This energy co-op is generating clean energy while tackling fuel poverty
Operating in the traditionally male dominated energy services arena, BHESCo (Brighton and Hove Energy Services Cooperative) is an organisation led by women bringing a new approach to the reduction of carbon emissions in the UK. The not for profit cooperative was set up to address one of the major sustainability challenges: how do we reduce our carbon emissions while ensuring that households currently living in fuel poverty (10% in England) can afford to adequately heat their homes?
“BHESCo is all about looking at the big picture and offering a grass roots, integrated service,” said Kayla Ente, CEO and founder of BHESCo. “I set the business up to bring the community together, strengthening our social bonds, taking real action to solve the climate crisis and alleviate fuel poverty.”
The need to rapidly decarbonise our economy means that our energy industry is in a period of radical transition and a lack of government incentives is inhibiting the growth of low carbon generation. Technologies such as solar panels, heat pumps and biogas from food waste plants would enable households and organisations to generate their own sustainable energy in their own communities, increasing resilience and reducing reliance on fuels that enflame volatility and violence.
BHESCo’s aim is to kick start community-based, sustainable energy generation by removing any financial barriers to decarbonisation while also ensuring that vulnerable households have access to energy saving advice and financial help to improve their living conditions.
In the UK, 29% of our energy consumption – and therefore our CO2 emissions – comes from domestic usage. Most of this energy is used for heating and hot water.
“In reality, this percentage should be higher as there are many people who cannot afford the amount of energy they need to stay warm over the winter months,” said Dr Garry Felgate, Non-Executive Director of BHESCO. “I joined the Board of BHESCo because it offers the best example I have seen of squaring this circle. It drives down energy consumption to save the planet and makes energy affordable to provide everyone with a decent quality of life.”
Through its inclusive business model, BHESCo works with individual households, organisations and businesses to offer the following services:
- Energy surveys and consultancy on the most cost-effective solutions for individual properties
- Project management of the installation of renewable energy and energy efficiency technology using trusted installers
- Ownership and operation of renewable energy systems to generate electricity and heat for the community
- A variety of finance plans for renewable energy generation including an innovative ‘Pay as You Save’ model where BHESCo funds the initial costs of a project and the customer repays those costs over time using a portion of the savings achieved on monthly energy bills. Once repaid, the customer receives the full financial benefit of the savings.
- Impartial advice on energy bills and help with regularly switching energy supplier
- Use of grant funding and donated investor returns to help vulnerable households stay warm
Since 2015, BHESCo has completed 42 major energy projects and delivered 700 energy surveys, which collectively save over 321 tonnes of CO2 every year. Between October 2018 and March 2019, BHESCo energy advisors spoke to 520 local residents, helping to save a combined £35,026 on their energy bills.
BHESCo was founded in Brighton in 2012 by Kayla Ente, a qualified accountant with an MBA in Environmental Management. Following work at Greenpeace and Ecofys – a Dutch consultancy specialising in energy efficiency and renewable energy, Kayla recognised that energy was treated as a commodity rather than a service. This meant that the energy industry didn’t provide its customers with the same levels of service and engagement as other sectors such as banking and retail. She identified this as a gap in the market and the idea for BHESCo was formed.
Based in Brighton and Hove, BHESCo has the expertise to scale its offer throughout England. Ultimately, BHESCo aims to help other communities around the country start their own energy co-ops, expanding on the ‘local energy’ model and bringing the ownership of energy resources to residents across the UK.
Please see BHESCo’s current investment opportunity and find out how you can get involved in helping them raise £500,000 in people powered finance to enable 9 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to go ahead in the Brighton, Hove and Lewes area, whilst investors can target annual returns of 5%. With investments of this type your capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed.
Diane Smith is Operations Director at BHESCo.