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Music to our ears - how FEAT is bringing the renewable revolution to the music scene

You turn up to see your favourite local band play on a Friday night, get your ticket scanned at the door, grab a drink and enjoy a gig that will stay with you long after you’ve left the venue. At face value it's simple, but backstage it’s time we started taking stock of not only how the show comes to life on the stage but the impact it’s having on the world around us.

And finally, how did you travel – Uber, taxi, the train? A 2010 investigation from Environmental Research Web uncovered that audience travel alone accounted for 43 per cent of the emissions factored into touring. Once broken down, it’s easy to see touring as a massive process that demands a lot from the power grid and the environment.

An innovative solution developed by a touring Aussie musician is not only shining a light on this issue, but is focused on giving back by helping musicians invest directly in renewable energy.

FEAT breaks into the market and changes the tune in the music industry

A growing group of Australian artists like Midnight Oil, Vance Joy, Set Mo and Cloud Control are turning traditional touring on its head thanks to Future Energy Artists (FEAT). FEAT came to fruition when Cloud Control keyboard player Heidi Lenffer began weighing up what her own band's tour would cost – not just monetarily but also from an environmental perspective.

We’re literally building the energy system that will give humans a future on earth, and I want artists to take ownership of this future. The stakes have never been higher, there’s never been a better time to invest in renewables, and this is a way for our whole industry to step up. Artists create songs out of nothing on a daily basis — now we’re upping the game with solar farms. Heidi Lenffer, FEAT founder

Working with Dr Chris Dey from Arete Sustainability, they found that the band’s two-week tour – which that would see them play 15 clubs and theatres from Byron Bay to Perth – would produce about 28 tonnes of emissions. This was the equivalent to what an average household produces annually, and this didn’t factor in the band’s upcoming US tour.

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Heidi Lenffer - FEAT founder

FEAT gives artists ownership when it comes to accelerating our clean energy future through a science-backed, results-orientated platform for action. It is the product of over two years of research and consultation with experts working in sectors ranging from ethical investments, environmental law and science. Prior to FEAT, the only avenue for artists to reconcile their emissions was through carbon offsets. But given the large scale of emissions produced from touring, offsetting simply wasn’t cutting it.

It feels great to be able to help contribute to the shift towards renewable energy. We have a long way to go as a country and a planet but every bit helps. Touring, especially the flying aspect, is a big contributing factor to climate change and it’s something we’re very aware of. We’re doing what we can to help negate those negative impacts. Set Mo, contributing artist

How does FEAT work?

Through a partnership with Future Super and Clean Energy Council member Impact Investment Group, FEAT allows musicians to invest in solar farms. Artists invest money into FEAT – either a lump sum payment or a percentage from their tour of any amount from $5 to $500,000 – which is then put into a portfolio managed by Future Super. This investment is used to buy ownership stakes in solar farms or loaned to build its infrastructure. Impact Investment Group monitors the progress of the project but is also responsible for the underlying fund directly investing in the project.

Heidi has built a fantastic channel for making solar investment accessible and we love it. Her community of bands and the music industry realises that Australia’s entire energy system needs to move to clean energy. The transition is already underway, and Heidi has only just started opening that transition up to broad participation. Fergus Pitt, Head of Strategic Communications, Impact Investment Group
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Brigalow Solar Farm site

The first project on the list is the 34.5 MW Brigalow Solar Farm in Queensland, which is set to power the equivalent of over 11,000 homes for 30 years. It is currently on track to be completed in 2020. There are many positives for all involved:

  1. The energy from this project is fed back into the grid , increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix
  2. The land that the solar farm is being built on is being leased from a farmer – it’s original purpose was harvesting Sorghum grains
  3. Artists receive a 5 per cent return on investment (ROI), also known as ‘solar royalties’.

Music has many layers, and FEAT is a great starting point for action by bringing together the music and renewable energy industries. It should certainly hit the right note with climate-conscious music fans.