Energy efficiency and the creative industries

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Lights, camera, action! It may instantly conjure up the glamour of a film set, but the famous phrase also hints at the phenomenal amounts of commercial energy demanded by the creative industries. The UK creative sector is a cornerstone in the nation’s wealth generation, contributing over £100bn a year to the economy and employing more than two million people, but every recording studio and theatre, music festival and film location is powered by more than just imagination and creativity. In fact, in 2018, the total emissions created by energy consumption in the creative industries was estimated at 44,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. However, for a sector whose output more often than not takes place in the public eye, the need for a demonstrable energy efficiency policy doesn’t just make good financial sense in terms of business energy needs, it’s fast becoming a public relations necessity.

While things are starting to change, the nature of production within the sector presents unique challenges. Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg’s recent stint as guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme highlights some of the dilemmas faced, when tight deadlines meant the BBC’s interviewer was forced to fly to Stockholm to interview Thunberg, causing something of a PR misstep, although Thunberg’s own interview with broadcaster and environmentalist Sir David Attenborough was conducted over Skype.

The energy consumption necessitated by sector’s travel requirements may be a challenge to avoid, but when you consider that the average television programme may produce tens of tonnes of carbon dioxide then there are real changes that can be made in other areas of production in order to reduce business electricity usage. Given the creativity inherent in the sector, technological innovation can lead the way. For example, in the film and television industry, the move from energy inefficient incandescent tungsten lighting to lighter, more economical, fluorescent tubing has gathered pace in recent years. However it will also require a change of mindset. Much creative production is project based, with companies coming together for a finite period to produce one product, whether it be a feature film or a music festival, and so there is the danger of short-term planning. However a small degree of corporate energy future–proofing can bear huge dividends in the long run.

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