Under the Energy Prices Act 2022, the government has established a requirement that any energy price support is passed on to end users. This means that intermediaries in the UK in receipt of support from the Energy Price Guarantee, Energy Bills Support Scheme, and/or the EBRS (Energy Bill Relief Scheme) must pass on the benefit obtained to the end users, as the intended beneficiaries of the relevant schemes. A heat supplier which has been provided with a benefit under the EBRS is counted as an intermediary. In some circumstances, a heat supplier does not need to be in receipt of EBRS to be counted as an intermediary. This guidance clarifies the requirements in each circumstance. A heat network consumer is counted as an end user.
Who is the heat supplier? What are end users?
The heat supplier will be responsible for notifying to the OPSS and meeting requirements to pass on the benefit of the EBRS to end users. The heat supplier is the body responsible for supplying and charging for the supply of heating and/or hot water to premises through the heat network. In most cases, this will be the body with a heat supply contract or equivalent with the consumer.
The following examples will help illustrate who the heat supplier is:
- A Housing Association has a heat supply contract with its residents, stating that it is responsible for the supply of heat. The housing association contracts out the metering and billing services to a billing agent. The housing association is still classed as the heat supplier under these Regulations as it has a contract to supply heat network customers with heating and hot water.
- A Landlord charges its residents for the supply of heat via a service charge. The landlord enters into a contract with an energy service company (or management company), for the purchase of energy from the wholesale market and to calculate the heat billing on the service charge. The landlord is still classed as the heat supplier under these Regulations as it holds the contract with the heat network customers to supply heating and hot water, via the leasehold and tenancy agreement which also holds details of the service charge arrangements.
Some requirements under the Regulations apply to all heat suppliers. Some requirements only apply to those heat suppliers who are in receipt of the EBRS.
Consumers on the heat network who purchase heating and hot water for their own consumption (‘heat network consumers’) are referred to as end users. These consumers are the ultimate beneficiaries of the benefit of the EBRS and heat suppliers should pass this benefit on to them. Ordinarily, consumers do not need to do anything to receive the benefit of the EBRS.
However, if they do not receive the benefit or their heat supplier does not otherwise comply with the regulatory requirements, they will be able to make a complaint and will have recourse to civil proceedings (see ‘Actions a heat network consumer can take if their heat supplier does not comply with the requirements’ section below for more information).
There will be circumstances where the intermediary (the heat supplier) is also an end user (a heat network consumer), for example where a building owner responsible for the supply of heat to residents in that building also lives in that building. In such circumstances, that person is subject to all the requirements on heat suppliers and all rights for heat network consumers as set out in the Regulations.
Requirements on all heat suppliers, whether benefiting from EBRS or not
These Regulations require all heat suppliers to provide information to the Secretary of State or Scottish Ministers for the heat network(s) they operate. Heat suppliers are required to submit their name, business address and contact details in the Heat Networks Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) pass-through notification form. This is to support the delivery of the investigation and resolution of consumer complaints by the Energy Ombudsman and the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland (CCNI).
Existing heat suppliers must submit this notification by 6 January 2023. Heat suppliers who begin operating a network on or after the 7 December must notify within 30 days of becoming operational. This includes if the network is new or has been purchased from another supplier. In this context, becoming operational refers to the first day a heat supplier supplies heating and/or hot water to consumers through a heat network.
Currently, this requirement to register will cover all networks until 31st March 2023. If you have begun operating a network after this date, and no additional guidance has been issued, you do not need to submit information via the EBRS pass-through notification form. Please be aware that, in such circumstances, requirements under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 will still apply.
The information submitted in the EBRS pass-through notification form will be shared with the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), the Energy Ombudsman and the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland, in line with the EBRS pass-through notification privacy notice.
Should a heat supplier change its name, business address or contact details between the time of submitting the EBRS pass-through notification form and 31 March 2023, the heat supplier can organise a resubmission by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those heat suppliers that have already submitted notifications to the OPSS under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 are still required to submit their name, business address and contact details under the EBRS pass-through notification form by 6 January 2023. Doing this will pause the requirement to submit the more comprehensive notification under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 until 31 March 2023. From 31 March 2023, the requirement to notify will apply again.