Welcome to our Summer Heat Trust update for 2020. It covers updates from both Heat Trust and the wider heat network and customer protection fields. We hope that you find it informative and useful, and welcome any feedback. 

Read Summer Update 2020

Heat Trust has responded to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) consultation on building a market framework for heat networks. Heat Trust welcomed the consultation and supports the decision to appoint a sector regulator. Statutory regulation is a key step to ensuring customer protection for all heat network customers.

The key proposals in the consultation centre on licensing and an authorisation regime:

  • The proposed legislative changes will give heat network developers equivalent statutory rights and undertakings to other utilities, such as gas and electricity. A licensing arrangement will be established for those parties that wish to secure these additional powers.
  • The proposed authorisation regime for consumer protection would give Ofgem oversight and enforcement powers across quality of service, provision of information and pricing arrangements for all domestic heat network consumers. This would be funded through fees scaled according to the regulated party’s size.

Transparency, pricing and quality of service standards are key elements of the protection regime customers need. Other important aspects include access to independent redress and enforcement powers - with which heat networks can be held accountable to.

Heat Trust already sets minimum standards in many of these areas and can help suppliers prepare for the transition to regulation. We also look forward to building on our learnings and experience with government to help inform new regulation.

Heat Trust’s full response to the consultation can be found here.

Heat Trust, the consumer champion for heat networks, has appointed a new Director.

David Watson takes up his new role on 1 June, replacing previous Director Bindi Patel.

David comes to Heat Trust from Centrica, where he was Director of Group Strategy. Prior to this role, he was Head of Market Design and New Energy for British Gas, with responsibilities including leading low carbon policy development within the GB and EU retail market. He said:

"I am delighted to be joining Heat Trust at what is a very important time for both the organisation and the wider sector. Membership is growing and customer service standards continue to rise across the sector. 
Up to five million homes could be reliant on the heat network infrastructure by 2050.  Consumer interests need to be absolutely at the heart of this growth and I look forward to building on the fantastic work that has been achieved over the past five years.”

Ms Patel has been at Heat Trust since it was launched in 2015. During this time, she has overseen Heat Trust’s coverage expand to more than 10% of the market with 80 heat networks registered serving over 50,000 homes and micro-businesses. Heat Trust’s work has been recognised by the Government and has become a recognised industry standard. She said:

“I am proud of the work we have achieved in championing consumer protection in a sector that will grow ever-important as the UK works towards net-zero carbon targets. Over the last five years Heat Trust has worked to deliver benefits for customers through the standards it sets, which suppliers strive to meet for the good of the industry. I am delighted to have contributed to that and look forward to seeing Heat Trust grow further.” 

Casey Cole, chairperson of Heat Trust, welcomed David to the team and wished Ms Patel well in her future role. He said:

“We are delighted by the success of Heat Trust, and we would like to thank Bindi for her leadership and dedication to the scheme’s success over the past five years. We wish her every success in her new position. David has a proven track record that will see Heat Trust go from strength to strength and we look forward to moving forward under his leadership.”

ENDS

Heat Trust, the consumer champion for heat networks, says customer service standards are continuing to rise across the industry.

The independent customer protection scheme has hailed a successful fourth year of holding the heat network industry to account, with figures from its latest annual report showing that complaints regarding heat networks reduced by 54% in 12 months.

Heat Trust was launched in November 2015 to put customers at the heart of the rapidly expanding heat network market. It sets consistent customer service standards for the sector, building on standards set in the gas and electricity markets.

Up to five million homes could be reliant on the heat network infrastructure by 2050, a ten-fold increase from the estimated 440,000 homes currently on heat networks in the UK.

“We are pleased and encouraged with the progress demonstrated in our fourth report,” said Heat Trust Director Bindi Patel.

“The industry recognised the need to address challenges around customer experience and to put consumers at the centre of all future plans. The standards we have set through Heat Trust are helping to improve the market for the better and ensuring that people living on heat networks know what to expect from their suppliers.

“It is also encouraging that our contribution has been recognised across government.”

Latest figures show an average of 4.72 complaints per 100 customers in 2019 down from 12.9 per 100 customers the previous year.

There was also a drop in the number of complaints referred to the Energy Ombudsman – although of all complaints made to the Ombudsman only 9% were not upheld.

Heat Trust’s standards mean customers receive guaranteed service payments if they have experienced an outage that has not been restored in an agreed timeframe. More than £25,000 worth of payments were made to customers for this reason.

Research into annual heat bills by The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy suggests that, on average, an annual heat bill on a heat network is £100 lower compared to individual heating. However, billing and heat charges have continually been the topics customers most frequently raise complaints on.

Billing and charges accounted for 37% of complaints, closely followed by technical issues representing 36% of complaints.

The annual report highlights the importance of data collection and the need for industry wide performance metrics.

Joanna Read, Policy and Operations Adviser at Heat Trust, said “Each year we have been able to report on more and better quality data. Going forward we are seeking to gather further insights such as on debt and disconnection.

“This year we have collaborated with our Registered Participants to develop more meaningful metrics for outages such as origin of the issue, where there is a clear overlap with customer experience. However, wider performance metrics for the sector are needed to progress this work further.”

Heat Trust remains a voluntary scheme but is continuing to expand each year. It now provides protection to more than 10% of all residential and micro-business customers on heat networks, with 80 heat networks accounting for over 50,000 homes and micro-businesses registered.

The government has confirmed it intends to introduce statutory regulation and appoint a sector regulator to the heat networks industry, a move that has been welcomed by Heat Trust.

Ms Patel added: “Heat networks have been identified as enabling infrastructure in all decarbonisation scenarios set out by the Committee on Climate Change, but they must offer a good experience to customers if the market is to grow as projected.

“Heat Trust will continue to champion service standards in the industry and will seek to make sure that issues such as transparency over charges, clarity on terms and services and accountability over technical performance are part of a future regulatory framework.”

ENDS

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Notes to editors:

Heat Trust launched in November 2015. It sets out a common standard in the quality and level of customer service that heat suppliers should provide their customers.

It also provides an independent process with the Energy Ombudsman for settling complaints between customers and their heat supplier. This service is free for customers to access. 

Our annual reports can be found here: https://www.heattrust.org/annual-reports-v2

For more information contact Bobbie Hough at Hough Bellis Communications on 07794204268 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Today, Heat Trust welcomes an agreement by members of the Heat Network Investment Council (HeatNIC) to ensure heat networks customers are protected and supported during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The agreement sets out a series of commitments, which echo key principles and requirements set by Heat Trust. In addition, many of the HeatNIC members with operating heat networks serving residential customers are Registered Participants of Heat Trust.

Welcoming the agreement, Bindi Patel Director of Heat Trust said:

“Energy is an essential service and during this time it’s important that customers are supported and have access to reliable heating and hot water. This requires a caring and flexible approach.
I am very pleased to see the Heat Networks Industry Council make this pledge today, which echoes key principles required by Heat Trust. The steps outlined by the Council in conjunction with the standards set by Heat Trust are a clear demonstration of the heat network sector’s commitment to protecting customers.”

Heat Trust is working with its Registered Participants to ensure customer needs are prioritised and supported. A dedicated coronavirus page for customers can be found here.

Notes

About Heat Trust

Heat Trust is all about protecting heat network customers.

We are an independent, non-profit consumer champion for heat network customers that holds the industry to account for the benefit of everyone involved. We make sure customers enjoy heating systems fit for the future by:

  • Applying strict customer service standards to heat suppliers, similar to those for traditional gas and electricity suppliers;
  • Providing access to an independent dispute resolution service through the Energy Ombudsman; and
  • Working with suppliers to promote best practice, innovation and continuous improvement in customer service.

Launched in November 2015, Heat Trust provides protection to over 10% of residential and micro-business heat network customers. Our annual reports can be found here.

About HeatNIC

The Heat Networks Industry Council brings together leaders of the heat networks industry to support Government in achieving its vision of achieving a sustainable industry. The Council’s offer to Government, to be published in the next few months, will identify measures it can take to:

  • Create jobs and investment (focusing on the investment that could be unlocked by the sector, and the number and quality of jobs that will be created as a result)
  • Cut costs (to both those looking to invest in heat networks and customers supplied by a heat network)
  • Set out the industry’s commitment to decarbonisation
  • Create more liveable, smarter cities (including how it can support grid balancing services and flexibility and improve air quality)
  • Drive excellence in customer service and standards 

The Council has been established by the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), who provide the Secretariat.