Heat Trust’s third annual report was published this week, revealing that they now provide protection to 10% of the market. Reflecting on the experience gained over three years, the report sets out key principles to consider as regulation of the market is developed.

Bindi Patel, Director at Heat Trust said:

“Heat Trust has been working to support the adoption of minimum customer service and protection standards across the heat networks sector since 2015. Regulation is an important next step. With ambitions for a significant proportion of homes and businesses to be served by heat networks, it is essential that heat networks provide reliable low carbon heat and that customers receive the same protections as other energy customers.”

Other principles identified include the need to ensure consistency between different nations as Scotland proceeds with its plans for heat networks regulation, focusing on customer outcomes to allow flexibility on how services are delivered, and integration with wider regulatory developments. Bindi noted:

“Regulation of heat networks is taking place during a time of rapid transition across the energy market. It is important that heat network regulation is considered alongside other regulatory changes in the energy market, and that customers on heat networks can access and benefit from future innovation.”

The report provides a summary of performance of heat networks registered with Heat Trust over the previous year, revealing that technical issues, billing and charges were the most frequent issues raised by customers. Over the year:

  • There were 4,657 complaints recorded by Registered Participants
  • The majority of complaints related to technical issues (42%) followed by billing and charges (34%)
  • There were 63 planned interruptions and 745 unplanned interruptions
  • The majority of unplanned interruptions were due to issues affecting generation equipment

Variation in how different suppliers collect performance data emphasises the need for industry-wide performance metrics – a call first made by Heat Trust in its inaugural annual report.

This report also provides details on complaints that were received by the Energy Ombudsman. The data from the Energy Ombudsman covers 1st January 2018 – 31st December 2018. During this 12-month period:

  • There were 83 complaints within the Ombudsman’s terms of reference (TOR)
  • The majority of complaints were due to billing (60%)
  • Of complaints within the TORs, 63% were upheld by the Ombudsman and a further 23% reached a Mutually Acceptable Solution
  • A goodwill payment was awarded in 72% of cases, the average award was £105.61

For the first time, Heat Trust has been able to include data on debt and supply suspensions. The report notes that this is an area of importance and in particular, identifies areas for improvement to support debt management.

“Our work has focused on setting minimum standards and collecting data to build a picture of current practices. We continue to work with stakeholders across the market to support the sector and champion good outcomes for heat network customers. A government consultation setting out the first proposals on heat network regulation is expected next year. We look forward to sharing our experience and knowledge with stakeholders, governments and indeed a future regulator to support development of a robust regulatory framework.”

Ends

Friday 24th May 


Today Heat Trust has published a consultation as part of work to update its Heat Cost Calculator.

Heat Trust launched its Heat Cost Calculator (HCC) in 2016 to provide customers living on heat networks an indication of what it would cost to heat a similar sized property using an individual gas boiler.

Although the HCC cannot provide a bespoke assessment, Heat Trust has developed the tool to encourage better transparency in the market on heat charges by providing customers a tool that allows them to compare against a common alternative.

The majority of space heating in the UK is provided by gas boilers, which is the alternative used in the current HCC. However, a growing number of UK properties use electricity as a heating fuel. Electric heating is becoming more common in flats where heat demand is lower and / or the number of floors in the building prevents gas being used on safety grounds.

Heat Trust therefore recognises that it would be helpful to expand the HCC to include electric heating.

Bindi Patel, Head of Scheme at Heat Trust said:

“The Heat Cost Calculator allows customers to gain an indication of the annual heating and hot water costs for a similar-sized property assuming it had a modern gas boiler.

Recognising that for a growing number of properties the alternative is more likely to be electric heating, Heat Trust has been working to expand its HCC to include electric heating.

We are keen to receive feedback on the proposed formulas and look forward to engaging with stakeholders further as our work develops”

 The consultation published today seeks feedback on the formulas for electric panel heaters and electric storage heaters. The consultation also asks for views data for other renewable technologies where publicly available data is limited.

Responses to the consultation should be received by Monday 8th July 2019.  The consultation can be accessed here.

Friday 05 April 2019

Heat Trust welcomes the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth’s open letter to all heat network operators on improving customer service. Noting that government intends to legislate, the Minister calls for industry to improve consumer experience by building on existing good practice now, rather than waiting for regulation.

The Rt Hon Claire Perry MP said:

I encourage all owners and operators of heat networks who are not currently registered with Heat Trust and who do not offer equivalent standards to consider joining. The quality standards that the voluntary scheme sets out will give your consumers important reassurance and protections.

Heat networks will play a significant role in meeting heat decarbonisation targets, with expectations that up to 1.5million households will be served by a heat network by 2030.  It is vital that as the sector evolves customers are assured service standards that are comparable to the rest of the energy market.

In welcoming the letter, Bindi Patel, Head of Scheme for Heat Trust said:

"Heat networks need to work for customers, and at Heat Trust we have been working to promote better customer service practices in the heat network sector since 2015. The standards we set are designed to ensure customers benefit from a level of service and protection that is comparable to the rest of the energy market.

 

“We support the call for regulation, but proactive action is needed now. We welcome the Minister’s letter encouraging all heat networks to join Heat Trust. With over three years’ experience, Heat Trust can support the market to ensure heat suppliers are equipped and prepared for future regulation.

 

“We also recognise that as the market evolves, so too should our standards. We are keen to work and engage with all types of suppliers to understand their needs and help inform future development of the scheme.”

For more information about Heat Trust visit www.heattrust.org

ENDS

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Notes to editors

Heat Trust launched in November 2015. It sets out a common standard in the quality and level of customer service that heat suppliers should provide their customers.

It also provides an independent process with the Energy Ombudsman for settling complaints between customers and their heat supplier. This service is free for customers to access.

In 2018, Heat Trust consulted on expanding the Scheme by allowing those sites without Heat Customer Supply Agreements to join if they provide equivalent protections, e.g. a customer charter. As a result, there is the potential for thousands more customers to benefit from the same protections. The Heat Trust Scheme Rules were amended to include this change from 1 April 2019.

For more information on the consultation click here.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Thousands more people who receive heat through a heat network will now be able to access free independent complaint resolution and minimum customer service standards. Heat Trust, the independent customer protection scheme has extended its eligibility requirements to enable heat network suppliers with Customer Charters, or equivalent, to register. To-date, heat network suppliers have been required to have a Heat Energy Supply Agreement in place with each customer before being eligible to register. 

Head of Scheme Bindi Patel said more than 37,000 customers were already benefiting from being on heat networks registered with Heat Trust and thousands more customers could now have the same protection as a result of the change. 

"The change recognises that many heat network suppliers, particularly housing authorities and local authorities, often capture heating and hot water provision in tenancy or leasehold agreements as opposed to a specific Heat Energy Supply Agreement. 

 

"By opening up eligibility to these operators who can demonstrate they have clear commitments to specific service standards and terms and conditions in place, we are able to offer Heat Trust benefits to thousands more customers on heat networks across the UK."

The extension of Heat Trust to such operators follows an open consultation.

Virginia Graham of the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC) welcomed the extension of the Scheme. 

“By enabling more heat networks to register with Heat Trust, thousands more customers will be given an assurance dependable heat supplies and high-quality service." 

For more information about Heat Trust visit www.heattrust.org

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Heat Trust launched in November 2015. It sets out a common standard in the quality and level of customer service that heat suppliers should provide their customers. It also provides an independent process with the Energy Ombudsman for settling complaints between customers and their heat supplier. This service is free for customers to access.

The Modification to the Heat Trust Scheme Rules (SR0003) will come into effect from the 1 April 2019

  • The Consultation Report can be found here.
  • All Heat Trust Registered Sites can be found here.
  • Download Press Release here.

Friday 16 November 2018

The number of heat customers benefitting from free independent complaint resolution and minimum customer service standards has more than doubled, from 15,000 customers in 2015 to over 35,000 customers today.

The information is reported in Heat Trust’s second Annual Report which was published this week. Heat Trust is the stakeholder-led customer protection scheme that sets consistent customer service standards for the heat network sector, building on standards in the gas and electricity markets.

More than 54 heat networks are now registered with Heat Trust and an additional 18 applications are in the registration process. All large energy service companies with residential networks have now registered one or more heat networks with the scheme.

“It is imperative that customers on heat networks have an assurance in the service they will receive and that if these standards aren’t met, then customers are able to access independent complaint resolution”, said Head of Scheme Bindi Patel.

“The number of sites which have voluntarily been registered with Heat Trust continues to grow and this means we are able to provide more and more customers with this assurance, and in doing so drive up industry standards.”

The report reveals that billing and customer service are the most frequent issues raised by customers. Over the year:

  • 3,550 customer complaints were recorded of which 92% were resolved within the monitoring period, representing a customer to complaint ratio of 11%. By comparison, the regulated market has a complaint ratio of 20% per 100,000 customers.
  • 206 customers contacted the Energy Ombudsman and 116 cases were within the Energy Ombudsman’s terms of reference. Over half of complaints (55%) were upheld by the Energy Ombudsman.
  • Most complaints (61%) were about back-billing or billing. A further 27% were due to customer service.
  • A goodwill payment was awarded in 62 cases. A total of £4,888 was awarded in 2017, these ranged from £5 to £629. The average award for complaints in 2017 was £78.84. A further 11 cases were received in 2017 and closed in 2018. The total goodwill payments for these were £669.

“While independent Government research has clearly demonstrated that customers on sites registered with Heat Trust receive more comprehensive billing information than non-registered sites, our data shows that heat network operators can make further improvements by ensuring bills are accurate and clear,” said Ms Patel.

This year, for the first time Heat Trust has also reported on outages on heat networks, finding:

  • A total of 41 planned interruptions and 469 unplanned Interruptions were recorded over the year.
  • Energy centre failure was the cause of 48% of unplanned customer outages.
  • 23% of unplanned interruptions affected between 500 – 1000 customers.

“Heat Trust will continue to work with our Registered Participants to build an evidence base of the performance of heat networks. Our aim is to build a reliable picture of the heat network market and highlight where improvements can be made to ensure customer received a reliable and efficient service,” said Ms Patel.

ENDS

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