Our history

Switched on since 1979

CSE came into being in 1979, though in those days we were called the Urban Centre for Appropriate Technology (UCAT). We began as a sister organisation to the widely known and well-respected Centre for Alternative Technology, and have always been based in Bristol where we are putting down strong roots in the community.

Our 40th anniversary

“Life really does begin at 40. Up until then, you’re just doing research”

In 2019 we marked our 40th anniversary, and we took heart from Carl Jung's words above!

You can read Simon Roberts' thoughts from January 2019 on why we’re optimistic about the year ahead: Scale up, speed up, start up; inspiring change in 2019.

Roy Kareem, who manages our environmental leadership programme for young people, Bright Green Future - and who also turns 40 this year - wrote a piece for this website reflecting on what this milestone means for both him and CSE: A few truths about the big Four-O

We held a 40th anniversary conference in June, attended by over 200 people. You can download the presentations from the many excellent speakers here and read some of the feedback (much of it pretty glowing - thanks, people!) here. One of the speakers, Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley, gave a particularly well-received presentation on the lack of representation in environmental movements of people from BME backgrounds and what we should be doing to rectify this shortcoming. Her presentation is reproduced as a blog here.

Our 30th anniversary

In 2009 we celebrated our 30th anniversary. It was interesting to note that many of the issues facing the world in 1979 – looming economic crisis, oil price shocks, concerns about environmental limits to growth – are still with us.

Despite this we were (and still are!) able to see signs of hope: new commitments to radical cuts in UK carbon emissions; a major push on renewable energy; and an enhanced role for communities in the shift to a sustainable energy.

Simon Roberts, CSE’s Chief Executive said “We used our anniversary to share our 30 years of experience and show how the best of our work can stimulate and support the sweeping transformation needed to tackle climate change and end fuel poverty.”

And looking back on the moment a generation ago when four people got together in a pub to develop the idea which became CSE, he added: “Without their initial spark, CSE would not now be in the position where we can genuinely help to turn these national commitments into practical, deliverable initiatives and to support communities and local authorities to realise their ambitions for a low carbon future.”

To mark our 30th anniversary we published a small book called Switched on since 1979.

On 30 June we held our 30th anniversary conference at the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol. Attended by around 200 people, it was entitled Shaping a (local) sustainable energy future: the next steps. And we rounded off the year with a 30th anniversary policy workshop at the Coin Street Community Centre, Southwark, London on 30 November. This took the theme of ‘energy justice’: prospects for fairness in UK climate policy and was attended by policy-makers and industry insiders.

Hugh Barton is one of CSE's founders. Founding Faith is his personal reflection on the the politics, the philosophy and the people surrounding CSE's foundation in 1979. Download it here.


Our 25th anniversary

In 2004 we published ‘Shaping a Sustainable Energy Future’, detailing seven lessons we had learned and (as we said at the time) still struggle to apply. Download it here.

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