THE Scottish Government must prioritise a Warm Homes Act which helps deliver clean, affordable heat to homes, according to groups from the voluntary, renewable and academic sectors.

The groups are urging new Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse to push through the right regulatory framework to develop district heating, a system for distributing heat generated in a central location.

The call follows advice from the Scottish Government’s own experts that an increase in the use of the method would help meet targets on cutting fuel poverty and carbon emissions and boosting energy efficiency and economic development.

District heating currently accounts for just one per cent of Scotland’s heat demand.

If the country is to meet its climate targets, this must increase to 40 per cent by 2030, say WWF Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and RSPB Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s Special Working Group on Regulation reported in March that district heating could cut carbon emissions by around 30 to 40 per cent, with reductions in household bills being roughly about the same. The method was also found to have significant benefits for both the national and local economies, in terms of growing the country’s small but growing district heating sector.

There is considerable cross-party agreement on warm homes and energy efficiency, with all the main parties having included the issue in the manifestos prior to the Holyrood election. It’s also an issue that has been discussed for over a decade with former Scottish Green Party Convenor Robin Harper having first proposed the idea in 2003.

Now representatives from WWF Scotland, academia and the renewables sector are urging the Scottish Government to implement the regulation needed to bring clean, affordable heat networks to the country’s towns and cities.

These include requiring local authorities to develop and publish a strategic plan for developing district heating in their area; giving local authorities the power to require buildings with a significant heat load to connect to a district heating network; the development of a single set of national technical standards; and the implementation of an appropriate statutory licensing regime for district heating operators in Scotland.

Dr Sam Gardner, head of policy at WWF Scotland said: “Regulation for district heating has broad stakeholder support and if acted upon will help ensure Scotland reaps the huge benefits investment in renewable heat and district heating infrastructure will bring to the country.”

Professor Jan Webb, of the University of Edinburgh said evidence from other European countries with much bigger district heating networks showed the value of a basic regulatory framework for both investors and customers.

Webb said: “The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Sweden all use regulation to secure investment in the infrastructure, at a long-term affordable cost of capital, as well as ensuring good standards of practice by operators and fair pricing for customers.”

David Pearson, director of Glasgow-based Star Renewable Energy, said: “Scotland is making good progress on renewable electricity, but without the right regulatory framework we’ll lose out on the investment, jobs and economic renewal opportunities. The requirement is simple: where heat is offered at lower cost as can be achieved from large heatpumps, developers are required to use it. Win-Win.”