Once you’ve made one change to be more sustainable, others often follow. This was the case for Opera North in Leeds. The national opera company has been working with Good Energy and sustainability charity Julie’s Bicycle to reduce its carbon emissions since 2017.

Julie’s Bicycle (JB) works with arts and culture organisations to create and implement environmental strategies. Good Energy has partnered with the charity to enable the organisations it supports to switch to renewable power. Opera North engaged JB to develop their sustainability strategy and encourage staff engagement with it – a critical step since having an established environmental policy is a common requirement when applying for funding.

For Opera North, switching to a renewable power supplier was an important move for sustainability. And since joining Good Energy, the organisation has seen the company culture transform into one that’s far more energy conscious.Energy monitoring, source, and efficiency was a key issue from the start. And it seems this energy awareness and expertise soon caught on. In just one year, they reduced electricity use in its main building by 23% through behaviour change campaigns alone.

Knowledge is power

Jamie Saye, a Senior Technician at Opera North, is impressed that every kW could be tracked through Good Energy’s reporting. “That’s what really stood out”, he says. “Good Energy knew more about the source of their electricity than the other suppliers.”

Opera North uses Good Energy’s half-hourly comprehensive data visualisation portal. It allows access to more than 75 online reports to find out how and when your business is consuming electricity. In addition, it can compare data from the past two years to show year on year trends and average consumption ranges. 

What’s more, says Jamie, it can help you identify where electricity is being wasted. “After a bank holiday, I logged into the portal and realised that all of the heating system had been on during a day when no one was in the building. So I reprogrammed all the heating! I wouldn’t have spotted it without the access to the half-hour data.”

Good Energy are always helpful and honest and at the end of the phone. They don’t take your money and run.

– Jamie Saye, Senior Technician at Opera North

Jamie says the data from Good Energy has been a game changer, making them fully informed consumers. He can also use the information to produce appealing graphs showing how Opera North’s energy-saving actions were making a difference. Jamie even started putting them on the back of toilet doors to share this impact with audiences.

The extra guidance that Good Energy provide is particularly important to Jamie, as he wasn’t an energy expert before the partnership. “Good Energy are always helpful and honest and at the end of the phone. They don’t take your money and run.”

As an example, he cites the advice he received when Opera North was investigating on-site renewable energy as part of its multi-million pound refurbishment programme. “We were putting solar panels on the roof and wondered if battery storage was right for us. Good Energy checked and came back to us and said it wasn’t”.

Good Energy support this collaborative approach and say that “by taking care of Opera North’s energy requirements we hope we leave them free to concentrate on their job, creating extraordinary experiences every day.”

How Opera North is putting sustainability centre stage

At the start of 2019, Opera Northhosted a Creative Green sustainable procurement workshop, sponsored by Good Energy. This brought cultural organisations and suppliers together to exchange good practice and explore future opportunities to be greener.

New approaches and possibilities in energy management are always appearing – and Opera North is working hard to keep improving. This included undertaking an ESOS audit (Energy Saving and Opportunities Scheme) conducted by JB and signing up to the charity’s Spotlight Programme for further support.

What next for Opera North?

Once their major redevelopment project – Music Works – is completed, Opera North’s extended and refurbished building will feature a range of energy efficiency measures, from improved insulation and lighting control systems to rooftop solar panels.

Opera North has gone from strength to strength, not only in terms of what they are doing within their operations, but also in how they are building environmental understanding and action with their audiences, peers and city.

They are now working with the Leeds Climate Commission, Leeds City Council and becoming one of the founding members of Sustainable Arts in Leeds (SAIL). In October 2019, they joined Music Declares Emergency and declared a climate and ecological emergency, announcing their aim to be carbon neutral by 2030. Opera North was Creative Green certified for the first time in 2019 and went on to win the Creative Green 2019 Award for Best Newcomer.

At Good Energy, we are proud of the part we and Julie’s Bicycle are playing in Opera North’s journey. They are showing what is possible when organisations work together to make real changes that help the planet.