AGM 2020

On the 4th of November 2020, the Bristol Energy Network held its Annual General Meeting online (you can watch on youtube if you missed it!), in which all those involved with BEN were able to reflect on the year’s events and what to look forward to in the coming years.

You can download the Directors report here:

BEN Directors report 2020


Guest Blog by Felix Hall – University of Bristol Placement student


Host Introduction 

As chair, Caroline Bird delivered the director’s report, detailing what BEN has been doing over the last year, given that it’s been a strange year. Project funding has supported the coordinator role, project worker and for a while a communications officer.

Special mention was awarded to the collaboration with CSE and the Warm Homes Advice and Money project who are focussing on reaching across the city to individuals who might not have been reached otherwise. Other projects mentioned include SONNET by Bristol City Council who are attempting to find innovative ways to finance energy efficiency and renewable investment in buildings in Bristol. This was a project that started just before the lockdown, and so we are still thinking about the best way to do community engagement on this. However, we are beginning by engaging with building managers.   BEN was also shortlisted for the Best Community Initiative in the Annual Regen award. 

In a chaotic year that included engagement with Bristol Energy Innovation team, launching Toolkit with Bristol City Council, as well as developing energy champions projects, BEN attended the climate strike in March with a stall on College Green. The energy champions enabled interaction with wider parts of the community, especially students, reflected in the placement scheme provided by BEN with students of the University of Bristol, coordinated by Emilia Melville. 

The conference in November had 140 people, it was really excellent and we would have loved to have done it again this year, but sadly that wasn’t possible due to the pandemic.


Financial Brief

Following Caroline, Sam provided a brief financial summary of the last year which showed an evaluation of revenue and costs that led to a surplus of £2,267. Various funding sources were credited including: Replicate Project, WHAM, Community Energy England, Bristol Energy, University of Bristol and Bristol City Council. A bonus of this was that a large portion of this capital went to organisations beyond BEN, which goes to highlight the integral relations of this network. Accounts will be available online shortly.


Director voting

There were seven candidates for five positions on the board, four new candidates and three standing for re-election.  All seven had a lot to bring to the organisation.

Mark Leach, Paul Phare and Robert Smart were re-elected, and Faustina Atipoka Awane and Laura Penny were newly elected to the board. Contratulations and welcome to our new directors. You can read about all directors here.


A celebration of BEN


Since it is the 10-year anniversary since the founding of BEN it seems only appropriate that we reflect on the past decade to see how the organisation has evolved from its conception. Dave Tudgey and Dan Narayanan reflected on the history of the network, firstly noting the importance of taking responsibility for our energy usage rather than accepting it. It was from this notion that Dave Tudgey, Dan Narayanan and Paul Adams got a group together to initiate a climate change group around the city of Bristol. In 2012 Dan went travelling and met Jake Barnes, and quickly BEN was able to bring together other community groups with those who knew little about energy. 

2013-14 were described as consolidation years where BEN was able to focus on a Bristol community strategy with considerable mention to Bridget Newbury who present on the call and was able to detail her notable ‘recipe for a BEN cake’. As years went on funding for more projects were available with CHEESE thermal imaging project being spoken about briefly alongside the project Solar Tree which was described as ‘symbolic and iconic’. Martin Fodor talked through strategizing BEN further in 2016, noting the importance was for a bottom-up approach.

Caroline spoke about the growth of BEN in the more recent years, highlighting the extensive engagement with further organisations and communities. There was a focus on how BEN is perceived now of a network of communities actually thinking and doing something for energy, rather than a community energy organisation. The diversity of newer members was also welcomed through Bristol Community Energy Fund. It was said that BEN played a considerable role in ensuring enough money was coming through the community groups such as BEN ensuring that applicants for the energy fund was representative and diverse. 

More recently, Caroline detailed projects such as REPLICATE, BSST, and not to mention Toolkit which thinks about engaging with energy within the community. BEN can be proud of the work it has done throughout the decade, and it is refreshing to see that our efforts are being awarded since Bristol was the first UK council to make a climate emergency declaration. 


Member Stories


With limited time to get through the agenda, the evening moved to looking and engaging with the stories of member groups who were able to share a little about them. Each member gave a one-minute speech, providing key information about each member. The member stories included accounts from: CHEESE, Owen square, Bedminster Energy group, Clifton Climate Action, RE:Work and Ambition Lawrence Weston. All member’s stories emphasised the significance of improving fuel poverty and running activities to support residents’ access to government funds. 


A look to the next 10 years … 


As we approached the end of the evening a look to the next 10 years allowed some discussion for the scope and policy changes of the network. Rebecca Windemer affirmed that policy changes are imminent. We need to be in position to influence the policy to ensure projects are as easy as possible. Helping with these listed policies were students from the university of Bristol which should bring some fresh thinking into the policy changes and strategizing what policy consultations BEN should respond to. 


With regard to changes in policy, Karn Shah proposed a move away from transactional, grant-focused delivery, toward a shared solution-focused network. Additionally, moving forward as an organisation, it was agreed that BEN needed to be representative of Bristol in its staffing as well as its engagement with the community.


A recap of the strategy of Ben’s collaboration with Bristol City Leap was talked about and given a short run down. Essentially BEN and consortium of local partners are attempting to get Bristol to carbon neutral by 2030. They will do this by creating an agent that helps commuters deliver their own carbon reduction projects either by projects taking forward themselves, or funds that Bristol citizens can deliver their projects. Presently, Find development partner, there is a plan/proposal that can be taken to city leap’s final bidders (3 bidders that council will engage with) and out of those 3 they will choose which proposal to carry forward. 


Group Activity and Key Note listeners 


To round off an evening where there was so much that could have been said, the group activity ensured that all participants could discuss what we have learnt about history of BEN’s last 10 years, how BEN can support you in contributing to Bristol’s climate emergency objectives, what do you see as the greatest strengths in BEN’s foundation, how does BEN need to change so it can continue to develop and have a positive impact in the city? Following this the key note listeners were able to constructively feedback their thoughts and discussions; a summary of each breakout rooms feedback is listed below:


  • Group 1: Spoke of the 5 S’s: supporting members, sharing knowledge, signposting to opportunities, strategic thinking inwardly, scaling up activities 
  • Group 2: There is huge potential to unlock and impact de-carbonisation, empowerment and understanding what is actually possible. Making climate change relevant for people’s day-to-day life and keeping people connected
  • Group 3: There’s lots to do still in next decade, question of how BEN can guide what groups can be doing, recognition of need for external narrative and what they do, and act as a sort of directory 
  • Group 4: BEN very good at looking at what is changing and politics of emergent change. BEN should have a lot of confidence in what they’re doing. Focus on the big aim of Bristol being carbon neutral and how BEN can support the process of exponential growth, not knocking 3 times but once on people’s doors. 
  • Group 5: Pushing out, focus on not leaving anyone behind. BEN relied on people coming forward, needs now for BEN to engage outwardly


In other news…


During the course of the AGM, voting for upcoming board members was carried out and sadly BEN said goodbye to Karn Shah and Jake Barnes who are standing down. However, BEN can welcome two new directors Faustina and Laura whilst also worth mentioning that Robert Smart, Mark Leach and Paul Phare all being re-elected. BEN also welcomes student placements: Felix Hall, Grace Spalton-Woods and Rhianna Murgatroyd.