Heat networks are very popular in northern Europe but currently supply only around 2% of homes and offices in the UK. However, the government is promoting this technology as an important contributor towards its carbon-cutting targets. The sector was largely unregulated until the publication of the Heat Network Regulations, which seek to establish some uniformity among operators in the way they bill customers (i.e. according to their actual consumption of heat) while also giving customers an incentive to reduce their consumption. The Regulations are also being used to create the first detailed picture of heat networks in operation throughout the UK.
The Regulations are enforced by the Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS), part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. They place duties on heat suppliers, defined as anyone who supplies and charges for the supply of heating, cooling and/or hot water to customers through a heat network. In a domestic setting, customers are those with the exclusive use of a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen within their home. In a non-domestic setting, customers are those with the exclusive use of a partitioned space. Heat suppliers must: inform OPSS of the details of their networks; install heat meters to measure customers’ consumption (where it is cost-effective and technically feasible to do so), and; use those meters to bill customers by actual consumption.
Heat suppliers should inform OPSS of their existing networks as soon as possible, using the official ‘notification template’. This asks for information such as the number of buildings and customers on those networks as well as, for metered networks, the amount of heat generated and supplied. New heat networks should be identified on or before the date they become active. A fresh notification form must be completed within every four-year period thereafter. Heat suppliers will in future be required to use a cost-effectiveness tool to determine whether or not they should install heat meters. The cost-effectiveness tool will be released following a planned consultation. Where the tool gives a positive response, heat suppliers will be expected to install meters and begin billing customers by actual consumption as soon as the meters have been installed. Where the tool gives a negative response, heat suppliers will be required to re-use the tool every four years thereafter.
The Regulations apply across the UK and are enforced by OPSS on behalf of the devolved governments. The enforcement approach taken by OPSS is always to help heat suppliers achieve compliance, although there are criminal penalties for wilful non-compliance. The ‘notification template’ is available at www.gov.uk/guidance/heat-networks. This webpage contains guidance on the types of heat networks considered to be inside and outside the scope of the Regulations. It also contains a list of FAQs and a ‘heat estimator’ tool to help with heat generation and supply calculations. The email address to which completed notification forms should be sent is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributor: Fergus McEwan is a Senior Enforcement Officer (Heat Networks) at the Office for Product Safety and Standards which is part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).