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What is an open access heat network?

Posted by Ian Allan

Wednesday 20th February, 2019

The importance of Heat Trust to heat networks

Posted by Kirsty Lambert

Heat Trust has made headlines this week announcing that the free independent customer services standards is now open to heat network suppliers, that do not have heat energy supply agreements with customers. Meaning that thousands more people who receive heat through a heat network will now have access to the independent customer protection scheme. But what is the importance of this and how will it help the industry?

What is Heat TrustHeat-Trust-Logo-300x195?

Heat Trust is the first UK voluntary customer protection scheme available for heat suppliers to sign up their schemes and residents on heat networks. It was established to create an industry code of conduct to help set a minimum guaranteed performance standard for residents. It works by putting a layer of customer protection for residents on communal heat networks, and setting a common standard in the quality and level of customer service that is provided to domestic and micro-business customers by their heat energy supplier.

Why has the Heat Trust been introduced?

The heat network industry, although it has been around for a long time, is in fact still in its infant years. Prior to the pending regulation highlighted from the CMA market study, the CIBSE/ ADE Code of Practice (CoP), Heat Trust and the Heat Network (Metering & Billing) Regulations; the industry had no specific regulation, rules, or customer service standards in place and missed out on frameworks for delivering high quality customer service. 

Before the Heat Network Regulations

The Cinderella moment for heat networks occurred when the EU directive was published, forcing Government to take district heating seriously. This, combined with heat networks rolling out decarbonised heat, created momentum and has since fruitioned into a growing, popular form of heating homes. But, that wasn't to say it was all plain sailing. 

In 2014, The Which? Report investigated some of these networks and found poorly designed systems where residents were paying £££'s for a service that was par on average.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel; the Heat Trust and not forgetting CoP are playing a vital a part on this young industry.

Heat Trust works at its best when heat suppliers whose properties are registered with Heat Trust, have abided by best practice standards such as the CoP during design and commissioning. Joining up the practical design with the customer service element helps to make the whole supply chain for delivering heat networks fit for purpose, with the heat network doing its job; delivering cost effective, quality heat.

Setting the benchmark for customer service

Since the Heat Trust launch, times have changed and Heat Trust along with the Heat Network Regulations are transforming the industry. The new initiative sets service standards that are comparable to those provided in the rest of the energy market. This in itself is helping reshape the reputation of heat networks, and will continue to do so in future years. 

Switch2 and Heat Trust

Heat Trust is designed to put the resident at the forefront of the heat network - which has Switch2’s full support - and works in our favour as it makes customer service transparent.  It gives registered residents access to the Energy Ombudsman(something  previously unavailable for heat network residents) and helps put in place the minimum level of service that every resident should receive, from standardised billing, to adhering to set service level agreements for when things go wrong.

At Switch2 we have always put the resident at the forefront of all of our schemes, therefore during the discussion period prior to Heat Trust being founded, Switch2 were ready to be a part of the Heat Trust Steering committee. Since this we have and are working at having all of our Switch2 ESCos registered with Heat Trust and offering Heat Trust compliant services to all of our customers - public and private.

Heat Trust calculator

In addition to this, Heat Trust offers a heat cost calculator. This allows residents to work out whether or not they are saving money from using heat from a heat network compared to having their own individual gas boiler in their property. A comparator of communal heating and electric heat due to be launched soon.

Key takeaways

  • Heat Trust is a UK voluntary customer protection scheme that is helping to create an industry code of conduct
  • Heat Trust puts the customer at the centre of heat network schemes
  • The Scheme provides a guide for developers and a means of independently resolving disputes

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