Responding to the government’s announcement that it intends to push ahead with regulation of heat networks, Stephen Knight, the Director of Heat Trust, the national consumer protection scheme for heat networks, said:

“We welcome the government’s commitment to regulating heat networks and the news that Ofgem will have new powers to oversee the sector.

“In the absence of regulation, a growing number of consumers are being left unprotected. As the reliance of the country on heat networks grows, so will the scrutiny of their performance and service standards. Legislation to protect consumers is essential and overdue. 

“To avoid any further delays, we now need government to commit to including the legislation to enact these changes in May’s Queen’s Speech.

“We welcome the government’s continued support for the Heat Trust scheme and its recognition of our ‘important role in preparing the industry as we move towards regulating’. We are already working closely with Ofgem to help them develop the regulatory framework and will continue this work in 2022. 

“Heat network operators, from energy companies to social landlords and councils, now have an opportunity to prepare for and help shape the future regulation by registering their networks with Heat Trust. 

“We will continue to work closely with operators, government and Ofgem to ensure a seamless transition to regulation and make sure consumers remain central to that journey.”

Heat Trust, the independent national consumer protection scheme for heat networks, is working closely with Ofgem, which Government will shortly appoint as heat networks regulator.  As part of this partnership Heat Trust has taken on a senior officer from Ofgem on a 12-month secondment.  The secondment is grant funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

RichardRichard Bellingham, who has served with Ofgem for more than 11 years and is Head of Compliance, responsible for understanding retail supplier activity and how it impacts consumer outcomes, joined Heat Trust as Head of Compliance and Audit on 1st September, initially 1-day-a-week and became full-time with Heat Trust at the start of December.

The Government plans to introduce statutory regulation of heat networks in the next few years, including the introduction of consumer protections, pricing rules, minimum technical standards, and requirements for heat networks to decarbonise.

In the absence of such regulation, Heat Trust was created in 2015 to provide independent consumer protection in the sector.  It currently sets minimum standards and provides access to ombudsman dispute resolution for over 61,000 heat network customers across the UK, where the provider is registered with the scheme.

Stephen Knight, Director of Heat Trust, said: “Our mission is about protecting heat network customers and we have long supported regulation of the sector.  We are determined to work with Ofgem to make the transition to statutory regulation a success and as seamless for customers as possible.  We are therefore delighted to have Richard join our team and help us to grow in the short term, learn about the sector and to help us prepare heat suppliers for regulation.”

Cathryn Scott, Ofgem’s Director of Enforcement & Emerging Issues, said: “As Ofgem supports BEIS in developing formal regulation of the Heat Network sector, we are pleased to be working closely with Heat Trust. Gaining knowledge of the sector and the customers through this secondment will enable Ofgem to develop regulations that protect consumers whilst supporting growth of the Heat Network sector.”

Heat Trust, the consumer champion for heat networks, has hailed a successful fifth year of holding the heat network industry to account, with figures from its 2020 annual report showing that complaint volumes continue to fall with an average of 3.8 complaints per 100 customers in 2020 amongst participants in the scheme compared to an average of 5.4 complaints per 100 customers in the regulated gas and electricity sectors.

Heat Trust says participation in its voluntary scheme has ensured a significant proportion of the industry is ready for the government’s forthcoming statutory regulation of heat networks. However, it called for those operators who haven’t yet joined the scheme to do so now, to ensure they are not caught out by regulations in a few years’ time.

Heat Trust puts 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 500,000 homes currently on heat networks in the UK, so it is important that the sector addresses consumer protection issues no in order to build public confidence in this important technology.

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30% growth means 57,000 consumers now offered protection through the scheme

Heat Trust says it is seeing a growing number of heat suppliers signing up to offer its consumer protection standards to customers, with 100 sites now part of the scheme.

The heat network at Clapham Park, operated by Pinnacle Power under its With Energy brand, is the latest to join Heat Trust, meaning that more than 57,000 people living on 100 different heat networks across the country are now offered protection through the scheme.

Heat networks are set to play a key role in meeting carbon reduction targets and helping to create a sustainable energy future. Up to five million homes could be reliant on heat network infrastructure by 2050.

Heat Trust launched in November 2015 as an independent, non-profit voluntary consumer protection scheme for heat networks that holds the industry to account for the benefit of everyone involved.  In the absence of statutory regulation, it ensures that customers of participating heat suppliers enjoy the benefits of strict customer service standards, similar to those for gas and electricity suppliers, and have access to independent alternative dispute resolution (ADR) through the Energy Ombudsman. 

Heat Trust monitors and audits participating suppliers to ensure they live up to their commitments and also works to promote best practice in customer service in the heat network sector.

Over the last year Heat Trust has seen the number of sites registered with the scheme grow by 30%, as the industry prepares for government regulation.

New Managing Director, Stephen Knight, said:

“Heat is an essential service and customers deserve the same rights and protections as those living and working in properties in the regulated sector.
“Over the last six years Heat Trust has delivered that for tens of thousands of customers.  The news that we have reached our 100th registered site is testament to the benefit we have delivered.
“That benefit is only going to grow as the sector moves towards the introduction of a new regulated market framework.
“I’d like to thank Pinnacle Power - suppliers at Clapham Park - and the suppliers of all our other registered sites, for their ongoing commitment to the highest standards of customer protection in the sector.
“Other suppliers should follow their example and register their sites with us now, ahead of the introduction of statutory regulation in the next few years.”

Toby Heysham, Managing Director of Pinnacle Power, added:

“This is a landmark district heating network that has taken a number of years for our team to develop with our client Metropolitan Thames Valley Homes. We are thrilled to be the 100th site to have registered with Heat Trust and hope to have many more registered with the scheme in the future.
“The Heat Trust registration further cements our ambition and commitment to delivering a market leading customer proposition which is fair and reasonable to customers. Pinnacle builds, owns and operates high quality low carbon heat networks.”