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District Heating Networks: analysis of information request, January 2016

20 January 2016

district heating networks report cover imageIn July 2015 Citizens Advice contacted all Local Authorities in England, Wales and Scotland to establish how many of them were aware of, and held information on, district heating schemes in their areas. The aim of the information request was to add to the patchy evidence base that currently exists and to help us identify areas that we may require further research and advocacy for us on behalf of consumers.

The provision of heat to homes through district heating and heat network schemes has been identified by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and the government as a key technology to support the decarbonisation of heat.

At present there are an estimated 2,000 heat networks that supply heat to approximately 210,000 homes and 1,700 commercial and public buildings, and a further 150 schemes are known to be under development in the UK. 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.

Policy Manager (Smart and Sustainable Energy Team) Zoe Guijarro's blog 

Why heat networks need to get hot on consumer protection

Unlike the gas and electricity sectors, the delivery of heat to homes is unregulated. People heating their homes this way are not subject to 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 as long as 20 years.

Having a warm home is vital to the health and well-being of its occupants and there is potential that the lack of protection for consumers, especially the most vulnerable, could lead to a high level of detriment.

Citizens Advice is concerned about the lack of consumer protections for heat customers and that this looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

It is our hope that District Heating Networks: analysis of information request, January 2016, [ 0.7 mb] will add to the growing base of evidence on heat networks and help to inform further development of the services and protections for heat customers.