Editor’s Pick | Scotland leading the way on UK heat networks

This article was originally published on 29 November 2019 in Energy:2030 Issue 23

Scottish Renewables published a piece of research on 11 November, in-light of the Scottish Government’s proposed Heat Networks Bill. The research looked to identify and quantify potential heat network projects in Scotland’s seven cities.

The Heat Networks Bill, which will be brought forward in 2020, will seek to regulate the nascent sector and develop policies that can de-risk investment and stimulate development.

The seven cities analysed by CAG Consultants, hired by Scottish Renewables to complete the survey, are Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Inverness, and Perth. For the purposes of this study heat networks are defined as those serving more than one customer and more than one building, excluding communal networks which typically serve one building but multiple customers.

Following a range of interviews with key stakeholders, such as local authorities and industry players, as well as analysis of planning applications and public tenders, 46 potential projects were identified in Scotland. For context, there are currently 113 heat networks in operation in Scotland.

There was a range of characteristics to these projects (see Figure 1). The headline findings state that the 46 projects could deliver 600GWh of heat per year, the equivalent to heating 45,000 households, and that 103,000 tonnes of carbon emissions could be avoided annually if built with low-carbon heat sources.

The study found that there is potential for growth in the Scottish heat network market. It is estimated that with the right policy environment that the heat networks identified in this project could grow to meet 8% of Scottish heat demand by connecting additional buildings.

Three growth scenarios are presented as low, medium and high. It assumes all policy and economic barriers are addressed, including connection of anchor loads and new customers, supported by a drive from Government. If this was to occur, 8% of heat demand could be met through the 46 projects identified in this survey.

A caveat to this estimation is that heat networks are a local solution to heat, and expansion will be dependent on local characteristics.

District heat networks are a proven, low-regrets option to deliver decarbonised heat. They could help realise the SNP commitment to ensure that, from 2024, all new homes use renewable or low-carbon heat, as mentioned in the party’s 2019 General Election Manifesto.

For all regular updates on the Scotland energy sector, visit our website Scottish Energy News.

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