As the impressive Greta Thunberg mobilises the young, taking politicians to task for failing to take action on global warming, it’s clear that urgent and dramatic action is needed if we, the people of Earth, are to hit the UN’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 54% by 2030. After that, we will have reached the point of no return
Switching to renewable energy and lessening our dependence on fossil fuels is one of the key means of combating climate change – but we have yet to see a mass switch over to more environmentally friendly power sources. On a consumer level there’s still a persistent scepticism, particularly in Northern Europe where long, dark winters give rise to doubt as to the efficacy of renewable sources, particularly solar.
So Finnish energy supplier Väre had a double-sided challenge on its brand. It needed to raise its own profile but also change general attitudes around solar energy. In Finland, that long, dark period ‘kaamos’ is deeply embedded in the national psyche. When agency hasan & partners came on board, they saw that the solution didn’t lie in talking, but showing. That’s why they created Sunplugged, a festival powered entirely by solar and kinetic energy – panels and bikes.
Christopher Keravuori, production manager at hasan & partners, explains that the whole idea was around perception shift. “We wanted to show that solar panels can work in the North - if you can power a huge concert with solar panels, think what else you can do with it domestically!” he says.
Alongside the festival, they also helped develop products that would make it easier and cheaper for people to switch to solar power – for example allowing people without the space to fit panels the possibility of buying electricity from their neighbours who have got panels.
The agency worked with Väre for six months leading up to the gig, not only on that project but looking at the ten year vision. From the very beginning, the team knew that they didn’t want to rely on traditional advertising. However, embarking on the journey to create Sunplugged involved a lot of unknowns – hasan & partners creative Anu Niemonen is full of praise for the Väre for taking the leap. "I love a client who jumps into the unknown, no one really knew whether we could make happen, but we all pulled together and did it. We all believe in the vision of a better future that it will not happen if we deliver business as usual."
Indeed the planning and production threw up a whole slew of unexpected obstacles… including some very complicated maths. “The biggest challenge was to actually calculate how much energy the concert would use and how much we could generate from bikes and solar to power it,” explains Christopher. “Ultimately it was an estimate so we were prepared to produce a lot more electricity than the concert might use.”
The team recruited local inventor Janne Käpylehto to build the solar panels and set up the 20 stationary bikes that festival goers could leap on to help pedal power the event. “Our producer found Janne, which was a perfect match. Janne was known for some similar ideas already and had experimented with solar powered stunts,” explains Christopher.
They had the tech, the inventor, and the maths in place but what’s a festival without music? The bands involved had to fit a specific criteria, explains Christopher. “We wanted two things from our musicians. They needed to share the same values as us around climate change and being unselfish. And naturally, they needed to be popular, hip and be appealing to a big audience,” he says. In the end the solar panels and bicycles provided energy for lighting and sound equipment powering five hours of music and entertainment from artists Benjamin, Abreu and Ida Paul and Kalle Lindroth.
To promote the festival, hasan & partners developed a series of promotional teaser films on social media – attracting 600 people to the event on Saturday April 13th. According to calculations made beforehand the calculated amount was around 100KWh, when in reality the concert was much more energy efficient and only used 15KWh.
So what’s next? Well, Väre say they’re not about to pivot to become a full-time concert organiser but the experience has left the brand and their agency with a whole lot of practical insights about how to leverage alternative energy sources to power gigs and festivals and they say that they’re more than happy to talk to other companies and agencies to share their experiences.
Indeed, in the events business, sustainability is becoming a key issue. Think about the waste generated by festivals. The organisers of Glastonbury announced it was banning the sale of plastic bottles earlier this year and last year ad industry festival Cannes Lions came under criticism for plastic bottles in the Palais.
“Climate change is the biggest threat facing our environments and communities. Events organisers are slowly waking up to global demands for cleaner, more ecological alternatives to productions,” says Anu. “We need to change the way we consume everything, and that includes energy.”