Residential managing agents need to be aware that BEIS, the government department now responsible for overseeing the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations, is stepping-up enforcement activities – and the scale of non-compliance, whether it’s unintentional or deliberate, is staggering. Under the duty to provide notification of any district heat network or communal heating scheme, a massive 80 percent of submissions have apparently contained errors. Now BEIS is giving some of those who made those errors just two weeks to rectify them.
To avoid getting into this kind of trouble, or indeed to get out of it, here’s a five-point survival guide.
1. Who’s responsible
Because managing agents are often required to ensure their buildings are compliant with current legislation, they should check that their client, the “heat supplier” is meeting every aspect of the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations. If a building’s thermal energy (for heating, cooling or hot water supply) is distributed from a central source to more than one end-user or building or location, the heat supplier has legal obligations. Non-compliance runs the risk of incurring civil and criminal penalties.
2. Retrofitting meters is postponed
The December 2016 deadline for retrofitting individual customer heat meters to existing unmetered properties has been postponed. Later this year a new deadline is likely to be announced. This is because the viability tool previously made available by the government, for calculating whether heat suppliers needed to install a metering system, proved unfit for purpose. A new, more realistic viability tool is being developed during 2017.
3. Legal obligations remain
Despite this postponement, other legal obligations remain in force. There’s a duty to notify BEIS of a heat network’s existence. End-users must be provided with actual, rather than estimated, meter readings at least once per year and those who’ve requested electronic billing should be invoiced quarterly. There’s a requirement to install point-of-entry meters in some network configurations. And there’s still a duty to install customer meters in new-builds and major refurbishments.
4. The Regulator has changed
Originally, there was a legal requirement to provide information about heat networks to the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO). In July 2016, however, NMRO was incorporated into the newly-formed BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and compliance is now overseen by BEIS RD (Regulatory Delivery).
5. Expert assistance pays off
Getting a heat network submission right first time isn’t easy and knowing how to correct one that’s been rejected can be trickier still - but by working with a heat networks specialist you can avoid these pitfalls. It’s also essential to appoint a specialist to take care of checking meters, carrying out site audits, and ensuring the smooth running of metering and billing systems. Some can even help with access to capital for metering upgrades.
Anthony Coates-Smith, business development director at Heatworks Solutions, a new heat metering maintenance service provider for managing agents and property managers.