25
March
2015
|
10:00
Europe/London

New heat customer protection scheme gets green light

Thousands of heat customers can soon expect to be protected by a new industry initiative, marking an important step forward for the maturing district heating sector.

At a meeting of key stakeholders, Heat Trust was approved for launch following over two years of industry, Government and consumer group collaboration.

Dr Tim Rotheray, Director of the Association for Decentralised Energy, welcomed the announcement: "We are delighted that the scheme has cleared the final hurdle in bringing consumer protection to thousands of homes and businesses connected to district heating.  

"As the role of district heating continues to grow in the UK, Heat Trust will be a vital tool to give peace of mind to heat customers. Consumers protected by the Scheme will be afforded a new level of confidence in the quality of service they can expect and a free and independent arbitration service to rely on should there be a problem.

This scheme shows an industry that takes the initiative and works to ensure that it is able to deliver for consumers. We welcome the creation of Heat Trust and its ambitions to expand to cover more of this growing sector over time."

Welcoming the announcement, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey confirmed Government's ongoing support for the scheme: "Heat networks play a pivotal role in our transition to a low-carbon energy system, which is why we're backing this new scheme that will give people access to the right help and protection."

Reiterating Government policy, the Secretary for State added: "We are on the side of the consumer and have been clear that we will introduce tougher regulations if needed to ensure people are getting a fair deal." 

The Scottish Government Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing also welcomed the scheme: "District heating is a key part of the Scottish Government aim to deliver affordable low carbon heat, and in February I announced £2.7 million in loans for district heating projects that will deliver significant fuel bill reductions to customers. 

"The Scottish Government recognises the need to develop appropriate regulation, commensurate with the scale of the heat market. I invited the ADE to be part of the Special Working Group of Expert Commission on District Heating to advise Government on this issue and I welcome the launch of the Heat Trust as a significant step forward."

E.ON's Community Energy business is the first energy supplier to commit to Heat Trust. Jeremy Bungey, Head of Community Energy at E.ON, said: "District heating schemes already bring secure, lower carbon and affordable energy to tens of thousands of customers across the country - and the numbers will continue to grow significantly in the coming years.

"At E.ON we are developing schemes from the West Country to Norfolk and from London to Yorkshire and this fantastic industry-led initiative will show that suppliers are committed to a high standard of service to heat customers. We've been on board from the start and I look forward to UK heat suppliers joining us to share in this commitment." 

UK District Energy Association Chairman Simon Woodward said: "For district heating to work it must deliver for its customers. Today's announcement is an important step forward for a growing and maturing industry."

End

Notes to editors:

For further information or to request an interview, please contact 
Claire Wych, Communications Officer, ADE on behalf of Heat Trust on 020 3031 8740 or claire.wych@theade.co.uk
Andrew Barrow at E.ON on 02476 183677 or andrew.barrow@eon-uk.com

About Heat Trust

The district heating industry has worked with consumer representatives since 2012 to develop the proposals for Heat Trust. The Association for Decentralised Energy announced in March that it was formally backing Heat Trust. The Scheme is expected to launch later in 2015, applications will begin to be taken soon, but for now expressions of interest in joining the Scheme can be made toinfo@heattrust.org.

Heat Trust protection is aimed at heat energy suppliers who contract with metered or unmetered domestic and micro business properties where the heat customer pays their supplier directly for their heat energy. Although voluntary, the Scheme is supported by government, industry and consumer groups as an industry led, self-regulation initiative that recognises best practice.

Where appropriate, the level of protection afforded under the Scheme seeks to replicate that of gas and electricity customers. The proposals contain two key components:

1) Assessment criteria by which to evaluate the level of protection a Heat Supplier's Heat Supply Agreement provides to the heat network's customers; and

2) Independent adjudication, a low cost form of customer dispute resolution once heat supplier's complaint procedure is exhausted.

The Scheme has already attracted significant interest from heat suppliers, and expects to provide protection to over 20,000 heat customers in its first year. 

As members of the Scheme, suppliers agree to abide by the Scheme Rules and Bye-Laws. The Scheme includes rules on the following

* Heat customer obligations

* Support for vulnerable heat customers

* Heat supplier obligations

* Heat customer service and reporting a fault or emergency

* Joining and leaving procedures

* Heat meters

* Heat Interface Units

* Heat bill and heat charge calculations

* Heat bill payment arrangements and the management of arrears

* Suspension and resumptions of service processes

* Complaint handling and independent complaint handling

* Privacy policy and data protection