INDIVIDUAL households in Scotland's towns and cities will not have to install heat pumps as these homes are likely to rely on district heating systems in the future, according to Patrick Harvie.

The zero carbon buildings minister and Scottish Greens' co leader made the point in a BBC Scotland interview earlier today.

Last week Mr Harvie dropped a target set in the government's Heat in Buildings Strategy to have more than one million homes in Scotland powered by heat pumps or other green energy heating systems as he published a consultation ahead of planned legislation which would require all homes to be heated by green energy by 2045.

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The 2021 Heat in Buildings Strategy stated: "We must rapidly scale up deployment of zero emissions heating systems so that by 2030 over 1 million homes...are converted to zero emissions heat."

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Sunday Show today, Mr Harvie was asked by presenter Martin Geissler, who said he lived in a home off the mains gas supply, whether he should install a heat pump.

Mr Harvie replied: "You should certainly be looking at all the options. And in some parts of Scotland one of the options will [be to] wait for a heat network to be built in your community as well. Particularly if you live in some of the denser urban parts of Scotland, that is going to be a more likely solution than a house by house or flat by flat approach."

READ MORE: Ministers to delay plan for heat pumps to replace boilers from 2025

He added: "Home Energy Scotland is the website go should go to if you want advice about your own circumstances."

Heat networks (also known as district heating) supply heat from a central source to consumers, via a network of underground pipes carrying hot water. Heat networks can cover a large area or even an entire city, or be fairly local supplying a small cluster of buildings.

Glasgow currently has eight district heat networks, including a system at the former Athletes’ Village in Dalmarnock and a recently developed network at Sighthill.

READ MORE: Poll: Majority of Scots fear household costs of net zero transition

According to the Energy Saving Trust, there are already over 17,000 heat networks in place in the UK and nearly half a million connections to them, most of which are domestic customers. 

Following Mr Harvie's statement to Holyrood last Tuesday on the heat in buildings consultation several SNP MSPs underlined what they saw as the importance of district heating networks.

They included Marie McNair, MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie, who spoke about a district heat network in her constituency.

READ MORE: Harvie axes pledge to clean up 1m homes as heat pumps plan unveiled

She urged the minister to expand that network to power people's homes in the area and to create other such networks.

"Queens Quay in my constituency, where my office is located, has the first 100% carbon-free district heating system in the UK. The system, which heats council buildings, West College Scotland, Clydebank leisure centre and a new care home, is a great example of innovative delivery of carbon-free energy," she told Holyrood.

"What emphasis will be put on the expansion of that scheme and other major heat network projects to help to deliver more green energy to homes and businesses?"

Mr Harvie replied: "Marie McNair is absolutely right to draw attention to that scheme, which is an excellent example, not just at the technical level of how heat networks can provide affordable and reliable decarbonised heat, but at an economic level, where leadership by the local authority is making sure that we get the maximum social benefit in developing it.

"We have worked with our colleagues in Denmark and, in the previous session of Parliament, we passed heat network legislation. Just last week, I brought to Parliament a target for the amount of heat that we expect to be delivered through heat networks by 2035. 

"Almost all political parties managed to bring themselves to support that target. That is the kind of signal that we need to give to ensure that local authorities, social landlords and other organisations see the delivery of new heat networks and the decarbonising and expansion of existing ones as a huge opportunity for them to achieve the heat transition in a way that works for their local communities."

Mr Harvie underlined the role of district heating systems when he was questioned last Tuesday by Conservative MSP Graham Simpson who raised concerns about people living in tenements. But his comments today appeared to go further than last Tuesday when Mr Harvie just said 'many' traditional tenement properties would benefit from district heating systems.

The minister told Holyrood in response to Mr Simpson: "As we frame some of the exemptions and abeyances as a result of some of the views that we will hear in the consultation, no one will be at all surprised that traditional tenements might take significantly longer than the rest of the housing stock to adapt.

"Many of those properties will need to benefit from heat networks rather than individual flat-by-flat heating systems.

"We will work with the grain of the technology development that is taking place and the recommendations of the short-life working group. As a tenement dweller myself, I understand the challenges, but I know that people—including my constituents and, I imagine, Mr Simpson’s—want the solutions, and that is what the Government is determined to give them."

The Scottish Government's consultation published last week includes a target to have all homes in Scotland run by green sources of energy by 2045 (the date by which the country should reach net zero); new energy efficiency standards, which could take the type of heating system into account, as well as insulation and fabric of the building, to be met within the decade.

Private landlords will need to meet the requirement by 2028, while owner- occupied homes will need to meet those same standards by the end of 2033.

But with estimates – made in 2021 – that the policy will cost some £33 billion and that to date just £1.8billion has been set aside from the public purse to help fund it – there have been concerns a considerable financial burden will fall on individual households.

The Herald revealed last week that there was some relief among SNP MSPs when Mr Harvie announced that the government would be axing the target to have the heating systems of more than one million homes run by heat pumps or other green energy sources by 2030.

Confirmation of a report in The Herald on Sunday that off grid homes would not have to start phasing out fossil fuels boilers in 2025, as originally mooted, was also welcomed.

The Herald has asked the Scottish Government for the timetable for district heating systems to be brought in across the country's towns and cities.