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Hollywood North shunning diesel generators to clean up its act

BC Hydro, province subsidizing film sectors shift away from diesel generators
Martini Town in Langley is a 16-acre set featuring New York city facades from the early 1900s.

When studios do location shoots for film, TV and commercials, the power for all the lights and cameras and audio equipment typically comes from diesel generators, except when they are in B.C.

Thanks to a clean grid and companies like Portable Electric, which sells and rents battery-powered generators to the film and TV industry, many studios shooting in the Lower Mainland have been moving towards battery power. BC Hydro is now planning to encourage more use of clean grid power with the installation of power kiosks in 20 locations around the Lower Mainland for film location shooting.

“We’re working to make the film and television industry in B.C. one of the greenest in North America and electrification is the script that will help get us there,” said Josie Osborne, B.C.'s minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation.

One studio – Martini Film Studios – plans to make its 16-acre Martini Town lot in Langley diesel-free, thanks to $280,000 in funding from CleanBC and BC Hydro’s Low Carbon Electrification Program. The money will be used to replace four diesel generators with BC Hydro power kiosks.

“Martini Studios commitment to sustainability does not stop there,” BC Hydro says in a press release. “Its facilities – from its stages to studios – are designed around energy efficiency, including motion-activated LED lighting, zoned heating and cooling, insulated soundstages, water efficient fixtures and waste diversion. The studio also boasts 22 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and solar panels, which were the final step in becoming a net zero carbon studio.”

It’s been estimated that a single large movie production can generate 2,840 tonnes of CO2, which BC Hydro says is equivalent to the tailpipe emissions from a gas-powered car driven 12 million kilometres.

“We built Martini Town two years ago, but up until recently, production would use up to four diesel generators to power their set lighting and fleet of trailers because we didn’t have sufficient power,” said Martini Film Studios CEO Gemma Martini. 

“Every generator produces up to one (tonne) of carbon per day, and knowing we could do better, I started working with BC Hydro to fully electrify the site using funding from their Low Carbon Electrification Program.”

The Martini Town is an historical New York-themed outdoor movie set for shooting period scenes. Martini Studios is now planning an expansion.

“The goal is to make operations carbon net zero and for the expansion, Martini Studios plan to use CleanBC Commercial New Construction Energy Study funding with the hope of landing up to 50 per cent of the capital costs funding,” BC Hydro says in its press release. 

“The expansion will not only be powered by renewable electricity, but it will also expand the number of EV charging units on site to 80. The company owns and operates five EVs today, and a recent production on their site used 20 EVs – one of a series of steps towards climate action.”

-- with files from Tyler Orton

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