Whether you are a landlord (heat network owner), consultant or contractor, you need to be aware of the new heat network (metering and billing) regulations. These came into force in December 2014 yet there are still many buildings – whether completed or under construction – and building specifications that don’t comply with these rules and many heat network owners who don’t fully understand or appreciate what’s required.
Where a heat network is installed, it is now mandatory to provide a heat meter in each dwelling, or specifically, for each final customer. It is also mandatory to provide accurate statements on a regular basis.
The regulations apply to new build and major refurbishment projects and you have to comply even if construction began prior to the regulations’ introduction date (31 December 2014).
However, the key point is just how little understanding there seems to be throughout the supply chain of the deeper implications of the regulations for the building owner/landlord.
Here’s an example: Our Company has just been asked to quote for a building with over 400 dwellings, with each dwelling needing its own heat meter. We asked about an interface with a building management system (BMS) or if some other form of remote meter reading or even billing was required.
“No, we just want the basic system,” came the reply.
Think about that. Over 400 apartments, each needing meters read on a regular basis in order to provide a MANDATORY quarterly statement and invoice.
This situation could have been resolved easily through an interface to a BMS, or if no BMS existed, a stand-alone automatic meter reading system at relatively little extra cost. Indeed, we proposed just such a system.
Why would a company not take these steps given the burden that the landlord will, ultimately, have to take on in providing those statements? Do all landlords even know about this? Have consultants made sure that a landlord knows his or her obligations under the Regulations and the implications of these? Have they then presented and discussed the various options?
Consequently, this landlord now has to provide a quarterly heat usage statement and invoice, and collect the payment for over 400 apartments at least every quarter (mandatory) or whatever the agreed timeframe is, and quite possibly do the same for water and electricity. And what if a meter hasn’t been working properly for some time when you he goes to read it? The whole situation is onerous and problematic.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not an extreme example; at least 80% of specifications appear to lack some element that is either mandatory or, at least, highly preferable in providing a metering system that conforms to the regulations and that allows the network owner to fulfil their obligations as easily and effectively as possible.
Why is this happening? In our view, it is a combination of factors:
- A lack of knowledge on behalf of the specifier and/or contractor
- A lack of detail within a specification
- Information not passed down to the end user
- A deliberate omission, in some cases, in order to chase down cost and ‘win’ the business
- Omission through ignorance where cost has been the key driving factor
- Having the heat metering requirement fall between ‘mechanical’ and ‘electrical’ categories. The result is that various elements of a total system can get lost.
However, a heat network owner could have a system for a little extra cost that can read all the meters, for all three utilities, identified and reported faults immediately, managed the billing and the payments without him ever being involved. Yet if a landlord doesn’t know to ask for this he is missing out on something that could significantly simplify his life.
What can we as an industry do?
Clearly a sustained effort to increase levels of knowledge around this subject is needed. Metering and billing of utilities needs to be viewed holistically. Equipment needs to be designed and specified to ensure that the owner conforms to the regulations. Instead of specifying three separate meters, they are specified to work together to allow for common meter reading and billing systems. The additional cost of designing an integrated system is likely to be offset by savings from fewer problems during commissioning.
The entire supply chain would benefit from an honest, open debate about this subject and we are happy to provide CPDs for individuals or groups.
For further reading on the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 directive and how it affects you see these links:
For further information contact Stewart Wiltshire, Managing Director or Katie Jenkins, Marketing Executive on 01524 555929.