#8 – A Crash Course in Energy Types

About this fact sheet

This Energy Factsheet has been developed in response to repeated industry requests for clearer information on types of temporary energy. Julie’s Bicycle is a not-for-profit organisation working with the arts and creative industries to make environmental sustainability a core component of their business and ethics.

What are the benefits of improved energy management?

Power is generally one of the five largest single production costs for a festival and the most significant source of environmental impact, particularly in the case of diesel generators. Whatever your power source, the best thing you can do, environmentally and financially, is to try and reduce power use and increase energy efficiency. The next priority is to look at alternatives to fossil fuel dependence, and consider options for low or zero carbon energy sources.

Reducing energy use and impacts will:

  • Save money – Improved knowledge in choosing power types, understanding power demands and rationalisation, and ability to structure energy contracts to promote fuel efficiency, will allow you to reduce fuel waste and ultimately overhead costs. You can look to achieve significant fuel savings by implementing efficiency improvements to your energy management operations.
  • Improve your brand/reputation – Improve your event’s green credentials, demonstrate your innovation, be a sector leader, and use the opportunity to engage with your audience around energy awareness.
  • Reduce carbon emissions – If the UK’s summer festivals cut their diesel consumption by 10%, over 1 million litres of diesel and more than 3,000 tonnes of C02 would be saved in one year alone.

Knowing your power types

Diesel Generator

Carbon emissions: 2.63 Kg per litre*

A diesel generator combines a diesel engine with an electrical generator to generate electrical energy. Generators consume some fuel even when not running at capacity. The ‘fuel consumed’ versus ‘power generated’ relationship is not proportionate.

Generators are often run inefficiently at low loads. If your generator is oversized you may be using more fuel to deliver the same amount of power than if you used a smaller generator correctly sized for the job.

Grid Connection (mains electricity)

Carbon emissions: 0.54 Kg per kWh*

Running your event from a national grid connection can be the cheapest option for some events. Grid electricity is lower carbon than diesel, and there are also ‘green tariff’ options for grid electricity (an electricity contract which delivers energy from renewable sources). However, connecting to the grid may not be suitable depending on the event type.


Carbon emissions: zero rated*

Considered as a renewable energy source, biodiesel can be used to fuel generators with only minor adaptions. Biofuels are created using plants such as corn, sugar cane and sugar beet and plant by-products such as from pulp and paper or oils from inedible plants. Waste vegetable oil (WVO) biodiesel is the recommended environmental choice, as virgin biodiesel has many damaging impacts. When using WVO biodiesel, make sure it is sourced either locally or regionally.

Solar Voltaic (PV) Power

Carbon emissions: zero rated*

Photovoltaic cells mounted on panels convert sunlight into electricity which is then generally stored in batteries. Electricity generation is higher when it’s sunny, but is also possible with overcast conditions. An inverter is used to step up the voltage for use with standard equipment. When equipment is used, energy is drawn from the storage which is simultaneously recharged by the solar panels during daylight. Solar PV generally provides less energy than diesel generators, but is suitable where demand has been reduced, or for periods of low demand. Many catering concessions are already using solar as their only power source.

Wind Power

Carbon emissions: zero rated*

Temporary wind power works in a similar way to solar. Kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy, generally stored in batteries. There are currently few temporary wind systems on the market for events, despite widespread small-scale use in other sectors. Although turbines are a strong visible demonstration of commitment to renewable energy, they may not actually be able to generate that much power for an event, are vulnerable to weather conditions and require space to set up.

Hybrid Systems

Carbon emissions: variable

‘Hybrid’ refers to the use of a combination of technologies, for example the use of diesel generators with storage batteries and solar panels or wind turbines. They are considered as potentially the most efficient approach to delivering large amounts of power at festivals. One of the advantages of batteries is that they only deliver the amount of power required at any moment in time, as opposed to a diesel generator, which varies greatly in efficiency depending on load. A hybrid approach can significantly reduce fuel consumption and costs. Hybrid systems are currently emerging on the event hire market.

* Source: Department for the Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) 2012.


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