District heating and why customer engagement is the key to success

Enfield Council’s energy company, energetik, recently welcomed its first customers.

The company’s first heat network is now supplying new homes at Arnos Grove. Three other heat networks are being developed in Enfield linked to large-scale regeneration, including estate redevelopments at Ponders End and Oakwood; and at the 10,000 home Meridian Water development. All these new homes will be supplied by energetik.

For those who don’t know about energetik, it’s one of the first London boroughs to establish a municipal energy company, to supply low-carbon heat and hot water through community heat networks, also known as district heating.

The company will supply over 15,000 homes and businesses in Enfield through a series of heat networks. Each network is designed to expand so more customers can connect over time and help energetik realise its vision to transform the local energy market and be the supplier to trust.

The first customers are social tenants who have moved from homes that were inefficient to heat and had poor controls. The new homes are very energy efficient, and the added level of control that customers will have through their smart meters should help with budgeting and understanding energy use.

Resident involvement

It’s an interesting time for the heat network industry, as it remains unregulated but is set to expand rapidly over the coming years. energetik has set itself apart from other energy companies and is focused on putting customers first and delivering excellent quality.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of examples out there of schemes that don’t live up to expectations. But the energetik heat networks are designed to a far higher standard than what’s usual in the UK market.

And the company hasn’t just concentrated on the technical design. At every stage, customers have been our its consideration to make sure their service is reliable: from installing multiple back-up systems in our energy centres; to increasing insulation on above-ground pipework to reduce heat losses; to extended testing and commissioning to make sure everything works as it should before residents move in.

It’s about taking the time to meet with customers face-to-face to help them understand the system, as community energy is new for most of them. None of this is rocket science but many of these aspects are often overlooked or rushed in private-sector schemes, and their customers end up suffering as a result.

To support customer engagement, energetik offers training to sales team and housing officers. It works closely with all parties from the development stage to make sure the design, build and installation will deliver a reliable service. This collaborative process not only simplifies the complexity of providing low cost, low carbon heat for the development partners; it also presents a significant learning opportunity for them in an evolving market.

Getting it right first time

The community heating industry needs to improve its reputation to ensure it can realise its potential to deliver a far larger proportion of the UK’s heat demand. The aim is to facilitate this at a local level, leading by example to demonstrate the benefits of community heat networks done the right way, first time.

The energetik team is also able to help UK local authorities and housing associations benefit from its efforts to set up a publicly owned local energy company and to make its community heat networks a success operationally, commercially and for customers.

That includes providing a suite of commercially robust strategic documents and legal agreements for purchase, to help significantly reduce development costs and the time needed to enter the heat supply market.

With Enfield Council behind it, energetik is providing a flexible and low carbon energy infrastructure that can continue to grow over decades. We want to protect our customers in a market that’s still unregulated, focusing on giving them great service that’s reliable and better value. The fact that we can do this whilst improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions is a win-win.

Jayne Clare

Jayne Clare

Managing director, energetik

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