District Heat Networks 2: analysis of responses from private heat suppliers
Today, heat networks are experiencing a renaissance as a means to deliver heat to homes and businesses with a lower carbon content than individual heating systems. The most recently available figures estimate that around 2,000 heat networks in the UK are supplying heat to approximately 210,000 homes and 1,700 commercial and public buildings. A further 150 schemes are known to be under development. In addition, analysis using figures from the CCC suggests that by 2030 one million homes would need to be connected to heat networks in order to deliver on UK carbon targets. Other reports suggest this should be higher, closer to 2 million homes by 2030.
Unlike the gas and electricity sectors, the delivery of heat to homes is not regulated. People receiving heat in this way do not receive the same protections as those heating their homes using individual gas boilers or electricity. Heat customers are unable to switch and are obliged to sign up to long-term contracts (usually 20 years or more).
Citizens Advice is concerned about the lack of consumer protections and level of service standards for heat customers. Therefore, in May 2016 we issued an information request to 7 private heat suppliers known to be operating district heating networks in England, Wales and Scotland. The aim of this request was to build a clearer picture of the services being provided to heat customers. This information helps us to identify the areas consumers might have most difficulty with as well as note any areas of best practice that should be replicated across the sector.
District Heat Networks 2 analyses these responses and presents some recommendations that Citizens Advice believes would be a step in the right direction to deliver better protections and outcomes for consumers of district heat networks.