The government has today published the findings of the first survey of heat network consumers. It asked about their satisfaction with their heating system, price and transparency of billing, and customer service.
A heat network takes heat from a central source and delivers it to a number of buildings. There are around 17,000 heat networks in the UK, with some of the largest networks at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, Sheffield and Nottingham.
Expansion of the heat networks market is a key part of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy, but strong consumer protections are needed to ensure that customers can be confident in their heating supply as the market develops.
Our survey was carried out by independent researchers between April and July 2017 and received over 5,000 responses. The survey results suggested that, while there was significant variation in the prices paid by heat network consumers, on average they were likely to pay less than non-heat network consumers.
The survey also shows that while there are issues affecting the sector that need addressing, heat network consumers were just as satisfied overall with their heating systems as non-heat network consumers.
Consumers on Heat Trust registered schemes (the voluntary industry-led consumer protection scheme) in general received more comprehensive billing information, and service interruptions tended to be rectified quicker, in line with the Heat Trust’s service standards.
Claire Perry, Minister for Climate Change and Industry said:
As we set out in our Clean Growth Strategy, encouraging the uptake of heat networks is an important way to reduce carbon and cut heating bills for customers.
This survey of consumers provides an important evidence base as we seek to expand the use of heat networks from now to 2021.
The projects that the government supports through the Heat Network Investment Project must meet Heat Trust equivalent standards, comparable to those provided to customers of gas and electricity, as well as meet minimum technical standards in terms of performance and efficiency of systems. Membership of these schemes is voluntary for existing heat networks.
The government will feed in the results of the survey to the Competition and Markets Authority which announced today that it is carrying out a market study into the heat networks sector. The heat networks industry is also developing proposals to protect consumers and lower risk for investors which will be published in 2018.