British Gas lobby for colder homes
British Gas has been criticised for lobbying to reduce plans for insulating some of the UK’s coldest homes.
As we reported back in May the company was found to have failed to meet existing mandatory targets for solid-wall insulation. Instead of being penalised, the firm has somehow instead managed to persuade ministers to lower their ambition by two-thirds.
Rival firms say British Gas's lobbying has put up to 10,000 jobs at risk and may jeopardise the fledgling solid-wall insulation industry. The government’s energy efficiency programme previously set a target for insulating 300,000 cold homes without cavity walls by March 2017. The work is expensive and labour-intensive, but it cuts £400 to £500 from a home energy bill and is a guaranteed way of permanently reducing costs for consumers.
The insulation was due to be carried out by energy firms under the scheme, which imposes a levy of around £50 on the average household bill. Some firms created large teams of home insulators and were on schedule to complete the work on time. But British Gas insulated only one in six of the solid-walled homes it was supposed to. It also said the costs of carrying out the energy-saving scheme were much higher than estimates from its rivals.
A memo seen by BBC News from an official in the government energy department DECC said: “The reality is that BG have inflated their estimates of costs and this can be shown when comparing to others. They have been blaming increases in costs on government consistently, when this is not true.”
Two rival energy firms have told BBC News that they wanted the solid wall target to be shifted to the general taxation budget, but wanted the ambition to be retained at its current level.
Neither is prepared to spark an industry row by publicly criticising British Gas, but a source at one said: “We were aware that British Gas was constantly in Downing Street trying to get the targets lowered. We were never invited to Downing Street to put our case. British Gas has succeeded in getting the rules of the games changed at half-time - and it means that people will continue living in cold homes.”
Tony Cocker, chief executive of E.On, told the Times: “We are disappointed that a decision has been taken proposing a very low level of solid wall insulation.”
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