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Differences in regulation for community and district heating

Posted by Ian Allan

The Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 are now three years old and are playing an important role to help regulate the heating and cooling sector. However that doesn’t mean that heat suppliers and stakeholders understand them fully and the repercussions for not abiding by them. This blog investigates what you should know, and how the regulation differs between district heating and community heating schemes.

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There is confusion that surrounds our industry terms, but this is nothing out of the ordinary; even the decentralised energy sector sometimes struggle with the differences in regulation for community and district heating. First thing first, we thought it would be useful to demonstrate the differences and to clear up some of the common preconceptions.

So, what is a heat network?

A heat network is defined in the Heat Network Regulations as the general term to describe both community and district heating networks. It explains what the system is in its entirety; including the energy centre, plant room/substations, the pipework in between the two, the dwelling internals up to the heating system radiators.  

What is community heating?

Community heating is a centralised heating system that supplies heat and hot water to one building block with more than one heat customer according to the Heat Network Regulations.

What is meant by district heating?

District heating is the network or distribution of thermal energy in either the form of steam, hot water or chilled liquids from a central source of production. This will feed into multiple buildings or sites for the use of heating, hot water and in some cases, cooling.

The Heat Network Regulations minimum criteria for a district heat network is 2 buildings being supplied with heat and at least one final customer.

What are the differences to community and district heating?

The differences between community and district heating as outlined in the scope guidance in the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations, simply put is the location of the plant room and the number of building blocks that are served by the plant room or energy centre.

Our recent blog, The differences between community and district heating covers what you might be looking for more detail.

Don’t all buildings fall under the classification of community heating?

Well, we at Switch2 believe that the definition of community heating needs to be altered slightly to include small heat networks where a central plant room serves a site or development that may have a couple or more buildings. However regulation states, that community heating is just one building that receives heat from a central plant room.

There is a case to say that every building even though it is connected to a district heat in system, could be classed as a community heating scheme.

What about point of entry meters?

The regulation states that point of entry meters must be fitted to district heat networks. Why? Well, it helps to track efficiencies in pipework from the plant room to the building block’s substation. By isolating the losses between the network pipework and building, it is easier to understand and locate where the heat losses are in the building or network.

For community heating, point of entry metering (in most cases) isn’t necessary as it isn’t attached to a district network. So, instead of installing a point of entry meter, it is recommended to install a total heat generation meter at the plant room wall that will help track efficiencies and heat losses from heat production to heat requirement. However, if a gas fired boiler is in operation on a community heating scheme, then a point of entry meter - in effect a gas meter - will be present to measure the amount of gas used.

Final customer meters

Both community and district heat networks must comply with final customer metering, however part of the legislation is on hold when it comes to retrofitting an existing scheme. We would highly recommend for the fitting of meters to be undertaken as soon as possible as there are many benefits to be reaped for the resident. Not only will it mean that residents will only pay for what they have used, but by implementing final customer meters, you can track heat losses even further, that in turn can help make the scheme more efficient and cost less to run.

And importantly, who is the heat supplier?

The heat supplier is the person who supplies and charges for the supply of heating, cooling or hot water to a final customer, through (a) communal heating; or (b) a district heat network. This person is obligated to meet the three key stipulations of the heat network regulations as outlined in this blog.

Key takeaways


  • A heat network is the general term covering both District Heating networks and Community Heating networks
  • Community Heating is a centralised heating system that supplies heat and hot water to one building block with more than one heat customer
  • Whereas a District Heating system is the distribution of heat from a large scale generation, usually found in cities

Best Practice in Action - how to implement the CIBSE code of practice

Ian Allan

Head of Market Strategy

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