Nominations for BEN Directors

BEN currently has 6 directors and can have up to 9 directors at any one time. Two directors are stepping down: Helen Powell and Charlotte Eddisford. At the AGM on Monday 10th December there is space for 5 new directors. Our call for new directors has been widely publicised and eight people have stepped forward to fill these spaces. Basic eligibility checks have been made against all candidates. Each candidate was asked to provide information about themselves and their suitability for the role, see below.

Membership of BEN is free and is open to anyone in Bristol and the surrounding area with an active interest in energy issues. The network has corporate, individual and third sector members. To maintain the grassroots and community values of the network only community and non-profit initiatives in Bristol and the surrounding area have the right to vote at our Annual General Meeting, which includes voting for new directors.
The nominations are as follows (in alphabetical order):


Aleksandra (Ola) Michalec: Dear BEN Members, Transforming energy sector is urgent and requires coordination of actors across various sectors and interest groups. Since Bristol City Council declared “climate emergency” motion last month, I believe now it’s a perfect time to increase our collaborative efforts. My background is environmental policy research (I am now close to submitting a PhD thesis), and although for the past 3 years I already worked closely with sustainability civil servants, businesses and community members, I still  believe there is room for improvement and nurturing these relationships.

I have first developed connection with BEN in July 2017, where I invited Dave Tudgey to participate in a focus group on smart meters. Since then, Dave was happy to involve deeper in the project: he participated in another workshop, helped to recruit participants and invited me to speak at BEN event. As a result, we co-authored an academic paper, which advocates for energy justice perspectives in smart meters implementation policies.

I would like to take this work further and emphasise the need for equitable decisions in the energy sector and BEN itself. While we’re investing in electric cars, smart home gadgets and solar panels, we ought to make sure we’re not leaving anyone behind.  Hope that BEN could be a great avenue to pursue this agenda.


Gary Weston: Firstly, my apologies for not being able to attend in person. my name is Gary Weston & I am the Chief Operating Officer of Orel UK, a division of Orel Corp, a global 3rd generation family business that has a manufacturing base in Sri Lanka & works on 6 continents with an annual turnover of in excess of $100 million. The fundamental operating policies of the company are aligned with Ben’s core values as are mine. I originally became involved with both BEN & BEC in June 2015 & volunteered to help out with property assessments & explanations to organisations the benefits of the Solar offering. I then met Dave & got involved in helping out at St Georges & UWE with the lightbulb bike & attended my first energy champions event invited by Sophie in July 2015. Like BEN I am passionate about energy, affordability, & efficiency & have recently won £650,000 of funding for COGOP (my Church group) to replace inefficient heating & supply renewable technologies to improve 10 of their buildings across the UK starting with Easton. I believe I could benefit being a director of BEN by bringing my passion, business experience & access to the renewables / efficiency marketplace which would assist BEN in helping with the 2030 carbon neutral city leap programme

Thank you for listening


Jane Wildblood: I’ve been head of environmental sustainability at B&NES Council since 2005, with a strong focus on local energy, helping Bath & West Community Energy get off the ground and developing B&NES Community Energy Strategy. I’ve also driven coordination of local authority low-carbon work in the West of England (WoE) and continue to play a key role in the development of the WoE Energy Strategy via WECA. Before local government, I spent 17 years working for Greenpeace as a campaigner, including developing and delivering Greenpeace’s first work on renewable energy in the UK. In my last few years I led Greenpeace UK’s whole campaigning output as Campaign Programme Director.

I’m passionate about the crucial role of community energy in tackling climate change, and about the power of bringing people together, sharing knowledge and enabling mutual support and development. I’ve admired BEN’s work from afar and would love to contribute the skills and perspective that I have gleaned from making change happen in the campaigning and local government fields. My key relevant skills include strategic thinking, influencing, negotiation, partnership working, public engagement and communication.  I have completed the Glass Lift Leadership programme (equivalent to ILM 5), which included basic training in the role of non-executive directors.


Karn Shah: I work as a civil engineer and project manager for the engineering consultancy Jacobs in the delivery of infrastructure projects, sales, business development and community engagement. Prior to this I worked in France developing an innovative construction method for onshore wind farms and supporting its business case, and in Peru on the development of affordable sanitation technologies for low-income households, setting up and supporting local sanitation businesses in the process. In Bristol my involvement with Bedminster Energy Group, both as a director to help it grow and as a volunteer to engage with the community, has allowed me to learn about the community energy sector and its key role in combating climate change from the ground up. As a Director of BEN, I’d like to combine my skills in technical project delivery and management, creative problem solving, and business development with my experience in a variety of sectors, disciplines and cultures to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to BEN, helping it play its part in meeting Bristol’s ambitious 2030 carbon neutral target.


Mark Leach: I have been involved with the Bristol Energy Network since 2012. Since its inception in 2010 I have been a supporter of the Network. I have observed its ability to be so much more than the sum of its parts and feel its critical and essential role in the city is highly significant, and if anything, undervalued in Bristol. It would be an honour to serve as a director and I believe I could bring useful knowledge and experience to the directorship. I was part of the team that helped get the Community Strategy for Energy completed and feel this was an important process and a useful outcome for the Network, its members and the city. I have particular knowledge of local government policy and of the way it works, of community involvement and stakeholder engagement, and a good, wide, general knowledge of sustainability and climate change contexts, policy and action. I would really like to be involved in helping BEN to progress to its next milestone and support the development of projects and membership and how Bristol meets its new 2030 target.   It’s going to be a challenging time for the Network, the city and the UK but I feel BEN can play a key role going forward and look forward to supporting that.


Paul Phare: Paul Phare’s experience with community energy goes back to the early 2000s where he helped deliver the first community owned wind farm in Scotland, the dancing ladies of Gigha.  In 2008 he joined Energy4All, and has helped communities to deliver many more projects.  As well as his wealth of direct experience, Paul also brings a commitment to the city of Bristol. Paul grew up in the West County, attended UWE in the 90s and Bristol has been home now for almost 4 years.  Previously, when Paul lived in Scotland, he founded the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-op with a local energy group that installed the largest community owned, solar roof project in the UK.  Paul project managed the entire process from concept to commission and this sums up his drive and commitment towards bringing communities together to do something positive and tangible about Climate Change.  Since moving back to Bristol, he has been involved on the Owen Square project in Easton.  Paul would like to join BEN and help Bristol meet the 2030 carbon neutral target by bringing the most benefit to local communities.


Rebecca Windemer: Hello, I’m Rebecca, I am a keen supporter of community energy and would like to use my experience and passion to help progress grassroots energy initiatives in Bristol. I’m currently undertaking PhD research looking at planning policy for onshore wind and solar. I have a background as a town planner and as part of my Masters level research I undertook a project looking at the challenges faced by community energy groups and the strategies used to overcome these. Through my research I have gained useful contacts within the industry and will soon be hosting an event in parliament that brings together MP’s to discuss a strategy for developing new onshore wind.

Bristol has an incredible community spirit and I would like to help ensure that we can achieve the aims of delivering energy that is renewable and affordable at a community level. I hope that my experience and contacts will be useful for BEN, particularly my understanding of the policy and planning system for renewables. I enjoy community outreach and most importantly I am extremely passionate about the vision of the organisation.


Robert Smart: Community lies at the heart of all endeavour and effective collaboration, organisation and board leadership will ensure we do not become disparate and compromised to deliver positive change.  One of the challenges of the transitional change required is safeguarding the voice of community such that it is not lost or misrepresented.  This why BEN is so important.

Trust and Language is key in making connections and encouraging greater engagement of underrepresented communities in local sustainability and developing connections to place, people and prosperity.

We need not just nudges and tweaks, but scale transformation, starting now. How we respond will define us as a generation. This urgency must be reflected by the network, the community and the city in partnership.

We must be ambitious, work effectively as a team, question and challenge the ambition of others within the city. I will work to achieve this.

I am an environmentalist, researcher, sole-trader with 25 years’ experience of public service.

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 £1,000,000 on projects already in the ground.