All posts by Bethan Riach

Can the event industry harness wind power as a clean energy solution?

Following the latest announcement from the Prime Minister that wind power will provide enough energy for all UK homes by 2030 –  Tim Benson, chair of Powerful Thinking, explores the possibility of events using this clean energy source as a viable option too, and looks at new tech for harnessing wind for temporary power needs – including the Gem Tower (pictured).

“Boris Johnson pledged at the Conservative party conference that offshore wind farms will produce enough energy to power every UK home by 2030. This is something of a u-turn considering his comment in 2013 that; ”wind farms failed to pull the skin off a rice pudding,” – clearly nanny was not a good cook!! 

However, his assertion is supported by hard data from the National Grid: as of 06/10/20 wind power accounted for 18.5% of the UK energy mix, generating 6.39GW and consolidating its position as the second largest contributer to UK mains energy behind gas.

Despite UK weather conditions being ideal for harnessing wind power, it is rarely deployed for events. This is arguably because very few pop up commercial turbine solutions exist and their installation costs are often prohibitive. They also consume energy to operate, referred to as a parasitic load, reducing their overall utility. At the domestic end of the market, they only generate between 0.6 – 1.3kW, making them a non-starter for most event applications. Alternative wind harnessing solutions, including kites tethered to electro-mechanical winches, have been explored but are not really scaleable and come with a raft of health and safety concerns.  

However, GEM-tower http://www.gem-tower.com , an initiative led by PowerVIBES and Eindhoven University of Technology, may have just bucked this trend. It is a mobile solution comprising of a 3kW wind turbine and coloured LSC solar panels mounted on a 21m fold-out mast, with integrated battery storage. Whilst this eye catching tower will not power your main stage or food trader runs, it is certainly helping promote the role of renewables in the event energy mix as it tours European festivals and shows. 

Perhaps most importantly though, we can learn some boader lessons from GEM-tower’s hybrid configuration. For me, its significance lies as an exemplar of  hybrid technology, a power system that harnesses dual renewable energy sources and integrates these into a single power solution.

It is not uncommon for commercial ports to combine wind turbines with solar PV because this increases the opportunity for energy generation across a 24-hour period, so why can’t innovators in event power adopt a similar strategy?” Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking  

Carnival Network explore low carbon power & new tech to reduce demand

The newly formed Environmentally Responsible Carnival Network have invited Powerful Thinking to advise their search for alternative solutions to diesel generators. Tim Benson, Chair of the Powerful Thinking working group joined the New Carnival Company organised networking meeting in August 2020 to discuss the process of introducing energy monitoring and exploring the feasibility of battery solutions, whilst also looking at low emissions alternatives to diesel.

In this blog Tim discusses the challenges and possible solutions for energy efficient carnivals and also explores the available tech that can help reduces energy demand in the first place with a review of Minirigs ultra efficient sound systems, and Swiss start up, Belair Technology’s battery powered amplifier solutions.

Last month I was invited to participate in an online meeting of the new Environmentally Responsible Carnival Network hosted by the New Carnival Company CIC to discuss how they could introduce energy efficiency measures at their events. From listening to membership, it soon became apparent that carnivals present their own very unique set of challenges when planning for power – no two sound systems are the same, they are generally built with volume in mind rather than efficiency, there is little to no hard data on expected load profiles, and weight and footprint of power management systems is key. However, what soon became clear was that there is a very real appetite amongst the carnival community for finding alternative solutions to diesel generators. To this end, Powerful Thinking will be working with them to introduce energy monitoring and to explore the feasibility of introducing battery solutions for some applications, whilst also looking at low emissions alternatives to diesel.

Fundamental to improving energy efficiency is, of course, reducing demand in the first place. Cue Minirig www.minirigs.co.uk whose Bristol based team are specialists in designing and fabricating bespoke ultra energy efficient sound systems. They were responsible for fitting out the Arcadia Bug with a 6,000W 12V system that was capable of delivering sufficient audio output with all of Minirig’s renowned fidelity, yet with only a fraction of the power requirements of more conventional 230V systems.

Belair Technology www.belairtechnology.com, a Swiss start up, has also been successfully beta-testing their battery powered amplifier solutions with Void and Function-1 speaker cabs. Their hot swappable and modular 2kWh power banks, that feature up-cycled lithium batteries, a 500W inverter system to power DJ outboard and the capability to be both smart-networked with Nissan EVs and trickle charged from solar PV, offer a 100% integrated off-grid PA solution.

If one positive thing has emerged from the current Covid-19 crises, it is that we have had a chance to pause & explore new possibilities for greater technological convergence. As a result, we are beginning to see integrated solutions that combine energy autonomy with high-end performance, which can only be a positive step when reimagining the future of sustainable events.

This blog was first shown in the Vision:2025 September 2020 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox using the form in the footer of www.vision2025.org.uk

All-electric Telehandlers and advances in lithium battery technology

This month trials of the first all electric telehandler began at one of the HS2 construction sites. The Flannery Plant Hire Eco-telehandler purports to have up to a 10-hour runtime between charges, making it a low impact alternative to its diesel counterparts. Is this the future for site plant or just an elephant in the room? 

In order for battery technology to surplant its antiquated diesel counterparts, be that access equipment, lifting plant or generators, then the price of lithium batteries needs to come down drastically. Cue Teague Egan of EnergyX, who is developing a nanoparticle filter that can extract 90% of lithium from salt deposit supplies (current extraction processes only yields 30%). This, coupled with Elon Musk’s rumoured plans for a UK based battery ‘Gigafactory’, may be just the catalyst we are looking for to drive greater market penetration for battery technologies in the UK events market.

Greater electrification of event sites will require better mains feeds with high capacity battery storage systems for balancing out the demand peaks. Whilst this will not happen overnight, it will inevitably drive further R&D into onsite energy storage systems, which are the Holy Grail if we are to achieve our emissions reductions targets and improve air quality for event audiences and crews alike.  

Smarter Power Tools and Management lead to 40% cut in energy use

Our monthly power blog and case study is brought to you by Tim Benson, Director at SMART Power and Powerful Thinking Steering Group Member. This month he explains how with the right power tools (supplied by IDE systems), monitoring and management SMART power helped a Netflix production achieved a 40% cut in onsite energy use and used a power battery inverter system positioned inline with the generator to manage 40-50% of the compound’s overall power requirement.

IDE System’s Erica power management tool, which can be incorporated into their distribution boards, provides per socket monitoring with remote access for end users via a dashboard for real-time monitoring. It enables site and power managers to monitor voltage, peak currents and, most helpfully, load versus actual consumption on a socket by socket level. The data packets refresh every five seconds, ensuring an accurate picture of the site’s load profile, with Cloud storage for back up.

SMART Power were invited to assist with energy monitoring for a Netflix production earlier this year. They installed IDE’s distribution boxes at the production’s location base compound for 48 hours to assess the energy usage for all 14 of the location base trailers – production offices, make up, wardrobe, honeywagons and the actors’ dressings rooms.

Following an analysis of the peak load data, SMART Power were able to demonstrate that the main facilities generator could be downsized by 40%. 

However, of greater importance was the load profile monitoring data (power x runtime), which allowed SMART Power to demonstrate how a battery inverter system positioned inline with the generator could manage 40-50% of the compound’s overall power requirements.

Wayne Woodhead, Managing Director of IDE Systems, comments; “With this level of data it’s possible to identify individual end user’s power consumption and patterns in their usage, enabling power managers to reliably and efficiently optimise their power generation.”

Fossil Fuel subsidies to be removed for Event Sector

In the UK Budget on 11th March it was announced that subsidies for red diesel will be scrapped for the entertainment sector, amongst others. The Government has however committed to consulting with affected sectors over the summer. This will impact most outdoor events that use generators and onsite plant with fuel cost rises of up to 50%. 

The industry is already on a journey toward smarter energy planning, better fuel efficiency and using alternative fuels such as HVO: between 2016 and 2019 Powerful Thinking’s Industry Green survey recorded an increase in events who are monitoring their fuel use, from 53% to 80%, monitoring generator loads rose from 44% in 2016 to 68% in 2019, and the number of events working with suppliers to increase energy efficiency and reduce fuel usage has doubled from 27% in 2016 to 56% in 2019.

With 2 years to adapt to this change, and the knowledge that typically outdoor events can reduce fuel consumption by 40% by working with their suppliers to make simple changes such as more detailed planning, there is an opportunity to reduce the financial impact of this change and take the steps needed to reduce fossil fuel emissions. 

Alternative fuels such as HVO and HOV are increasingly available and are ‘drop-in key solutions’. Other technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen generators, hybrid generators and battery technology are also becoming more available and cost-effective in the events market.

To learn more about alternative technologies and managing energy efficiently to reduce fuel costs and emissions, you can use Powerful Thinking’s free-to-access Energy Knowledge Hub – Europe’s leading knowledge base on sustainable energy at outdoor events.

Beyond Covid-19: Let’s Build a Better New Normal

As a community of festivals, suppliers and industry organisations we are facing an unprecedented challenge. This is not the last significant challenge we will face, as the wider environmental crisis evolves. Let’s make this hardship count, build a better ‘new normal’ based on collaboration, resilience, and respect for life and the ecosystems that support us.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we acknowledge the hardship this is causing for individuals and the catastrophic effects the crisis is having on the outdoor event sector, along with societies nationally and globally. As a community of festivals, suppliers and industry organisations, the Vision:2025 members are facing an unprecedented challenge.

We are currently in a state of flux as our situation changes daily and weekly. Many of us are currently in isolation; some are still working, trying our best to protect ourselves, the health system and keep minds busy.

This is not the last significant challenge we will face, as the wider environmental crisis is still evolving. Where we are able, let’s use this unprecedented ‘pivot’ moment in history to be as prepared as we can be to tackle the next crisis, by supporting each other, communicating, learning from the resources we have created together and sharing information. Let’s make this hardship count, build a better new normal, based on collaboration, resilience, and respect for life and the ecosystems that support us.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Home. Stay in touch. 

The Show Must Go On Report and Vision2025 Website Launched

The Second Edition of the festival and outdoor event sustainability report – The Show Must Go On – has revealed the latest industry figures, trends and practices, and is available to download for free now (February 13,2020).

Five years on since the first edition was published, the new report, which has been crowdfunded by the industry, gives an insight into sector sustainability, and reflects the progress made in technologies, materials and operational practices to reduce environmental impacts. Its main chapters, authored by experts in their own fields, cover Governance, Resources and Waste, Water, Food, Energy, Travel and Transport.

The report also marks the launch of an online Knowledge Hub, www.vision2025.org.uk, a significant free-to-access resource that will feature case studies, briefings and a supplier directory. 

More than 100 festivals and events have made the Vision:2025 pledge and more than 60 suppliers have supported the report.

Chris Johnson, chair of Powerful Thinking and Vision2025, stated: “After a decade of the Powerful Thinking industry steering group, this is a significant step in the journey. The industry has now come together around a vision and has crowdfunded world-leading resources to inspire meaningful action. This has been a huge collaborative effort and our thanks go out to all contributors, including our three ‘Gamechangers’: Festival Republic, Continest and Nordic Wristbands, whose financial support underpinned the process.

“The report is a call to action. Whatever people and organisations have done to date, the time to act and to tackle the climate crisis is now. 

“The Show Must Go On report opens with a clear note framing the climate emergency with an optimistic message – we must act now and ‘We Can Fix It’.”

Alison Tickell, CEO and founder of Julie’s Bicycle, the charity behind Powerful Thinking and Vision 2025, said: “Living within the generous boundaries of our planet’s ecosystems is now the only job in hand. As a creative and events collective, we can bring inspiration and community to this task.”  Visit www.vision2025.org.uk now to download The Show Must Go On report.

Industry Green Survey releases 5-year headlines

For the last 5 years, Powerful Thinking have been collecting sustainability festival and event data through the annual Industry Green Survey.  The survey does not track a ‘basket of festivals’ data consistently, but does indicate key trends in what sustainable practices festivals are implementing.

Between 50-70 events in the UK have participated in the Industry Green Festival Survey annually for the last five years. This has increasingly included more high capacity events (over 20,000 people) which suggests that sustainability issues are reaching more and more people. 64% of events now measure and address their carbon impacts compared to only 40% in 2015.

Energy

Fuel and power

There has been an increase in the number of events which monitor their fuel use from 53% in 2016 to 80% in 2019. There was also an increase in events which monitor generator loads from 44% in 2016 to 68% in 2019. The number of events working with suppliers to increase energy efficiency and reduce fuel usage has doubled from 27% in 2016 to 56% in 2019 and the number of events which receive a post event power consumption report has tripled since 2016 from 15% to 48% in 2019. Great news! Use of biofuel in generators has remained constant at around 20% of events.

Electricity

The number of events with a grid connection with a green tariff has doubled from 11% in 2016 to 24% in 2019. The number of events that use LED stage lighting has almost doubled from 40% in 2016 to 72% in 2019

Renewable energy

Twice as many events are now using solar energy onsite as they were in 2016 (18% and 36%).

Waste

Recycling

The number of events with recycling systems for public areas has remained fairly constant at between 79 – 88% whereas the number of events with a comprehensive back of house recycling system has increased from 55% to 88%. The number of events which check and verify how their waste and recycling is processed after leaving site has remained constant between 74 – 84% of events from 2015 – 2019. There has been an increase of 30% of events that know what kind of recycling plant their waste goes to from 63% to 96% from 2015 – 2019. There was also an increase in the number of festivals which set recycling targets for their event from 34% in 2015 to 60% in 2019

and a small increase in the number of events that have a strategy to reduce waste and increase recycling from 83% in 2015 to 96% in 2019.

Reuse

There has been an increase in the number of festivals which have a reuse policy for wood and infrastructure from 51% in 2015 to 80% in 2019.

Food and drink

Events have been working hard on food and drink and there are now 68% of events which have minimum food standards compared to 45% in 2015. Around 60% of events have a sustainable procurement policy and this figure has not significantly changed in the last three years. Cups are a success story with now 76% of events using reusable cups on the festival site as opposed to only 53% in 2015. The number of events that have a green traders award has increased from 21% in 2015 to 36% in 2019.

Travel

More festivals are promoting sustainable travel options – 56% in 2016 to 76% in 2019. The number of events offering travel carbon balancing has varied from year to year (25% in 2017, 58% in 2016 and 39% in 2019). This is likely to be because of the different wording of the question in different surveys. More data is needed in the travel sector to make further comparisons.

Barriers/frustrations

Lack of time, cost of implementing new measures and inability of contractors to deliver sustainable solutions have remained the three key perceived barriers to sustainability at events. Lack of expertise was also listed as a primary barrier in 2016 but interestingly not in subsequent years which may suggest that people feel more equipped with knowledge to tackle sustainability problems. However in 2019 a primary barrier was a lack of clarity on the right thing to do (as well as difficulty engaging stakeholders).

Accreditation/Festival Vision: 2025/ Engagement

76% of participating organisations were signed up to the Festival Vision: 2025 pledge in 2019 compared to only 51% in 2016 and around 76% of those signed up felt encouraged or inspired to take action as a result of being part of the initiative. The number of organisations using Industry Green (IG) tools to measure their impacts has increased from 32% in 2015 to 54% in 2019. One of the main reasons for not using the IG tools is a lack of data but also a lack of time.

The number of organisations that took part in the survey that have read the Show Must Go On report has increased from 57% to 88% between 2015 – 2019.

The number of participating organisations which entered A Greener Festival Award increased from 21% to 36% and the number of events that area ISO20121 accredited rose from 0% in 2015 to 8% in 2019. The number of participating organisations who were taking part in Julie’s Bicycle IndustryGreen certification remained about the same between 7-12% between 2016 – 2019. The number of participating organisations which are members of Energy Revolution increased from 13% in 2016 to 40% in 2019.

What would help?

Training for a team member or management team, access to case studies and opportunities to share knowledge remain the three main things across the five years that participants felt would help facilitate sustainability action in their organisation.

Sign up to be part of Vision:2025 and receive the full Show Must Go On report on the impacts of the UK events industry and roadmap to reductions:

www.vision2025.org.uk

Show Must Go On report ed.2 previews at The UK Festival Awards

Vision2025 previewed the January launch of the second edition Show Must Go On Report, supported with a new on-line sustainability knowledge hub for the outdoor event sector, at the UK Festival Awards, Dec 6th, 2019.

As the world spirals towards a climate catastrophe The UK Festival Awards organisers backed the festival sustainability initiatives, showcasing a video that detailed plans for a January 2020 launch of the re-edited Show Must Go On Report and a new Vision2025 free to access website giving detailed sustainability knowledge. The report will be free to download from the website, featuring chapters on governance, waste, food, transport / travel and power, giving advice and best practice examples to festival organisers, with the aim to reduce carbon impact by at least 50% by 2025.

A short video shown on the large screen, centre stage at host London’s Troxy, opened with the message “It’s Time to Act”, featuring Festival Republic CEO Melvin Benn, alongside Shambala and Powerful Thinking chair Chris Johnson sending a powerful message to the room. It received a standing ovation from the 700 strong audience, with whom the message to create sustainable events clearly resonated.

Melvin Benn stated:

“Reach out, inspire artists, inspire audiences, lead by example.”

As a long-term supporter of Powerful Thinking, Vision2025 and through pro-active initiatives at Festival Republic’s festival portfolio Melvin has certainly done that.

Chris Johnson commented:

“We need to change the way we do business. Vision2025 is the industry response to the climate crisis.”

Shambala Festival has blazed a trail as sustainability innovators, reducing its carbon footprint by an impressive 90% over the past decade and aims to be carbon positive from next years’ edition, showing it CAN be done.

Any outdoor events looking to embrace the pledge to half their carbon impact by 2025 are invited to visit the website holding page now and sign up to receive a free copy of the new edition of the Show Must Go On Report when it is launched, bringing hope to the new decade.

Industry Green Survey 2019 – The Results are in!

The 64 UK festivals completing the 2019 Industry Green survey, covered a broad range of genres with capacities of less than 1000 to over 50,000. The trends toward more informed energy management continues for UK events, with over half working with their supplier to reduce energy use. 

Waste has also been a focus for events in 2019, with almost all events stating that they now know where their waste goes when it leaves the festival site. Surprisingly only 60% of participants have recycling targets in place. The main barrier identified to implementing new sustainable measures remains cost for 4 out of 5 festivals, with lack of time also significant for half of events. The most popular new measures put in place this season by events are; engaging in new projects to improve sustainability, travel and carbon balancing initiatives, and public-facing campaigns.

An analysis of the Industry Green Survey between 2015 and 2019 – identifying trends in the UK outdoor events industry – will be included in the second-edition Show Must Go On report, due to be published by Powerful Thinking in January 2020. In the meantime, find a summary of the 2019 results below.

Energy

  • 72% of festivals use LED festoon lighting and 72% use LED stage lighting
  • 68% of festival monitor generator loads
  • 56% of festivals engaged with the energy supplier in a plan to increase efficiency and/or reduce fuel use
  • Only 24% of festivals charge concessions for their energy use

Travel

  • 56% of festivals promote car sharing
  • 48% of festivals charge for car and campervan passes
  • 36% of festival provide dedicated coaches from cities to the festival
  • 40% of festivals use renewably-powered onsite transport
  • 34% of festivals offer some form of carbon balancing – while 57% of festivals currently don’t offer carbon balancing but would consider for some or all of the people involved with the festival 

Waste

  • 88% of festivals have recycling systems back of house and 88% have recycling systems in public areas.
  • A whopping 96% of festivals know what type of plant their recycling waste goes to, and 84% of festivals know where all their waste goes after the event. 
  • Whilst 96% have a strategy for reducing waste and increasing recycling, only 60% of festivals have recycling targets
  • 76% of participating festivals use reusable cups

New in 2019

  • 40% festivals have been involved with a program/consultancy/project to improve sustainability in their organisation or event
  • 28% of festivals promoted new sustainable travel options this year or introduced carbon balancing for the first time
  • 36% of festival created a new public engagement campaign on the environment