It’s no secret that one of your biggest cannabis production expenses, especially if growing indoors, is the high cost of electricity. Outlaws stupidly get themselves caught by stealing power for illegal grow houses all the time. Thanks to California passing Prop 64, cannabis has been recognized as a legitimate agricultural crop by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and growers can emerge from the shadows to become licensed businesses in January of 2018.
Switching from metal halide and high pressure sodium fixtures to more efficient, high lumens per watt LEDs can save you 35% or more on your electrical bills, not to mention eliminating the cost of bulb replacement. At PG&E residential tiered rates though, you are still paying a fortune for electrons whether illuminating your grow for flowering at only 12 hours daily or running your lamps 18 – 24 hours during the vegetative growth phase. Besides lighting, there’s water treatment, nutrient distribution and the various components of your HVAC system running 24/7.
On March 1, 2017 PG&E announced that cannabis growers would immediately be eligible for agricultural discounts. Wow, this could dramatically lower your future cost of operations! “Cannabis is a legal crop in our state, like almonds and tomatoes. Agricultural growers now will be eligible for the same rate and energy efficiency programs as farmers of other crops,” said Deborah Affonsa, Vice President of Customer Service at PG&E. It’s important to note that these discounted rates do not apply to personal use home growers cultivating up to their state allowed 12 immature or 6 mature (flowering) cannabis plants. These discounts are for local jurisdiction permitted businesses, indoors or outdoors – so medical cannabis growers can get with the program right away.
Like everything in California, it’s a bit complicated. While the May through October agricultural summer rate can lower your off-peak payments to only $0.195 per kWh, you’ll pay a punishing rate of $0.445 per kWh during the noon to 6pm on-peak use period! So, it might be a good idea to switch from warehouse style indoor growing to LED supplemented light deprivation greenhouse growing to take advantage of free sunshine and turn your lamps off during those pricey hours. Another money saving idea might be for indoors cannabis facilities to invest in a “peak shaving” solution using the new commercial scale Tesla solar photo-voltaic panels and energy storage PowerPack systems to run your lamps off-grid during on-peak periods, drawing on electricity stored in the Tesla batteries during those expensive six summer hours.
PG&E also offers rebates to farmers for upgrading to energy efficient products, it’s only a fraction of the purchase price, but don’t ignore free money. You can get rebates for lighting, HVAC, drip irrigation and more.
Agricultural customers with questions about rates, rules and energy efficiency programs can learn more at pge.com/ag or contact PG&E’s dedicated Agricultural Customer Service Center at 1-877-311-3276.
Any advice and opinions about the cultivation of Cannabis offered by Bruce N. Goren are his own and do not represent the University of California or the Master Gardener Program.