/ Home & Energy

Turning up the heat on district heating

pipes

Many of us don’t trust energy suppliers, but what if you were stuck with one supplier for as long as you lived in a property, with no control over the price you pay? This is the reality for many district heating customers.

More than 200,000 homes across the UK are connected to a district heating network. This is where heat from a central source is distributed to properties through a network of pipes. And its use is growing, particularly in built-up urban areas. The Government thinks district heating could provide heat to eight million homes by 2030.

There are benefits; it can be low carbon and there’s no need to maintain a gas boiler. However, there is currently very little protection for consumers living in properties connected to district heat networks. They have no choice in who they get their heat from. No access to an ombudsman should they have a complaint. And no control over the price they pay.

We’ve uncovered unacceptable detriment

Over the past year we have been conducting a major investigation of district heating. We spoke to customers on district heating networks, including those of you who shared your views here on Which? Convo. We found widespread dissatisfaction, with cost a major concern.

The people we surveyed had concerns ranging from worry that they had been mis-sold district heating, to confusion around what was included in their bills. Many of them felt let down and frustrated by poor customer service and complaints handling procedures.

It’s an emotive issue, as one private homeowner from London told us:

‘We are stuck between the supplier and the developers, with each blaming the other for the lack of hot water. All the while we … face numerous outages and so have to boil a kettle to wash or bath my two and a half year old in.’

We also looked at the cost of district heating and found a huge difference in the price paid by customers. Some were paying up to 25% more for their heating than if they’d been on a standard gas deal, and that includes all the additional costs of installing and maintaining a gas boiler. In many cases, district heating customers couldn’t understand why they were being charged a high standing charge, despite not having the heating on and using little or no hot water.

District heating – what’s the solution?

We have been working with the industry on Heat Trust, a voluntary consumer protection scheme. Heat Trust aims to replicate many of the protections available to those with gas or electric heating, such as access to an ombudsman and guaranteed standards of performance. However, as a voluntary scheme, it won’t cover all consumers and it won’t tackle the issue of fair pricing.

Access to affordable and reliable warmth and hot water is a fundamental right; we rely on it for comfort and health. Everyone deserves a fair deal and great customer service from their heat supplier. However, there’s a danger that district heating companies will take advantage of their unregulated, monopoly position.

We think the next government needs to step in to address the issue. It must look beyond ‘voluntary’ consumer protection and review fair pricing for district heating schemes, while heat suppliers should improve complaints handling and ensure pricing is transparent.

Do you have first-hand experience of district heating? Do you think the next government needs to step in to protect consumers?

Useful links

Read the report – Getting a fail deal for District Heating users [PDF]
What are my rights with district heating?

Comments
Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
2 April 2015

You mentioned two benefits above, but I could not agree with them.

1. low carbon.

Will you please publish some detailed figures to support the fact? Thinking about being low carbon does not mean it is the reality. Given the amount of communal pipe work, I don’t think fuel efficiency on district heating net work can beat gas boilers. Probably you can reduce the carbon emission by using biomass boiler or CHP, but it would be great to see the actual figures rather than some theoretical suggestions. As mentioned in previous conversation, on the site I live, for a period of time, it was simply just running a big gas boiler, hence no carbon emission reduction. “can be” and “is” are different.

2. no need to maintain a gas boiler

That is not universally true either. ESCO are only responsible for issues up to the secondary network, but not tertiary network. In a lot of cases, there will still be a water tank in the flat with valves, controller setup. Cost of any issues still needs to be paid by property owners on top of the district heating service charge.

Also, we don’t maintain a gas boiler any more, but we do pay a service charge to get ESCO to carry out work on the communal facility. Compare to having full control of how much it costs in the Gas boiler case, I don’t think it should be called a benefit either.

So, there is NO benefits at all.

Guest

Thanks for raising these important points and you are absolutely right, it’s ill advised to make blanket statements about district heating. Some are performing well, while others are not.

Research suggests that district heating can reduce emissions but this is not always true. We uncovered evidence that suggests some schemes are operating inefficiently. We also found instances where biomass or combined heat and power systems had been installed to comply with planning regulations but had been turned off soon after the scheme started and the suppliers were using backup gas boilers instead. This is obviously unacceptable.

Your second point is also well made. Internal pipework and control systems may well be the responsibility of the occupant, and customers may have to pay a service charge for maintenance. This needs to be made clear to consumers before they commit to buying a property connected to district heating.

We’ll make sure that your points get raised when we discuss the future of district heating with the next government.

Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
2 April 2015

I can show you a Faber Manunsell written report (or maybe AECOM, anyway, big consulting company) about how my site should work as well. They use this kind of things to get planning permission done. I guess that means you can find a copy of similar things about each site on council planning portal. What happens after the planning permission was granted is another story.

So your so called research is still theoretical research but not practical comparison finding. I still need to carefully read the paper you provided, but in brief, I don’t even see comparison and discussion about heat losses on network in section 3, then how do you come up with the conclusion that it would be carbon reduction without knowing fuel to heat efficient ratio? From other papers I read, this network heat loss number varies a lot, that changes the result a lot.

Your findings are great, but I still think it would be better you could treat theoretical report differently from actual readings on sites.

I am not saying it is completely wrong saying district heating could help reduce carbon emission, but I just think this statement deserve a lot of careful examination and checking. Unless ESCO disclose data to you on sites in operation, I guess all the “potential”, “theoretical” papers does not mean much really.

Also, even in the case that you see carbon emission reduction compare to the old standard or government quota, you got to be careful checking what exactly the driver is. As you reported, buildings are much better insulated nowadays, so is it DH caused carbon emission reduction or simply better technology on insulation etc enabled people to use less?

Guest
Robert C says:
25 May 2015

A scheme I am aware of in a nearby city uses waste heat from burning rubbish, used by several local councils. While it may still create CO2, at least it is not using fossil fuel. So it saves those for another day, which is better than nothing. As to the efficiency, true it will be lower if the incinerator is far from the homes it heats.

Is the issue of charges like any other lease? You don’t own it, so what are the charges now, and how are they reviewed? I like the idea of district heating especially if from waste, but feel it is better suited to schools and hospitals – those big enough to fend for themselves, backed by the council that gave the planning permission. (or even council offices)

Guest
John G says:
22 June 2015

The potential benefits from district heating (DH) are not simply theoretical, look at Aberdeen, Glasgow, and any number of large scale UK DH programs and you’ll find the actual cost savings and service improvements are pretty impressive (with around 50% CO2 reductions). DH itself (as well as consumer protection) in the UK is in its infancy, the fact is we tried it here years ago (in particular after the London Blitz), and it was a disaster. This was not due to the theory of DH, just poor implementation, for DH to work it needs to be done well, but once implemented the savings are huge.

As some of you may remember there was a big fuel crisis in 1979, which caused prices to rocket. In Denmark at the time the majority of fuel was imported, and they basically ran out of money and had a really tough winter. The result was a financial and comfort based incentive for DH. The important thing here is that the incentive worked for both the residents AND the government, in effect public opinion towards heating changed. Denmark installed huge amounts of infrastructure and now absolutely leads the world in DH, if we want to sort out UK DH, we should look to Denmark.

Just to address the issue you raised about the low carbon aspect, DH is useful because the pipework (once installed), can be used by any heat source. The the most likely course will be to start off with CHP (where you produce electricity and then harvest the byproduct heat), as well as any current forms of fossil fuel sources of heat (you can connect DH to an industrial estate and harvest the heat that would otherwise just be sent up into the atmosphere, whether this would count as ‘free heat’ or not is up to you, but clearly this saves carbon emission when compared to burning gas in your own flat), and then over time the source of heat can be changed to low carbon sources.

The real issue here is that DH only really works on large scales, that’s when you’ll see savings on costs, and huge carbon emission reductions. As I say the UK isn’t very far along, but examples of successful systems such as Stockethill – Aberdeen, and Maryhill – Glasgow (to be honest right now Scotland is doing much better in terms of future DH projects than the rest of the UK), you’ll see that DH really can deliver on its promises.

Talking specifically about people not seeing cost savings after being connected to DH, I would just say that DH is a player in a larger playing field. How well insulated is your home? How much control do you have on your energy usage? How is your usage defined? The UK government has recently made is obligatory of flats on DH networks to install individual energy meters in each flat/house. This means you can say exactly how much energy you’re taking out of the DH system, and can be billed accordingly.

I completely agree that the government is lagging behind in terms of legislating for consumer protection, there’s no excuse. I would just say that DH itself is a good idea, successfully implemented in countries like Denmark. The onus here should really be on the government/OFGEM to regulate this growing market.

Guest
Heat Trust says:
2 April 2015

As mentioned in the blog, Heat Trust is a major new initiative to protect the interests of householders and micro businesses connected to heat networks which is soon to be launched . Please visit http://www.heattrust.org for more information.

There are over 2,000 heat networks in the UK, numerous schemes have already registered their interest to join, however there is no single list of all these schemes that we can use to invite suppliers to join.

So if you are a district heating customer, please help us by checking with your supplier if they intend to register or email us the name of your scheme and supplier.

Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
2 April 2015

I found this interesting.

You are calling yourself Heat Trust now, but it is actually previously called “Independent Heat Customer Protection Scheme”.

Guess who was sitting on top of the steering committee last year? Barratt and EON, if you want to have screenshot as proof, do let me know.

If you guys are serious about this, then disclose all cost properly to your customers please. Otherwise, I guess the trust you get from customer is as little as before.

Also, it is not free to join the trust right? So, we pay EON and EON pays you and you are partially steered by EON? Please don’t under estimate the intelligence of general public.

Guest
Heat Trust says:
7 April 2015

Thank you for your comment. The Independent Heat Customer Protection Scheme was the body that presented the proposals to the Department for Energy and Climate Change that were taken forward as Heat Trust.

For reference, the IHCPS steering committee was made up of a number of other district heating operators, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Scottish Government, Which?, Citizens Advice, lawyers and trade associations. Interested parties were invited to join the committee to ensure that the Scheme would be able meet the needs of various different heat customers.

Heat Trust will operate with an independent and impartial steering committee, with members from a wide range of backgrounds, which is governed by rules that will be made publicly available on the Heat Trust website in the coming weeks.

Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
8 April 2015

1. DECC and Which? were only observant member for IHCPS as I remember. As we are on Which? website, maybe some one from Which? can confirm if they were involved in “steer” what you publish. Mentioning DECC and other government bodies does not really help you either as DECC has always been claiming IHCPS and heat trust are “industry led self regulatory body”. Hence I am afraid again, you were not telling people the details as it should have been said. the report published by Which discussed much more on what you can and cannot achieve. I won’t repeat here.

2. Wikipedia detail on “byelaws” here, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byelaws_in_the_United_Kingdom), “Breaches of byelaws are prosecuted in a magistrates’ court. The punishment is a fine, the maximum being generally between £500 and £2,500.” I guess that is the most you could achieve for customers when there is any compliant. Not to mention, going to court would cost time and money as well.

3. Taking one step back, what heat customers deserves is same level of protection as other customers in gas and electricity market. I guess none of them need to check if their supplier are paying to join another “trust” before they choose to use the service because all protection comes from OFGEM, energy ombudsmen, CMA, DECC without a single penny of additional cost.

4. Probably you should at least prove you get get issue solved first before trying to ask other people to trust you. How about getting started with list of issues mentioned in Which? report and other issues mentioned in which? discussions? (Namely, EON and maybe Olympic Village issues?) If you can’t get anything done when it comes to specific issues, then why should any one else trust you.

5. As you are not even an individual and what you post here is precisely one of the social organizations trying to get more business for itself ( getting other people to subscribe for your service), I serious doubt if you should be allowed to do it here. Not to mention, it is a service that still does not exist and can not be proven to be working yet.

Guest
Robert C says:
25 May 2015

How very interesting – as far as I can see it does NOT list who is running this. The page says “This page will list all Registered Sites and Participants of Heat Trust.”….. so as yet they are not listed

Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
17 September 2015

five an half month from “soon to be launched” pasts.

The member page is still “to be updated”

In the mean time, assuming there are 200k customer using ESCO service paying average £1 a day on service charge, that is £33m paid to ESCO on standing charge.

Guest
Ripoff dh says:
18 April 2017

Like others I’m totally confused about the Heat Trust scheme.

The Heat Trust shop window is claiming to be protecting the customer and yet publcly not examining why customers are experiencing huge heat bills.

Check out their online calculator- it fails to declare what gas tariff is used and standing charge – why hide such if claiming to be protecting the customer?

Also the Heat Trust does not include the efficiency rating of a customers HIU- such could be averaging 50% pending heat loads within their network. The core of district heating is to be energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions and yet the self claimed customer protection scheme has yet to publicly audit the HIUs !!! Unless customers see transparency on installed HIU efficiency ratings how can we trust a scheme who’s directors also have a major financial interest in selling heat from supposedly inefficient HIUs?

Maybe the Which? Magazine should randomly visit customers homes and test the efficiency ratings.

The unit price in the shop window maybe 7p a unit but taking into account additional unexplained consumption the actual unit price could be 14p double! V gas at 4p a unit.

Wake up Which? Magazine! Test customers HIUs

Guest

I used to have a flat in central London where unmetered heating and hot water was supplied for a fixed price of a few hundred pounds per year. It was nice to be able to use as much as I liked without worrying about the cost. There were central boilers for the building. However, the breakdowns were infuriating, and I know other people in London who have suffered similar periods of hot water and heating, even in expensive non-ex-council flats.

District heating is something more than the above, whereby the boilers are centralised not for one building but for an entire district. This is very common in the former Soviet Union, where the annual maintenance is carried out for two weeks every summer. Residents have to schedule their summer holidays to coincide with this maintenance period, unless they either put up with no hot water or they install a hot water heater for use during this period. I had the misfortune to rent a flat in Moscow two years ago where the agency neglected to tell me that the annual maintenance was in progress. I also know someone in Kiev who was without hot water for several months over the summer. In Scandinavian countries, district heating might be reliable, but I fear that if it becomes prevalent in the UK, the reliability and breakdowns will be more like the former Soviet Union, judging from my own experience in London.

Guest

This is pretty darn detailed on the potential and the costs.

” In many cases, district heating customers couldn’t understand why they were being charged a high standing charge, despite not having the heating on and using little or no hot water.” Must be the explanation from the solicitor was too complicated! Perhaps not splitting sustem overhead costs from usage costs has its drawbacks?

Just in passing I am aware of a lot of developments in London being sold off-plan to overseas investors sometimes in their home country. My suspicion is that in a development with many absent or low using dwellers the economics are shot. Before 2000 when I was managing blocks of flats it was not unknown to come across schemes where the developer was pushing the costs of his unsold flats on to the occupied ones. The fact the developer had not sold them do not mean those flats should not pay service charges covering the communal parts cleaning , gardening etc.

I wonder if this is what is happening here.

Guest
Miranda says:
15 April 2015

Hi
I live in the Pulse Development at Colindale. Bit upset at the high bills and the standing charges. E.ONs grievance handling procedures are poor. Would Heat Trust offer a level of protection to the consumer? Am I right in understanding that there is fee that we have to pay? And if the supplier is already on the board, then what chance do consumers stand?

Guest

Hi Miranda,

You raise an important point. Heat Trust is designed to offer protection to district heat consumers, but it is unlikely to cover all schemes. Suppliers must choose to join the scheme. Also protection will come at a cost to consumers which will be added to bills. This cost is yet to be decided but must be transparent and carefully managed to ensure value for money.

Our position is that Heat Trust is a welcome step but doesn’t go far enough. We believe government intervention is inevitable and necessary. A simple measure would be to make membership of Heat Trust a legal requirement for all new schemes. Support should also be given to existing heat networks to help them comply with Heat Trust. We will be campaigning the next government to address this issue.

Regards,

Matt

Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
17 April 2015

good to see Which? confirming its stands about Heat Trust.

However, I still don’t see why such paid trust service is needed if the government regulation protect consumer interest well.

I don’t see we need to pay to join “car trust” “petrol trust” “London underground trust” “restaurant trust” “mobile phone signal trust” “electricity trust”, then why heat trust?

Government need to do enough to make it work, period.

Guest
Ripoff dh says:
18 April 2017

Jeremy Bungey is E.ON head of community heating & director of the heat protection ltd t/a heat trust

Guest

Miranda – Sorry for being nosey but did your legal adviser discuss the nature of the sole supplier arrangement. ?

Guest
Fair Pricing for Heat says:
29 April 2015

I live in New Capital Quay – we have an E.On District Heat system which quite pleased me when I was told but has since upset me as I have seen it work. 3 main issues

1. E.On claim that their heat will be no more expensive than Gas. This Which? report says a 3 bed flat will use 7,861kWh a year (page 16) at 9.55 to 11.60p/kWh (page 17) i.e. between £750 and £912 a year. E.On charge 7.571p/kwh plus £33.12 a month i.e. £993 a year. To me that is nearly 10% more expensive than the HIGHEST price in the Which? range

2. The price of supplying Heat through a Biomass CHP is based on the cost of Gas. Why is it not based on the cost of supplying Heat through a Biomass CHP? When did it become acceptable for a utility to base its pricing on the next most expensive system rather than the system they are using?

FYI – I spoke to a few Biomass Companies at ECO Build. They would install and maintain a boiler for free if they receive the RHI and a 20 year contract to supply fuel. They estimate the cost to the user, between 4.5p and 5p /kWh……….

3. I am told that part of my payment covers the cost of maintenance, repairs and replacement.

a. If I had a choice I would not pay this as I have never paid for these policies on my gas boilers

b. The manufacturers handbook says the unit does not need maintenance and, although E.On say otherwise, I am yet to find a single person who has been offered maintenance for their heat exchange unit

c. The price of this is based on purchasing a similar policy for a gas boiler (see point 2). However if I purchased a policy for a gas boiler I would have a policy and protection. E.On don’t give me a policy, just a promise. So what happens if they go bust or withdraw from the market in 13 years and my system needs replacing. All the money I have paid towards replacement is lost. I have no recourse to anyone as I have no policy

To summarise I am being overcharged for something I don’t want and don’t have

To be honest I am sneakily impressed with the way E.On and the Heat Trust have set this up. However I would not trust either of them to advocate on my behalf

Guest
Fair Pricing for Heat says:
7 May 2015

E.On say on their website “charges are designed to be no more expensive than heating provided by a traditional gas boiler” (https://www.eonenergy.com/for-your-home/your-account/heat/what-is-community-energy).

Please join me in complaining to the ASA. Send your own proof and arguments, the more complaints they receive the more seriously they will take it

If we can get the ASA to say that E.On have made an untrue claim we can use that as part of our argument with all the other regulators

Please email today!

Also please re-post this comment in any other forums you know

[This comment has been slightly tweaked for posting personal details. Please have a read through our commenting guidelines for further information. Thanks, mods]

Guest
Maureen says:
7 May 2015

Hi,
My daughter has just accepted a flat which has district heating, we are very concerned about the affordability of this, is there anybody out there who could give us some guideline figures, PLEASE!!
(Southwark council)

Guest
Roman Lechner says:
13 May 2015

Hi,

I am a master student at the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University in Sweden. I am currently writing my master thesis on energy-efficient building technologies. A part of my thesis is dealing with district heating systems in commercial office buildings all around Europe, also in the UK.

I have experienced a lot of difficulties finding the correct prices for district heating in the Greater London area, and I was hoping to find some more information here.

The Which? article “Turning up the heat: Getting a fair deal for District Heating users” from March 2015 already helped a lot, but I am looking for some more details. Is it possible to find the seasonal energy prices for district heating througout a year? Any information is appreciated a lot!

Thank you veyr much in advance!

Kind regards from Sweden,
Roman

Guest

I wish you the best of luck Roman.

Unfortunately it seems there are many many schemes and I suspect seasonal pricing is quite an advance concept for most schemes. As for commercial properties I doubt you will get much here.

I suspect you hare already au-fait with aerogel insulation plus the various glasses that can generate power, and various other tricks.! : )

Guest

NFH remarks, above, on the prevalence of district heating schemes in the former communist countries. I had several heat and energy related consultancy projects in the Baltic States some fifteen to twenty years ago and a couple in particular come to mind. It would be interesting to see if Roman (also above) and his research in Sweden encountered the same factors.

We were looking at the whole situation in a district. Politically, economically, ecologically town size (up to 50,000 inhabitants) and village size (500 – 1,500). The existing large systems burned mazut, nasty stuff like the ‘bunker oil’ burned by ships and horrible for anyone living downwind. Smaller systems would use mazut, gas or sawmill wastes in the form of woodchip or pellets. The distribution infrastructure was of various ages, some sound and well insulated, some decrepit and leaking both heat and water.

In larger settlements the pattern would be a central ‘Heat Works’ or district ‘Heat Works’, at this time with no other uses for ‘waste heat’ like the combined heat and power in, say, Stockholm, and individual apartment building boilers fired by gas or wood wastes in the smaller settlements.

Without going into enormous detail we found that there was a hierarchy of factors at that time (things may have changed and may be different in the UK) which decided the preferred development paths.

Firstly, a legal and psychological bundle of issues. People wanted to understand, trust and have at least an element of control over their essential services. The communist regimes had used total control of the environment for living as part of the totalitarian system. They preferred democratic municipal or co-operative ownership and control to second tier up or national level political control or private ownership.

Secondly, consumers wanted choice, the opportunity to disconnect the district or block system and fire up their own gas or pellet boiler if the ‘big’ system did not deliver on both service and price.

Thirdly, they wanted transparency and a bundle of rights.

The social, engineering and business analysis all gave the lie to the economies of scale touted by the ‘bigger is better’ solutions which were mostly being pushed with aggressive lobbying by large corporations. The ‘sweet spot’ appeared to be single buildings if multiple households, commercial premises or ‘institutions or groups of individual houses where the social climate was right for co-operation and the physical delivery of heat was short and within the properties boundaries.

Hot water or in some few cases steam is a very expensive way of transporting energy when all costs are taken into account. Generally it is better, lower cost, ability to store locally etc. to transport the energy as gas, pellets, chips – or if you wish to use dirty fuels oil and coal – and to burn it to produce the heat close to the point of consumption or use. This also leaves more scope for local engagement and control and less for exploitation and corruption. And if you don’t think that exploitation and corruption happen here in the UK just have a look at some of the business practices described above!

Personally and after experience all over the world I’d go for smaller local solutions using whatever is right locally, bio-gas, woodchip, pellets, municipal waste, CNG or even syngas and leave as much control as possible as close to the consumer as possible . . . but then, I’m not a big corporation!

Guest
Sarah says:
24 May 2015

Thank you for publishing this report! However your study on pricing is not accurate due to the huge variation on a case-by-case basis. You state state district heating for a 2-bed flat costs on average 5.51p – 14.94p kWh, however we pay 16.5p per kWh (for a 1-bed). If you want to check, it’s easy to work out:

Monthly consumption = 300 units
standing charge = £30
cost per kWh = 6.5p
Total cost = 30 + (0.065 x 300) = £49.5
Cost per kWh = 16.5p

Hence, district heating IS MORE EXPENSIVE for us (and anyone else using a similar number of units a month) and district heating will only be a fair price for consumers using a larger number of units a month (because the unit price falls the more you use).

E-on’s current tariff for low users is a whopping 19p per kWh (and £9 standing charge) hence it is only suitable to consumers who don’t live in the property all year round. If E-on introduced a reasonable low user tariff or an additional tariff between their current low and medium then they could resolve this. I have requested this for the last 18 months and they have ignored me.

Guest
GettingRippedOff says:
26 May 2015

I purchased a new build in the Borthwick and Paynes development in Greenwich last year. The heating and hot water elements of the property is managed by SWEnergy. I didn’t think much into why it was managed by a company called SWEnergy rather than it being a regular energy company such as British Gas until my tenants complained of huge heating bills. Their bills were coming at over £150pm over the winter period. I couldn’t understand why this was until I looked at their bills and the checked unit rates.

£0.098/KwH
£0.20/day Gas standing charge
£0.43/day Scheme Management

When I compared this to a major energy provider, these unit rates are almost 6p more. I went between the developer and SWEnergy for the last 6 months and thought my development was alone in this until I discovered a friend having the same problem with his tenants. Having now realized that our development is part of a DHS, I’m annoyed that no one cared to mention this during the buying process.

SWEnergy say that the unit rates are higher due to loss of heating in the pipes. Complete nonsense IMO and that there is nothing I can do with switching suppliers since its a DHS. I am now stuck and unable to do anything about these extortionate rates.

How much longer do we have to put up with these rip off merchants? These companies need to be regulated fast. Its obvious that they are taking advantage of government incentives to make a quick buck. We should not have to worry every time we have a shower or put the heating on! The whole point of these heating systems is to save us money, not cost us more.

Guest
Darren Burn says:
3 June 2015

The residents at Oval Quarter / Myatts Field North where I have purchased unanimously seem to be dissatisfied with the service received by EOn’s district heat system.

I am charged a service charge of £1.09658 a day and then 6p per kWh.

Many residents have had long periods without hot water.

We have approximately three showers a day in our household in total and have never used the central heating in the whole year I’ve been living there. Our bills are coming in at more than our entire electricity bill.

The lower tariff which is on offer has a lower service charge but has much higher per unit costs which means that any savings are basically obliterated and the two tariffs work out as roughly comparable.

Think it’s perverse that this isn’t a regulated industry and that there is no ombudsman. The government are there to discourage monopolies but in this instance there is no choice.

At point of sale we were never given details of the service charge either – something that should be mandatory with all new house sales that have district heating.

Guest
Mena Rego says:
3 June 2015

I too live at Oval Quarters and building on the points made above about our particular situation I would say that surely it is anti- competitive for a BIG Energy supplier to be part of a PFI consortium and effectively enjoy a 40 year monopoly supplier position. And not to have the right of challenge is a denial of our Human Rigts – at least as they currently stand.
As it is a mixed Housing Development both private and Social Housing tenants living on this development are being denied access to “shopping around for cheaper alternatives” – the panacea for all ills used by ministers when challenged on high fuel bills for the vulnerable.
The formula for price changes built into our “contract” is completely opaque to a layman and who knows what elephant traps it contains.
Finally I have just found out that I have used 6700kw in 9 months when the contract literature states that the forecast usage for a one bedroom flat constructed by the PFI should be 3449kw!
When challenged it has been suggested that it could be that I have wracked up the charges because I have not been using the thermostat correctly!
general consumer.

Guest
Dee says:
8 June 2015

Our council turns off district heating for summer period. We had ours turned off today due to rise in temperatures it said. I dont agree with this, we are still paying for this even when they turn it off for summer period. They dont even tell you how long this is for. Plus the weather here is unpredictable, one weeks heat wave could be another weeks freeze. what about those who are elderly and sick, and those with young babies. I dont like the way boroughs control district heating. I think we should have our own choice to when we want it on or off, we are paying for it.

Guest
Just A Guy says:
13 June 2015

There is no guidance or commonality on how tariffs should be calculated and what the target price should be for residents to help ensure bills don’t go through the roof.

The reality is that the cost to serve the heating supply (both p/kWh & standing charges) are after thoughts on schemes and are generally not seen as important when compared to ensuring the scheme can be built and won as cheap as possible whilst meeting planning conditions.

So what is needed – transparency! Will it come….NO!

It makes it even worse that the Heat Trust is only voluntary, what are the advantages of joining apart from getting a badge?

Guest

It does seem a complete shambles. Well it would be if it were not for the fact that some organisations have come out of it with a profit. So its an arranged shambles taking advantage of the ignorance of the general public – and of the buyers legal advisors who apparently have not warned buyers of the monoploy situation..

Large DHS particularly make sense if you have “free” heat and this was why in central London schemes deriving heat from Battersea Power station made a compelling case. Power stations generate huge amounts of unwanted heat so it is a win-win. There is a current scheme using heat-exchangers in the Thames.

As for solutions to this unhappy state of affairs. Well those who bought privately did so of their own free will so it would be difficult to justify public money to alleviate their bills. For those housed at a Councils direction then presumably there are mechanisms in place , or should be in place to alleviate excessive energy bills.

The big lesson is that these schemes in general should be avoided. The provision of a monopoly is generally a bad idea and if developers get paid by the energy company for the monoply rights it is unsurprising the developers will grab the increased profit.

Certainly there should be an appeal/monotoring system where experts can assess if the monopoly is abusive. The monitors should be provided with all the details of the schemes costs – which they can challenge if excessive or padded. Spread over hundreds of DHS sites with thousands of people the cost on the bill would be negligible and could be collected through the maintenance charge.

Users would agree to the provision of usage details and charges to the monitoring body so that inefficiencies and anomalies could be seen not only on a scheme but also between schemes and the technologies being used. Without this detail I am afraid control of the energy providers would be very dificult.

Guest
Matt H says:
11 July 2015

I am not sure if I am posting this reply to the correct place, however, I get district heating supplied by my local council but I am paying £86 per month for this alone, it is extortionate. What can I do about this?

Guest
Roseann Kealy says:
15 July 2015

Hi, I live in the Olympic Village in the East End of London. My energy providers are East London Electricity. I have received my latest monthly bill for £28.40. While this may not seem much, I was in hospital from the 1st June to the 1st July, and had turned the heating off completely prior to my admission. So with that in mind, if I didn’t have the heating on at all for a whole year, I’d still face an annual bill of £340.80, which seems an awful lot to me. The bulk of the bill was attributed to ‘Fixed Costs’ & CHAC. Does this seem correct/reasonable?

Thanks for any input.

Kindest regards,

Roseann.

Guest
Adam Smith says:
17 July 2015

We live in Tower Hamlets and have had a similar issue to Roseann. We actually had no hot water for 4 months yet were hit with a bill for £170 for this period. I have been trying to get the supplier Evinox to cancel the bill but they point me in the direction of the housing group (One Housing) who in turn blame the supplier. Both parties have accepted in writing that we did not have hot water over this period so cancelling the bill would appear to be common sense but nothing has been done. I am also worried about future calculations when we do have hot water!

Is there anyone we can contact to help sort this out as stated in the article there does not appear to be an ombudsman?

Thanks,

Adam

Guest
Seb Goldsmith says:
17 July 2015

We moved into a new block of flats last year. We only found out it had district heating after we had exchanged. We were told that someone “ought to have explained this to you” but they never did.
The flats are so well insulated we haven’t needed to have the heating on (they’re 25-29 degrees with the windows open). The boilers and HIUs are supplied by Evinox.

Our bills are about £70-90pcm. Only about £5-15 of that is hot water. The rest is standing charge, which (you guessed it), goes to the developer’s management company (Circle/Old Ford), via Ener-G Switch2. We have enquired as to the breakdown of the standing charge. Apparently there is a £1m sinking fund for repairs, but this is not held on trust for the residents a service charge would be.

It’s a service charge by any other name, but cleverly manages to escape the service charge laws. It’s a monopoly, daylight robbery and we are stuck with it.

Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
17 September 2015

Good for you that you still get a break down on the standing charge and see a £1m figure for your sinking fund.

If you ask the same question to another big player in the sector, you won’t be told any details. I think they now have at least 15 maybe even 20 site in the UK. If the business model is similar, £1m each seems to be a handy.

Guest

Nice to see the comments, having reading issues on Which? for quite some time and we are part of the Development at Highams Park called Highams Green.

We have been fighting for the past 20 months on the costing and transparency of the whole system, we have asked for the consumption figures, efficiency and other data and till date nothing has been provided to us.
We even got Rip off Britain interested in our case, this issue is being aired on 15th September 2015.

Guest

“Over the past year we have been conducting a major investigation of district heating.”

I’ve searched the Which? website and can’t find any other mention of this investigation. Do you have a link to the results?

Guest

Hello Mark, apologies, we’ve just relaunched the website and the link to the PDF of our report went walk abouts. Here it is: http://www.staticwhich.co.uk/documents/pdf/turning-up-the-heat-getting-a-fair-deal-for-district-heating-users—which-report-399546.pdf

Guest

The rip off program got aired on Tuesday and for the interested here is the link

We are second story in on the show.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06cpcj0/rip-off-britain-series-7-episode-2

Guest

Thanks very much for sharing! You may have seen our very own Pete Moorey on the show.

Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
17 September 2015

I think you asked a very good question in the programming regarding electricity. Not combining bills on electricity and gas when you using CHP seems to be very unreasonable. If you add your electricity bill to your heating bill, then it would be even more shocking as the amount is huge.

I am not sure if you check more on government website, if you were having micro CHP in your flat, the deal won’t be too bad. However, we are all punished because we are on a communal network. That should be a question for DECC I guess.

Do you think there is any chance to get BBC to investigate the issue further and report more issues from other sites as well? I think the issue deserve much more attention than it has got.

Guest

This was filmed in February this year and we also put them in touch with a couple of other developments and from what I can see they were quite a bit cautious on covering this issue as they did not have much information in terms of facts and actual figures.

And our aim was to at least get this on TV so it becomes a bit more widespread, any thing to get this mess sorted is better.

Guest

Please help me gather evidence for our MP and the CAB at

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NSMXW2M

this survey will take less than a minute to complete – please pass this on so we can get more responses

Guest

I have had the worse experience with district heating. We moved into a newbuild 2 bed flat owned by housing association. Only after signing the tenancy agreement were we told that we had to top up credit from our local Londis. When asked if we could change, we was told no. We was reassured the cost would be cheaper and much better deal.

Far from wrong. From then on, I couldn’t cope with the high costs. Not only did we have defective meters, requiring monthly readings, we was left in debt by trying to keep our home warm and running hot water.

Many of us complained about the high costs but our landlord did not care. Being a single mum to a teen, having constant hot water and a warm home is a priority for me. Never once have I left my son without heating and hot water. But after living, here, despite cutting back more than half of what I previously would use, I had no choice but to go without myself.

I could no longer afford to pay for my sons after school clubs as all the money was going to Switch2. Our landlord wasn’t bothered one bit. When money starting going very quickly, we again contacted the housing association as we would only have 2 sometimes 3 heaters on. We had to shower a lot less, not ideal when you have a teenager in puberty!

I paid more than £420 from September 2014 to March 2015. I’m sorry but that’s a lot of money. It’s only me and my son living together. We are always careful not to waste. But both Switch2 and the housing association insisted I was paying the correct amount due to topping up the same amounts the previous year! They stated the coat was 12 kWh.

In May, we was told we were having the meters updated to a new G6 meter. I refused to sign the new utility agreement stating the high costs, wanting to change supplier and didn’t need to agree as I was waiting to move. June came, the meter was installed.

What a joke. Since September 2015 to December 2015 I have paid £260. Our housing association, a London
charity deducts 55 pence a day plus 12 pence kWh. The standing charge is for their admin costs. On top of that, they decide on what we should be charged and at what costs. According to Switch2, they are paid by the housing association to collect our money.

Since June, we having been topping up online through Allpay. But you have to top up money by 5.30 pm for it to be added on the next day, so your money wouldn’t be on your meter until the following day. If you top up after 5.30 pm, then it gets added do on the day after that. If it’s a bank holiday or a Sunday, your money you have paid, doesn’t go on until Tuesday.

District heating managed by landlords is disgraceful. This has been my worse Christmas. £30 goes in a week just like that. The greedy standing charge is shameful. 14 days equals £7.70.

I didn’t expect to run out of credit over Christmas. We wasn’t using no where near as much heat or hot water, simply because it was going so fast. Plus it’s not been that cold. The night before Chrismas Eve, I saw how low my money had gone. I woke up early Christmas Eve, paid £30 again as by then I was in emergency credit. The £30 went on today. Now they have an app which doesn’t take till the next day to go on when you pay.

Thanks to our greed you landlord charging us high costs, which they claimed was cheaper and affordable has put us in debt again. My son wasn’t able to get half the stuff i was going to get him. Same for his birthday in March as from January to March is when I have to top up and pay a lot more.

This is down to landlords. We should be able to choose and switch if we wish to as we do not pay the housing association directly. We pay online through Allpay, who then send it to Switch2, who then pay the landlord.

Be careful people. If you’re rich, then you’ll be fine. Don’t ever trust your landlord. Make sure you ask about your energy supply for your home when you view your property, not after you sign the tenancy. It’s very sneaky and sly what and how our landlord mislead us.

When I move, first thing I’m checking is that I have freedom over who supplies my energy and that my home isn’t above communal bins, like it is now which I wasn’t told or shown when viewing and signing the tenancy. I found out from my neighbours that our flat was above the bins for 38 flats.

I have never been so depressed, stressed, sad and struggling like I have since living here.

Guest

Its nearly a year since the Which? report. is there am up-date coming?

Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
17 May 2016

I started talking to Which in 2013, by 2015, the person who initially work on the case changed job. So I am not even sure if there is anyone still look at this now at Which.

Guest
Amanda says:
11 April 2016

I have recently moved into a 3 bedroom townhouse powered by Eon district heating network. I also was not told about the £1.20 standing charge per day fee. My bill from end of Nov to beginning of Jan was nearly £300 (approx 1 month). The builders had set the heating on so it was programmed to be on nearly all day. The engineers had put pipes in wrong so in order for me to have hot water, I needed the thermostat set higher than room temperature. Barratt agreed to pay for this time period but I’m still chasing this. Barratt also didn’t give the original meter readings to Eon so they set it as 0 which I am now in debt over.
Since then, I have programmed the thermostat to only come on a minimal amount of time set at 20 degrees. I’m still using 50units a day somehow. Eon engineer has been out and said meter is working fine and that I’m doing all the right things i.e I close all doors and have radiators turned to lowest setting in rooms I’m not using. Eon engineer then hinted at blaming Barratt in plumbing for radiators e.g. fault valves?
I seem to be stuck between Eon and Barratt who are blaming each other. In the meantime, I am going through 50units a day to bave my heating on 20 degrees for 2 hours in the morning before work and 3 hours of an evening before bed. Not sure what else to do?

Guest
Mr GreyArea says:
15 December 2016

Are you still have high usage?

Guest

I thought you might be interested in this ruling by the ASA on district heating: https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2016/4/E,-d-,ON-UK-plc/SHP_ADJ_301757.aspx#.Vw4HL_krJaS

Guest

Thank you, Patrick. Common sense has prevailed in the ASA’s assessment but I doubt it will lead to any reduction in costs for district heating consumers , just a less controversial way of comparing them. The whole rationale of district heating was that, through economies of scale in distribution, centralisation of the heat source, and using more efficient means of heat production, there would be a saving over stand-alone domestic boiler systems.

Guest

Thanks Patrick. I see that action has been taken as a result of two complaints.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if ICO and Ofcom would get their act together and take effective action to tackle nuisance calls.

Guest
NO CHP THANKS says:
17 May 2016

I first would like to say, it is one step toward the right direction.

However, it just scratched the surface of the whole issue. Unless users are allowed to switch supplier, the cost would not come down. I still have around 21 year left on my 25 year service agreement with EON.

Guest
Saddique Ahmed says:
25 July 2016

I think its absolutely diabolical that the OK government and its agencies (Ofgem, Ombudsman or any other) do not regulate heat. Heat is a source of energy that is being supplied in the UK. Whilst this has been introduced to reduce carbon footprint and cost to consumers, I have seen nothing but dissatisfied customers/ tenants with regards to standing charges, cost of heat per pwh and not being able to change suppliers. People are being ripped off by landlords and associations and in our case, we were not even informed of the costs and charges and now being expected to fork out a bill for near enough £90 – £100 per month. The Government (Ofgem and Obudsman) need to get on this straight away because tenants are being taken advantage of because of the lack of regulations/ safeguards for tenants.

Guest

We are connected with district heating as we live in a communal area, we have no choice. The problem is it comes from a main base somewhere and it keeps going wrong, and we receive calls stating, your heating is off in your blocks until we can fix it, now its freezing winter and its been turned off two days this week already for repairs. Since councils always try to work as cheaply as they can, this happens every year. when we complaint we receive a response stating someone will get back in 15 days, in the mean time we all meant to freeze or buy electric heaters to keep warm…The council control our heating. I had to get in touch with local mp but I guess the council will just come back with excuses as usual. We get no refunds either for paying extra for this on top of our rent…Whether its cheaper then paying separately I dont know. But it comes with many problems.

Guest
Richard says:
20 March 2017

Is there nothing we can do about this scheme? our bills are 3x what they used to be and this is just for hot water, we cannot afford to put the heating on as this would just tip our bill into silly numbers, for just hot water we pay on average about £45 a month with a usage of around £11, with the standing charges being the rest of the bill, we put the heating system on for 30 mins a day just enough for two quick showers we often run out of hot water for other things as we have to fill a tank in our flat which takes up a lot of room as part of our heating system which seems silly and not very eco-friendly. We then have to pay for our electricity bill on top of these crazy bills, they just seem to be laughing at us when we ask why does costs so much.

We used to have a Gas heating system last year which heated the water on-demand which was about £20 a month including all standing charges, we paid about £480 a year on electricity and gas together and often got at least £120 back every year. We don’t get any money back from our two showers a day and is starting to cost almost around £600 a year which just seems wrong.

Guest
Ian Bell says:
26 March 2017

According to E.ON “our price promise guarantees it won’t cost more than heat alternatives”

““E.ON operate a Fair Pricing Policy and believe customers should pay no more for heating and hot water from a low carbon energy solution than they would if they had a standard new build property with a gas boiler.”

I would advise all customers to download they previous heat bills and review how much energy they have used plus charges and do their own comparison – like the Heat Trust online calculator allegedly E.ON fails to separate the huge heat loss in a HIU (something the customer pays for) so whilst you may consume 3000 units a year that does not mean that’s what you would have consumed with alternatives.

Trust me once the media and customers start to understand the unfair comparison the flood gates will open and customers will demand their money back!

Guest
Lawrence James says:
27 March 2017

The points that you’ve discussed are all valid. However, not all heat suppliers seek to take advantage of their consumers. There are suppliers that aim to provide services that will benefit their clients. With regards to expenses, there are companies such as Evinox Energy Ltd that provide consumers with options for billing and metering. Anyways, You can find more information here http://www.evinoxenergy.co.uk/ .

Guest
Denise Avard says:
13 December 2017

where I live it comes under the communal district heating and its very disappointing, we pay a set rate every week on top of rent and its always going wrong, every single week even in these freezing conditions we get electronic calls stating you you will have no heating or hot water to your blocks for several hours, this happened yesterday and it will be going off again tomorrow and its only 36 degrees currently and dropping temperatures, we are paying for a very poor service. These problems have been going on for years and at the last meeting the engineers and company connected with council and district heating decided not to show up to answer residents questions. We dont have the choice to switch either. And who do you complain to about this. All they do is pass the buck.