British Gas has introduced a “green energy” unit called British Gas New Energy.

The new business builds on current schemes available through British Gas’s residential business such as its rebate for people who install loft and wall insulation and the provision of high efficiency boilers.

To help combat global warming British Gas New Energy will offer rooftop solar heating panels for customers to heat their own water and allow them to offset their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through schemes that buy credits from other firms or countries whose own carbon emissions are within their agreed targets.

It will install solar thermal panels to heat water and solar photovoltaic panels which generate electricity. Including government grants, the cost of installation is put at £4,000 and £7,000 respectively but it is believed that householders could save £100 on their annual heating bills and £360 on electricity – halving the typical annual bill for a year on year benefit.

In addition, customers who buy the solar panelling in selected areas will be able to earn a discount of up to £500 on their council tax bills through an agreement between British Gas and the local authorities.

The average UK home emits five tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from heating, accounting for about a quarter of the household’s total emissions. Another quarter comes from travel (heavily impacted by air travel), and the rest derives indirectly from leisure activities and the consumption of food, clothing and furniture.

British Gas will also provide Energy Performance Certificates, which give energy ratings for homes, and will be mandatory for those selling properties after 1 June 2007, when home information packs are introduced. From this June, any house put on the market will have to come with an energy performance certificate costing about £100 as part of the mandatory home information pack.

British Gas is planning to have 500 of its engineers trained to carry out these surveys when the requirement for energy performance certificates takes effect in June. Customers are already familiar with these highly trained engineers who are trusted in customers homes.

British Gas central heating division is also working on a next-generation fuel cell boiler for homes that produce both heat and electricity and could reduce household emissions by up to 50%.

Although this is a very positive development in the fight against global warming it will take a number of years for the new business to have a material impact on the environment.

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