Fears of a shortage of qualified energy auditors were stoked this week when it emerged a mere 112 people can sign off a new mandatory scheme in the UK.
They must carry out energy check-ups on as many as 10,000 UK firms in little more than a year under the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).
As things stand that means there is one auditor for 89 companies, according to figures from the Environment Agency obtained by Energy Live News.
The list of 13 approved registers for Lead Assessors – including companies which are running approved training schemes for Lead ESOS Assessors – was published on Friday.
A number of companies will already have their energy use audited under schemes such as ISO50001, which is likely to bring this ratio down.
However some industry figures are sceptical all firms will get ESOS compliant in time for the deadline, 5th December 2015.
On Friday, Chief Commercial Officer at energy consultancy Inenco, Dave Cockshott warned of “a significant risk that demand for assessors with expert sector knowledge could outstrip the numbers currently available”.
The Environment Agency admitted the scheme is working on “tight timescales”.
It said the number of auditors will “increase rapidly” as registers make sure “existing and new members have the opportunity to be progressed as soon as possible”.
There is a pool of more than 2,000 people who are existing members of the organisations who could be Lead Assessors, added the Environment Agency: “This will also go a long way towards providing a good supply of lead assessors to the market.”
Despite the low numbers, it said “[we] do not feel there will be a need incentivise people to become lead assessors”.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change said it is also confident there will be enough auditors.
A spokesperson said: “We are working towards 1,500 trained ESOS assessors and the Environment Agency have indicated that interest is already high.
“We expect ESOS to lead to £1.6bn of benefits to the UK and energy savings worth £250m per year for participants.”
Any eligible firms without an ESOS approved audit after this date face penalties mounting to £90,000 – a basic fine of up to £50,000 plus £800 per day, capped at a maximum of 80 days.
Asked if it would be unfair for a firm to be fined if it struggled to find an auditor, the Environment Agency told ELN: “We don’t anticipate this being a problem at this stage but if a participant could prove to us that they simply could not find a lead assessor then we would take this into account regarding our enforcement position.”
Companies can carry out much of the work themselves, added the agency, because lead assessors “as a minimum need to sign off the work undertaken by others so there is nothing to stop participants starting to comply with ESOS in the absence of an approved lead assessor.”