Heat Trust, the consumer champion for customers purchasing energy from communal and district heat networks, has successfully registered its first networked heat pump site under its consumer protection scheme.

The pioneering low-carbon heat network, operated by Truro-based Kensa Utilities, uses underground boreholes and pipes to harness stored energy from the ground and feed it to a small ground-source heat pump in each home. This heat pump upgrades the heat to warm homes and heat water.

After a successful pilot, designed to prove the infrastructure’s effectiveness, five-year old Kensa Utilities hopes its system will eventually form an alternative to the UK’s existing gas network, contributing significantly to energy decarbonisation.

Kensa’s network is the first of its type to register with Heat Trust. The parties see it as paving the way for similar networks to join the consumer-protection scheme. They envisage it as as a possible template for future statutory regulation by Ofgem of the heat networks sector.

Similar to the regulations set for gas and electricity suppliers, the rules of Heat Trust’s scheme set minimum threshold standards, ensuring that customers of heat networks are guaranteed satisfactory service and protections by their heat suppliers.  Explicit criteria include fair treatment, support for vulnerable customers, transparent billing and communications, and access to the Energy Ombudsman if things go wrong.

With the government backing heat networks as a sustainable energy solution, and with formal regulation on the horizon, registration with Heat Trust not only protects consumers, the parties argue, but leads heat network suppliers towards improving their operations.

Heat Trust’s managing director Stephen Knight said: “The registration of the first ground-loop type heat network with Heat Trust is a significant milestone and signals wider adoption of vital consumer protections and service standards, creating a more trusted sector.

“Government research estimates that by 2050, 20% of the UK’s heat demand will be met by heat networks. As networks of this type become more widespread, Heat Trust registration ensures that customers remain front and centre in the industry’s journey to more sustainable heating sources.”

For Kensa Utilities, managing director Wouter Thijssen added:  It is fantastic to be the first networked heat pump project registered with the Heat Trust with our Heat the Streets project.

“Achieving registration of this innovative heat network is a big step forward in demonstrating our commitment to delivering reliable and efficient heating infrastructure.

“This landmark project provides a blueprint for the decarbonisation of heating in the UK. Our model replicates the gas network with a pipe in the ground, a flat rate standing charge to consumers and a little white box in the house.

“Consumer protections and high service standards are crucial in the effective transition towards full implementation of these networks, so we are excited to lead the way for other networks to follow suit in becoming Heat Trust registered.”

Heat Trust is committed to registering more networks to its scheme during the lead-up to regulation, with the aim of ensuring consumer confidence in heat networks as an effective source of sustainable heating.

For more information on Heat Trust, visit: https://www.heattrust.org/


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