People are demanding more from their energy providers.
We want to know where the electricity and gas is coming from, how clean and renewable it is and how much it is going to cost us.
And with good reason too. Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion protests that brought London to a standstill last month have turbocharged the conversation on climate change. Prices have also shot up – Ofgem announced that the default tariff price cap would increase by £117 in January while even poverty-battling charity Citizens Advice recognised the price rises as “inevitable”.
But perhaps more people fed up with the Big Six and paying more to heat their home could ask another question: how can energy firms do more to help the communities they power?
That final question is one of the things that sets Bristol Energy apart. Unlike the giants who dominate the industry, the firm answers to a local authority as it is owned by Bristol City Council.
The idea is simple: provide clean, renewable energy at a sustainable price to people all around the UK with the profits returning to the council.
Local authority funding has taken a battering in recent years with cash from central government dwindling amid a sea of cuts. In Bristol, councillors had to find savings of £34m for their recently approved budget while there is a projected £108m deficit by 2023.
Anything to boost the council coffers is welcome – and that’s why Bristol’s local authority opted to set up the gas and electricity supplier in 2016.
Since then, they have attracted customers across the UK with firm plans to become profitable by 2021 – and that money will then be ploughed back into Bristol.
But it’s not just about the cash, according to interim managing director Marek Majewicz.
We are proud to say the estimated value put back into the Bristol community is £7m this financial year.
“Bristol Energy is forging ahead with its plan to support Bristol City Council in creating a different kind of energy provider: one which has the community at its heart and focuses on driving profits for a purpose,” he says.
“From local job creation to staff volunteer days, carbon reduction activities and wellbeing initiatives such as training mental health first aiders, we are proud to say the estimated value put back into the Bristol community is £7m this financial year.”
That people-focused approach is evident in how they have fared in consumer rankings. Citizens Advice rated Bristol Energy the sixth best customer provider for customer service.
They fared almost as well in the energy supplier satisfaction survey by Which?, coming in sixth out of 30 firms while 92 per cent of their customers rated their phone service as excellent or good.
It’s not just customers who benefit either. Bristol Energy’s vow to be a force for social good has powered link-ups with homelessness charity Caring in Bristol as well as fundraising to help LinkAge tackle social isolation.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
But it is in the battle to save the planet and to end fuel poverty where Bristol Energy can have the most impact. The firm has vowed to get “greener as they go” and, so far, 75 per cent of the electricity provided on the default tariff is from renewable sources while they have voluntarily signed up to offer the Warm Homes Discount.
For the more green-focused customer there is also an option of a 100 per cent renewable electricity and green gas tariff.
As for fuel poverty, Bristol Energy are the driving force behind an action group aiming to ensure there are no cold homes in Bristol by 2028 – ending the heat-or-eat decision for 25,000 households in the city.
The next step for the firm is to develop a new sustainable, decarbonised energy infrastructure to Bristol as well as launching their new smart offering and app and teaming up with The Big Issue.
We all have the power to make the changes needed to make the country and the world a better place. And smart ideas like Bristol Energy can play a part in that brighter future.
Save cash and the planet with The Big Issue Green tariff from Bristol Energy. Fix energy costs for two years and receive 100 per cent renewable electricity and 15 per cent green gas. More details at bristol-energy.co.uk/big-issue