Our vision for British Gas is simple; by deepening our relationships with our customers through value for money, better service and innovation, we aim to be the number one choice for energy and services today, as well as in the smarter homes and businesses of tomorrow.
British Gas is the UK's leading energy supplier, and serves around 12 million homes in Britain – nearly half of the country's homes – as well as providing energy to one million UK businesses. Service excellence is critical to British Gas operations, and will remain at the heart of all our offers. Our extensive coverage is both a strength and a responsibility. Our challenge in 2012, as an energy industry, is to continue to work hard to win our customers' trust. We are leading the way – working with our customers to change British Gas for the better.
In the competitive energy supply market it is important to remain innovative. Our partnerships with Nectar and Sainsbury's have been highly successful, with over 4 million of our customers now enrolled on the Nectar loyalty programme.
These new channels are helping to shape customer behaviour, with over 20 million transactions carried out online, more than double the number from 2010. Customers are now submitting meter readings online, making payments, booking annual service visits, moving to paperless billing and choosing to pay by Direct Debit.
This change in behaviour is also helping to deepen the customer relationship, enabling greater interaction with each customer as a valued individual. In 2011, our levels of customer service also remained high in residential energy supply and we were proud to have been awarded a 4 star service rating from Consumer Focus for the first time.
As well as energy supply British Gas now also offers a comprehensive range of services including boiler installation. Now that the roll-over to insurance-based products is complete it allows us to offer a more flexible range of products, with a wide variety of insurance types available, comprising of high quality boiler cover, and boiler repair should anything go wrong. In fact, the agreement we reached with our service and repair engineers in 2010 means we are able to meet increased customer demand for evening and weekend appointments. This increased engineer flexibility meant that we were able to visit the vast majority of our customers on the day they reported a fault.
As part of our commitment to our customers and their views, in 2011, we launched the Honest Conversation campaign, which invited British Gas customers to tell us what they think about our services. As a result of this consultation, British Gas improved the layout of bills and reduced the number of tariffs for residential customers to make it easier to understand how bills are calculated and compare costs.
We now only have two types of tariff – fixed and variable – and we are exploring how we can further simplify the two-tier pricing structure. We also provide a simple tariff checker on the British Gas website so customers can see if they are on the best tariff for their specific, individual needs. In early 2012, we committed to include a tariff comparison table on customers' annual energy statements which will enable them to see if they are on the best tariff. There is clear information on the discounts available, and the advantages of signing up to, for example a dual fuel tariff, or the savings that can be made by paying by direct debit.
British Gas is also committed to our business customers. For those who get their business gas, along with their business electricity, from British Gas, we have launched the Business Energy Insight (BEI), which offers consultations on how, in particular, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs): can take better control of their energy expenditure; how their bills are calculated; how and why business energy rates change and, the type of business energy contracts and discounts available. This information is available free of charge to both existing and new customers, part of British Gas' commitment to honesty and transparency.
Helping customers reduce and manage their energy use through energy efficiency measures and smart technology enables them to cut their energy costs. This is particularly important for customers who are most at risk from rising prices. We aim to ensure that even the most vulnerable are able to heat and power their homes. We provide financial assistance, debt advice and energy efficiency measures. We do this through mandatory programmes such as the UK Government's Warm Home Discount, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT), the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP), as well as through the British Gas Energy Trust and local partnerships.
British Gas is focused on developing new technologies and exploring innovations in the energy market that will make our customers lives easier. We believe that new technologies can play a significant role in decarbonising energy generation and we are supporting research into their use. British Gas is one of the four lead partners in the Customer Led Network Revolution (CLNR), the UK's biggest smart grid project. The CLNR is a £54m project that has received £27m funding from the £500m Low Carbon Network Fund, which was established by the UK energy regulator Ofgem to support the development of smart grid technology and assist in the creation of a low carbon economy. The three-year project was established in 2011 to assess how low carbon and microgeneration technologies such as solar PV panels, electric vehicles and heat pumps affect the electricity grid and how any challenges can be overcome. CLNR is also creating smart-enabled homes to give customers more control over how they use and generate electricity.
British Gas is also helping customers save energy in ways that benefit both themselves and the environment. Information gathered has revealed that those customers who installed energy efficiency measures such as insulation (one of the most cost effective energy efficiency improvements they can make) and energy efficient boilers saw a 44% fall in gas use between 2006 and 2010, saving an average of £322 a year.
British Gas' team of almost 13,000 engineers is playing a critical role in making new technology and products available to our customers such as rooftop solar panels, air and ground source heat pumps and biomass boilers.
We scaled up our solar business in 2011, installing solar panels in 2,377 homes and a number of larger scale projects. In 2011, we have put in place 12.8MW of solar PV capacity and paid a Feed-in-Tariff to around 20,000 of our customers. Ground and air source heat pumps use energy from the ground and the air to provide heat to homes and businesses. They are expected to be a key part of the UK's microgeneration sector by 2020. Small scale biomass boilers enable customers to generate their own heat from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels, reducing their impact on climate change.
British Gas is also involved in the market expansion of electric vehicles. As more manufacturers offer a range of electric cars and vans, British Gas is supporting the emergence of electric vehicles and is the preferred supplier of home and work charging stations for Nissan, Renault, Toyota and Hitachi Capital. We're on track to be the largest installer of electric vehicle charging points in UK homes, supporting 70% of the domestic market in 2012
Smart energy technologies are about making people more aware of their energy consumption and giving them greater control over their energy expenditure. This is applicable to both domestic and business customers. An example of British Gas' commitment to innovation and new technologies, British Gas is leading the way in the installation of smart meters, which provide real-time information on energy use to the customer. Indeed, we have already fitted more than 80% (453,907) of the UK's total. Our work so far indicates that having access to energy use information facilitates behaviour change among consumers, with 80% of our customers stating that smart meters have made them think differently about their energy use and 64% saying that they have undertaken energy efficiency improvements in their home since the smart meter installation.
The UK Government has enthusiastically backed the universal roll out of smart meters across the UK, but it is a major project and the target for completion is 2019. In order to help this transition for those customers with traditional meters, British Gas has developed the EnergySmart package, which provides a free electricity monitor showing electricity consumption, costs and carbon emissions. Our survey in 2009/10 of more than 100,000 customers using EnergySmart has shown that the EnergySmart package can reduce energy use by as much as 12%. Additionally, British Gas has launched safety and security monitoring devices for customers' homes that are wirelessly connected to the internet, as well as 'SmartPlugs' that measure consumption and can be used to turn off lights and appliances remotely to save energy.
Managing Director, International Downstream
Chris was appointed to the Board on 1 July 2009 and on 1 July 2013 he was appointed Managing Director, International Downstream. He was previously Managing Director, North America from July 2009. Prior to this, he was Managing Director, British Gas Services from June 2005 and Managing Director, British Gas Business from January 2002. He joined Centrica in November 2001, following the acquisition of One Tel where he was the Managing Director of Europe. Previously, he worked for Cable & Wireless and also spent seven years in the army with the Royal Artillery.
Our website britishgas.co.uk allows customers to manage their bills, protect their homes, obtain advice on home improvement and help when moving home.