Research findings show energy consumed by UK festival sector could power ten thousand homes

New research conducted this summer by creative industry greening experts Julie’s Bicycle, the University of Sussex and the Power Providers Forum (an informal network of power suppliers and festival promoters) maps out the uptake of biodiesel and renewable power across the UK festival sector, providing recommendations for increasing demand towards a low carbon future for the creative industries.

The Research took place in the context of intensified focus on the environment and climate change, following tragic events at festivals, including event cancellation due to flash floods, infrastructural damage (such as stages collapsing) and injuries to punters which arose during bad weather. These occurrences are not new to 2011, but the volume of instances this year has made extreme weather an increasingly urgent consideration for festival insurance policies, and the industry is beginning to engage with what changes might be necessary.

The research findings show that UK music festivals consume about 12 million litres of diesel per year, generating an estimated 48,000MWh of electricity and 31,600t CO2e emissions. This energy use is the equivalent of powering 10,000 homes for a year; a significant statistic which is due to the inefficiency of diesel generators, which usually run at an average of only 40% fuel efficiency and therefore use much more energy to power equipment compared to the national grid.

Waste vegetable oil (WVO) biodiesel is currently meeting 3-6% of this festival power supply demand, and on-site renewable energy – solar powered battery, temporary wind or pedal power – is meeting just ~0.026%. Current capacity of renewables is 0.1% (91kW) of demand. The uptake of renewable power is currently dominated by a small number of committed festivals, and festivals certified Industry Green (IG) use an average of 12% WVO biodiesel and renewable energy. IG is the environmental certification for creative businesses, developed by Julie’s Bicycle. Bearing this in mind, it is possible that, despite being more expensive than diesel, the increase in demand anticipated by renewable energy suppliers is happening.

The recommendations identified by the research partners are designed to help drive uptake of these alternative power sources at festivals. They include:

  • Festivals understanding and reducing their energy demand, including better planning and rationalising of generators, and using more energy efficient kit for PA and lighting;
  • Tour bus operations significantly reducing energy demand;
  • Increasing the supply of WVO biodiesel through better information;
  • Energy suppliers providing better information about the power and entertainment output provided by diesel, biodiesel and renewable installations to increase confidence and promote forward planning.

The Power Providers Forum Steering Group, which includes Julie’s Bicycle, Kambe Events Ltd./Shambala Festival, A Greener Festival, AIF, Firefly Solar and Glastonbury Festival, are now developing a programme to increase the use of WVO biodiesel and renewable energy at festivals based on these recommendations. Alison Tickell, Director of Julie’s Bicycle, said “Mapping power supply across UK festivals was identified by the Power Provider’s Forum as the first joint step towards building a sustainable festival sector. This research reveals the scale of opportunity, the strength of commitment and the missed tricks. Our second step will be to focus on a small number of joint actions to make the difference.”  Chris Johnson, Director of Shambala Festival and Kambe Events Ltd., said “We’re very encouraged by the commitment from promoters and the industry to the Green Festival Forum so far. We believe it will be a hotbed for innovation and contribute a great deal to sustainability in the festival sector. Watch this space!”

Julie’s Bicycle has also developed the Green Suppliers Database, a platform for suppliers to share information and increase awareness of their business available at:

www.juliesbicycle.com/resources/jb-green-database

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