Government brings regulation of heat networks into line with other utilities

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THOUSANDS of customers on heat networks are expected to benefit from new protections under plans launched on 5 February.

The proposed measures seek to ensure that customers are paying a fair price for their heating and getting a good service by bringing the regulation of heat networks into line with other utilities.

This is expected to encourage the current networks to expand and new ones to be established, meaning thousands more homes and businesses could have access to cleaner heating in the next decade.

Secretary of State for Business and Energy, Andrea Leadsom, commented on the scheme: “Heat networks will be a crucial part of our commitment to eliminate the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.

“I’m delighted we’re funding more heat networks all over the country and ensuring better consumer protections for those who use them.”

Heat networks – sometimes called district heating – provide heat for homes and businesses in place of a traditional gas boiler.

Low carbon heat networks such as those that source energy from a heat pump or waste to energy plant distribute energy to thousands of customers, making them far more efficient than most existing forms of heating.

Ms Leadsom also announced £40 million of investment in seven heat networks in Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool and London.

The funding – part of the government’s Heat Networks Investment Project – will mean that 30,000 more homes could have access to clean heating.

This could lead to 154,300 tonnes of CO2 being saved over the next 15 years – the equivalent of planting 400,000 trees.

At present less than 5% of energy used for heating homes and buildings comes from low-carbon sources.

Increasing the number of homes and businesses on heat networks is an important part of the government’s plans to improve take-up of low-carbon heat as the UK seeks to end its contribution towards climate change entirely by 2050.

Heat networks are one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing carbon emissions from heating and their efficiency and carbon-saving potential increases as they grow and connect to each other.

The Committee on Climate Change estimates that around 18% of UK heat will need to come from heat networks by 2050 if the UK is to meet its net zero target.

The measures proposed in the consultation being launched on 5 February include:

  • establishing Ofgem as the heat network regulator, giving customers access to similar protections as other energy customers
  • requiring heat networks to report on price and quality of service standards, meaning consumers will get ‘a fair price and good service’
  • giving all heat network consumers greater transparency and information about their heat, ensuring they have options for redress if things go wrong
  • giving developers and investors the tools to establish new heat networks and expand existing ones
  • making sure all heat networks become low carbon by 2050