Findings from the first-ever survey of 5000 district heating customers showed that while there was “significant variation” in the prices paid by heat network consumers, on average they were likely to pay less than other consumers.
In addition, the findings showed that heat network customers were “just as satisfied” with their district heating systems as non-network heat consumers.
The government aims to expand the UK’s existing base of around 17,000 district heating networks but has cautioned that “strong consumer protections are needed to ensure that customers can be confident in their heating supply as the market develops”.
The survey’s findings will figure in a Competition and Markets Authority study into residential heating networks, which is planned to start in 2018. The study will examine cost transparency for customers, pricing, service, quality, reliability, market competition and the impact of incentives.
Climate change and industry minister Claire Perry said encouraging the uptake of heat networks “is an important way to reduce carbon and cut heating bills for customers”.
She said the survey “provides an important evidence base as we seek to expand the use of heat networks from now to 2021”.
Kirsty Lambert, director of community heating firm Switch2 Energy, said the survey results were “good news for the heat network sector and a positive sign that community and district energy schemes are meeting the needs of customers”.
But she added that the survey “shows that there is significant variation in pricing across the UK, so there is an important task of ensuring greater consistency to achieve affordability on all heat schemes.”
Image: Switch2 Energy, district heating plant room at Amberley Waterfront