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What it’s like to work at CSE – Martha’s story

Headshot of a woman wearing glasses.
29 November 2023

Martha shares her experiences of working as a Senior Energy Advisor in CSE’s Household Energy Services team.

More than 6.5 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 Home Energy Services or HES (we say ‘hez’) team is dedicated to helping people stay warm in their homes.

Last year we supported over 19,000 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 Energy Advisor Martha Le Coyte…

How long have you been at CSE and what were you doing before?

Around two and a half years. Before I came to CSE I was a support worker at a hostel for homeless people.

What made you want to work at CSE?

I love that CSE works on both climate and social justice. Tackling climate change is so important, but decarbonising the energy sector is only worthwhile if we do it in a way that includes everyone. We have to recognise that people have different capabilities and priorities – if you’re shivering inside a home that you can’t afford to heat then you just can’t be thinking about carbon emissions.

Can you describe a normal day at work?

I work on our energy advice line – people call us when they are struggling to pay their bills and keep warm. I also work on the Power Up Advice Hub, where vulnerable clients are referred to us by the National Grid. I speak to people on the phone about understanding their heating systems, DIY measures they could try, like homemade draught-proofing, and tips and tricks to lower their bills.

As a senior energy advisor, I also support the other advisors on our team – answering any questions they have or supporting them after a difficult call. Typically, I’m on the phone for around half the day and supporting my colleagues for the other half.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved in so far?

Last year I got to take part in some outreach work in the community, attending local events and meeting people to offer face-to-face energy advice. Getting to do what I normally do but in person was a lovely experience.

How do you think HES’s work improves people’s lives?

People don’t get much education about energy really, so the educational work we do is so important. Just helping people understand their energy use better can help them significantly reduce their bills so they can stay safe and warm at home.

It’s the same with debt. We don’t learn about it in school, and it can be completely overwhelming. Through our casework, we help people manage energy debt and cope with the awful stress that comes along with it. We often speak to people who are being treated badly by their energy suppliers – like vulnerable people forced into having pre-payment meters installed. These can be expensive and hard to access – meaning people can end up without power for chunks of time. That can be dangerous if they’re vulnerable in any way. We take these cases to Ofgem and hopefully, that informs changes to regulation – for example, they’ve launched a Code of Practice for energy suppliers. That wouldn’t happen without the case studies CSE provides

What’s your favourite thing about your role?

I love that my work feels meaningful and that I’m helping people. As well as giving advice, I get to think about ways we can improve our services, so we can have a bigger impact and help more people stay warm in their homes. I feel very lucky to be involved in that side of things – to be able to improve the systems behind our work.

What’s your least favourite thing?

It’s always tough to hear from people who are suffering because of things that are beyond our control, like the energy crisis or bad conduct from their suppliers. We try to help as much as possible – and we can often improve things for them – but there’s a limit to what we can fix, especially when it’s rooted in systemic issues.

What would you say to someone thinking about applying for a HES role?

Do it! It’s such a rewarding job, the loveliest team, and the most supportive environment I’ve ever worked in.

Since this interview, Martha has been promoted to Project Officer in the HES team. Congrats Martha!

Does CSE sound like the place for you?

If you’d like to work with HES – or any of our other amazing teams here at CSE – check out our latest job opportunities.

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