The governor of Colorado announced on Wednesday that the state is rolling out two pilot programs aimed at increasing energy efficiency in the marijuana and beer industries.
The programs, which are being launched in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Colorado Energy Office, are designed to promote sustainability in the cannabis and alcohol markets through innovative carbon dioxide recapturing practices and collaboration with energy utility companies.
CDPHE’s Carbon Dioxide Reuse Pilot Project involves capturing carbon dioxide emitted during the beer brewing process and using that resource in marijuana cultivation, stimulating plant growth.
Private beer and cannabis companies Denver Beer Co., The Clinic and Earthly Labs will team up with state government agencies for the experimental program. Denver Beer Co. said it believes it will be able to capture about 100,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year with the technology.
Here’s how it will work, according to the state.
The beer-brewing process—specifically, the fermentation stage—naturally produces carbon dioxide. While beer makers use carbon dioxide to carbonate beer and pressurize lines throughout their facility, the current practice for most brewers, especially smaller-scale craft brewers, is to vent carbon dioxide from fermentation and purchase carbon dioxide from an outside source for carbonation. Using technology, brewers can instead capture and store excess carbon dioxide for use by cannabis growers.
The legal marijuana industry is a large market for carbon dioxide consumption, as carbon dioxide is used to grow premium products in a condensed time span and increase yields. Carbon dioxide is a key component in the cannabis plant growth process as the plant translates light into the energy needed for growth.
The pilot program will demonstrate a cost-efficient way for breweries and marijuana businesses to slash their carbon dioxide emissions, as companies will no longer have to purchase carbon dioxide from power plants and have it shipped by truck across the state. Implementation of this technology will meaningfully reduce the transportation portion of their carbon footprint.
“We are committed to taking the necessary steps to improve our air quality and reduce harmful emissions,” Gov. Jared Polis (D) said in a press release. “These pilot programs combine a few of the things that Colorado is known for: environmental responsibility, craft beer, and cannabis. I applaud our state agencies and private partners for working together on these innovative programs to help protect the Colorado way of life.”
Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of CDPHE, said the pilot program “is a perfect example of the state’s willingness to embrace creative solutions and call on businesses to innovate to help build a healthier, cleaner, more sustainable Colorado.”
The state’s press release also describes a separate recently launched pilot program from the Colorado Energy Office, which involves a partnership with local electric utilities that provide select cannabis cultivation businesses with “no-cost technical energy use assessments to better understand energy use drivers and cost-effective energy management opportunities.”
Five utility companies and 15 marijuana cultivators will participate in the pilot program. Additionally, cultivators in rural areas will be eligible for resources to develop “longer term plans to support cannabis industry utility customers.”
“Our partner utilities will work directly with cannabis cultivators within their service territories to look at high energy use areas and opportunities for operational changes that reduce energy use without major impacts to production metrics,” Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Will Toor said.
These are the latest steps that Polis’s administration has taken to improve energy efficiency in the state’s marijuana market. Last year, he announced that the National Governors Association will be lending support to five states, including Colorado, through a two-year program designed to help the industry adopt best practices in the industry.
Polis has also made much of the potential of the hemp industry in his state.
During his State of the State address earlier this month, he emphasized that “keeping Colorado the number one state in the nation for industrial hemp” is among his priorities for bolstering economic opportunities in rural communities.