SCOTLAND could be poised for a Scandinavian-style heating revolution with the Scottish Government’s Heat Networks Bill potentially seeing the equivalent of 460,000 homes heated through renewable sources by 2030, according to new research.

A study commissioned by Scottish Renewables found 46 potential heat network projects across Scotland’s seven cities, which would initially serve 45,000 homes.

However, it said that with the right Scottish Government support, these could grow ten-fold over the next 11 years and could cut emissions from heat by 10% and help tackle the climate emergency.

Heat networks deliver heat collected from sources as diverse as incinerators, rivers and sewers to buildings via a network of underground pipes.

The technology is well-established in other countries including Denmark, where the city of Copenhagen is entirely heated in this manner.

Scotland’s low-carbon heat industry outlook is uncertain, with support schemes run by the UK and Scottish governments soon ending, despite both declaring a climate emergency.

Scottish Renewables is calling on the Scottish Government to use its recently-announced Heat Networks Bill to address the uncertainty and to consider how to support the future growth of heat networks.

Fabrice Leveque, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Heat networks are a mature technology that will allow us to grow our use of renewable heat.

“The Scottish Government’s Heat Networks Bill should be at the heart of an ambitious strategy to stop Scotland from falling behind the rest of the UK in the deployment of this key climate solution.”

To date the Scottish Government has said the new bill will “support, facilitate and create controls [for] the development of district heating”, but has yet to confirm the details.

In response to this ongoing uncertainty the industry has published, alongside the new research, a set of recommendations on how the Bill should support new projects.

The potential projects represent a significant economic opportunity, with civil engineering such as the digging of trenches and laying of pipes accounting for 40% of a typical heat network’s costs, often using locally-sourced labour.

The Scottish Greens have welcomed the report, which it said shows the enormous potential for expanding district heating networks.

Mark Ruskell, the party’s energy spokesperson, said: “This report shows that industry has an appetite for ambitious, broad policies to decarbonise the way we heat our homes. The lack of ambition on this from the Scottish Government is unacceptable ... Recent figures show the Scottish Government won’t even meet its own meagre target of 11% renewable heat by next year. “

Scotland’s energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said the government recognises the “important role” of heat networks to reach its 2045 net-zero emissions target.

He said the Bill “will make Scotland the most attractive place in the UK to develop heat networks, by de-risking investment and increasing consumer acceptance.”

WWF Scotland’s climate and energy policy manager, Robin Parker, said: “While there is some scope for individuals to ensure that their homes are not wasting heat, most of this change needs to be led by government, working with local authorities.

“This report shows that there’s lots of district heating potential in Scotland. We have all the technological answers we need, but there needs to be a strong Heat Networks Bill from the Scottish Parliament and long-term financial support for renewable heating set out in the next Scottish Government budget.”