Kayla Ente - Founder & CEO of BHESCo

Kayla Ente, Staff portraits;
39-41 Surrey Street, Brighton;
12th November 2015.

©Pete Jones

Meet Kayla Ente, our founder and Chief Executive Officer

For as long as I can remember I have always loved nature.

My earliest childhood memories are of me sitting under a tree in the garden, foraging amongst the flora and fauna and discovering the mysteries of the natural world.

My favourite lesson in school was biology, and my favourite TV programme was ‘The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau’. I will forever remember watching footage about coral bleaching and deciding that I wanted to do everything I could to protect wildlife and our natural environment.

Kayla Ente - CEO and Founder Brighton Hove Energy Services Coop - BHESCo - Jaques Cousteau

Many years later, after I had finished college, I landed a job working for Greenpeace but soon realised that campaigning was not the route I was looking for to achieve my goals.

It was whilst working at Greenpeace that I decided to concentrate on energy as an issue as I saw this as a key driver of global climate change that could be addressed at the local level.

This decision led me to work for a company called Ecofys, a Dutch consultancy who specialise in energy efficiency and renewable energy. What was apparent to me was how ‘energy’ tended to be treated as a commodity instead of as a service. This meant that the energy industry did not provide its customers with the same levels of service and engagement as would be expected from other sectors such as banking or retail. I took note of the widespread consumer detachment and could see a gap in the marketplace.

I have never accepted existing convention and I soon began to feel that providing energy to customers as a service, as opposed to a product, was a truly new and innovative idea. This is why BHESCo today is all about offering a holistic and ongoing relationship with our customers, instead of simply completing a single standalone project with a customer and then moving on.

I knew that most people were concerned about climate change and wanted to take action but that they often felt overwhelmed about what to do.

Climate change is such a huge and intimidating threat that it is easy for people to feel hopeless and isolated – that’s why I started BHESCo, so that people can come together in the confidence that they are part of a collective movement taking real action to solve the climate crisis.

It was clear that ‘business as usual’ was not working, for people or for the planet. I wanted to start a business that did things differently, one that focused on people and communities instead of always looking to the bottom line. I saw the co-operative model as a striking alternative to capitalism, as a way of doing business with a duty of care for the community.

Kayla Ente Solar PV Dyke Road Golf Club Brighton Hove Energy Services Cooperative
Kayle Ente celebrating the installation of a 7.7kW solar PV array at Dyke Golf Club, 2016

It was obvious to me that because renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies last for such a long time (on average 20 years) there must be a way to extract continued value for an investor over the equipment’s lifetime. Unfortunately, most investors are looking for a quick and easy return and do not consider investments in clean energy projects to be attractive enough.

This is why i developed BHESCo’s ‘Pay As you Save‘ financial model, which delivers both a quick return for investors as well as an extended period of benefit over the long-term, for investors and for project customers.

I knew that the real driver to getting both investors and property owners onboard with the clean energy revolution would be through economics. If clean energy makes the most economic sense then people will naturally gravitate to that choice.

Once I had a clear vision in mind of the type of business I wanted to start I decided to take a risk.

I walked away from a good salary and set to work establishing the foundations of what would soon become Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo).

during the three years spent settnig up the co-operative I didn’t have any salary at all, but believe me the sacrifice was all worth it.

Four years later and we have now completed 42 community energy projects that save our customers £67,000 a year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 234 tonnes annually – and believe me when I say we are just getting started!

Invest In Community Energy - Brighton Hove Energy Services - BHESCo
Kayla Ente (middle, stripes) celebrating a new solar PV array with stakeholders of the Hollingdean Community Centre, 2017

We are always looking to the future at BHESCo and we are very excited about some major changes that will affect the sector in the coming years.

With the removal of the Feed-in-Tariff in April 2019, we will developing more renewable heat projects in order to take advantage of the Renewable Heat Incentive.

We are very engaged with the potential data insights offered by smart meters, which will enable us to help our customers make informed decisions about their energy improvements based upon detailed and accurate data. We are also excited about the introduction of ‘Time Of Use’ tariffs which smart meters facilitate, and how these will be co-opted with the ‘Internet of Things’ and the growth of electric vehicles to fundamentally alter the way that people use and engage with energy.

Ultimately, what drives me the most is a wish to help other communities around the country to start their own energy co-ops, expanding on the ‘local energy’ model and bringing more democratic ownership of our energy resources to residents across the UK.

I believe that together we can bring an end to the old centralised way of doing things and replace it with a democratic, accountable, and above all local ownership model, enabling communities to develop an energy sector that serves their interests and is consistent with our climate change mitigation commitments.

Kayla Ente is BHESCo’s primary project manager and designer of the economic model that is employed in all of our community energy projects.

Kayla is a qualified accountant and has an MBA in Environmental Management from the TIAS Business School in the Netherlands.

Kayla was recently profiled as a judge for the annual Sussex Life Awards, and was also featured in Women In Leadership magazine.

Listen to a 2017 interview in which Kayla Ente talks about her experiences setting up the co-operative in Brighton and Hove