Poverty and Inequality

08.04.19

Bristol City Council makes ‘reckless’ £9m investment into clean energy firm

Bristol City Council is to put a further £9m into its loss-making energy firm in a decision criticised as “reckless” and a “staggering waste of public money.”

The council has already invested £27m into Bristol Energy and now plans to inject nearly £9m over the next five years, along with a five-year business plan for the firm in a bid to tackle fuel poverty.

But the company posted financial losses totalling £19.6m in its first two years of trading and has come under fierce criticism from some councillors.

Green councillor Jerome Thomas called the investment a “staggering waste of public money” from the perspective of the average Bristol resident, whilst Lib Dem councillor Tim Kent has questioned the continued use of public money to bail out the firm.

Deputy mayor for finance Craig Cheney defended the energy firm which he said had seen its customer numbers grow significantly despite “extremely challenging market conditions.”

At the authority’s cabinet meeting, the five-year business strategy and spending plan was approved which Chesney said will enable the firm to “adapt and thrive” under new leadership and management.

Bristol Energy was set up in 2016 to provide ethically-sourced low-cost energy – with the original aim of returning a profit by 2019, a date which has now been pushed back until 2021.

The five-year plan prioritises doubling the social value created for Bristol, supporting the city’s bid to meet its carbon neutral targets, and to achieve profitability as soon as possible.

Last week the city council voted to move forward in the search for private sector partners to work on future energy projects in Bristol as part of the £1bn City Leap initiative.

Chesney added: “Fuel poverty is crippling and for many in Bristol the choice is stark; eat or heat. The support we have provided Bristol Energy to date reflects our commitment to tackle fuel poverty whilst also introducing cleaner energy to the market.”

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