The legislation set out in the Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill is aimed at helping meet climate change targets and tackle fuel poverty.
District or communal networks deliver heat from a central source through insulated pipes to local homes and other buildings. They are seen as having the potential to reduce or remove emissions from heating buildings and homes right across Scotland, as they are generally more efficient than individual gas boilers and can also be run wholly from renewable sources.
To mark the publication of the bill, minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, Paul Wheelhouse, visited a heat network under construction at the St James Centre in central Edinburgh. He 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.”
He added that there are currently more than 830 networks operating in Scotland but said that the sector is currently lacking a coherent regulatory framework. The Heat Networks Bill therefore marks the beginning of a transformational change, as the government seeks to create a supportive market environment for an expansion of heat.
“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,” he said.
The Edinburgh St James’ heat network project is being carried out by Engie, has developed more than 180 heat networks across Europe. “We welcome the introduction of a regulatory framework for heat networks in Scotland. We believe this regulation will act as a catalyst to stimulate growth within the sector ensuring consistency across the industry, ultimately increasing investment in the market,” said Sam Hockman, divisional CEO of Engie’s UK business.