Heat interface unit and heat network billing provider Evinox Energy has welcomed the results of the first Heat Networks Consumer Survey, issued by BEIS (the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy).
Key findings from the survey – which asked around 5000 heat network consumers about their satisfaction with their heating systems, price, transparency of billing and quality of customer service – were that while there is significant variation to be found in the prices paid by heat network consumers, on average they were likely to pay less than non-heat network consumers.
The survey also shows that while there are issues affecting the sector that need addressing, heat network consumers were just as satisfied overall with their heating systems as non-heat network consumers, with nearly three-quarters reporting that they were “satisfied” with their heating system.
“The results are encouraging news for the district heating sector” says Chris Davis, Head of Sales and Marketing at Evinox; “there has been a dearth of qualitative market intelligence relating to heat networks, so surveys such as this are extremely valuable in understanding what consumers really think and help to gain an insight into their day to day experiences of living with these systems”.
Two key observations from the report suggest that Evinox is already well ahead of the curve in terms of the solutions it provides. Firstly, the report highlights that heat network consumers are likely to have less control over their heating system than those with traditional heating systems – with more than half of the consumers surveyed reporting that their systems were not fitted with a central thermostat, while around only a third have a heating programmer, in stark contrast to “non-heat-network consumers”.
Evinox’s fully electronically controlled ModuSat XR heat interface units are typically provided with a full “ViewSmart” heating programmer, allowing consumers to have precisely the same level of control over when, how and where their heating is delivered as a conventional boiler-based heating system. ViewSmart also has the option to display current and historic energy consumption information, allowing consumers full control over their heating system usage and energy bills.
“Heating controls have long since been proven to reduce energy consumption, while smart meters and energy display devices are fundamental in changing consumer behaviour” Chris Davis explains; “And for the continued acceptance of heat networks, it’s vital that users see little or no difference in the way their system operates and performs compared to any other traditional “wet” heating systems, where the heating controls are typically the key point of contact they have.”
The report also highlights relatively poor transparency of billing in the heat network sector, something that Evinox is working hard to tackle directly through its in-house heat metering and billing service. Evinox has voluntarily adopted the key principles of the industry-led Heat Trust consumer protection scheme, with the aim of providing clear and comprehensive bills, as well as offering additional items such as Welcome Packs for new customers; an online portal to enable consumers to review their account status and make payments; as well as a published Fair Tariff policy, which explains how bills are calculated. The Heat Trust scheme drew praise from the report’s authors.
The BEIS heat network consumers report comes as the Competition and Markets Authority has also announced its own market study into the heat networks sector, a step which Evinox also welcomes.
“The Government has provided strong support for the heat network sector over recent years and is providing clear signals through its recent Clean Growth Strategy that heat networks are absolutely key to the decarbonization of heat in the UK”, added Chris Davis. “Well designed and well optimized heat networks can deliver heating that is efficient, low carbon and cost-effective; we welcome continued efforts across industry to drive improved customer service and higher levels of consumer protection in line with other utilities sectors.”