The RSC’s response to the draft lighting regulations proposed under the EU’s Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is fully committed to reducing energy and supports EU initiatives to increase efficiencies wherever possible, but calls on legislators to understand the specialist nature of theatre lighting and the way it is used.

Until recently theatre lighting, along with studio lighting and show effect lighting, has been exempt from the Directive, dating back to 2009. But the latest proposals specifically lay down the parameters within which any lighting equipment can be used. There is still an exemption for ‘very powerful lamps for sports lighting, theatre, stage and studio lighting’ of over 80,000 lumen output, but pretty much all stage lighting units have an output of between 5,000 and 50,000 lumens, so therefore fall within the restricted category.

We are increasing our use of LED technology and have been pro-active in this field over the last four years, even though there is some way to go before all the characteristics of tungsten or tungsten halogen bulbs can be matched. However, NONE of the current equipment used (tungsten or LED) meet the 85 lumens per watt efficiency standard specified by the proposals. Indeed, most manufacturers agree that no units that meet this criteria will be developed by the September 2020 implementation date.

Larger organisations such as ourselves are better placed to absorb the considerable costs of changing over to more efficient equipment and have begun to do so where appropriate. But smaller companies, faced with having to change their entire stock of lanterns (and quite possibly dimming and control infrastructure), are more likely to incur costs that will threaten their very existence.

Given that there are no suitable lighting units on the market now, nor are likely to be by 2020, we would like to see a mutually agreed transition period to enable technology to be developed that would meet the standards proposed. The RSC fully agrees with the objective, but we have no alternatives at the moment, and therefore are faced with a situation whereby we would literally be in the dark. The industry must work with manufacturers to find solutions, even at the expense of a drop-off in the colour range and versatility of units in current use.

It should be noted that theatre lights are, apart from some rehearsal periods, used for no more than 3-4 hours per day, and even then rarely at full power. Studies have shown that stage lighting uses less than 5% of a theatre’s power consumption, far outweighed by refrigeration, air conditioning and ventilation. Perhaps worst of all: the amount of waste created Europe-wide by scrapping tons of perfectly usable equipment that spends most of its time switched off will be environmentally very damaging.

May 2018

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