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Why Britain Urgently Requires a National Heating Hub

12th Apr, 2024

As the United Kingdom steers towards achieving Net Zero emissions, there’s a growing focus on replacing inefficient, outdated, and carbon-emitting heating systems across all levels of government and regulation.

From electricity storage heaters to gas central heating and everything in between—including Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) gas central heating, coal, oil-fired heating, and radio teleswitched electricity heating systems—the imperative for change looms large. However, a critical obstacle hinders progress: the absence of a comprehensive source of heating system data, which underscores the urgent need for a national heating hub.

How is heating data currently collected?

Currently, data on heating systems are fragmented, sourced from different channels such as gas and electricity industry statistics, as well as periodic census reports. This fragmented approach not only lacks a definitive overview but also suffers from outdated information, with industry data often disconnected from current heating systems and census data refreshed only every decade. Moreover, the census exclusively covers domestic properties, leaving a significant gap in understanding heating dynamics in non-domestic sectors.

Consequently, policies formulated at national, regional, and local levels, as well as regulatory frameworks, are founded on incomplete and antiquated data. This lack of accurate information poses challenges for providers of energy efficiency measures, particularly those targeting vulnerable households. Without a centralised register of heating systems, these providers struggle to identify and reach the most deserving beneficiaries, often relying on ad-hoc referrals or irregular consumer outreach. Those most in need risk being overlooked in the pursuit of a sustainable heating transition.

The winter of 2022-23 underscored the repercussions of this data gap when HM Government initiated additional payments to properties not connected to the gas or electricity network. However, the absence of reliable, up-to-date data resulted in flawed distribution, with ineligible properties receiving payments while eligible ones were overlooked. For instance, properties with electricity-only heating systems received payments incorrectly, while others using alternative heating sources like biomass missed out. The inclusion of outdated census data from 2011 in Scotland further compounded these discrepancies, highlighting the urgency for accurate and current information.

Moreover, suppliers’ efforts to deploy smart meters face hindrances due to uncertainties regarding which properties necessitate meter exchanges. Particularly challenging are properties with unique heating arrangements, such as those controlled by radio teleswitch, where suppliers lack centralized information to guide their metering strategies effectively.

How can national heating and data work together?

The imperative for a national heating hub transcends individual properties, encompassing communal heating systems and properties where energy payments are mediated through landlords rather than directly to suppliers. By consolidating comprehensive and up-to-date data on heating systems across Britain, a national heating hub would serve as a catalyst for informed decision-making, targeted interventions, and equitable distribution of resources. It would accelerate the transition to a sustainable, Net Zero future, ensuring that no property or community is left behind in this vital endeavour.

The requirement, the information and the systems are already there. All that is needed is the willpower and the direction from government and regulator.


Recent Press Articles:
Cost of heat pumps – BBC News 
“Boiler tax” delayed – BBC News
Radio teleswitch closure and issues getting a smart meter – BBC News 
Government does not know exact number of heat pump installations – Utility Week 

Authors

Graeme Forbes

Business Development Director (Energy)

Read Bio