)

In November, the Californian electorate voted in favour of legalising the personal use of cannabis.

This means Californians who are 21 and older will be "allowed to possess, transport, buy and use up to an ounce [28g] of cannabis for recreational purposes and allow individuals to grow as many as six plants. The measure would also allow retail sales of marijuana and impose a 15% tax," according to the LA Times newspaper.

The CPUC wants to see what impact increased energy demand will have on the state's power system if there is an upturn in growing the plant. Cannabis growing is said to be energy intensive.

At the one-day workshop in San Francisco, one of the panel sessions will also discuss if "cannabis cultivation [can] support better use of excess renewable generation in specific regions of California".

In September 2015, legislative bodies in California passed a law extending its renewable energy target from 33% to 50% by 2030.

"According to a 2012 study, conducted when medical cannabis was legal in California but recreational cannabis was still prohibited, indoor cannabis cultivation is responsible for about 3% of California's electricity consumption, which is equivalent to the electricity consumption of one million California homes," the CPUC said.

It cited the example of Colorado, which legalised recreational use of marijuana in 2012. Following this, half of the state's new power demands was caused by marijuana-growing facilities.

Electricity safety issues were also raised by Oregon utility Pacific Power in 2015 after the state legalised the recreational use of cannabis. "From a power use standpoint, even a small operation of four plants with standard lights is like hooking up 29 refrigerators that run 24/7," said Pacific Power's director of safety, Roger Blank in 2015.

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