, , ,

Sonya Bedford: Journeys To Net-Zero


In the run up to International Women’s Day 2024, we spoke to Carbon Copy Advisory Board member Sonya Bedford, about her journey working in the community energy sector.

I have been privileged to play a part in some amazing journeys, both in my career and in my voluntary work. Over the last 18 years, I’ve been involved as a lawyer in over 300 solar farms, 20 wind farms, offshore wind projects and lots of renewable energy projects in between. Community energy has been a huge focus too, leading to a place on the board of seven community energy organisations (way too many really!!)

I chose to focus on renewable energy as this seemed like the best way to make a difference in society. Looking back, a pivotal moment for me was the decision to become educated in renewable energy technology and taking  a MSc in renewable energy at the Centre for Alternative Technology, after a lifelong love of CAT. This led to a consultancy job with Bristol City Council, supporting the council in a transformative partnership that is setting the stage for other cities to follow.

This complex project, which saw the council launch a 20-year partnership with US energy firm Amaresco and Swedish energy business Vattenfall, marks a significant milestone in Bristol’s journey to become the first city in the UK to decarbonise its entire estate. More than £400 million of initial funding will be invested in infrastructure during the next few years, aiming to reduce Bristol’s carbon footprint by 140,000 tonnes!

When this project was handed over to the successful bidders in January 2023, I joined Vattenfall Heat UK as a consultant to continue to deliver both the operational heat network in Bristol and to ensure social value delivery from Vattenfall’s operations in Bristol. Further planned projects include the expansion of the head network, which aims to improve access to low-carbon heat from sustainable sources for homes and businesses, as well as a new £1.5m Community Energy Development Fund for local communities. All this exciting work is alongside my legal practice with Spencer West, which also includes assisting in renewable energy delivered particularly for communities.

Bringing the community into the fold – ensuring that the citizens of Bristol and the wider area not only reap the benefits of carbon savings but also job creation and skill development – is a great feeling. Projects as big as Bristol City Leap or as small as local community energy co-ops are all great examples of innovation, collaboration and environmental stewardship – journeys to net-zero that we can all play our different parts in.

Sonya is a partner at renowned legal firm Spencer West, sits on the board of seven community energy groups, is a non-executive director of Regen and is also a Trustee of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). She is one of the founders of the innovative and ambitious Zero Carbon Wedmore group and was awarded an MBE for services to community energy.

Recommended from Carbon Copy