Lessons for us from the Beast

12th Mar 2018


Last week, following the UK’s encounter with the Beast from the East, I wrote about lessons that need to be learned by BEIS in planning for decarbonisation of heat.

The value in a resilient and flexible gas network was there for all to see with the amount of gas distributed (around the 1 in 20 peak) and how many people were kept warm. But industry has lessons to learn too. Gas heating performed for the vast majority but there were also problems.

At times like this there are two choices, doing a Nelson and turn a blind eye to the evidence or being upfront and open about a problem, then deal with it. I’m a firm believer in doing the latter.

During the peak icy blast from the Beast, the UK’s gas emergency number control room took over 40,000 calls from members of the public – the vast majority were not emergencies but people seeking help because their gas boiler had stopped working. Yes, that problem of frozen condensate was to blame.

Now some will be thinking, “don’t say anything”, “it’s a rare thing”, “only happens every ten years, so do nothing”. That’s tempting I know. But it isn’t industry leadership.
That’s why I asked HHIC to call a summit later this month to discuss what needs to be done to prevent a repeat of last week. It means looking at existing regulations around boiler installations; preventative measures to protect external pipework from freezing and advice/guidance to consumers.
What has pleased me and what shows the heating industry in such a positive light, is the response to this call. From manufacturers to installer companies, professional bodies all have agreed to attend. They will bring with them a wealth of experience but I also hope an acknowledgement that something needs to be done. How we respond and what we do faced with a challenge will speak volumes.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CE