Page last updated at 17:50 GMT, Saturday, 2 January 2010

Npower criticised over low energy light bulb handout

A low energy bulb
Npower sent low energy bulbs to three million customers

An energy company has been criticised for sending out millions of low energy light bulbs to meet its target under a household energy cutting scheme.

The Green Party accused Npower of taking "inexcusable" shortcuts instead of investing in more effective measures such as loft insulation.

Unsolicited mail-outs of light bulbs as an option under the scheme were stopped by the government as of this month.

Npower said the bulbs were "part of a mix of energy-efficient measures".

The regulator Ofgem said it had expressed concern with Npower about the practice of unsolicited mail-shots.

They should be viewed in the wider context of the 120 projects undertaken by NPower every hour of every day at a cost of over £100m

The government ordered energy companies to help pay for measures to cut household energy consumption - such as cavity wall or loft insulation, or by issuing low energy light bulbs - two years ago.

Low energy light bulbs were scrapped as an option in June 2009 - and the ban came into force at the new year.

Npower - Britain's third-largest energy supplier - sent an unrequested selection of low energy bulbs to all of its three million customers before the deadline, the Times reported.

That met the company's requirements under the scheme, but will only cut a fraction of the energy that other measures such as cavity wall or loft insulation will achieve, critics claim.

Reduce emissions

Other major energy firms, including British Gas, are thought to have distributed light bulbs before the practice was banned. It was stopped because it was not clear whether the bulbs were being used.

In July, a consultation paper revealed that energy suppliers have sent households about 200 million bulbs as part of the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) scheme.

Energy suppliers' research had suggested that 6% of the bulbs would be unused.

A Green Party spokesman said: "It is inexcusable to take short cuts by sending out millions of unsolicited light bulbs instead of taking more effective measures such as cavity wall or loft insulation."

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman said unsolicited mail-outs of light bulbs had been stopped because it was not clear whether they were being used and research suggested enough had been distributed to satisfy demand.

Energy efficiency drive

She said the ban "means energy suppliers will have to fulfil their obligation by providing more installations of loft and cavity wall insulation instead, which will further reduce emissions and permanently lower fuel bills".

"We've recently increased and extended the obligation meaning even more money will be made available into making homes more efficient," she added.

Npower said it was committed to the CERT scheme and "was doing the right thing by [its] customers and energy efficiency".

A spokesman said: "These low energy bulbs are part of a mix of energy-efficient measures (including cavity wall or loft insulation) - some of which are inherently more expensive than others.

"They should be viewed in the wider context of the 120 projects undertaken by Npower every hour of every day at a cost of over £100m."

Npower customers who have already received low energy bulbs may still contact the company and request financial support for additional carbon reducing measures and will be judged on a case-by-case basis.

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