The Scottish Government is hoping to ramp up heat networks alongside other individual heating solutions such as heat pumps in the transition to net zero.

District heating systems will allow densely-populated areas to shift to renewable heating systems as an alternative to heat pumps, but they won’t be suitable for all homes.

How do heat networks work?

Heat networks are essentially a network of pipes run off a large heat pump or other source powering a series of buildings.

Heat networks or district heating systems, use heat from a variety of sources such as waste heat from large buildings like hospitals and shopping centres, or from industries such as distilleries.

The technology can even extract heat from waste water treatment plants - like a network in Stirling which uses heat from sewage treatment to heat a local leisure centre, a school and will ultimately be extended to heat homes in the area.

Heat networks can also be connected to large heat pumps which can extract heat from the air, rivers, or the ground.

What are heat network zones?

Heat network zones are areas particularly suitable for heat network development.

The zones exist as an attempt to attract investment from heat network developers.

Local councils need to identify, consult on, and designate potential heat network zones in their areas. The Scottish Government can also designate some zones.

Does Scotland have heat networks?

Yes, there are around 1,000 heat networks in operation in Scotland, supplying around 1TWh of heat.

Currently, around 28,000 homes and 2,4000 non-domestic buildings are connected to heat networks in Scotland.

Most of Scotland’s current heat networks are relatively small in scale but some newer projects are being brought forward at a larger scale.

What role will heat networks play in the transition to net zero?

The Scottish Government hopes that around 7TWh of heat supply could come from heat networks by 2035 – around one third of heat demand.

Estimates suggest this could cover up to 140,000 domestic properties, although this number will likely be lower due to the need for large industrial buildings to act as anchor points for the systems.