Five minutes with BHESCo’s Founder and CEO, Kayla Ente
Who are BHESCo?
BHESCo stands for Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative. We’re a not-for-profit social enterprise helping local homeowners and businesses to reduce energy bills and cut down their carbon emissions. Our office is on the 3rd floor at Pier Werks on the Old Steine in Brighton.
To date, we’ve completed forty-four community energy projects around Sussex, all financed by investors from the local community who receive 5% interest on their investment. It’s a terrific way of doing something for the planet by offsetting your carbon emissions in a community energy business model.
Raising funds in this way means we can bridge the affordability gap for customers, helping them to avoid the upfront costs that prevent people who want to do the right thing by taking up improvements to their properties that will reduce their carbon emissions, enabling everyone to take action on climate change.
The Werks Group have been pioneers in tackling carbon emissions from their properties. We have worked with them on six sites already, installing a variety of technologies including solar panels, LED lighting and energy saving heating and controls. Combined, The Werks Group saves 18 tonnes of carbon emissions each year, or 46,210 miles driven in a passenger car.
BHESCo’s biggest ever installation of solar panels at Saltdean Primary School
What have you been up to recently?
BHESCo just finished installing our largest solar power project to date, 181 solar panels at Saltdean Primary school. The same week we completed a 180 panel project at Varndean College.
These two systems will save the schools £150,000 on energy bills over the next 25 years, reducing carbon emissions by 469 tonnes over the lifetime of the solar panels. To put that into perspective, that’s the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions as you would expect from driving over a million miles by car! The schools save money while offsetting carbon emissions from transport by their staff and students.
Last week we attended the hugely successful opening launch of the Unity Centre Health and Wellbeing Centre in Lewes, where BHESCo oversaw the installation of underfloor heating powered by an air source heat pump, ventilation and LED lighting systems. The Unity Centre was keen on converting the old Victorian Turkish Bath House to an eco-friendly spa, which was no mean feat! We were delighted to support them in achieving their goal.
BHESCo’s second biggest solar panel installation at Vardean College
What have you got coming up for the rest of the year?
In the pipeline are rooftop solar power systems for several other local schools as well as a Baptist church in Horsham, all of which we hope to have installed in the coming weeks. We are designing 5 Eco houses with solar panels, battery storage and electric charging points for cars.
True to our commitment to serve our community, we are gearing up for our winter fuel poverty alleviation programme. Each winter we provide one-to-one energy advice at food banks and community support centers around Brighton and Hove to help our residents who struggle to heat their homes and to pay their fuel bills.
Around one in every ten homes in Brighton and Hove is living in fuel poverty, and we are doing everything we can to address this problem. Since 2015, we’ve helped 1,500 residents to collectively save over £100,000 on their energy bills and we look forward to continuing this important work this winter.
On a more light-hearted note, BHESCo have been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2019 Community Energy England Awards which take place in London in October, so wish us luck that we can bring another trophy to add to our collection at Pier Werks.
We have also just hired two incredibly talented new project managers, which will enable us to complete many more community funded clean energy projects around Sussex.
With 5% interest return annually, offset your carbon emissions in a community energy business model.
What does 2020 hold in store for BHESCo?
Next year we will be executing our plans to transition some of the homes in the village of Firle in East Sussex from oil heating to a shared renewable heat network. There are 80 properties in Firle, most of which rely on oil or bottled gas for heating. This project is an important demonstrator that we can create scalable projects to transition villages constructed before the 1900s off of dirty fossil fuels and onto a cleaner energy sources.
We will also be continuing with our plans to develop the UK’s first community owned ‘Food Waste To Community Energy’ plant near Brighton.
The hospitality sector in Brighton and Hove produces hundreds of tonnes of food waste every day. Instead of sending this to landfill we want to use this as fuel for an anaerobic digestor which will produce affordable gas for local homes in addition to fertilizer for local farmers.
We are focusing more on partnerships with industry to achieve our goal of delivering low carbon developments, assisting with building a more flexible electricity grid and delivering lower cost, clean energy to everyone. Life at BHESCo has always been an exciting ride, but we expect this next phase in our journey to see our co-operative elevated to another level of innovation and impact, demonstrating that the community energy sector has a vital role to play in achieving Low Carbon Britain.