SCOTLAND IS to take a lead on the development of local heat networks to help meet its climate change targets and tackle fuel poverty – and open up opportunities for providers of renewable heat.

District or communal networks deliver heat from a central source through insulated pipes to local homes and other buildings. The model is already popular in northern European countries, where farms on the edge of villages act as both a local recycling plant and heat provider, installing large biomass boilers or combined heat and power turbines running off the gas from anaerobic digesters.

Aside from their green energy credentials, in simple economic terms, heat networks are generally more efficient than individual gas boilers and reduce the need for customers to procure and maintain their own boilers.

The Scottish Government reckons such schemes have the potential to reduce or remove emissions from heating buildings and homes right across Scotland, and is introducing the Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill to introduce regulation and a licensing system for district and communal heating to accelerate the use of networks across Scotland.

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse said: “We are facing a global climate emergency and one of the major challenges is reducing and ultimately stopping the impact from heating our homes and buildings, which is where more than half the energy we consume as a society currently goes.

“Heat networks have huge potential to reduce that impact by providing more efficient, environmentally-friendly solutions. The Scottish Government is determined to unlock the potential for that sector wherever possible and stimulate local jobs across Scotland in the process of delivering projects.

“We have done much to support the sector in recent years – there are currently more than 830 networks operating in Scotland, including significant projects we have supported in locations such as Glenrothes – but the sector is currently lacking a coherent regulatory framework and the Heat Networks Bill therefore marks the beginning of a transformational change, as we seek to create a supportive market environment for the necessary expansion of heat networks," said Mr Wheelhouse.

“The benefits of heat networks are not only environmental – they can save space, remove combustion risk within buildings, and have been shown to save householders and businesses up to 36% in fuel costs, with consequent benefits for tackling fuel poverty and reducing costs faced by businesses and public bodies.”

Senior renewables consultant at SAC Consulting, John Farquhar, commented: “This Bill lays down the fundamentals paving the way to promote heat networks in Scotland, and protect customers on those networks. Large heat networks are key to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and, as such, are welcomed.

"However, it is important that any subsequent regulations from this Act protect smaller scale heat networks, such as can be found in many of Scotland’s rural areas.”