PG&E Subsidizes Indoor Cannabis Grows, Boosts Greenhouse Gas Output  – November 8, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

HUMBOLDT – A researcher from Humboldt State University’s Schatz Energy Center has told county supervisors that indoor marijuana grows consume too much electricity and cultivation should move outdoors or into greenhouses.

Peter Lehman of the Schatz Energy Center acknowledged that his findings and recommendations don’t deal with the issue of marijuana legality but he warned that the county’s residential power consumption will continue to be skewed if the indoor-to-outdoor transition isn’t made.

Speaking to the Board of Supervisors at its Oct. 18 meeting, Lehman related an increase in the county’s home electricity use since 1990 to the passage of Proposition 215, the state’s medical marijuana law.

He said the electricity used by residential indoor grows could power an additional 13,000 homes in Humboldt and it consumes 10 percent of “all the electricity we use in Humboldt County.”

Statewide, Lehmann continued, indoor grows consume about three percent of total electricity.

“We are over three times greater than that,” he said.  Based on that data, Lehman estimated that the county’s indoor grows pump 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

Lehman briefly described his methodology as being based on “talking to people, we talked with various law officials to get an idea of the number of grows.”

Diesel generator-powered indoor grows are even less efficient and add another 20,000 metric tons of carbon annually, he continued.

His solution is simple. “Marijuana is a plant – we can grow it outdoors,” Lehman told supervisors. “You use fewer pesticides and fungicides… and you use less energy.”

He referred to a “controversy” on the quality of marijuana grown indoors versus outside and said a colleague at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory interviewed three experts who said the two methodologies produce comparable results.

Lehman also said PG&E inadvertently enables the power glut by enrolling growers, whose cannabis income isn’t reported, in its discount program for low-income customers. He suggested that PG&E establish a cap on the amount of power customers in the program can use.

Board Chair Mark Lovelace pointed out that without demonstrable income, the growers can claim the discount. And he said the federal government unintentionally encourages it by preventing growers from reporting their true income.

“This is one of the places where I feel the federal government’s policy is at odds with doing what is actually in the public’s interest,” Lovelace continued.

He added that “best practices” to reduce power use could be carried out through state regulation, but with the feds hovering and making crackdown threats, “There’s no incentive to do more than the bare minimum.”

During public comment, Jesse Stills, a partner in a collective that’s seeking a county permit in McKinleyville, said his project was going to use an “onsite solar farm” but federal enforcement has been an obstacle to gaining investors.

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