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Power to the people

Temporary power suppliers ensure that the industry isn’t left in the dark.

Live events in the UK are bigger and better than ever. From greenfield spectacles and sport events to live television broadcasts, the expectations organisers have for power suppliers have never been higher.

“Every event is unique and therefore requires a different design for power. There is no ‘one size fits all’,” David de Behr, head of global events at Aggreko, tells Access.

“Some of the most prestigious sport events in the world take place not in city centres or in purpose-built stadiums, but on beautiful beaches, harbours and greenfield sites,” continues de Behr. “Providing power in these locations presents obvious challenges.”

“Every event is bespoke in terms of its power provision,” adds Dave Noble, managing director of Midas. “Among the more complex jobs we’ve had recently, the UCI Track Cycling World Championships at Lee Valley VeloPark stands out. We provided for the whole operation, from the storage containers outside, to the team hubs in the middle of the track, to fitting and feeding 1,200 individual 13-amp sockets and beyond.”

Luckily, power providers in the UK are well up to the task, limited only by the budget of the organiser.

“We have everything in place to undertake almost any project,” Alistair Gregson, project manager at The Powerline, tells Access. “We have always maintained the ethos that no job is too big or too small.”

“There’s no single big challenge,” adds Noble. “You just have to be prepared for anything.”

If there’s one thing that could potentially make life easier for power suppliers, it’s an increase in the information available ahead of an event.

“Information and notice, lots of it, makes life easier,” says Gregson.

“The key is to work with event organisers at an early stage to help gauge the feasibility of an event, and plan ahead for any challenges that may arise,” adds de Behr.

Proms in Hyde Park 2015

Crisis management

While some organisers might think power is simply a matter of plug-in-and-go, every event has its share of challenges and pitfalls to navigate.

“It’s all about the planning,” says Noble. “We supply well-maintained equipment as a matter of course and our crews are equally good and experienced, but we are bound by the rules of physics.”

When it comes to crisis management, the power sector has the same mantra as any other in the events industry: keep calm and carry on.

“Pre-empting possible issues and creating flexibility in the way we deliver power is a fundamental component of our strategic event planning. Nothing should come as a surprise to an event organiser, least of all fluctuations in power needs,” explains de Behr. “However, it is important to remember that, as with everything in life, there are sometimes surprises that could never have been imagined.

“It is in these very rare instances that the professionalism and experience of our on-site engineers really comes into play. They ensure that the event goes on as scheduled, regardless.”

“We all have unexpected issues, but no one ever admits to that,” adds Noble. “A good power company can deal with the unexpected without anybody front or back of house knowing what’s happened.”

Green giants

When it comes to green power, event organisers are becoming more switched on.

While most sectors in the industry have an awareness of environmental issues, arguably none are as effected by global events as those providing temporary power.

Issues such as global warming, oil prices and emissions all have a huge impact on how power providers operate, and many event organisers have come to see environmentally-friendly, ethically produced power as an extremely important issue.

“An increasing number of event organisers want to reduce emissions and prevent waste at their events,” explains de Behr. “A recent example was the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, which we powered almost exclusively by renewable biofuel as part of an environmentally-friendly energy strategy.”

Biofuels produce less greenhouse gases when burned, and can also reduce the amount of soot and other particles released into the atmosphere while powering an event.

“Midas has always looked to minimise its impact on the environment,” Noble tells Access. “We developed the UK’s only fleet of biodiesel

generators tailored to the event industry nearly 20 years ago, powered exclusively by recycled vegetable oil. We use our own fleet of generator sets and trucks, so we have full quality control over every aspect of operation.”

“We carbon offset a vast amount of our activity,” adds Gregson, whose company The Powerline works to reduce the impact of emissions from both staff commutes and hauliers partly by planting 200 trees each year. “We are also steadily converting to LED for site lighting and educating clients on loading screen and running times. We have started trialling remote monitoring too, which enables us to see a bigger picture and trends in consumption.”

Green energy is an issue that will only become more important to the power sector, with many organisers and suppliers in the industry passionate about reducing the effect events have on their environment.

While events continue to grow and evolve, suppliers will be expected to be increasingly creative and innovative with their products and services. Luckily, the UK’s temporary suppliers are well up to the challenge.