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Putting customers at the heart of our pandemic response, says Heat Networks Industry Council

1 May 2020

A new consumer protection agreement has been agreed today (1 May 2020) between members of the Heat Networks Industry Council. Measures agreed include ensuring all customers remain supplied with energy,heating and hot water through challenging times and supporting customers in financial distress.

Commitments in the agreement include identifying and prioritising customers at risk, supporting customers who are impacted financially, supporting prepayment meter customers to stay on supply and providing information, advice and guidance to customers on what help is available. 

The agreement is signed by the following organisations, representing heat network providers to tens of thousands of customers: Dan McGrail in his role as Chair of the Heat Networks Industry Council, EDF Energy, ENGIE, Energetik, E.ON, Pinnacle Power, SSE Heat Networks Ltd, Switch2, Vattenfall, Veolia and Vital Energi. 

The Council encourages heat network companies in the UK to sign up to these commitments and the Association forDecentralised Energy(ADE), on behalf of the Council, will maintain a public updated list of signatories to this agreement. 

The Council and the ADE met the Energy and Clean Growth Minister, to discuss the impact ofthe pandemicon the heat networks industry and will continue to work constructively with Government throughout this period. 

Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, said:

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting every household in this country. It is vital that customers know there is support available if they have difficulty in paying their energy bills.

Today’s consumer protection agreement means that those heat network operators who sign up are committing to providing the best possible support they can to their customers. I would urge them all to sign up.

The Scottish Government Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:

I welcome this commitment from the Heat Networks Industry Council, which will provide much needed certainty for customers in these uncertaintimes.

Ensuring vulnerable customers or those in financial difficulty have protection, regardless of how their homes are supplied with heat and hot water is a priority for the Scottish Government.

We will continue to work with the sector to minimise any disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I encourage any heat network operators or customers to notify us if they are experiencing difficulty.

Dan McGrail, Chair of The Heat Networks Industry Council said:

The heat network industry recognises the challenges vulnerable and low-income customers might face during this pandemic. These consumer protection measuresreflect a trajectory we have been on for some time and that’s why we’re putting them at the heart of our response and setting out today what protections we’re putting in place to help.

Clearly, the situation is changing quickly, and we recognise that the situation for the heat network sector and their customers may change in future. Under these circumstances, the companies signed up to the agreement will review whether the commitments above remain appropriate, with support from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The Heat Networks Industry Council will continue to work with the broader industry to encourage more companies to sign up to this agreement and ensure that all heat network customers in the UK are supported during this difficult time.

The agreement is supported by Heat Trust, an independent, non-profit consumer champion for heat network customers. In response to the national emergency, Heat Trust has issued specific guidance on vulnerable customers including making every reasonable effort to support and help a Heat Customer that experiencesdifficulty, including restructuring their payments so that they are manageable and affordable.

Bindi Patel, Director of Heat Trust said:

Energy is an essential service and during this time it’s important that customers are supported and have access to reliable heating and hot water. This requires a caring and flexible approach.

I am very pleased to see the Heat Networks Industry Council make this pledge today, which echoes key principles required by Heat Trust. The steps outlined by the Council in conjunction with the standards set by Heat Trust are a clear demonstration of the heat network sector’s commitment to protecting customers.

ENDS

Notes to the editor

  • The agreement can be found here: https://www.theade.co.uk/news/policy-and-regulation/hnic-agreement
  • Heat networks deliver cost effective, low carbon heat in the form of hot water or steam, from a central point of generation to theend user through a network of insulated pipes.In the UK today there arearound 14,000 heat networks, with significant plans for expansion as part of the broader commitment to meeting net zero carbon emissions.
  • The heat networks sector is currently largely unregulated, and this agreement represents industry putting in place voluntary consumer protection principles in place during the national emergency.
  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Scottish Government have committed to introducing further regulation to the heat networks market -and the Heat Networks Industry Council have been working closely with Government to ensure that regulation delivers comprehensive customer protection.

About the Heat Networks Industry Council

The Heat Networks Industry Council brings together leaders of the heat networks industry to support Government in achieving its vision of achieving a sustainable industry. The Council’s offer to Government, to be published in the next few months, will identify measures it can take to:

  • Create jobs and investment (focusing on the investment that could be unlocked by the sector, and the numberand quality of jobs that will be created as a result)
  • Cut costs (to both those looking to invest in heat networks and customers supplied by a heat network)
  • Set out the industry’s commitment to decarbonisation
  • Create more liveable, smarter cities (including how it can support grid balancing services and flexibility and improve air quality)
  • Drive excellence in customer service and standards 

The Council has been established by the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), who provide the Secretariat.

About the ADE

The Association for Decentralised Energy is setting the vision of a local, efficient, low carbon energy system which enables energy users to make the choices which work for them. The Association has more than 160 members active across a range of technologies and markets and is widely recognised as one of the leading industry bodies in the sustainable energy sector.

About Heat Trust

Heat Trust is an independent, non-profit consumer champion for heat network customers that holds the industry to account for the benefit of everyone involved. Heat Trust make sure customers enjoy heating systems fit for the future by:

  • Applying strict customer service standards to heat suppliers, similar to those for traditional gas and electricity suppliers;
  • Providing access to an independent dispute resolution service through the Energy Ombudsman; and
  • Working with suppliers to promote best practice, innovation and continuous improvement in customer service.

Launched in November 2015, Heat Trust provides protection to over 10% of residential and micro-business heat network customers.

Spokespeople available for interview

Daniel McGrail, Heat Networks Industry Council Chair: Dan McGrail is the global CEO of Siemens Engines, which specialises in the design and manufacture of high efficiency gas engines for use in cogeneration applications such as heat networks. Dan has served on the board of directors of the ADE since 2014 and was Chair from 2016-2019.

Bindi Patel, Director, Heat Trust: Bindi Patel is the Director of Heat Trust -a not-for-profit customer champion for the heat network sector. Prior to joining Heat Trust, Bindi worked in policy and regulation at Energy UK, and advised local authorities on climate change and energy strategies at Impetus Consulting and the Energy Saving Trust.

 

For more information contact:

Lucy Symons,

Head of External Affairs, The ADE,

lucy.symons-jones@theade.co.uk

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