UK Gov need to act now on district heating bills

Many people are still just making ends meet, still suffering from the tory cost of living crisis. So, imagine without warning, you get an overnight increase in your heating bills. Not by 10%. Not 20%. But by 500%!

That’s exactly what has happened this month to residents in Greendykes and other parts of the city where they are part of a district heating scheme. People are angry, and with good reason. Out of the blue they found their heating account charges had suddenly gone up from five pence a unit to 26 pence, adding up to £200 a month to bills. No notice, no explanation, just an automatic adjustment to their online accounts.

The Greendykes residents – some tenants, some owners – live in a new development built and managed by Places for People, a major housing association with property throughout Scotland. I backed residents in demanding the association step in to stop these ridiculous hikes by their contractors. To their credit, they have now said they will reverse the increase until they review the charges, but this is only a temporary measure.

The problem needs to be sorted at source. And the source is a crazy UK government energy support policy which treats district heating schemes as if they were commercial businesses rather than a collection of individual residents.

That means that the domestic energy cap set by Ofgem – currently 5.82 pence per unit – doesn’t apply to residents with gas or electric district heating sources but does still cover their individual electricity use.

District heating schemes are undoubtedly a good thing. More efficient, better for the environment. But UK government policy currently makes it five times more expensive than if folk had induvial boilers.

This has been a disaster waiting to happen. And after the business energy support scheme ended on 31st March, it is now happening.

I’ve written to Claire Coutinho the UK energy minister demanding urgent action to bring domestic district heating schemes under the Ofgem energy price cap. It’s a no brainer. Easy to do, regulations could be prepared and agreed in a few weeks. Let’s see if we can get a government that has been asleep at the wheel to finally wake up.