Colorado Cultivators Energy Management Pilot Program

Grow Facility

The Colorado Energy Office officially launched the Colorado Cultivators Energy Management pilot program in January 2020 as a partnership with local electric cooperatives and municipal utilities. The program was designed to provide eligible cannabis cultivation businesses with no-cost technical energy use assessments to better understand energy use drivers and cost-effective energy management opportunities. Providing confidential and experienced technical services directly to cannabis cultivators, the pilot program also offered no-cost resources to rural electric cooperatives interested in developing longer term plans to support cannabis industry utility customers.

The pilot program built off of CEO’s Energy Use in the Colorado Cannabis Industry report published in 2018. This report covers the history of cannabis legalization in Colorado, assesses baseline energy and water use for production, examines municipal policy development and its impacts on industry growth, and reviews opportunities for cultivators to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.

The pilot program—which ran through June 2020— prioritized electric utility partnerships in areas not served by Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy or Platte River Power Authority, as energy management services to cannabis cultivators are presently available to these utility customers.

Forthcoming results from the pilot will inform CEO strategic program planning going forward.

Energy Use & Management in Cannabis Cultivation 

Colorado is home to 

~900

licensed medical and recreational cannabis cultivation facilities

Colorado is home to almost 900 licensed medical and recreational cannabis cultivation facilities. Energy use varies widely by the type, size and process for each individual site, but one thing remains constant: for each indoor agriculture business, electricity is a critical component of indoor farming and has a direct connection with production and product quality.

This significant year-round energy need impacts both the businesses that operate indoor agriculture centers as well as the local utilities that provide them with reliable and affordable electricity. Energy management can be especially challenging for cultivation businesses in areas of the state not served by investor owned utilities (IOUs) that already have well-established demand side management program budgets, rebates, resources and cost-recovery mechanisms. Whether a cultivator is severed by an IOU or not, efforts to manage or optimize energy use must take several non-traditional energy engineering factors into consideration to be effective.

How the Colorado Cultivators Energy Management Pilot Program Worked

Participants in the Colorado Cultivators Energy Management pilot program worked directly with their local electric cooperative, which qualified and scheduled the cultivation business for a no-cost energy use assessment. For the pilot, the CEO partnered with Mountain Parks Electric, La Plata Electric Association, San Isabel Electric Association, Colorado Springs Utilities and United Power. A confidential energy-use assessment was then performed on site by an experienced energy management professional in which equipment and operating procedures were documented in areas of lighting, HVAC, dehumidification, fans, control systems and other critical loads. A subsequent summary report was then provided, showing current estimated high energy use areas and presenting opportunities for both operational changes and/or investments in high-efficiency equipment to reduce energy use without major impacts to production metrics. Additional available rebates or other incentives from the local electric cooperative was outlined as well as each site’s potential to explore future options for renewable energy applications.

If you have questions about the pilot program, please contact Michael Turner at michael.a.turner@state.co.us