All posts by Bethan Riach

Choosing the right energy consultant for your event

There are many potential wins for your event in working with an energy consultant: reduced fuel burn and, therefore, lower emissions outputs and costs; integrating renewables, mains and hybrid systems into your energy mix and data gathering for post event reporting. But who to hire? Individual consultant or a consultancy business? In this guest blog, Tim Benson shares his thoughts on the pros and cons of both and what professional credentials and skillsets you should be looking for.

The demand for energy consultancy services across the event and screen sectors in the UK is rising sharply. Speaking personally, across the three companies that I represent (Smart Power, ZAP Concepts and Showpower Global), we are currently providing energy consultancy services to Netflix, Red Bull, Coldplay’s MoTS tour, Live Nation and BMW. Also, notably, the BBC Sustainability Team have just appointed their own internal energy consultant to work across their live events and studio teams.

Energy consultancy, when delivered well, can lead to reduced fuel burn and, therefore, lower emissions outputs; it can help identify opportunities for integrating renewables, mains and hybrid systems into the energy mix and provide robust data for post event reporting. For those of you considering bringing in a consultant, here’s a few ideas on what you should you be looking for by way of professional credentials and skillsets.

Firstly, ask yourself whether you want to contract a consultancy business or an individual. The former will undoubtably be more expensive but comes with the benefit of greater resource. Businesses will typically charge a project fee, whilst freelance consultants often prefer a retainer or hourly fee payment model.

Next up, you should consider project scope and ask yourself whether you want a consultant who is simply going to observe, record and report, or do you want more of a consultant/facilitator, who will assist you with implementing a sustainable energy action plan. If the latter, then you need to understand how they approach risk management. An element of risk is implicit when deploying new technologies, especially in energy management. A good consultant/facilitator will help you weight up the pros and cons of taking said risks, perhaps in the first instance identifying areas of site where you can afford to take these risks in the name of R&D, before applying them more widely and for greater gains. With this in mind, it is definitely worth asking candidates whether they have any professional indemnity cover.

Also, if you are in the early stages of your energy efficiency journey, you might want to consider whether it is sensible use of financial resources to bring in a consultant purely for benchmarking. The kind of basic benchmarking data that you need before you can start setting improvement targets can usually be provided by your incumbent power contractor. This can then be shared with a consultant for analysis and the subsequent creation of an action plan with practical improvement strategies. 

Having identified the consultant’s scope of work, now comes the difficult task of identifying appropriate candidates and shortlisting the most promising individuals. Obvious things to look out for include industry experience, employment history, client testimonials and any relevant materials they might have published, for instance contributions to industry reports. Such things can usually be found on LinkedIn profiles or through a consultant’s website. However, I would argue that a personal recommendation from a colleague pretty much always counts for more than anything gleaned from social media pages. Also, be wary of candidates whose work experience is limited to just a few companies. Very often they have been schooled in what I refer to as ‘catalogue power delivery’. They have always worked from a prescribed list of equipment, with a handful of selected third party suppliers, and their approach to power management can be overly formulaic. Your ideal candidate will be someone with extensive experience of working with multiple indie power contractors, across the full gamut of event types, and with a track record of integrating new technologies.

Once you have created your final candidate shortlist, then you need to start asking the more telling questions, most of which can be answered through reviews of redacted reports from historical projects that a consultant has worked on. Is there clear evidence of how they have delivered on client KPIs; is the language they use appropriate for the intended report audience; and is technical data presented in an intelligible manner.

However, as a final thought, I would proffer this – the most telling thing when assessing potential candidates is the kinds of questions they ask of you. They should definitely be enquiring about your motivation for hiring them in, what your overall objectives are, what deliverables you are expecting of them, what the perceived barriers are to achieving these and who the key project stakeholders are. If they are asking these kinds of questions, then you know they are serious about finding practical solutions that will get you from where you are to where you want to be.

This guest blog originally appeared in the May 2024 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

Renewables, the World in Numbers

In this blog for Vision: 2025’s Earth Day Special newsletter, Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking shares findings from his journey through Electricity Maps, an interactive, open-source App that ranks countries by the carbon intensity (gCO2e/kWh) of the electricity it consumes. He gives us an overview of how the UK compares to other countries and trends in growth in different renewable sources, from Solar PV to wind, hydropower and bioenergy:

Do you ever lie in bed on a sleepless night and wonder where you could run your live event without feeling guilty about your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions? No, maybe, yes!! – well, fret no more, because now all you need to do is grab a cup of cocoa and visit:

Electricity Maps is an interactive, open-source App that ranks countries by the carbon intensity (gCO2e/kWh) of the electricity it consumes. It’s a fairly crude tool but quite eye opening at the same time; in fact, so much so, that it led me to pen this piece for our Vision2025 Earth Day Special newsletter.

By the end of 2022, global renewable generation was estimated at 3,372GW. Solar PV is currently the fastest growing renewable source, with wind second, hydropower third and bioenergy bringing up the rear. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar will eclipse all other renewables and account for 60% of every new power installation in the next five years.

In 2023 28.1% of global energy production was derived from renewables. Hydropower, including pumped storage, remains the most prevalent of these, accounting for 37% of total generation, with solar second at 31%, wind third with 27% and others (bioenergy, geothermal and marine) at 5%. Analysts expect renewables to become the largest source of energy generation by 2027, with a 35% contribution to the world energy mix.

Iceland remains the only country considered to run 100% from renewables – in 2020 only 0.0001% of its energy generation came from conventional fossil fuels. Norway and New Zealand aren’t far behind, at 99% and 80.9% respectively. In terms of regions, Latin America leads the world in clean energy usage, with 57.5% of its energy mix delivered through renewables; Europe sits in second place at 40.7%, whilst unsurprisingly the Middle East comes in last at only 2.2%. 

In 2023 the UK broke a number of its own key records in terms of its own zero carbon generation. It was the greenest year ever, with an average carbon intensity of 149g of CO2e per kWh and, quite amazingly, this figure fell to just 27g on 18th September. On average 51% of the UK’s electricity was delivered through zero carbon sources, with a staggering record set on 4th January as this rose to 87.6%.

A large proportion of this increase is attributable to the deployment of wind and solar. On 19th November, between 04.30 and 05.00 hours, wind power’s share of the UK energy mix climbed to a record 69%, whilst on 21st of December it accounted for a record 21.8GW of discrete generation. Solar generation has been setting its own records too, with a gargantuan 10.971GW of production recorded on 20th April the same year.

According to data from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, UK demand fell by 7.2% between 2022 and 2023. This reduction is likely attributable to a sharp global rise in energy costs driven by international conflicts, but also because we are becoming more genuinely energy savvy. We cannot rely solely on advances in generation, storage and transmission technologies to save our planet, without some recognition of the part we play as consumers. This means compromise and common sense are needed in equal measures if we are to fully harness and unleash the true power of nature. Happy EarthDay to you all!

This guest blog originally appeared in the April 2024 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) Bi-directional EV Charging

Imagine a world in which event-goers arrived in zero emissions electric vehicles and then plugged their car in to start powering the event itself. Simultaneously tackling the issues around audience travel emission and clean energy for events. Impossible? Maybe not!

In this month’s blog Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, looks at the potential applications of bi-directional EV charging, which allows EVs not only draw power from the grid for charging, but also to export it as a usable AC power source for other applications, in a system known as V2X or vehicle-to-everything. Whilst this technology is still in its infancy V2X systems open up many exciting opportunities for the development of smart cities as well having a role in the temporary event market. Read the blog for more info on how this technology has already been used successfully to power event concessions and what the future holds.  

“Much has been made of the supposed impact of electric vehicles (EVs) on the stability and resilience of the National Grid. The most commonly cited problems include their impact on the supply / demand balance and voltage stability, but these are mostly attributable to shortfalls in our transmission network infrastructure rather than anything else. Concerns over the inherent electrical characteristics of EV charging points have further been singled out as a problem, since they can cause both frequency disturbance and harmonic distortion.

However, this seemingly parasitic dynamic between EVs and the national grid may soon become something more symbiotic, as major EV manufacturers including Hyundai, Nissan, Kia, Outlander, MG and Ford, more widely integrate bi-directional charging capabilities into their vehicles.  Bi-directional charging is a technology that enables EVs to not only draw power from the grid for charging, but also to export it as a usable AC power source for other applications. Bi-directional chargers use a type of inverter with the ability to both rectify (convert an AC supply to a DC one for recharging) and invert (convert a DC supply to an AC one for exporting). This allows energy stored in an EV’s battery to be fed back into the grid or a building, shared with another vehicle or even to be used for powering everyday electrical consumers. This bi-directional process is controlled by a vehicle’s energy management system (EMS) and will only work when connected to a bi-directional charge point.

V2X or vehicle-to-everything is the overarching term used for exporting the energy stored in an EV’s batteries for external use. This protocol is sometimes further sub-divided according to the end user of the energy supply; for example, V2G (vehicle-to-grid) is where EVs feed back into your DNO’s LV network; V2B (vehicle-to-building) sees energy exported to commercial premises and V2H (vehicle-to-home) to residences; V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) refers to the sharing of energy between cars, trucks, buses etc and V2L (vehicle-to-load) is where the energy supports any externally connected electrical consumers.

These variations on the V2X protocol are clear evidence of the diverse potential of bi-directional charging systems and how they can be applied to reduce energy costs, lower associated emissions and support network resilience. Research by Mobilize, a sustainable mobility project by the Renault Group, reports that vehicles are typically left unused for up to 90% of the time and yet still loose 50% of their value over just three years. Just imagine the possibilities of using these to export energy back into the grid or to top up the supply to your workplace or home. With the electrification of truck fleets, vehicles that are typically just parked up at event sites could double up as mini battery farms, helping to reduce dependence on diesel generators.

V2X systems will certainly have some role to play in the temporary event market, if applied to suitable applications. The AirQon project, conceived of in the Netherlands, is a prime example. This crowd funded initiative incentivises visitors through ticket discounts, free parking and gifting, to use their vehicles at events to supply power. In 2023 Hyundai supplied a fleet of EVs to the Chettle Village Fete, which powered food concessions, bars and a stage, demonstrating the potential of using EVs as a scalable, temporary energy storage medium.     

Whilst this technology opens up many exciting opportunities and will inevitably have a huge part to play in the development of smart cities, it still remains very much in its infancy. We are at least three years away from bi-directional charging systems becoming the norm, both in terms of their uptake by car manufacturers and the availability of compatible charging points across the UK. Questions also remain around the impact on both battery life and performance of more frequent recharge and discharge cycles. And, of course, we need to remember the electrical limitations of an EV’s power output, which generally ranges from 2.4 to 3.6kW, although this can likely be mitigated through the paralleling of vehicles.

However, in the same way that the notion of smart cities blurs the boundaries between electrical consumers and electrical producers, (the aptly named prosumer concept), bi-directional charging could also play a pivotal role in this paradigm shift. Sustainable transport combined with onsite generation will arguably empower audiences to contribute more meaningfully than ever before to reducing the two highest emitters of CO2e at an event, namely audience travel and onsite power generation.”

This blog first appeared in the Vision: 2025 March 2024 newsletter. Sign up here to receive that directly to your inbox with news, blogs and resources for a sustainable event industry.

Icarus or Bust – the Future of Solar Flight

In this month’s blog, Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking takes us on a sun-powered sky-ride through the ins and outs of solar flight. From a potted history since the first every solar powered plane took off in 1974 to recent developments in technology and the organisations and start ups that are leading the way in the current market.

In 2022 aviation accounted for 2% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, reaching almost 800Mt of CO2e globally. As both passenger and cargo flights return to pre-Covid levels, this is expected to increase by around 3-4% annually. Fuel producers like Neste and BP have made some decent progress with the development of drop in sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which can reduce these emissions by up to 80%. SAF can be produced from a number of sources, including waste oil and fats, green and municipal waste and non-food crops, but it remains considerably dearer than conventional aviation fuel. Nonetheless, the aviation industry is acutely aware that other factors need to come into play to improve the emissions associated with flying, including more efficient aircraft design and electrification.

Cue this month’s blog topic, solar flight. The first ever solar flight took place on 4th November 1974 over the dry lake at Camp Irwin, California. Sunrise I, the brainchild of Astro Flight’s R.J. Boucher, flew for 20 minutes at an altitude of 100m. Since then, the R&D has come a long way, culminating in the first solar powered round the world flight, which was completed on 26th July 2016. This plane, christened Solar Impulse 2, was co-developed and piloted by Swiss explorer Bertrand Piccard and Swiss engineer Bertrand Borschberg. It landed in Abu Dhabi following a 14 month and 25,000 mile round the world trip, during which the plane spent 550 hours airborne – without consuming a single drop of liquid fuel! With a wingspan larger than a B-747 jumbo jet, but only weighing around 2,268Kg, it incorporated a staggering 17,248 photovoltaic solar cells, each one roughly the thickness of a human hair, knitted across its wings and fuselage. During the daytime, these cells basked in the sunlight, charging the plane’s four lithium batteries to keep its propellers spinning through the dark night-time hours.

In 2019 Skydweller Aero, a Spanish start-up, bought Solar Impulse II, with a view to converting it into the first commercially viable ‘pseudo-satellite’. A pseudo satellite is essentially a pilotless vehicle capable of high-altitude endurance flights, but with greater flexibility and considerably less environmental impact, as there is no need to launch rockets into space. Following extensive modifications, Solar Impulse II has conducted a further 12 successful piloted test flights since 2020. Skydweller’s CEO, Robert Miller, asserts that the company now has the technology to fly the aircraft autonomously and are working on converting it into a kind of drone, capable of staying in the air for months at a time and performing the same kinds of services as conventional orbiting satellites, for example telecommunications, earth imaging, disaster response and the monitoring of natural resources.  

Other organisations have since jumped on this band waggon, most notably SolarStratos, who are developing a solar plane capable of exploring the upper atmosphere to conduct climate experiments. Their plane, the HB-SXA, was designed by Calin Gologan and Elektra Solar GmbH, and is propelled by twin 19kW electric motors operating at 2,200rpm. Circa 22 square meters of next generation solar cells, with a 22-24% efficiency rating, are affixed to the wings and will recharge the plane’s 14kWh lithium-ion batteries. Following some improvements to the propellor system design and an increase in battery storage capacity, HB-SXA is set to break the altitude record for a manned solar flight in 2024.

Whilst it’s clear that we won’t be flying off on holiday to Magaluf in a solar-powered plane for quite some time yet, it is good to know that this technology is being applied to high altitude meteorological applications that typically undermine any scientific advancements they achieve, because their associated emissions are so considerable, pervasive and damaging.    

This guest blog originally appeared in the January 2024 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

The Great Grid Upgrade

Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, looks at the UK’s plans for the ‘Great Grid Upgrade’ which aims to support the decarbonisation of the National Grid and increase our energy security. The upgrade will see £16 billion invested from 2021-2026 to support the UK’s net zero goals; it includes creating offshore connection hubs for green energy to bring clean renewable energy from wind generation points, and the European mainland, directly to the UK network using dedicated underwater transmission lines that can both import and export power. Read the full blog below:

The Great Grid Upgrade is being touted by the National Grid as the ‘largest overhaul of the [UK] electricity grid in generations.’ In short, plans are being made for new HV transmission infrastructure to be built across England and Wales to connect clean, renewable energy from where it’s generated out at sea directly to the UK’s network. It forms part of the ‘Accelerated Strategic Transmission Investment’ program to support the government’s target of connecting 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and will be funded as part of National Grid’s continued programme of investment into the UK energy transition, which will see £16 billion invested from 2021-2026 to support the UK’s net zero goals.

The scope of work includes a new 90km high-voltage (400kV) transmission line from North Humber to High Marnham, capable of delivering up to 6GW of power. As well as beefing up the transmission capabilities between the North and the Midlands, this reinforcement is needed, as existing power lines do not have sufficient capacity for all the new sources of electricity expected to connect to the network over the next 10 years and beyond, in particular the green energy generated from offshore wind farms in the North Sea.

What is particularly interesting about this project are National Grid Energy Transmission’s (NGET) plans to create offshore connection hubs for green energy. Instead of individual wind farms connecting one by one to the shore, offshore hybrid assets (OHAs) will allow clusters of wind farms to connect all in one go, by plugging into interconnectors. Interconnectors are dedicated underwater transmission lines that supply power from the European mainland to our grid. The aspiration is for these OHAs to operate as a combined asset that can both import and export power, whilst connecting our renewables directly to our grid.

This is incredibly important if we as a country are genuinely looking to decarbonise our grid and improve our energy security. The current model of decentralised renewable energy generation, with capture, storage and transmission all undertaken at the District Network Operator (DNO), remains fraught with problems. In particular, where demand drops and energy storage systems (ESS) reach capacity, the current operational model is to curtail generation from renewables and to revert to nuclear and gas. Furthermore, if the Government is serious about scaling up its current 13.6GW of off-shore wind generation to 50GW by 2030, then they absolutely must take steps to create a future-ready grid, capable of both handling increased demand and connecting renewable energy generation hubs to the main power network.

This guest blog originally appeared in the December 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

Plasma Energy – Catching a star in a jar

Bringing science fiction down to Earth this month, Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, updates us on developments in fusion energy science and how it can play a part in meeting our world’s ever increasing energy requirements, using materials that are carbon-free and that produce highly concentrated energy. Read the full blog:

Any Trekies out there? In particular fans of Discovery? Do you recall the episode where, in order to trap the Red Angel, the crew used the abundant deuterium on Essof IV to create a plasma reactor equivalent to the energy of 12 warp cores? No, I thought not, but why do I ask? Well, fusion energy science could begin to play a part in meeting our world’s ever increasing energy requirements as soon as the 2050s, using materials that are carbon-free and that produce levels of highly concentrated energy.

Fusion energy science is the exploration of how to extract energy from a controlled thermonuclear fusion reaction. In its naturally occurring form, it is essentially the same process that powers our sun and stars through hydrogen fusion. Atoms of Tritium and Deuterium (isotopes of hydrogen, Hydrogen-3 and Hydrogen-2, respectively) unite under extreme pressure and temperature to produce a neutron and a helium isotope. Along with this, an enormous amount of energy is released.

The foundation of nuclear energy is harnessing the power of atoms. Both fission and fusion are nuclear processes by which atoms are altered to create energy, but they differ quite substantially? Simply put, fission is the division of one atom into two, and fusion is the combination of two lighter atoms into a larger one. Nuclear fission takes place when an unstable isotope, typically Uranium-235, is bombarded by neutrons, splitting its nucleus and breaking it down into fission products – three high speed neutrons and a bucket full of energy. Fusion, on the other hand, takes place when two low-mass isotopes, typically isotopes of hydrogen, unite under conditions of extreme pressure and temperature. Fusion is clearly the more sustainable of the two processes, as it generates zero greenhouse gases at point of use, it produces less long-lived radioactive waste and, in the form of hydrogen, has a nearly unlimited fuel supply. Its energy yield is also greater than its fission counterpart, with the Department of Energy (DOE) citing one pick-up truck full of fusion fuel as being equivalent to the energy release of 10 million barrels of oil or 2 million metric tons of coal.

That said, handling plasma, which is defined as the fourth state of matter (a gas in which a sufficient amount of energy is present to enable ions and electrons to coexist), is problematic and costly process, because it needs to take place in a controlled and magnetised environment. However, research towards practical fusion energy generation recently reached a milestone when Japan’s JT-60SA fusion reactor came online. Its superconducting coils create magnetic fields to contain a super-hot cloud of ionized gas (plasma) within a tokamak, a doughnut shaped vacuum vessel, where the hydrogen nuclei fuse and energy is released. However, this four-story high fusion chamber, which super heats plasma to 200 million degrees Celsius for circa 100 seconds, currently consumes more energy than it produces. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), currently under construction in France, will be twice the height and capable of holding 83% more plasma. Lessons learned from the JT-60SA will be applied to ITER, when it comes online in December 2025, with a view to studying plasma stability and how this can increase energy yield.

At present, plasma physics remains largely experimental and theoretical, at least when it comes to generating energy on Earth. Experts believe that, with another 10 or so years R&D into plasma wall and tokamak technologies, plasma fusion could become a viable source of concentrated, clean energy, and one more reliable than its renewable counterparts, as neither location nor weather conditions will have a bearing on energy generation. 

This guest blog originally appeared in the November 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

A Quick Guide to Smart Power Planning

A simple five phase plan for planning smarter power provision for events, shared by Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking and Energy & Environmental Consultant at ZAP Concepts & SMART Power: 

S….site design M….monitoring A….advancing R….reporting T….taking risks

Site Design

Consult your power contractor when designing your site to maximise opportunities for improvements in energy efficiency. Look to create power zones fed by generator farms, with smaller sync sets or hybrid systems for overnight base load management and, where possible, group together those suppliers that require 24 hour power. Where grid connections are available, look to use these for those areas of site that will be operational for the longest, for example production compounds, crew catering and site offices.


This must be discussed in the very earliest stages of planning and should be enshrined in the contract with your power supplier. Organisers need to identify specific areas of the site that they want to monitor and discuss with the power team the most suitable hardware for this. Moving forwards, the previous year’s data should be used to set improvement targets for future iterations of the event and any lessons learned should be applied across the wider site.


Accurate power advancing is crucial if onsite generation is to be matched with actual consumption. Your power contractor should undertake a pre-event power audit of all electrical consumers by area, estimating likely peak demands, looking for trends in load profiles and exploring opportunities for the integration of renewables and energy storage systems (ESS).


There’s two key facets to reporting. The first is an analysis and explanation of the monitoring data which should be undertaken by the power contractor and presented to the organisers in a relevant and intelligible format; included here should be recommendations for ongoing improvements. The second, involves the organisers feeding back the monitoring findings to all key stakeholders, with a particular focus on the positives, for example reductions in fuel burn, emissions savings achieved and reductions in onsite generation capacity.

Risk Taking

As an industry, we have to change to limit the impact of live events on localised and global emissions (CO2, CO, NOx and PMs). Change always involves an element of risk, as it’s a new way of doing something. Start your sustainability journey by trialling strategies in low-risk areas of your site. Ensure all your event stakeholders are on onside and that they understand their role in this journey. Choose suppliers and contractors that share your sustainability values and who can contribute in positive ways to your drive for greater energy efficiency and emissions reductions. Finally, be vocal about your successes and share with the wider industry the strategies that have worked for you.

This guest blog originally appeared in the July 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

Powerful Thinking’s new look Board reflects the challenges and needs of sector

In his latest blog, Tim Benson announces a new Board for Powerful Thinking, the not-for-profit, think-do tank focused on reducing the environmental impact of powering festivals and outdoor events. New Board members will bring event power sector knowledge from both consumer and supplier perspectives, promoting collaboration for low carbon power provision for festivals and events.

On the consumer side, representatives on the Board are Steve Heap (AFO/EIF), Victoria Chapman (Festival Republic), Kevin Moore (From the Fields) and Kevin Mackay (DF Concerts). Representing suppliers and power professionals the Board has Sean Pearce (Pearce Hire), Dan Pratt (Greener UK), David Amos (Plus Zero), Ian Peniston (Power Logistics) and Nic Forsdike (Gofer Power).

“At a conference recently, that was attended by both event power users and contractors, I realised how ill-informed some of the power companies felt about the ever-growing array of alternatives to diesel generators. Whilst they recognised and wanted to invest in these new technologies and solutions, they expressed huge concern over investing in expensive equipment with a potential extended ROI. Concerns over how and where to deploy the kit were also raised and from some of the conversations I had, it was very clear that a lot of the old myths about sustainable power solutions, for example inverters performing poorly for stage loads, had not yet been debunked.

Powerful Thinking was originally conceived of as a conduit for sharing information on alternatives solutions to diesel generators, but mainly for the user/consumer side of our sector. It did a fantastic job and demand for hybrid and solar fleet grew exponentially. However, somewhere along the line, we forgot about the hirers and automatically assumed that they were all up to speed on the products and how to deploy them – we were clearly very wrong!  

With this in mind, we have a new look Board for Powerful Thinking, that better reflects the needs and challenges of both the users and the hirers. On the consumer side, I am pleased to say that we retain Steve Heap (AFO/EIF), Victoria Chapman (Festival Republic) and Kevin Moore (From the Fields), and on the hirer side, I am delighted to say that Sean Pearce (Pearce Hire) remains with us. Joining us for the first time as an organiser is Kevin Mackay (DF Concerts) with one other still to be confirmed. New hirer and power professional Board members are Dan Pratt (Greener UK), whose expertise on battery solutions will be most welcome, and David Amos (Plus Zero), one of the UK’s leading hydrogen generator suppliers. Also joining us is Ian Peniston (Power Logistics), who continues to lead the charge on fuel reduction solutions for large scale, high profile shows and Nic Forsdike (Gofer Power), an early adopter of many of the sustainable solutions now commonly used in the event sector. Graham Brown, Brown Fox Communications, will be our marketing and communications lead, ably assisted by Georgia Brown. Josie Curtis, Smart Power’s logistics manager (and my personal saviour), will also join us as an administrative assistant.

Looking ahead for 2023, we have begun putting together a new website, which we hope will go live in six weeks. We will also be busy writing a new version of our popular guide Smart Energy for Festivals and Events, with a planned launch in Q1 of 2024. The Sustainable Events Summit, hosted by Vision: 2025 at the Showman’s Show every October, will probably be the first chance our busy Board has to meet in person and Powerful Thinking members will be hosting a panel at the event.

Whether you are a power provider or an end user, we hope Powerful Thinking has something to offer you, so please do get in touch with me at to find out more about how we can assist you, or drop Graham Brown a line at if you want to become a power professional member, with a profile on the new website.

Powerful Thinking will host a panel at the upcoming Vision: 2025 Sustainable Event Summit, Oct 18, 2023, at The Showman’s Show, to explore ways to reduce the costs and carbon through increased efficiency and alternatives for a lower carbon event industry.

This guest blog originally appeared in the May 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

Planning for Efficient Power Management – Five Areas to Focus on with Your Power Contractor

Ahead of the summer event season, Powerful Thinking’s Chair, Tim Benson takes us through five key stages to take when co-creating an efficient event power management plan with your event power contractor. Starting with pre-production and gathering advance power information, through site planning, onsite power monitoring and efficiency to post event reporting:

1/ Power Advancing

Make it clear to your power contractor that you require them to engage with all your suppliers in the pre-production phase of the show to accurately assess their power and energy requirements. Let your suppliers know this too, so they can prepare the necessary information in a timely manner. Time and effort spent on this phase of the event can reap huge rewards, both in fuel consumption and emissions reductions.

2/ Site Planning

Involve your power contractor before you finalise your site plans. Ask them for recommendations on creating power zones, i.e. multiple areas supplied from a single generator and/or battery farm. Discuss how you can group site applications and infrastructure that require overnight power and explore integrating hybrid systems.

3/ Monitoring

Monitoring services should be agreed in advance. Discuss with your power contractor what kind of monitoring hardware they are going to supply, e.g. on board generator telemetry to assess fuel efficiency or monitoring at a distribution level for a more in depth evaluation of how and where power is being consumed. Be realistic about what you are going to monitor, both in terms of its management and costs, and target areas where you think you can make quick wins.

4/ Onsite Interventions

Once the show is up and running, there’s still scope for improving efficiency. Where telemetry data is available, this should be constantly reviewed and system configurations tweaked to accommodate unexpected changes in load profiles. Proactive power contractors, who constantly review their own practices, can make ongoing improvements throughout the full lifecycle of the event.

5/ Reporting

Understanding the data supplied by your power contractor is key, so agree prior to the event what metrics you want recorded, e.g. peak power (kW), energy consumption (kWh) and fuel usage by generator (litres). Reports that include trending graphs showing power and energy usage over time are far more helpful and intelligible than tables or spreadsheets of endless figures. Meet with your power contractor post-show and ask them to talk you through this data. Discuss what the key learnings are work together to shape these into improvement strategies for future iterations of your show. 

Photo Credit: We Love Green Festival, France

This guest blog originally appeared in the March 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox 

Tim Benson is Chair & Project Lead for Powerful Thinking, the outdoor events sustainable energy working group, & also sits on the Live Green sustainability working group. He has contributed content for a wide range of industry papers and is the author of the energy chapter in the Show Must Go Report. He is also the Founder/Production Director of Smart Power Ltd & Technical Director at ZAP Concepts UK & Ireland.  

When the Wind Blows; the Terrible Truth About Constraint Payments

In this article Tim Benson, Chair and Project Lead for Powerful Thinking, looks at renewable energy generation in the UK; examining the inefficiency of National Grid storage systems for renewable energy and the grid-balancing policy, involving ‘constraint payments,’ which sees wind farm operators paid to curtail generation when supply exceeds demand.

Tim examines why the government’s net zero strategy, involving the commission of more nuclear power plants, will do nothing to stop ‘constraint payments’ and looks to a more hopeful future with UK companies, Noriker and Zenobe, advancing battery farm technology capable of storing surplus renewable energy for the grid: Plus, how this technology is entering the mobile energy storage market, with products being tailored for the live events sector and other temporary applications.

2022 was a record-breaking year in the UK for renewable energy generation, with an average of 40% of our electricity generated through renewables – hydro 1.8%, solar 4.4%, biomass 5.2% and wind 26.8%. And even though we have not yet reached the end of Q1 for 2023, we are already setting new records. On 10th January, there was a half hour window where UK wind turbines generated 21.6GW of power, which at the time accounted for 50.4% of the UK’s energy mix.

So, you might be surprised to learn that in the first 11 months of 2022, the National Grid paid out £122m to wind farm operators to temporarily deactivate their turbines, with an additional spend of £82m required for December alone. Referred to as ‘constraint payments’, these subsidies are designed to compensate wind farm operators for curtailing their generation at times when supply exceeds demand. This is part of the National Grid’s electricity system operator (NGESO’s) grid balancing strategy, designed to ensure that supply always meets demand. Where demand rises, power may be imported from overseas or power station generation ramped up. However, where supply exceeds demand, the current solution is to reduce the percentage contribution of renewables into the energy mix. In 2022 alone, the costs for implementing NGESO’s grid balancing strategy reached £4.2bn, a good portion of which is passed onto consumers. According to The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), last year this accounted for an additional spend of £150 per UK household.

The crucial question here is why does NGESO’s grid balancing strategy favour fossil fuels and/or nuclear generation over that of renewables? In order to understand this, we need to explore the differences between embedded and distributed generation and how our electrical supplies are distributed nationally.

Embedded generation is defined as the production of electricity, typically from thermal generating power plants where fuel is heated to create steam that drives electricity generating turbines. These power stations are always online and generating power, with the ability to ramp up quickly where demand increases; this is referred to as a demand side response model. Supplies from distributed generation through renewables are more intermittent, in that their generation is always dependent on either the prevailing climate or the time of day. As such, they are not considered predictable or reliable enough to supply our national network with the necessary base load power.

However, it should be noted here that the government’s strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050, involves the commissioning of more nuclear power plants. Unlike conventional power stations, nuclear plants are commonly run at full capacity and their operators are both reluctant, and often technically unable, to ramp up and down in response to fluctuations in grid requirements. This inflexibility makes them poor partners for a power network that relies on both embedded and distributed generation and will do nothing to curtail constraint payments.     

Embedded generation is also connected directly to our high voltage (HV) transmission network managed by NGESO. This transmission network connects to localised distribution networks, managed by district network operators (DNOs), who then supply power to our homes and businesses. Currently distributed generation only connects at a distribution network level, i.e. generation is at the point of consumption and can only service demand within a DNOs localised distribution network. In the same way that generation exists at the point of consumption, so consumption must occur at the point of generation. Where demand is low and a surplus accrues, there is no scope to redirect this power to other regions, because NGESO’s outdated transmission network cannot physically support this.

Advocates of renewables have long been arguing the case for the integration of battery energy storage systems (BESS) to assist with grid balancing. Battery farms could store any surplus energy until such a time as demand increases again, therefore reducing our dependence on fossil or nuclear power station supplies at times of peak demand. A number of UK based companies, including Noriker and Zenobe are making excellent progress in this sector. Indeed, Zenobe has just achieved a remarkable first with their commissioning of a 100MW/107MWh battery energy storage system in Capenhurst, Chester. This facility is hailed as the largest battery project directly connected to the transmission grid anywhere in Europe and is able to deliver reactive power services. Zenobe’s ambition is to reduce the amount of curtailment of renewable energy, particularly wind, in the Mersey region of north-west England where it is located, as well as reducing the amount of gas-fired generation needed to balance the supply and demand of electricity. Interestingly, both Noriker and Zenobe have also entered the mobile energy storage market, with products and control systems being tailored for event and other temporary applications. This kind of diversification is essential if we are genuinely looking to decarbonise generation in the live events sector, so keep an eye out for them both!

This guest blog originally appeared in the February 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox 

Tim Benson is Chair & Project Lead for Powerful Thinking, the outdoor events sustainable energy working group, & also sits on the Live Green sustainability working group. He has contributed content for a wide range of industry papers and is the author of the energy chapter in the Show Must Go Report. He is also the Founder/Production Director of Smart Power Ltd & Technical Director at ZAP Concepts UK & Ireland.