Bristol Energy Network is an umbrella organisation for individuals and community groups with an interest in energy in Bristol and the surrounding area.
Why do we exist?
Energy is an important aspect of all our lives. We use energy, such as electricity and gas, to heat our homes and buildings, heat water, cook our food and much more. However, our current energy system is not working:
- Many people cannot afford to pay for the energy they need
- Much of our energy is wasted, for example, a lot of heat is lost from our homes when they are not properly insulated
- Most energy comes from burning fossil fuels which not only creates climate change but also the extraction of fossil fuels destroys the planet and harms the communities who live nearby
- Our energy system is controlled by large companies and is run to make money rather than to benefit people
BEN members are working to create a new energy system that works for us all.
Our vision is a city where clean, green, affordable energy is delivered to the community by the community.
We believe that to build an energy system that works for everyone, everyone must be involved in building it. We are actively working to include all Bristol communities in our work and to support them to run their own energy projects.
What do we do?
BEN has over twenty members (groups and individuals) involved in many different energy projects, including:
- Assisting people struggling to pay their fuel bills by advising them on how to deal with debts to energy companies, finding the cheapest energy provider for their needs and accessing grants;
- Advising people and community organisations on how to reduce their energy use, both by changing their behaviour (eg not boiling more water than needed) and ensuring homes and community buildings are more energy efficient (eg insulation);
- Supporting the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, including raising money for and installing community-owned renewable energy projects (eg installing solar panels on community buildings);
- Education, campaigning and lobbying to push for the social and political change needed to create a fair and sustainable energy system.
BEN supports its members by:
- Sharing news and information through our newsletter, website and social media
- Acting as a conduit between members and other organisations
- Helping members share resources and ideas through regular meetings
- Building capacity through training, advice and support
- Community outreach to engage a wider range of people and groups in the network
BEN members are guided by the following values:
- For everyone – actively working to create an energy movement that reflects the diversity of Bristol communities and ensuring everyone has a chance to play a part in designing and carrying out the work;
- Open and honest – being accountable to those affected by our work by giving them the opportunity to be involved and openly sharing information about our activities;
- Community-led – communities, rather than private interests, lead the work and benefit from it;
- Sharing and supporting – working together, sharing learning and supporting each other to achieve shared goals.
The network is registered with Companies House as a Community Interest Company (CIC) (no. 9077917) limited by guarantee with a large membership. The network has two types of members: voting and non-voting members:
- Voting members consist of community initiatives in Bristol and the surrounding area with an active interest in energy
- Non-voting members consist of individuals and organisations interested in the activities of the network.
Membership is free and is open to non-profit organisations in Bristol and the surrounding area that are running energy related projects or have an active interest in energy issues. Voting members are entitled to attend all meetings and to vote on Bristol Energy Network resolutions at the Annual General Meeting and to vote to appoint new directors. However, our open meetings are open to all, individuals and non-member organisations are welcome to join and take part in developing and implementing project ideas.
BEN is member-led, therefore the network’s activities are informed by the needs and views of BEN members, who are consulted via BEN meetings, online surveys and other means. Members commit to sharing information and ideas via BEN meetings, the members email list and our monthly newsletter, and work together to achieve the network’s vision.
BEN has 9 board members, many of whom are part of member organisations. The board is responsible for the financial management of the organisation, as well as staff supervision, and works collectively with the staff to develop and direct the work of the BEN staff, which includes producing a monthly newsletter, organising meetings and events, project development support, community outreach and member recruitment. The role of BEN is to support the BEN membership.