In a letter to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK), the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) draws attention to the problems of residents that are connected to older thermal-energy storage systems (TES systems). Over the past several months, ACM has taken various steps to ensure that the complaints of these residents are dealt with. In that context, ACM has found that, in order to solve these issues, statutory amendments are needed on top of ACM’s interventions. That is why, in its letter, ACM puts forward several suggestions for tightening the legislation with regard to the protection of residents that are connected to heat networks.
Over the past several months, ACM has held extensive discussions with residents in the following districts: Weideveld in the town of Bodegraven, Passewaaij in the town of Tiel, De Beljaart in the town of Dongen, and Transvaalwijk in the city of The Hague. These residents have experienced major problems (including technical problems) with the heat supplied by TES systems that had been installed between 2005 and 2010. When taking a shower, some residents often get water that is either too hot or too cold, while others indicate that they are left without space heating as soon as the outside temperature drops below zero degrees Celsius. Furthermore, residents say they do not receive any compensations for disruptions.
ACM has asked the heat suppliers for an explanation, and has called on them to involve residents actively in their search for solutions to these problems. ACM will now examine the suppliers’ improvement plans, and will subsequently decide whether intensified oversight or enforcement actions are needed. In addition, ACM will launch an investigation into the causes of the disruptions to the TES systems. ACM will also explore how the existing standards regarding security of supply and high-quality service can be implemented in practice.
In its oversight however, ACM encounters several problems. For example, the law does not clearly stipulate under what circumstances the supply of energy is considered secure, which makes it harder (or downright impossible) for ACM to enforce those rules. In addition, heat suppliers are not required to maintain an up-to-date disruption registration system, or to record short interruptions in the supply of heat as disruptions. This means that, under the law, ACM receives too little information from heat suppliers for properly enforcing the security of supply. Furthermore, heat suppliers do not have to compensate for short interruptions, even if they take place regularly.
That is why, in its letter to EZK, ACM offers several recommendations for tightening the rules and regulations in order to eliminate any problems for enforcement. The ministry can take these recommendations into account when drafting the bill on the Collective Supply of Heat Act (in Dutch: wetsvoorstel Wet Collectieve Warmtevoorziening) or it can incorporate them in the current Heat Act.