Cannabis monopolizes a third of the electricity of a program dedicated to food autonomy

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A year and a half after the implementation of advantageous electricity rates for greenhouse producers, cannabis production monopolizes a third of the electricity consumption of this program dedicated to improving the province’s food self-sufficiency, according to the data transmitted to To have to by Hydro-Quebec.

It is therefore not just fruit and vegetable growers in greenhouses who benefit from the government corporation’s advantageous rate—5.59¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh)—allowing them to reduce their electricity bill by approximately 40%. Twenty-three cannabis producers also benefit from this program.

With 124 gigawatt hours (GWh), the cannabis sector represented 32% of the energy purchased with this advantageous tariff in 2021. The production of fruit and vegetables accounted for 67% of sales, while horticulture – whose production is stopped in winter — occupied only 1%.

” I must confess that [la part de consommation] cannabis surprises me. I did not expect it to be so high, especially since it is not the healthiest industry at the moment,” observes André Mousseau, president of Les Producteurs en serre du Québec ( PSQ).

On the other hand, Mr. Mousseau sees no problem with it. During the discussions that led to the implementation of these tariffs, the PSQ was in favor of the inclusion of the cannabis sector, he says: “A producer sets up equipment and infrastructures to produce something . Nothing says that, in a couple of years, these infrastructures will not be used for another type of culture. »

“I would have expected that [la part des producteurs de cannabis] be even higher,” said Jean-Pierre Finet, analyst at the Regroupement des organizations Environnementaux en Energie (ROEE), once made aware of the data. According to him, the booming cannabis industry could have outright beaten greenhouse vegetable growers, who had shown limited interest in electric heating in the past.

Possible exclusion?

In 2020, during the Régie de l’énergie hearings on the new tariff for greenhouses, several stakeholders spoke out in favor of excluding cannabis producers. They wanted the program to benefit above all companies contributing to food self-sufficiency in Quebec.

The Régie nevertheless stuck to Hydro-Québec’s proposal not to exclude cannabis producers. It argued that, in any event, surplus electricity would be available until 2027. However, the regulatory body recommended reviewing the eligibility of cannabis greenhouses as early as 2025.

“When the end of energy surpluses is imminent, we read in the decision, a tightening of the scope of application will have to be imposed in order to minimize the negative impact of a rate increase for all customers, without affect the priority objective sought, namely food self-sufficiency. »

During the hearings, Hydro-Québec for its part stressed that by encouraging the development of the entire greenhouse industry – including cannabis – the province was giving itself “the necessary flexibility” to achieve food self-sufficiency. This approach would make it possible to “transfer cannabis production to fruits and vegetables if necessary”.

Before the introduction of the reduced tariff in 2020, large greenhouse growers (300 kW and more) could already benefit from an advantageous price for the lighting (but not the heating) of their greenhouses. In 2019, there were 5 cannabis producers among the 23 customers subscribing to this reduced rate. Marijuana growers then consumed 40 GWh, or 23% of the energy sold at a discount.

Encouraging results

From a global perspective of greenhouse production, the advantageous rates offered to a greater number of businesses are a game-changer, observes André Mousseau. “What we see on the ground is an increase in production areas and capacities,” he says. When you think there were about 20 companies taking advantage of the program [qui ne s’adressait qu’aux grands consommateurs d’énergie] ; it was multiplied by more than four. There is a before and an after. »

Hydro-Québec’s initiative is part of a broader government initiative to promote food self-sufficiency: the Greenhouse Growth Strategy. In nearly two years, 61 new hectares of fruit and vegetables have been added, according to data from the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ).

“The objective was to double, so to reach 123 new hectares [d’ici 2025]. We can therefore say that we are at 50% of the objective, ”said a MAPAQ spokesperson in an email.

The production volume has doubled. In market gardening, more than 34,000 additional tons of greenhouse fruits and vegetables were marketed, which represents an increase of 81% compared to 2018, according to figures from MAPAQ.

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