Heat networks are set to play a larger role in how we heat our homes and businesses. But what are they and would you benefit from being on one? Our guest author Bindi Patel from the Heat Trust explains…
Heat networks – also known as district heating networks – enable a central heat source to supply heat through insulated pipes to customers’ homes as hot water or steam.
They are particularly suited in urban areas where heat demands are large and multiple buildings can be served by a single heat network.
At the very heart of local heat networks are the customers and communities heating their homes and businesses.
As a not-for-profit customer protection scheme, Heat Trust seeks to help drive up standards in the heat network sector.
We set rules on customer service so that heat network customers receive a service that is comparable to the rest of the energy market, including access to the Energy Ombudsman.
Turning up the heat
There is a desire to see the number of heat networks grow across the country.
The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy states that heat networks could supply between 17-24% of the country’s heat demand – up to 8 million customers could receive their heating and hot water from a heat network.
However, in contrast to the gas and electricity market, heat networks do not currently have a sector regulator.
In July 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its final report to a seven month market study into the heat network sector.
It concluded that while the majority of heat networks are operating well, without regulation there is no ability to assure customer protection.
Heat Trust supports and welcomes the CMA’s call for the heat network industry to be regulated and welcomes its recommendation that a future regulatory framework draws on the work that Heat Trust has started.
As new technologies develop, the UK is moving away from large centralised generation to more local forms of energy generation.
With the heat network market expected to grow, and given that heat networks are natural monopolies, it is right that we start the transition to regulation.
In an open letter to the industry, the CMA was clear that industry should take proactive steps to embed customer protection now while regulation is being developed.
At the Heat Trust, we believe that as the regulatory framework develops, all heat networks should be required to meet the standards we set as a minimum.
This should certainly be a requirement for projects in receipt of public funding, to demonstrate leadership in meeting customer protection standards while a future regulatory framework is developed.
Would you heat your home through a heat network? Do you support regulation of the industry – what parts of heat network should be regulated?
This is a guest article by Bindi Patel of the Heat Trust. All views expressed here are Bindi’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?