British Gas, the leading energy supplier in the UK, has announced plans to create 1,000 green-sector jobs under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
Spread over the next three years, the new roles will be occupied entirely by young people who are currently unemployed. In other words, British Gas will carry out its obligations under ECO by hiring people at the lowest end of the employment spectrum (that is, people who can reasonably be expected to be paid the least amount in wages).
Under ECO, energy suppliers are compelled to improve domestic energy efficiency for the most vulnerable households in Britain. Suppliers are expected to offer free or cheap improvements such as loft insulation,cavity wall insulation and double glazing. ECO is intended to benefit low-income households and those suffering from the effects of fuel poverty.
A Managing Director at British Gas, Claire Williams, stressed the dual importance of the initiative. Ms Williams said: “This training will make a difference to unemployed young people who will get skills and jobs as well as hard-pressed households who will benefit from energy efficiency measures”.
Vulnerable households are expected to benefit from ECO by receiving home improvements that aim to cut gas and electricity bills. The cost of heating and powering homes in the UK has risen sharply in recent years, largely as a result of the trading practices of energy suppliers, which generate huge pre-tax profits every year. Energy efficiency measures reduce the amount of energy lost in the home, thereby encouraging households to consume less gas and electricity, in some cases by as much as several hundred pounds a year.
More environmentally friendly homes are certainly a step in the right direction, but whether ECO is fit for purpose remains uncertain.
At the beginning of February, Encraft published a report on ECO, which was implemented alongside the Green Deal. The report suggests that ECO could actually end up adding 10 per cent to domestic energy bills as energy firms attempt to cut their losses. According to Encraft, the Coalition has miscalculated the cost of providing CO2 savings for domestic properties by as much as 100 per tonne. The disparity would almost certainly be recovered by suppliers through energy bills.