Current directors

The Network can have up to 9 Directors on the Board. Our current Directors are:

Ruzanna Chitchyan  

Dr Ruzanna Chitchyan is an Associate Professor of Software Engineering at the University of Bristol, an EPSRC research fellow on Living with Environmental Change and  a member of the Cabot Institute for the Environment.

She has worked on energy and sustainability topics since 2011. For instance, she has researched and developed new energy services solutions (e.g., peer-to-peer trading and demand-response services), researched skills needs for transition to smart local energy systems for the city of Bristol, and co-developed the international Manifesto on Sustainability Design (with over 200 signatories from across the world – from Ghana to USA).

At BEN Dr Chitchyan works on improving collaboration between BEN and University of Bristol in fostering transition to net zero and helping to develop solutions for training provision and upskilling for this transition.

Kirsty Hammond

I’ve grown up all my life in Hartcliffe and have my own first-hand experience of how the inequality here is systemic and transgenerational. I work for a charity called Heart of BS13 working across the life course in BS13 supporting the community to produce a community climate action plan.
My role as Heart of BS13’s Climate Action Practitioner has catapulted me onto my own journey, and it’s been so powerful to share what I’ve been learning about low carbon futures and green economy jobs with young people who have their own dreams and ambitions for how they will play their part in a changing world.
I am passionate about supporting people to reach their full potential by ensuring there are equal opportunities for them to access services to tackle the inequalities faced here.
Working alongside BEN over the last year my confidence and learning has also grown which has helped me support residence in BS13 facing fuel poverty being a platform for their voices to be heard. In 2021 BEN nominated me as their Global Goal Hero7- Clean affordable energy and now joining the Board as a director I will bring my energy, creative thinking and experience to the team from an area of Bristol that often gets left behind.

Mark Leach

Mark has worked in varied roles across public, private and charitable sectors.

Over a decade in local government has included coordinating the 2015 European Green Capital bid, supporting the Bristol 2015 company, managing the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, working on climate change policy, land-use planning policy, and providing BCC support to Bristol Energy Network, other community energy organisations and Bristol’s Community Strategy for Energy.

His background includes training and development, community development, and community and stakeholder engagement and consultation.

Mark is currently organising the Clean Air for Bristol engagement programme for Bristol City Council.

Laura Penny

Laura has worked in sustainability and energy utilities since 2011, across the public and private sectors in Bristol. Before launching her own consultancy business, Laura worked for Bristol Energy Limited as Innovation and Strategy Manager. She has developed and managed EU and UK grant funded energy innovation projects, motivated by an enthusiasm for smarter greener energy systems and community resilience. Laura also established Bristol’s No Cold Homes steering group, a collective of multidisciplinary organisations working together to alleviate fuel poverty.

Laura is a vocal advocate for empowering individuals and communities to enact positive change and an avid champion for social equity and energy justice, always ensuring that those who may benefit the most from innovative solutions aren’t left behind. She holds an MSc in sustainable environmental management and is also a Trustee for the West of England Rural Network.

Anastasia Psychari

I am a Lead Solar Developer with approximately 15  years  of experience. I hold a Master’s Degree in Electrical Power Engineering with Business and a Bachelor’s Degree with Honors in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. I have worked on a variety of solar PV projects the last 15 years , all projects  from early stage development to late stage development, construction and commission. My day to day responsible is to manage a team of individuals whistle bring sites from a feasibility stage all the way to construction and commission .  My solar PV sites vary from ground mount solar PV, roof mount Solar PV, Floating PV and early stages for wind. I also participate in European projects for Horizon 2020 around STEM education for young children.

I am originally from Athens , I have a little young daughter that I admire and I spent most of free time doing activities with her. In the summer I am one of the instructors/ dancers for the St Pauls Carnival, Pride and Harbourside festival in Bristol. As you can see  I am a very sociable, self-motivated and  well-organized and I enjoy assisting where possible.  Looking forward to be part of BEN and develop amazing projects together.

Robert Smart

I am an environmentalist, SuperHome (Think Bristol Green Open homes!) owner (achieved over 70% carbon reductions through behavioural change and technology combined), researcher, sole-trader with 25 years’ experience of sustainability within a public- service organisation. New to Bristol, I bring experience of how to run a successful, constituted, community environmental organisation over twenty-years and have delivered low carbon innovation, saving over £250,000 per year, with a projected efficiency saving of over £2,000,000 on projects already in the ground and an expected payback on investment of under 3 years. I have trained as a Low Carbon Retrofit Coordinator and have delivered practical refit at scale.

Aisha Stewart

Aisha moved to Bristol from Canada in June 2016 after completing her degree at the University of Waterloo. She recently completed a Certificate in Sustainability and Behaviour Change where she deepened her interest in understanding how to create effective projects to encourage more sustainable behaviours. 

Building on her passion for sustainability, she joined Wessex Water in August 2021 as their Sustainability Adviser supporting and delivering projects that drive the business’ ambition to be net zero.

Prior to this role, she was working in the Energy Service at Bristol City Council. She was part of a team responsible for delivering domestic energy efficiency measures such as solar PV, loft insulation and more to households across the city. Additionally, she led on the development of Bristol’s Fuel Poverty Action Plan, which is aimed at providing a strategic roadmap for tackling fuel poverty in the city and ensuring a just energy transition. As part of that work, she connected with a range of organizations across the region to raise awareness on existing support services available for households in fuel poverty as well as leading on bids for new projects and services.

Peter Thomas

Peter has been studying and working in areas related to energy and sustainability for the last 12 years. During this time he has helped launch the UK’s leading electric vehicle charging map and has led the deployment of dozens of renewable energy systems at domestic, commercial and utility-scale across England, Wales and East Africa. He studied Climate Change and Energy Management at the University of the West of England and Sustainability and Adaptation at the Centre for Alternative Technology before completing his PhD on access to energy in refugee camps in Rwanda at Bristol University. He joined the BEN board in May 2023.


The 2022 AGM was held on Tuesday 29th November online. Please see our 2022 Director’s Report for a round up of BEN’s work this year.

Read about the 2020 AGM in this blog post and see the 2020 Directors Report

AGM 2019

AGM 2018

AGM 2017

Notes from earlier AGMs can be accessed from the ‘past events’ listings.

Board meetings

Board meetings are held regularly, usually on the first Wednesday of the month, to review activities of the CIC and ensure good governance.


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