As we start a new year and a new phase in our programme of activities, on behalf of Afsheen and myself I would like to thank members of Community Energy England (CEE) for their support in helping us to pursue our vision of a thriving community energy sector integrated into and truly powering a fair, zero-carbon energy system. Creating a unified voice for the community energy sector would not be possible without the continued support of our members. In 2021, our membership grew to 280 and we engaged with even more individuals through our increased social media presence and online events programme. None of this would have been possible without our members, and for that we are grateful. Look out for our annual report, which we will be sending to members shortly with the key highlights (and frustrations!) of the last year.
As we begin 2022 and look to the future, myself and Afsheen are starting new personal chapters. I am delighted to announce that I will be going on maternity leave from the end of January, with Afsheen to follow on maternity leave from 1 March.
In preparation for this, we have been reassessing the organisation’s strategic priorities and developing a clear action plan that the team will be taking forward, based on member feedback. As ever, member input is critical so please do give your insights through our feedback form here or by chatting to me, the team or our board. We love to hear what you’re up to and how we can continue to increase our impact.
During my maternity leave, the chief executive role will be shared between Philip Coventry, Projects & Operations Manager, and Duncan Law, Policy & Advocacy Manager, who many of you will know already. They will be supported in this new role by our board and the CEE team, who will be welcoming two additions this year.
Our new Communications & Events Officer joined us last week. Kim Woodcock will be rolling out a programme of events as well as helping to amplify our policy & advocacy and the work of our members. Kim has a range of experience in online communications, blogs and websites, as well as events organisation and working with sponsors. Kim has been active for many years in various areas of campaigning and we are delighted she is going to bring her drive for social change and her range of skills to the work of CEE for the community energy sector. You can read Kim’s full bio and those of the other members of our team on our website here. If you would like to offer input to Kim or set up a discussion, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The team will also shortly be joined by a Networks & Learning Coordinator. This is a new one-year post established to work closely with our members, sector stakeholders and government officials to identify ways to support the community energy sector to grow. We will introduce them in a future newsletter.
Whilst Afsheen is on maternity leave, the CEE Board has recommended and agreed that Helen Seagrave will step in as Interim Chair and be supported by Pete Capener in his role as Deputy Chair.
We are delighted that Helen will be taking on the role of Interim Chair during Afsheen’s absence; Helen’s commitment to CEE and her experience on the board means she will provide stable and balanced stewardship of our organisation. Helen joined the board in 2019 and has chaired the CEE board’s governance committee since 2020. In this role, Helen has overseen a thorough review of CEE’s governance arrangements, an HR audit, and subsequent development of our internal policies.
Helen has worked in the environmental and energy sector in the North West for over 20 years. She specialises in community energy as the Community Energy Manager at Electricity North West (ENWL), where she is responsible for developing and delivering their stakeholder-led Community and Local Energy Strategy.
Before joining ENWL, Helen worked for a regional environmental sector development organisation, Envirolink, for over 10 years leading the development of their work to support the growth of the renewables sector in the North West. This included a secondment to the North West Regional Development Agency, where Helen was responsible for developing the North West regional strategy for development of the energy and environmental technology sector. Following this, Helen worked with the Greater Manchester and Cheshire and Warrington Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) through the Environmental Services Technical Advice project to provide expertise to the LEPs to prioritise action on the environment within their funding programmes.
Since joining ENWL in October 2017, Helen has been responsible for leading an engagement and support programme for the community and local energy sector in ENWL’s area, with the aim of supporting individual projects as well as developing the sector. This includes delivering the Powering our Communities fund and Zero Carbon Communities engagement workshops. Helen is a Chartered Environmentalist and has previously been on the board of the Manchester Climate Change Agency.
Those of you familiar with our bye-laws and articles may note that they state that a community member must be chair. This is very important to us as the representative body for community-led energy in England.
Due to the exceptional circumstances of both the Chair and Chief Executive going on maternity leave at the same time, we believe that there is a strong case for the role of Interim Chair to be opened up to a non-community member who is an existing board member. Following discussions at board level and with a number of members, we are confident that Helen is best-placed to take up this role. To ensure that CEE remains accountable to and truly representative of its members, board membership will continue to be composed mainly of community member representatives and Pete Capener (Bath & West Community Energy) will support Helen and the team in his role as Deputy Chair. You can see our full board and short bios here.
To enable Helen to take up the post of Interim Chair, CEE’s board has approved the following addition to our bye-laws:
"6.11 The Board may appoint a Chair from any of their number if the Chair (whether being a representative of the Community Members or otherwise) has their appointment terminated under Article 14.3 of the Articles, or otherwise ceases to be appointed. Such an appointment will last until the first Board meeting following the next Annual General Meeting at which the Board must appoint a representative of the Community Members as the Chair in accordance with Article 14.1 of the Articles (unless the requirements of Article 14.1 of the Articles have been disapplied by the Members in relation to that Board meeting)."
This will allow Helen to take on the role from our March board meeting up until the 2022 Annual General Meeting in June. A special resolution will then be put forward at the 2022 AGM to allow Helen to serve as CEE's chair until the following AGM. Members will have the opportunity during the AGM to discuss the proposal in more detail before voting.
Thank you again for all the support you have given us and the team. Please do get in touch if you have any concerns or queries, but we have full confidence in the new arrangements and are truly excited to see what CEE and the sector will have achieved whilst we are on maternity leave.
Emma and Afsheen