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Electricity and gas bills threaten the sustainability of museums

Electricity supply charges have also increased in major public museums over the past year. Like hospitals, museums are facilities that control air conditioning 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In his case, caring for patients with centuries of life. Objects do not have a schedule. For these cultural centers, cost-cutting is complicated, especially because of the heat abroad. Consumption is continuous so that the exhibition halls do not drop in temperature 17 degrees or above 27 degrees and relative humidity kept below 55%.

These conditions and the escalation of the cost of electricity supply complicate the economic sustainability of the centers, with a 65% increase in the tax compared to the one paid in 2021. This is the case of the Museo Nacional del Prado, which, as. 3.3 million euros are expected to be spent this year during the transition to this newspaper. Spain’s main cultural institution paid two million euros in 2021 for the same supply and consumption. Prado paid 1.6 million euros a year in electricity four years ago, in 2018.

Humidity is the most damaging of the environmental agents and is controlled by temperature. If the temperature drops, the humidity increases. This is why museums use gas to control room temperature and thus maintain relative humidity. In 2022, the Prado Museum will pay 40,700 euros. Compared to the previous year, the invoice will be 13% more expensive. The National Sculpture Museum has three headquarters in Valladolid and in 2019 it paid €66,000 in gas taxes. In 2021, it increased to 73,000 euros. The National Archaeological Museum, depending on its size, consumes three times more kilowatts per hour than the Sculpture Museum. These two are part of 16 state museums directly managed by the Ministry of Culture, but the invoice to be paid in 2022 is not yet forecast.

The electricity consumption of the National Library of Spain will exceed a million and a half euros, a 175% increase compared to the 547,000 euros they paid in 2021. They will exceed €300,000 in diesel payments. That is, 50% more than what was done in 2021, when two objects consumed 202,000 euros. The two tanks at the main headquarters, on Paseo de Recoletos, have a capacity of 50,000 liters each and an annual consumption of 170,000 liters. Alcala de Henares has warehouses and consumes 90,000 liters. The distributor fulfills partial orders of 3,000 liters per location.

To this increase in the annual cost of supplying electricity, gas and diesel must be added the drop in box office due to the loss of visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prado points out that pandemic protocols are forcing air to be filtered more often, and this has increased electricity consumption, which is more expensive than a year ago. Although they warn that since 2015 they have been able to reduce the tariff and consumption thanks to the introduction of LED technology for lighting works of art (sponsored by Iberdrola).

In the last economic balance closed by the Prado, it is from 2021 and it recognizes 1.1 million visits, this amount is less than half of what was achieved in 2019. Visits are increasing in 2022: at the moment they are 30% from the usual box. Office pace before the pandemic shutdown. In 2019, the museum had 8,849 daily visits, and in 2022, it will reach 6,000 per day. If things continue like this, Prado will earn a little over 15 million euros at the box office in 2022. In 2019, it reached 23 million euros. Prado’s staff costs exceed 22 million euros. A decrease in own income and an increase in expenses, another “perfect storm”.

For its part, the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum recently renewed its electricity supply contract and will pay almost 420,000 euros for consumption for one year. In the tender competition, the museum requested 100% of energy from renewable sources. Acciona won the call with a closed contract for the next five years and a total of more than two million euros, for offering the largest price drop (to 0.000950 kWh; the highest was Iberdrola, to 0.037188 kWh). The previous contract for this supply and consumption was signed at half price, for one million euros. In addition, the museum uses more than 90,000 liters of diesel per year for heating and has two 20,000 liter tanks. In 2020, they signed a contract with Enerplus for five years for a total of €334,800, €55,800 per year.

On Wednesday, the 10th, an energy-saving decree comes into force, forcing people to turn off lights in public buildings and shops. However, the Ministry of Ecological Transition has warned that the ornamental lighting of monuments is not included in the energy saving restrictions because they are not considered public buildings in the sense that they are subject to certain management attitudes. On the other hand, the Ministry of Culture announced that all publicly owned museums will turn off the lights from 10:00. In Granada, Alhambra they will not have to turn off the lights at night, but they also inform this newspaper that in the first half of the year they have reduced the electricity tariff: from January to June 2021 they paid 88,000 euros and in the same period of 2022 74,500 euros. An extraordinary fact which, as explained by the Alhambra and Generalife Board of Trustees, is due to “energy-saving measures, among which the progressive replacement of traditional lamps with LED technology lamps stands out”.

Rafael Hernández Martínez, head of the new area of ​​architecture, sustainable development and general services at the Reina Sofia National Center Museum of Art (MNCARS), expected the price increase when two years ago, with the restrictions of the COVID-19, he offered to manage the climate savings and efficiency project. “Time showed us right,” he sums up, satisfied that during these years he saved 60,000 euros on water, 135,000 euros on gas and 500,000 euros on electricity. Remember that the museum contracts are signed by the Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for the administration’s electricity supply under a framework contract. As in the rest of the institutions, the consumption did not increase, but the tax increased: in 2021, 1.3 million euros were paid for electricity, and in 2022, 2.3 million euros. Annual growth of 77%.

This increase could have been much higher if austerity measures had not been implemented before the war in Ukraine. They took advantage of pandemic health obligations to implement an optimization plan without changing equipment. A water leak was discovered and fixed; They changed the room temperature to low consumption; And on Fridays, work at home was mandatory and consumption “outside the room” was reduced.

“We were the pioneers in teleworking and since then it is mandatory to work from home on Fridays. We save a lot because we turn off the air conditioning systems on Thursday and turn them on on Monday in the office,” says Raphael. Hernandez. Next, he said, is the introduction of renewable energies with the contribution of solar, geothermal and aerothermal. “This is a bet on the future. We will reduce the electricity bill and eliminate gas consumption, because we only use it to create heat and control humidity. We will save a million euros a year,” he says. They are waiting for subsidy with European funds.

The crisis in non-renewable energy prices coincides with an international debate about the role of museums in climate law. They present themselves as institutions more concerned with the past than the future, but climate change is much more than a mere environmental or scientific concern. “It affects all aspects of social, cultural, political and economic life, as well as museums,” they say Association of Museums for Climate Action. This organization is committed to the trust generated by these centers to “inspire real change in society”. “Museums are no longer relics of the past, but are increasingly being called upon to help shape a more just and sustainable future for all,” they add. They suggest three action verbs: rethink, reimagine, and mobilize.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2019 and recently proposed through the project “Mobilizing Museums for Climate Action.”“, five approaches for museums to help “whole societies rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions”. They warn that museums need to understand how climate change will affect them in order to “prepare their practices, locations, programming and their collections. for the future.” The pressing challenges of a warming planet couldn’t be further from your imagined world.

January 2020 Horniman Museum and Gardens (opened 1901 in Forest Hill, London) Launched the Climate and Environmental Manifesto In which they detailed plans to minimize waste, reduce pollution and invest in environmental research. They said these long-standing institutions have a “moral and ethical imperative to act now” to combat global warming.

Henry McGee is a sustainability researcher for future museums and Just posted a guide So that these centers, in addition to libraries, archives and galleries, comply with protocols and generate awareness of complicity in mitigating climate change. Activities range from education, training, transparency, participation or the creation of an international support network. Promotion of public awareness activities on climate change and sustainability management stands out among the proposals. These international organizations demand that museums assume their responsibility as key actors and advocates for the future of the planet and society.

Source: El Diario

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