Introducing the Clean Mobile Power Initiative
Why Disney, Netflix, and RMI are working together to reimagine how we power film productions
Entertainment industry leaders, including Netflix and The Walt Disney Company, have made a bold pledge to approximately halve their carbon emissions by 2030. This commitment will mean changes across the industry. Done right, the shift away from fossil fuels can help make film and TV productions safer, healthier, cleaner, and less noisy, all while contributing to the global community’s climate goals.
To achieve these commitments and reduce the environmental impact of film and TV productions, the entertainment industry needs alternatives to diesel generators, which account for roughly 15 percent of a production’s overall emissions and contribute the equivalent of 700,000 tons of CO2e into the atmosphere each year.
In addition to their emissions impact, diesel generators can be loud, impacting the carefully managed soundscape on set. They’re also often oversized for the needs of individual productions, running at a small fraction of their capacity, leading to more frequent malfunctions.
The good news is that clean mobile power solutions, allied with energy efficiency measures, have the potential to drastically reduce the carbon intensity of film productions and the need for diesel power.
Hydrogen power units, battery storage, and on-site renewable energy are all promising alternatives. While many of these technologies have been used by productions, no existing products meet the necessary size, scale, mobility, and specific power and energy requirements to fully replace diesel generators used by the film and TV production industry — yet.
That’s why industry leaders Netflix and The Walt Disney Company have launched the Clean Mobile Power Initiative, which aims to accelerate the deployment of clean mobile power technologies and support alternative solutions in the entertainment industry. RMI’s global climate tech accelerator Third Derivative is collaborating on the initiative and inviting innovative startups to apply to the clean mobile power accelerator program to help scale and deploy their solutions across the entertainment industry.
Putting clean mobile power technologies to work
As the recent flood of new EV models has shown, battery power has come a long way in a very short time. That same tech could power productions — silently, and with no on-site emissions.
Battery systems can unlock savings by charging from the grid overnight at off-peak hours or by pulling from on-site solar generation, particularly on remote productions.
As well as cutting down on direct emissions on set, batteries charged from a renewable-based grid (or on-site wind or solar) will have a 100 percent emissions reduction potential compared to diesel power.
Hydrogen Power Units
Long touted as a “fuel of the future,” hydrogen power is proven in other industries, and could be deployed on production sets. Hydrogen power units work a lot like batteries — providing electricity from hydrogen fuel, without the need for combustion.
There are a number of benefits to using hydrogen power. The energy-making process produces only water as a by-product, meaning zero on-site emissions. And if the hydrogen is produced using renewable power, referred to as “green hydrogen,” then the entire process produces zero emissions.
Hydrogen itself is also non-toxic, making it safer than most traditional fuels, and since the fuel cells lack moving parts, they need minimal maintenance compared to diesel generators.
The Climate Benefits
Based on current technologies in the market, batteries and green hydrogen power units have the potential to reduce up to 84 percent and 82 percent of equivalent CO₂ emissions, respectively. And as green hydrogen becomes more widely available and electrical grids become increasingly powered by renewables, emissions reductions will only improve, with the potential to provide zero-emissions on-site power generation.
Exhibit I. Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e) reduction potential through battery and green power units deployment. Source: RMI
Mobile Microgrids and Hybridization
Just like each crew member contributes to the story on screen, different clean mobile technologies can work in concert with efficiency measures to significantly reduce the impacts of production. With the right equipment, productions can create their own “microgrids,” using different power-generating technologies across a set, and oftentimes used in combination (called hybridization) — such as using hydrogen power (or mobile solar arrays) to charge battery packs, creating a virtuous energy circle — and crucially, zero emissions.
Exhibit II. Clean mobile power technology hybridization options. Source: RMI
A more efficient set
Coupled with transitioning to clean mobile power-generating technologies, a focus on energy efficiency can do a lot toward meeting climate goals and making clean mobile power technologies more viable.
Using the right size generator for the job, and capitalizing on any excess capacity for things like electric vehicle charging, will enhance the usage of generators already on set. But more importantly, to expedite the transition away from diesel generators, more efficient technologies can be used across a set: think staples like lighting and trailers.
Deploying LED set lighting and modern, fully electric, solar-powered trailers can go a long way to cutting the carbon bill without compromising on performance or comfort. The industry has already transitioned towards LED set lighting which is far more energy efficient and has superior performance. For trailers, these could include ones that are super-insulated or with built-in solar and battery storage systems, highly-efficient HVAC, and sensors that help ensure that lighting, heating, and cooling are only operated when needed.
By making these types of changes to enhance the efficiency of a set, productions could reduce existing energy loads by at least 30 percent. The most climate-friendly energy is the energy we don’t use.
Third Derivative’s Clean Mobile Power Cohort
To support the development and scaling of clean mobile power technologies, RMI’s global climate tech accelerator Third Derivative is launching a startup accelerator focused directly on this challenge. The accelerator will give promising startups a jumpstart by helping them access funding, mentorship, and education, as well as professional networks that might otherwise be out of reach. In keeping with the sprint toward 2030, this accelerator will take place remotely over 18 months.
Applications are now open for startups to join the accelerator program. Those accepted will receive a $100,000 convertible note (optional), mentorship from entertainment industry experts to help cater products to industry needs, introductions to climate-focused venture capital firms, and access to production studios and equipment suppliers to pilot their technologies.
In order to meet the necessary power, size, mobility, and safety requirements for the entertainment industry, we encourage startups with clean power-generating technologies that have the potential to meet the following specifications to apply, in addition to startups with complementary business model innovations.
- Ideally produce up to 140-220 kW of three-phase power on demand for up to 14 hours, with minimum requirements of 90 kW / 750 amps / 600 kWh and 120/208V for US and Canada*
- Be able to be towed by a Class 4 or 5 truck, or mounted on a vehicle*
- Be able to operate independently from a stationary fuel source or electricity supply*
- Be able to move frequently, including more than one time a day*
- Be safe and reliable, including meeting industry safety requirements for portable power distribution systems*
- Fit inside of a standard parking space (roughly 9’x18’)
- Preferred ability to provide DC fast charging for vehicles as well as site power needs
- Be cost competitive by 2030
* Technology requirements for pilot opportunities
The way forward
The climate impact potential of clean mobile power technology extends beyond the film industry, as many sectors and geographies currently rely on diesel generators to provide reliable, uninterrupted, mobile power. Product-market fit in the entertainment industry can translate to adjacent global industries, such as construction, backup power, and disaster relief.
Transitioning to clean mobile power technologies will not only cut carbon emissions significantly, but will mean safer, quieter, and cleaner sets where everyone can breathe easy. Getting there will take the kinds of forethought and innovation that the entertainment industry has always pioneered. Collaborating with clean mobile power startups and backing their development is the first step toward a more sustainable future, and an industry built to last.