Community heating specialist Switch2 Energy has welcomed the results of a government survey that shows heat network customers pay less for their energy than consumers using traditional gas systems.
The UK government’s first ever independent survey of 5,000 heat network consumers identified that, on average, their costs were lower than for non-heat network consumers. Overall, the survey respondents also reported equal satisfaction with their heating systems.
“This is good news for the heat network sector and a positive sign that community and district energy schemes are meeting the needs of customers”, said Kirsty Lambert, Director of Switch2 Energy. “However, the survey shows that there is significant variation in pricing across the UK, so there is an important task of ensuring greater consistency to achieve affordability on all heat schemes.”
The report showed that customer service standards, such as clarity of billing information and speed in rectifying service interruptions, were better for consumers connected to Heat Trust registered schemes.
Kirsty Lambert added: “Switch2 Energy is a founding member of the Heat Trust, which is a voluntary, industry-led consumer protection scheme. The higher service standards reported demonstrates the success of this initiative. Other initiatives, such as the CIBSE and Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) Code of Practice for heat network development, are also driving huge improvements in the sector”.
“We also support ADE’s industry-led Heat Network Task Force, which was created in May 2017 to examine issues such as heat pricing and contractual agreements, which are areas that the Heat Trust is not permitted by law to address.”
These findings, together with those of the government survey, will be reported early in 2018 and feed into a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) study into domestic heat networks. This research will get underway next year and examine cost transparency for customers, pricing, service, quality, reliability, market competition, and the impact of incentives to encourage the growth of heat networks.
“The government has signalled its support for heat network expansion through its recent Clean Growth Strategy and investment in the sector”, added Kirsty Lambert. “Community and district heating can deliver affordable, low carbon, reliable heat – helping to address fuel poverty and increase energy efficiency in our towns and cities. Customer needs must be placed at the heart of the design, development and operation of heat networks and we welcome the joint efforts underway to deliver better customer protection and further improve service delivery.”