Welcome to our Winter Heat Trust update for 2021. 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 Winter Update 2021/22

 

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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