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Sector Focus: Power

Power outage at your event? The show must go on, and these companies are there to make sure events are supplied with the proper equipment and service to make sure it does.

It’s every event organiser’s worst nightmare: the lights go dark, the speakers are silent and a buzz of confusion rises through the venue. The power’s gone out.

Luckily, there’s a fair few companies out there that supply equipment and services to ensure that, even if the mains blow during an event, there are back-up plans in place to keep the show going.

Power Logistics, who deliver stage power, site electrics, distribution, project management and lighting to events of all sizes, worked on the most high profile event in London’s recent history: the 2012 Olympics.

“Power is an essential element of any event,” said Mike Whitehouse, Power Logistics’ managing director. “It is vital that it’s up and running without issue wherever it is required.”

Whitehouse’s team has been busy since the Olympics, investing in new equipment and machinery, as well as manpower. Two new project managers joined the team and Power Logistics includes apprenticeships as an integral part of its plans for success. In September 2013, they were awarded Apprentice Employer and Small Business of the Year at Wiltshire College’s Apprenticeship Awards.

The Powerline, which supplied the Royal Wedding in 2011, offers temporary electrical service to outdoor and live events. They have continued the reinvestment that has been a staple to their business since it was founded. “The last two years have seen the range of our touring transformers expand dramatically, with a wide selection of UK to US voltage transformers,” said project manager Alistair Gregson. “We have also started investing in Broadcast ENG lighting.”

Firefly Solar, who specialise in providing sustainable power to events and festivals throughout Europe, have also committed to reinvestment. The company has increased its stock of biodiesel generators, hybrid power generators, solar power systems and portable power packs over the last 18 months. A new range of LED flood lights and an enhanced Pictor solar tower light complete the picture for Firefly in 2014.

The company’s full name – Firefly Solar – represents their greater mission to create sustainable power solutions for the events industry. Firefly provides exclusively environmentally friendly products, including hybrid power generators, WVO biodiesel generators (which use only waste vegetable oil), and standalone solar power.

“Sustainability is at the core of Firefly’s business,” Richard Randall, senior account manager, said. “Our modus operandi has always been to reduce the use of fossil fuelled generation in the event industry and help people to move towards a more sustainable way of operating.”
The greatest challenge for Firefly, Randall said, is changing customers’ perception of renewable power provision at events. “Industry-wide recognition and understanding of new technology is still growing and the response from some is still ‘renewable power doesn’t work’ or ‘renewable power is too expensive,’” he said.

To get their message out, Firefly works regularly with Julie’s Bicycle, a not-for-profit working to make sustainability intrinsic to the business, art and ethics of the creative industries, and Powerful Thinking, a ‘think-do tank’ that explores ways of reducing events’ carbon footprints. Together, these three companies try to help event organisers understand the availability and viability of sustainable technology. The ultimate goal, Randall said, is to make sure organisers are making informed decisions.

Companies are leaping on board the green bandwagon, realising that it is now an essential factor in their businesses.

“The challenge is getting event organisers to supply an accurate list of what they and other suppliers want and need in terms of power,” said The Powerline’s Gregson. “Most events could reduce their fuel consumption quite easily by simply reducing their power consumption. You don’t necessarily need smaller sets, just sets that will run efficiently for the majority of the time.”

Power Logistics, too, is making its work more sustainable. “We look at the issue of sustainability as a whole, not just the environmental aspect,” Whitehouse said. “R&D in innovative products and working practices is fundamental to the long-term success of the business.”
While all three companies acknowledge a slight dip in activity thanks to the on-going recession, it seems that business is beginning to return to normal. “The shoots of recovery are peeking through,” Gregson said. “This year has seen some great new leads – always a morale booster.”

Randall agreed. “Overall, morale in the industry is good,” he said. “Whenever we catch up with event organisers and other suppliers, everyone seems upbeat about the state and strength of the industry.” He has reason to be cheerful – he confirmed to Access that Firefly will supply total site power to Shambala Festival this summer for the first time.

Long-term contracts have also been awarded to Power Logistics. Whitehouse said, without going into detail, that he was pleased with how his order book looked for 2014 so far.

With environmental, sustainable innovations on the horizon and events piling up in preparation for what is being billed as one of England’s hottest summers, the power hire industry is ready to make sure the lights keep shining.

This was first published in the April issue of AAA. Any comments? Contact Emma Hudson