Reporting from the EE MUSIC Workshop in Dublin, Ireland

EE MUSIC takes JB's Chiara to Dublin for a workshop on venues and events organisers with local ambassador, Claire Byrne from Body&Soul.

On the 24th November, Chiara from Julie’s Bicycle was in Dublin to help run an EE MUSIC Workshop for venues and events organisers in Ireland. Our co-organiser and local EE MUSIC Ambassador is Claire Byrne, sustainability coordinator at Body&Soul and other Irish music festivals and also a Dublin City Councillor for the Green Party.

The event took place in the Parlour at Whelan's in Dublin. The iconic venue has been hosting live music events since 1989 and operates several stages. Warmed by a cozy fire, representatives from across the music event and energy industries ranging from festival production professionals to CODEMA, Dublin’s Energy Agency, discussed what it would take to improve the way the events industry in Ireland relates to energy use.

Brian Sweeney from Dublin-based energy consultancy Evolved Energy Solutions gave us a presentation in the context of Ireland:

  • Among the key legislative drivers for change is Ireland’s National Energy Action Plan 2007 – 2020, which has a 20% energy savings target in 2020 and aims to achieve a 33% reduction in public sector energy use.
  • Large enterprises (250+ employees) must carry out an energy audit of their operations every 4 years.
  • Building regulations have been significantly increased, with any new builds or significant infrastructure developments subject to energy performance targets. There are also obligations for ‘Building Energy Ratings’ for any new-builds, or buildings offered for sale or rent.
  • In 2014, less than 1% of residential or commercial buildings in Ireland had an “A” rating.

He also presented a case study of an energy audit undertaken in a club in Dublin. Among the things they found were:

  • Bar staff leaving bottle fridge sliding doors open overnight.
  • Staff leaving the door to the chiller room open for 4 hours at a time while restocking.
  • Auto-flushing urinals in operation 24/7 even though the club was only in operation on the weekends (leading to a huge waste of water as well as the energy consumption of the mechanism).
  • Lighting upgrades of house lighting to LED with a return on investment of under 1 year.
  • An Air Handling Unit on the roof using a 3-phase motor that was running 24/7 – even though the belt drives were disconnected due to a maintenance issue (i.e. the motor was running without doing anything). In addition to being a waste of energy, this was also causing discomfort in the club area as ventilation was not functioning properly.
  • Damage to the chiller room due to poor workmanship (someone had simply drilled a large hole through the insulation to run some cables through, leading to a lot of cool air escaping and higher energy costs).

Lastly, he looked at some possible funding mechanisms for energy efficiency in Ireland:

  • The Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA): The ACA is a tax incentive for companies paying corporation tax and aims to encourage investment in energy efficient equipment. Allows companies to write off 100% of the purchase value of qualifying energy efficient equipment against their profit in the year of purchase.
  • Sustainable Energy Communities (SECs): A Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) is a community committed to identifying their energy use, plan to make savings and are willing to take action and review the impacts. There is a wide variety of SEC models. SECs have access to technical support and training and are eligible to apply to specific SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland) funding.

A key piece of advice he offered is that when investing in energy upgrades to always obtain written assurances on any claims of costs and energy savings BEFORE implementing upgrades.

Chiara looked at hotspots for energy use and potential savings in clubs and venues, as covered in the EE MUSIC Handbook. One challenge that was mentioned by many in the room is the relative age of most small to medium venue buildings in Ireland, and the lack of investment and funding for the required upgrades.

In the afternoon, we focused on environmental sustainability at events. Claire Byrne gave a thorough overview of initiatives implemented at Body&Soul festival, including the creation of the “Us&You” brand to engage audiences while also demonstrating the green actions the festival was undertaking itself. Key successes include engagement with the waste contractor, increasing their waste-recycling rate from 7% to over 50% in the space of 3 years. They also have a hugely oversubscribed ‘green’ camping area that is so clean it’s possible to walk around barefoot among the tents.

We also had a general session on energy management at festivals. One key challenge that was brought up was a tendency for incoming productions, especially headline artists, to overspecify the amount of power they want to be provided with – and a tendency for end users to demand sole use of a generator (due to concerns about power outages - which should not be an issue if systems are set up correctly with trips in place), making good system design difficult on site.

Overall, there is a keen interest among the industry in Ireland – but the challenges faced are similar to those in other European countries. The key challenges mentioned by attendees were:

  • Demanding artists
  • Lack of information and expertise
  • Price/costs
  • Apathy
  • Management focus on bottom line
  • Lack of interest/awareness from site electricians and contractors (and festivals themselves)
  • Attitude of general festival audience

When asked in what ways the events industry in Ireland could better address environmental sustainability, attendees suggested the following:

  • More information and workshops
  • Grants from government
  • Carbon tax on events
  • Attaching conditions to local authority licenses
  • LEDs
  • Promoting social responsibility in attendees
  • Providing incentives
  • Education

The practical tools and actions attendees pledged to look at in their own operations included:

  • More efficient lighting
  • Monitoring energy use
  • Education and training
  • Improving own house by allocating more time and resources

When asked who was currently missing from the conversation and whose support was needed, attendees listed:

  • Suppliers
  • Artists
  • Promoters
  • Audience
  • Business case

There is evidently already an engaged group of production professionals in the music event industry in Ireland, and we are hoping this Workshop served to foster a cohesive community with a plan to move forward together.

Sustaining Creativity