Scotland’s homes are set to benefit from a “Scandinavian-style revolution” which could see the equivalent of 460,000 properties heated renewably by 2030, according to research.

The study, commissioned by Scottish Renewables, identified 46 potential networks across seven cities that could slash emissions from heat and help meet Scotland’s target of becoming a net-zero society by 2045.

They would initially serve 45,000 homes but, with support from the Government, this could grow 10-fold by 2030.

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

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.”

It’s estimated installing the networks in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Stirling, Perth and Dundee would cost around £450 million
over three years. Homes would be retro-fitted with technology that would connect them to the network fuelled by renewable electricity, biomass or geothermal heating, which accesses heat from under the ground.

Mr Leveque said: “Along with local authorities we looked at where there was high demand for heat. These networks can tackle fuel poverty and the rising
heat crisis.”

Scottish Renewables is calling for the Scottish Government to use its recently-announced Heat Networks Bill to address the future of Scotland’s low-carbon heat industry.

Nick Sharp, Scottish Renewables director of communications, said of the plan to introduce “central heating for cities”: “At the moment [renewable heat sources] are all slightly more expensive but we’re asking the Government to make sure consumers don’t pay any more than they would do by using fossil fuels.”

Robin Parker, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said: “We’re in a climate emergency and therefore the status quo of how we do many things, including heating our homes, has to change. Currently half of Scotland’s climate emissions come from using fossil fuels to warm our buildings. 

“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. When it comes to replacing a boiler, unlike buying a new car, the consumer is in the hands of the installer, so Government financial support and regulation are the main way we can make a difference.

“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.

“By investing in cosy, green homes, the Scottish Government can respond to the climate emergency, protect fuel poor and vulnerable households, and create a new renewable heating industry in Scotland.”