SPARK Energy has unveiled plans to ramp up staff numbers and made senior hires from “big six” rivals ScottishPower and SSE as it nears a significant milestone in its development.

The Selkirk-based independent, run by 37-year-old boss Chris Gauld, is looking to “substantially” lift its headcount beyond its current 300 by recruiting a further 60 staff in its current financial year.

Spark, which has built its business supplying power to the private property letting sector, declared its intentions as it strengthened its senior team with three directors.

The appointments come as the company approaches the landmark figure of 250,000 customers. That is the point at which regulations dictate that energy suppliers take steps to improve the energy efficiency of the UK.

The regulations will see Spark handed an energy efficiency target which it will strive to meet through measures such as installing smart meters in customers’ homes and insulating roofs. The targets are based by the Department of Energy and Climate Change on the size of a company’s customer base, and focus on approved ways to cut carbon emissions and the cost of heating homes.

Spark grew its customer base to nearly 130,000 from 100,000 in the year to the end of June, and is forecast to grow that number by more than 50,000 in the current year.

Steve Storey, who is joining from SSE, has been handed the task of preparing Spark’s energy efficiency plan ahead of the obligations, which according to chief executive Chris Gauld said marks its transition from small to mid-size company.

Callum McCosh has been brought in from ScottishPower with the remit to work on Spark’s “service and scalability plant”. That will see him work on measures to improve customer service including developing an app and an automated online live chat service for customer enquiries.

Commercial director Ian Crowther, who is new to the energy sector, has been tasked with growing Spark’s business in its traditional tenanted property sector, as well as social housing. Spark is taking its first steps in social housing after receiving derogation from Ofgem allowing it to enter the sector last year with a competitive tariff. It is now supplying energy to tenants to a number of housing associations.

The new directors have increased Spark’s senior management team to seven, joining chief finance officer Hamish Osborn, director of customer experience Scott Mackay and Mr Gauld.

Mr Gauld, who became Spark’s chief executive last year, said the company was nearing a pivotal phase in its development, with the regulatory milestone following three years of profits growth.

On the new obligations Spark is poised to face, he said: “It’s challenging and expensive but it is also exciting. As the only independent energy provider in Scotland we can do some good things as a result of that.

“The staff we are hiring and some of the plans we are putting in place are about saying, 'it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but if we start working now on our plans we should be able to add real value to our customer base through our obligations'.”

He added: “What we are entering is the next period of growth for the company, during which time not only will we be supplying energy customers we will also be rolling out smart meters, improving energy efficiency in homes, contributing to more home discounts and other social obligations.”

Spark has targeted recruitment in the areas of IT, customer service, sales and energy efficiency as it looks to boost staff numbers this year. Confirming plans are in place to “recruit again substantially”, he added: “I’m confident that our audited figures, due in late autumn, will show a second year of clear profit, and a substantial increase in turnover.”

In its most recent accounts at Companies House, Spark booked pre-tax profits of £2.3 million in the year ended June 30 2014. Turnover more than doubled to £83m.

In February, Spark was ordered to pay £250,000 to Citizens Advice after Ofgem found it guilty of breaching switching rules and customer handling regulations, largely between June 2010 and October 2013.

Responding to the ruling, Spark said there had since been a “wholesale restructuring of the business and an overall of key personnel”.