Light it up3 Nov 2023
Powered by the sun, the future is brighter
Thanks to the generous support of the Wolfson Foundation, last month we were able to install 72 solar panels on our backstage roof spaces. While we continue working to become more efficient at using and wasting less energy, drawing electricity from renewable sources is a key step towards reducing our environmental impact.
Decarbonising an 18th-century theatre, and its wide variety of activities, is not an easy task.
Back when Bristol Old Vic's Theatre was designed and built, many things were different. Across the times, building materials, energy systems, technologies and the city have changed considerably, as well as the climate.
Since opening its doors in 1766, Bristol Old Vic has embraced change to continue amazing the people of Bristol and beyond. Now, we also have a role to play in addressing the climate emergency, restoring natural systems, and building resilience for a just transition that leaves no one behind.
In recent years, the theatre has gone through two wonderful building refurbishments. Improving energy performance, use of natural light, water management and technical equipment enable us now to go a step further towards phasing out fossil fuels and seeking other sources of energy.
Luckily, there are many tools, collaborations, and opportunities out there to guide us in this energy transformation. As a theatre, we are incredibly lucky to have sector-specific resources such as the Theatre Green Book. Its second instalment, Sustainable Buildings, focuses on helping organisations to waste less energy, improve services systems, and use renewable energy.
As an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, Bristol Old Vic also receives tailored support through the Transforming Energy programme led by Julie’s Bicycle. Simultaneously, since joining the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, we’ve benefited from shared learnings, expert advice and opportunities across the city.
Last year, we switched to an electricity “green tariff”, driving renewable energy demand through procurement. Just a couple of weeks ago, we’ve installed 72 solar panels above our offices and rehearsal rooms backstage. We are now generating clean electricity on-site, reducing the demand for carbon intensive forms of energy and forecasting to generate over 26,000 kWh per year and avoid 5,000 CO2 kg per year of CO2 emissions.
This investment was possible thanks to the support of the Wolfson Foundation and will not only reduce our environmental impact, but also produce significant savings in energy costs. Besides building a low carbon culture, this initiative enables us to reduce electricity expenditure in the long term and continue to nurture spaces and opportunities for creativity instead.
On the very first day after the panels were connected, we’ve generated over 50 kwh of electricity, enough to power three detached homes!
Although there is still a lot of work ahead to decarbonise the Theatre, we celebrate this achievement as an incentive to continue building a sustainable and regenerative future.