Npower slammed over free light bulb mailoutsEnergy firm sent out bulbs ahead of rule change

04 January 2010

An energy-saving lightbulb resting on a red table

Traditional light bulbs have been phased out and replaced with energy-saving bulbs.

Npower has been criticised for using energy saving light bulb mailouts as a shortcut to meeting government energy targets.

The Green Party described a free mailout of 12 million energy-saving light bulbs to households by Npower in December as a 'dodge' that was 'inexcusable' after it emerged that the energy company had sent out the unsolicited bulbs just weeks ahead of a new rule coming into force that stopped the practice.

Energy efficiency scheme

Under the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (Cert) scheme, energy suppliers must help households improve their energy efficiency. 

More than 182 million energy-saving light bulbs have been distributed by energy companies as part of the scheme, prompting the government - which was concerned that homes were not necessarily using all the bulbs being sent - to stop unsolicited light bulb mailouts from 1 January. The aim was to change the focus to energy saving improvements such as cavity and solid wall insulation and loft insulation.

Which? has examined consumers' concerns about energy saving light bulbs and tested 23 different bulbs to find out which energy-saving light bulbs are Best Buys.

Free light bulb mailouts

According to The Times, Npower faced a fine of more than £40m if it failed to meet its target under the scheme and it began posting free bulbs on 27 November, five months after the 1 January ban had been originally announced.

A spokesperson from Npower told Which?: 'It is disappointing to see our efforts to help people cut back on energy being criticised. It isn't just lightbulbs - we've also installed around 680,000 cavity wall and loft insulation measures. 

'We're spending over £350m on our energy saving programme, and free lightbulbs are only a tiny part of this. Every hour, of every working day, we complete over 120 projects ranging from simple loft insulation to sophisticated microgeneration.'

Energy saving light bulbs

Other energy companies such as British Gas have previously sent out energy saving light bulbs to customers under the Cert scheme.

Ofgem has estimated that since summer 2009, the Cert scheme has been costing each domestic customer of gas and electricity £45 a year - because energy companies can indirectly pass on the cost through higher bills.

You can find out which energy company was voted number one - and which was ranked bottom - in the . Plus our free energy comparison service, Which? Switch, can help take the hassle out of switching to a cheaper energy tariff.

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