Stage 1 fire restrictions, enacted for unincorporated areas of western Boulder County.

Energy Impact Offset Fund
marijuana growing in a greenhouse

Cannabis Energy Impact Offset Fund

Working with Local Cannabis Cultivators to Reduce Environmental Impacts

Boulder County values balancing a strong economy with protection of the environment and social equity. To promote prudent land and resource use, Boulder County is collaborating with local cannabis cultivators to help them reduce their environmental impacts while simultaneously reducing their production costs.

Reducing Energy Waste

Currently, the lighting and cooling systems that are used to grow marijuana indoors have extremely high rates of electricity consumption, and corresponding greenhouse gas pollution. Since the majority of electricity in Colorado comes from coal-fired power plants, the dirtiest source of power, Boulder County is taking steps to reduce the impact of the cannabis industry on the environment.

Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund

Because of its proportionally significant contribution to climate change, Boulder County is requiring commercial cannabis cultivators to either offset their electricity use with local renewable energy, which now includes RenewableConnect, or pay a 2.16 cent charge per kWh. The fees from this surcharge are then placed into the Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund. This fund in turn, can be used to educate and support best in industry practices with regards to energy usage as well as for funding other carbon pollution reducing projects such as low income renewable energy. Lastly, this program is collecting high-quality energy usage data that will provide researchers with the information they need to develop the most efficient lighting and ventilation systems for this rapidly growing industry.

Between July 2019 and February 2020, Energy & Resources Solutions (ERS) conducted on-site energy assessments on 14 cannabis cultivation facilities that were operating at that time in Unincorporated Boulder County. By paring these assessments with utility consumption data and modeling analysis, ERS was able to provide each participating cultivator with a highly individualized report and recommendations for managing energy loads in a manner that reduces operating costs lowers their carbon footprint and maximizes product yields. This summary report describes the scope of the energy assessments, examines the data analyzes the opportunities, and provides guidance for the cannabis cultivation facilities across the Boulder County portfolio.

Funding for this project was provided from The Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund which was created using fees assessed to cannabis cultivation facilities, to offset carbon emission impact of their energy use loads on the environment.

Boulder County has released phase one of the Energy Impact Offset Fund’s Demand Side Management Study. This study assessed the collective energy management potential across the 16 cannabis facilities currently regulated by Boulder County. Policy actions are recommended to facilitate market forces to aid on-site energy productivity improvements and distributed energy generation for the reduction of carbon pollution in the cannabis industry.

Recognizing that the cannabis cultivators in unincorporated Boulder County may need to set aside funds to pay their required Energy Impact Offset Fund (EIOF) fees and that this expense could impact their investments in energy efficiency upgrades, the county has established an EIOF credit program to free up Cultivators’ capital to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Under the EIOF program, eligible Cultivators can receive a credit against future EIOF fees for these out-of-pocket upgrade costs.

The Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund program hosted an energy assessment and new Boulder County Conscious Certification workshop on November 20, 2019. Below are some of the presentations from this workshop as well as a video of the meeting.

  • Boulder County Cannabis Facility Energy Assessments – Energy Resources Solutions – Nick Collins
    Update on assessments and findings, measures, range of calculated facility productivity and energy intensity values, LED lighting review and Efficiency Nova Scotia baseline lighting review.
  • Boulder County Carbon Conscious Certification – The Cannabis Conservancy – Jacob Policzer
    Benefits of certification, certification process and timeline, certification standards, and how to achieve compliance. The presentation is designed to align with the EIOF energy audits performed this year and help facilitate and guide companies in achieving greater energy efficiency while providing a consumer-facing tool that recognizes carbon reduction efforts in the marketplace.
  • The average electricity consumption of a local 5,000 square foot indoor cannabis cultivation facility is about 41,808 kilowatt-hours monthly, while the average consumption for commercial use of that space is 5,750 kilowatt-hours monthly. For comparison, the average electrical consumption of a local household in Boulder County is about 630 kilowatt hours monthly.
  • Since the majority of this electricity comes from coal burning power plants, a typical 5,000 square foot indoor grow facility contributes approximately 43,731 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per month to the atmosphere.

Boulder County has made anonymized electrical energy use data available to the public in an effort to support the cannabis industry in learning more about their energy impact and spurring innovation around best energy practices. This data has been collected from Boulder County cultivators and then stripped down to only include time stamps and average power across 15-minute intervals, allowing the identity of Boulder County cultivators to be protected. If you have any questions, please contact Ambra Sutherlin.

Boulder County’s Energy Impact Offset Fund (EIOF) Committee, in partnership with The Cannabis Conservatory, recognizes the urgent need for stewardship and accountability within the cannabis cultivation market. The Boulder County Carbon Conscious Certification (BCCCC) was created to support cultivators working towards carbon neutral cannabis production.

Learn more about the certification and the certification process, here.

In partnership with Resource Innovations and with the participation of one Boulder County cannabis cultivator, the EIOF conducted a study to help improve the understanding and modeling of the potential impacts on electric demand, fuel use, and energy costs through the use of daily light integral (DLI) controls at a local greenhouse.

The study aimed to provide in-situ data on light loss due to greenhouse shading and glazing. The findings will be used as the basis for a DLI model that will more accurately account for losses of solar radiation within greenhouses utilized for cannabis cultivation. Results will also assist in the assessment of the cost effectiveness of DLI controls and to support the development of rebates for the installation of DLI controls.

You may read the full report here.

Energy Impact Offset Fund

The Board of County Commissioners authorized the creation of the Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund in Resolution 2014-41 and the Energy Impact Offset Fund Steering Committee was established in February of 2018. For more information on the Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund, view Marijuana Licensing and the Boulder County Marijuana Licensing Regulations.

Contact Us

EIOF Liaison

Ambra Sutherlin
Business Sustainability Advisor

North Broadway Complex

3450 N. Broadway
Boulder, CO 80304
8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. M-F

Mailing Address

PO Box 471
Boulder, CO 80306