What it’s like to work at CSE – Karn’s story
More than 3.5 million households in the UK are living in fuel poverty, which means they cannot afford the energy they need to heat their homes in winter. At the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), our Household Energy Services or HES (we say ‘hez’) team is dedicated to helping people stay warm in their homes.
Last year we supported over 40,000 people with our expert energy advice. Through this, we also work towards our mission to tackle the climate emergency, by enabling people to increase the energy efficiency of their homes and access low-carbon heating technologies.
To find out what it’s like to work for HES, we spoke to Senior Project Manager Karn Shah …
How long have you been at CSE and what did you do before?
I’ve been here for two years. Before that, I worked as an engineer and then moved into project management when I decided I didn’t like engineering that much! I’ve worked on big flood defence schemes and the planning of Bristol Clean Air Zone.
What made you want to work here?
I’d heard great things about CSE – everyone I spoke to said that the people here are amazing, and that’s true!
I always wanted to work for a charity. I like that it’s not all about the money – our projects are about achieving the right outcome and working towards our vision. There’s a balance between doing what we said we’d do in the funding applications for projects, and challenging our funders to go further by coming up with ideas they could support to have a bigger impact. I think that’s something great about CSE – we go so much further than just bringing projects in on a budget.
Also, we work at a personal level but then we take what we learn and use it to influence government policy. I find the balance between providing immediate help and working toward systemic change really fulfilling.
Can you describe a normal day?
I think most people at CSE would say this, but every day is different! My role is to oversee different HES projects. When we get funding for a project, it’s my job to figure out how to do what we said we’d do when we applied for that money, and then make it happen. Essentially most of what I do is problem-solving – finding new ways of doing things as issues come up.
Then there’s what some people might think of as the dull bit – finances and reporting. But I actually really enjoy that! It’s about looking at the data we get from our work, and I think that can tell you a lot of important things and help you improve the work you do.
What’s the most interesting project you’ve been a part of?
I don’t know if I can choose just one! One of the best has been the Rural communities energy support network. People in rural areas sometimes struggle to access our services, so we’ve trained people in local community organisations, like libraries and food banks, to give energy advice. We can’t be everywhere at once, but we have all this knowledge and expertise – this project means we can share it more widely and help more people take control of their energy use and stay warm in their homes.
How do you think HES’s work improves people’s lives?
One thing we do that I think is important is helping people to understand their heating systems – it’s so basic, I think it should be taught in schools! It’s simple but if you’ve never been taught how to program your heating then you can end up doubling your bills.
I think as a society we’re disconnected from energy because it’s looked after by these big, opaque companies. CSE’s work reconnects people with energy and gives them the knowledge they need to improve their lives and care for the planet.
What’s your favourite thing about your role?
It’s a bit clichéd, but for me, it’s the people. Everyone is so supportive – we work collaboratively, and the focus is on trying to do the right thing, together.
What’s your least favourite thing?
It’s tough to see people suffering in cold homes and know that the government could easily fix this with changes to policy and regulation. To be reminded of that every day, that’s difficult.
What would you tell someone who’s thinking about applying for a HES role?
It’s not for the faint-hearted – but go for it! It’s important work and a great team to be a part of.
If you’d like to work with HES – or any of our other amazing teams here at CSE – check out our latest job opportunities.