A just energy transition – BEN conference 2019

BEN Director Robert Smart reports from our Energy Transition Conference 2019.

Over 140 people came to Bristol Energy Network’s 2019 conference, which was held on a bright autumn afternoon at City Hall.

Gathered together was a rich and diverse representation from Bristol’s civic community and representatives from local, regional and national organisations to discuss a just energy transition. These included our partners Community Energy England, Bristol Energy, The University of Bristol’s Inclusive Economy Initiative, Bristol City Council and the EnergyRev project from the University of Bristol.

You could tell that we achieved our aim from the buzz in the room during the workshop session and the networking at the end, where people across communities, sectors and areas of interest were talking about how they could work together to help the city meet its net zero target.

What an inspiring day it was – Kye Dudd from Bristol City Council set out a clear vision of what an inclusive economy (or a Green New Deal) might look like and discussed the potential community opportunities of City-LEAP. As always, he was a clear advocate for city-wide partnerships with social value and community involvement at the heart of formal contract requirements. I’m hopeful that BEN and its members will have some great opportunities for meaningful community energy involvement, and a potential mechanism for accessing funding for innovative community energy projects in the near future.

The day involved some rich and interesting perspectives, a diversity of cultural and community interests. Mark Pepper (Ambition Lawrence Weston) talked with humour and passion about the importance of language in the narrative of community energy engagement and partnerships that speak to (rather than at) community interests, and the value of getting involved in local planning.

Jazz Ketibuah-Foley provided the most thought-provoking moment for me, reflecting on how culture and place shape responses to the environment and community, and on the need to engage all interests in issues that will potentially determine all our futures.

There were talks from people representing many of our city’s organisations, from the University of Bristol to the TUC, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, funders Power to Change, advocacy organisation Power to People and Extinction Rebellion.

I emerged into the chilly autumn evening feeling that I’d witnessed the dawn of a new period of community support and collaboration, marking the start of a ten-year transitional period that will determine our collective future. The nature of this transition (how inclusive, fair and representative it is of our Bristol communities) will determine its success, measured by the One City Plan targets, aspirations and our declarations of a Climate Emergency.


A short report of the conference including videos of the speakers and a write-up of the workshops is here.