The National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) has announced that the feasibility study and requirement to fit heat meters by 31st December 2016 has been delayed until 2017. The Heat Networks (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 came into force on 18 December 2014 under the EU Energy Efficiency Directive. It affects all businesses within the UK that supply and charge for heating, cooling or hot water to a final customer through communal heating or a district heating network (heat suppliers) including multi tenanted buildings with a shared heating and cooling system. Subject to meters or heat cost allocators being determined as viable for installation and being installed, the heat supplier must ensure that the bills and billing information for the consumption of heating, cooling and hot water are accurate, based on actual consumption and compliant with the regulations.
The first phase of the Heat Network Regulations 2014 which required participants to submit notification of communal and district heating systems by 31 December 2015 is now complete. The delay in the requirement for feasibility studies and fitting of meters where viable is due to the NMRO redrafting both the regulations and the guidance. Work is already underway on this and the consultation process is due to commence in July 2016 following the Brexit Referendum. The feasibility study was due to be launched, following a redraft, in June 2016 but the UK referendum on EU Membership has thrown a spanner in the works. As the requirements are derived from the EU Energy Efficiency Directive, exit from the European Union will undermine the future of the regulations.
It is however important to note the benefits of heat meters: It’s not all bad! Alongside the legal requirements, there are a number of benefits to landlords using heat meters for billing:
- Fair and equitable recharges meaning tenants only pay for the heating and cooling they actually use;
- Increase in recovery of direct costs form tenants, keeping the service charge costs lower;
- Allows for the apportionment of all heating and cooling charges whether in or out-of-hours thus reducing issues with difficult out-of-hours usage calculations, tenant billing queries and unexpected service charge audits, as charges are based on actual data;
- Provides detailed data on heating and cooling patterns in the building which presents opportunities for identifying anomalies and acting on these to reduce energy consumption.
One thing is clear – heating accounts for around 50% of the UK’s gas usage and is a primary contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. If the UK Is to succeed in meeting its emissions targets it is vital that action is taken to promote efficiencies in heating use. One thing is clear – heating accounts for around 50% of the UK’s gas usage and is a primary contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. If the UK is to succeed in meeting its emissions targets it is vital that action is taken to promote efficiencies in heating use. Regardless of the delay in any compliance requirements, owners of district or communal heating systems can drive behavioural change if accurate and metered usage is used to recharge tenants.
The EU has published research showing that, where users are provided with regular accurate bills based on metered heat use, a reduction of up to 18% is achievable. The Government has pledged its support for district heating systems with the Department of Energy and Climate Change providing over £300 million of funding for up to 200 heat networks. The requirements of the Heat Networks Regulations support the regular billing and metering of individual spaces with regard to heat. It is widely recognised that there is greater scope to roll out such practices and that the current regulations need revising to ensure the aim is realised. Whilst acknowledging this, it seems the Heat Network Regulations has a significant role to play in driving down energy use regardless of the outcome of the EU Referendum.