On 21 October 2009, British Gas entered into agreements with ten communities across the country under the government’s new Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP). British Gas is the first energy supplier to implement the programme since the CESP legislation came into effect on 1 September 2009. The scheme will see energy suppliers and generators work with local authorities to install an anticipated £298 million in domestic energy-efficiency measures, including renewable and microgeneration technologies, on a community-wide basis.

Under the scheme, gas and electricity suppliers and generators will subsidise the installation of energy-saving measures in homes in designated low-income areas. The points-based structure of the scheme promotes certain key measures, including solid wall insulation, replacement boilers (including biomass boilers), connection to district heating schemes, combined heat and power systems and solar water heaters, in preference to more traditional energy-saving measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation. The structure of the programme also encourages energy suppliers and generators to install multiple measures in a single home, and to install measures in multiple homes within the scheme-designated geographical areas.

In combination with the government’s existing Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) scheme, the CESP scheme presents a host of opportunities for providers of renewable technology, in particular small-scale technologies such as solar cells and tubes, microgeneration measures and domestic solid-wall insulation.

Renewable energy groups have generally welcomed CESP as part of the government’s suite of renewable energy policies. The scheme is expected to work harmoniously alongside the renewable electricity tariff which is set to take effect from April 2010, although questions remain over the extent to which suppliers will promote the installation of renewable technologies under CESP given that the consultation is ongoing in relation to the exact structure of the proposed renewables tariff programme.