Cannabis businesses shut out of Maine's energy-efficiency programs
One of Maine’s most energy-intensive industries is being shut out of the state’s energy efficiency programs.
Efficiency Maine has decided that it is too risky to give its grants to cannabis businesses, even if they are state licensed, because they operate outside of federal law. That makes any cannabis business a potential federal target that could be forced to close before it can achieve the energy savings needed to justify Efficiency Maine’s investment, the trust’s board concluded.
“Don’t forget, marijuana may be legal here, but it’s still federally illegal,” Executive Director Michael Stoddard said. “I can’t tell my board that (U.S. Attorney General) Jeff Sessions isn’t going to shut them all down tomorrow. He’s got that right. He’s made it clear he’d like to. We can’t invest in a business that may not be around tomorrow.”
If not for the federal uncertainty, cannabis growers would be most likely to apply for commercial and industrial program grants, which are complex, tailor-made projects with their own engineering analysis meant to keep consumption and operating costs down for Maine’s largest energy users. The grants cover up to 50 percent of an energy project’s total cost, capped at $1 million.
The grants are primarily funded by ratepayers, who pay a little extra on their electricity bills with the understanding that the grants will reduce energy consumption, making it less likely that utilities will have to make costly upgrades to the power grid that would drive up everybody’s energy bill.
In fiscal year 2017, Efficiency Maine funded about $3 million in custom program electricity grants to 30 recipients to pay for $7.3 million of completed upgrades, according to its annual report. The program pegs the amount of a grant to the projected kilowatt hours saved. The projects approved last year are expected to save about