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BEIS backs appointment of Ofgem as heat network regulator

Appointment of a heat network regulator is among government proposals in consultation intended to spur drastic take-up of district heat systems

Plans to appoint Ofgem as the regulator of heat networks in the UK has been proposed in a new government consultation focused on expanding uptake of such systems.

Introducing a regulatory body to ensure consumer protection measures are in place is among a raft of measures proposed by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to support the development of lower carbon heat networks.

BEIS said that other core proposals in the consultation document include ensuring improved information is provided to end users about heat supplied through their network systems and ensuring they have the means to address potential operational and efficiency issues. It has also committed to ensuring all heat networks in the UK are low carbon by 2050.

The consultation also commits to provide developers and investors with “the tools to establish new heat networks and expand existing ones”.

Views are also being sought through the consultation on how overall investment can be improved to support district heating solutions, as well as the lessons that can be learnt from gas and electricity providers on creating a viable market framework for such systems. Respondents are asked for proposals on how they would support the decarbonisation of new and existing heat networks, as well as options to better incorporate waste heat.

The consultation will also ask for views around implementing technical standards for district heating and how certification and accreditation can be enforced to improve cost and reliability of the networks.

The Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) trade body said the consultation was a welcome attempt to ensure industry and government were able to work together on growing an “underrated sector” concerning decarbonised heat.

ADE head policy office Charlotte Owen said that the proposed introduction of a market regulator would be a vital step to improve understanding and take-up of district heating over the next three decades.

She said, “In 2050, heat networks will represent a significant proportion of UK heating, and as such should be placed on an equal footing with other utilities. Consumer protection is a significant part of this. “

“The proposed introduction of statutory undertaker rights, which will reduce costs, provide greater certainty around planning and place heat networks on an equal footing with other utilities, is a very welcomed move by government”

Ms Owen said that greater levels of policy and government support would be vital if ambitions to drastically step up investment in heat networks were realised.

She said, “The ADE would like to see the UK government commit to policies that drive investment in the sector, including greater responsibilities for local authorities in identifying heat decarbonisation pathways through zoning.”

“The proposals to pilot heat network zoning and explore mandatory connections is firmly a step in the right direction.”

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