Government U-turn leaves families facing heating bills double that of those protected by the Energy Price Guarantee

The national consumer champion for heat networks is criticising the government’s decision, announced on Friday, to scrap a promised emergency £100 payment to households on heat networks. It leaves 500,000 homes on communal or district heating systems paying around twice as much for heat as those with their own gas boiler heating system.

While Thursday’s fiscal statement announced some support for struggling families this winter, BEIS has since made a U-turn on specific help for heat networks customers.

Heat Trust, which runs a consumer protection scheme for homes that share communal or district heating systems, is asking the government to think again.

The consumer body previously warned that residents could receive winter heating bills as high as £1,000 a month.

Following the Autumn Statement, Stephen Knight, the Director of Heat Trust, said: “When we heard that the government would be doubling the ‘alternative fuel payment’ from £100 to £200, we thought that finally, it was good news for the 500,000 homes in this situation.

“To hear now that the meagre amount of support that had been promised to heat network customers has been snatched away at the 11th hour is a kick in the teeth for these customers, many of whom have been struggling to pay inflated and un-capped bills for the past year.”

These families are excluded from the Energy Price Guarantee because heat networks are not regulated by Ofgem. Although Heat Trust is already working with the government and Ofgem to design regulation and bring down bills, they say help cannot come soon enough.

Mr Knight confirms he has repeatedly heard promises of extra support from the then Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg during the Second Reading debate of the Energy Prices Bill, as well as from BEIS civil servants since.

“With at least half a million households on heat networks who will have to choose between eating and heating their home, these payments are a lifeline. It’s essential that the government rethink its decision and immediately reinstate this vital support.”

The government plans to expand the number of heat network schemes to cover up to 5 million households as part of its strategy to decarbonise heating.