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by Liam Kirkaldy
12 July 2019
Citizens Advice backs calls for greater regulation of the heating network

Image credit: iStock

Citizens Advice backs calls for greater regulation of the heating network

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has backed calls for consumers to be protected from the cost of decarbonising the heating network.

With over half of all electrically-heated households in Scotland estimated to be in fuel poverty, CAS backed a new report from Citizens Advice in England and Wales warning that the lack of a credible plan to decarbonise the way homes are heated risks failing consumers.

While just two per cent of households currently get their heating and hot water through a heat network, which distribute heat generated in a centralised location, the number is forecast to rise to include one in 20 homes by 2030, leading Citizens Advice to urge the UK Government to close gaps in the regulation of decarbonisation innovations.

Pointing to a lack of information for consumers on how heating networks operate, alongside concerns over mistakes in billing, CAS said that without greater regulation then customers will be left vulnerable.

Meanwhile CAS warned there is no credible UK-wide strategy to achieve the UK Government’s decarbonisation targets, including how consumers will be protected as new innovations are introduced, and where the costs will fall.

CAS is calling for ministers to create an independent commission to determine the fairest way to pay for the energy transition, for legislation extending energy watchdog Ofgem’s powers to regulate heat networks, and for government to establish an independent consumer advocate for heat networks in the forthcoming energy white paper.

Emma Grant-McColm, energy policy manager at Citizens Advice Scotland, said: "The Scottish CAB network helps hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland every year, many of whom are struggling with fuel costs. We believe it is vital that the transition to a low carbon economy is made in a way that protects and supports consumers.

“That's why we have long called for the regulation of heat networks to ensure that consumers are fully protected for issues like fair billing and rights to redress. This is especially important in Scotland where the number of heat networks are expected to ramp up over the next decade under ambitious targets. We urge the UK Government to consider how consumer protections can be applied in Scotland.

"We support the call by our colleagues in England and Wales for the UK Government to outline a decarbonisation strategy. In particular, it should confirm its position on the future of the gas network. For Scottish households that are off the gas grid, electric heating is much more expensive than gas.

"Over half of all electrically-heated households in Scotland are estimated to be in fuel poverty. The future of gas and low carbon heating will therefore have a significant bearing on fuel poverty levels in Scotland. Consumers and industry need a clear direction from both the UK and Scottish Governments on this.”

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