Plans, produced by some of Scotland’s councils, have set out a vision of how decarbonised heating may be delivered. They give clues to those wondering whether the area in which they live will be one more likely to be dominated by individual heat pumps or other heating, or joined up to a district heating network.

The end of last year was the Scottish Government’s deadline for the delivery of the Local Authority Heating and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES).

Not all councils have yet published their strategies, but many have. They point the way to where there may be district heat networks, pumping warmed water into homes, and where individual air-source heat pumps or electric heating are the more likely option as we transition away from gas.

Among the most detailed strategies, sometimes with accompanying delivery plans, are summarised here, and include Edinburgh, Glasgow City, East Lothian, Dumfries & Galloway, Perth & Kinross, Highland and West Lothian.

1. Edinburgh

The profile of types of homes in Edinburgh has a big impact on the strategy. 91 % of Edinburgh's homes are fuelled by gas,  69% are flats and half of all homes are located in mixed-tenure buildings. There are also a lot of old buildings, with a quarter lying in conservation areas. Many of these buildings will have to be retrofitted.

Where are the potential heat network zones?

For heat networks to be workable there are two basic requirements – one is a heat source and another is that there be what are called ‘anchor loads’, key large buildings with high energy demands.

17 prospective heat network zones have been identified. These include the New Town, Leith Walk, Old Town & Southside, Gorgie & Dalry, Craigleith, Granton, Leith, Portobello & Seafield, Morningside, South East Edinburgh, Colinton Mains, South West Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, Sighthill & Gyle, Ingliston, South Queensferry and Second New Town.

The Herald: Map of possible heat network zones in EdinburghMap of possible heat network zones in Edinburgh (Image: City of Edinburgh)


What heat sources are being considered?

Heat sources identified for district heating include capturing heat from sewers running beneath Edinburgh, water source heat pumps that take heat from the Firth of Forth or the Almond, heat from Seafield Waste Water Treatment Works, heat from water in disused mines under Edinburgh, incineration of waste at Millerhill Recycling and Energy Recovery Centre, waste heat from bakeries; breweries, data centres, a distillery and 48 supermarkets.

What areas are prioritised for delivery of air-source heat pumps?

The strategy has identified ten priority areas, mostly mid-rise or high-rise blocks, for heat pump delivery. These include Lochend Butterfly Way, Waterfront Park, Robertson Avenue, Fountainbridge, Oxgangs Avenue, West Pilton Grove, Craigour Place, Elgin Street, Morrison Crescent and Craighouse Gardens.

Heat networks already in development

Several are already underway. There is, for instance, the Granton Waterfront development which revolves around a heat pump utilising heat from a sewer, and Edinburgh BioQuarter, in Little France, which is set to revolve around a heat network utilising waste heat from the Millerhill Recycling and Energy Recovery Centre. There is also a ground-source heat network in development at Gracemount.

2 Glasgow City

Like Edinburgh, Glasgow has a high percentage of flatted properties at 74%, and over four-fifths of homes are fuelled by mains gas. Among the big carbon emitters are iconic old tenement housing, whose poor energy efficiency results in heat loss and contributes to fuel poverty. 

Where will the heat networks be?

The Herald: Glasgow City potential heat network plan

It has been calculated that around 46% of residents – in around 66% of the city’s homes – have the potential to be connected to district heating networks of some kind.

Glasgow is already home to  the Clyde Gateway project, which uses energy from waste and combined heat and power plant. 

Nine primary zones, to be developed first,  include the following. ‘City', a central area framed by the M8 and the Clyde; ‘South 1’ which covers a stretch south of the Clyde from Richmond Park to Tradeston; ‘South 2’, an area around Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre; ‘ South West 1’, a stretch south of the Clyde centred on the Glasgow Science Centre; ‘South West 2’, around the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital; ‘West 1’, north of the Clyde around Kelvinhaugh and the OVO Hydro, ‘North West 1’ an area north of the river including Kelvingrove, the University of Glasgow Campus and stretching up to Anniesland, ‘ West 2’, stretching from Yorkhill Quay to Knightswood; ‘East 2’ around Dalmarnock, where Clyde Gateway D2 Grids project has already established a 5th generation heat network.


The Herald: Queen's Quay, Clydebank, is already heated be a giant water-source heat pump drawing heat from the ClydeQueen's Quay, Clydebank, is already heated be a giant water-source heat pump drawing heat from the Clyde

What heat sources are being considered?

The chief source being considered is water-sourced heat pump extraction from the River Clyde, whose potential, the strategy says, is “significant”. Other sources include energy from waste, from Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre (GRREC),; deep geothermal; wastewater; mine works; waste heat from distilleries, supermarkets, data centres, launderettes and bakeries.

3 West Lothian

Where are the heat networks?

The draft LHEES has identified 14 potential Heat Network Zones across West Lothian. These include the following zones: the edge of Polkemmet Minewater Treatment Works, the area around the Regal Theatre in Bathgate, the Pyramids business park, a large zone around the Glen Turner distillery, an extensive network around Livingston centre, Brucefield industrial park, the area around West Calder high school, a zone around Dickson Court and Stewart Court in West Calder, the area around Inveralmond High School, Houston Industrial Estate, a zone around Broxburn Library, area around Broxburn Xcite and East Mains Industrial Estate in Broxburn.

The Herald: Pyramids business parkPyramids business park

What about heat pumps?

61% of West Lothian’s domestic properties were identified as suitable for heat pump retrofit. 50,672 properties were identified as highly suited while 15, 389 have been deemed appropriate following a moderate upgrade.

According to the strategy, the areas with the highest number of properties suitable for heat pumps are Winchburgh, Bridgend & Philpstoun, Blackridge, Westfield & Torphichen and Linlithgow South. 

4 East Lothian

The fact that East Lothian’s LHEES won a Holyrood Climate Action award says a great deal about its  innovative approach.

Where will the heat networks be?

East Lothian already has 26 heating networks which can potentially be decarbonised. There is also, just over the border in Midlothian a project by Midlothian Energy Ltd and Vattenfall which is initially planned to heat Shawfair Town, but should also be able to export into East Lothian.

The Herald: Pipe being positioned for Shawfair Town heat network, a Vattenfall projectPipe being positioned for Shawfair Town heat network, a Vattenfall project (Image: Vattenfall)

It has been estimated that heat network zones could contain 80% of East Lothian households and 97% of the properties currently connected to the gas grid A coastal heat network is proposed, based around a large, modular heat pump, based at the former Cockenzie Power Station site, delivering water, heated to between 65 and 70C, through “an extensive network of insulated pipes”.

Phase 1 of the network, it suggests, may involve the connecting of Prestonpans, Tranent, Cockenzie, Port Seton. Phase 2 may bring in Musselburgh and Wallyford. Phase 3 could see the connection of North Berwick via Longniddry, Aberlady, Gullane and Dirleton. Phase 4 may add Macmerry, Elphinstone and Ormiston extensions.

But it’s not just the sea that will supply heat network energy. Also proposed is a waste heat network using heat from Viridor’s waste incinerator near Dunbar. The proposed first phase of this would connect Dunbar. The second phase would involve the construction of an A199 heat highway connecting with the Cockenzie network, and the final phase would see East Linton and Haddington connected.

The Herald: Former site of Cockenzie power stationFormer site of Cockenzie power station

A minewater heat network is also being scoped for the Blindwells housing development site. 

Where will the heat pump zones be?

For those living in rural areas of East Linton, and in off-gas villages, where residents often rely on oil or LPG for heating, connection to the heat networks is not likely to be the answer. In these areas, more likely an electric-powered heat pump will be the best option.

But there may, the strategy says, be “opportunities for smaller scale heat network solutions” using communal heat pumps.

Heat pump zone villages include Drem, East Saltburn, Garvald, Gifford, Humbie, Innerwick, Oldhamstocks, Spott, Tynninghame, Stenton, West Saltoun, Whitekirk. 

5. Perth and Kinross

Where will the heat networks be?

Due to the rural nature of Perth and Kinross, the strategy says, the potential for heat networks in the local authority area is limited to a few urban areas and towns. Two zones were identified – one in Perth City Centre and one in Inveralmond Industrial Estate. These zones have a large number of anchor loads and seem most financially viable.

A further five, the areas around Perth College/UHI and Perth Academy, as well as Kinross, Auchterarder and have also been identified, but these do not appear to be so financially viable.

Where will likely have heat pumps?

The strategy states: "Heat pump uptake potential for Perth and Kinross is high with approximately 56% or our buildings suitable for transition to meet regulatory targets."

Over 28,500 properties in Perth and Kinross have been identified as potentially highly suitable for a heat pump. The strategy states: “At 2023 energy prices, the potential for energy cost savings by switching to heat pumps for well-insulated off-gas households is significantly more than for on-gas household”.

Nearly half of on-gas households and 18% of off-gas households are considered already highly suitable. Dunkeld, Crieff, Blairgowrie and Rattray, and Glenfarg are considered priority regions for heat pump deployment in social housing properties not connected to the gas network.

The Herald: Dunkeld has many properties suitable for heat pump deploymentDunkeld has many properties suitable for heat pump deployment (Image: PA)

For off-gas privately-owned homes, Crieff, Dunkeld, Blairgowrie and Rattray, Glenfarg, Powmill are identified as having significant potential for heat pump deployment.

Meanwhile, Crieff, Perth and Blairgowrie and Rattray have higher suitability for heat pump installation amongst on-gas, privately owned properties.

Other areas, for instance Kinross and Milnathort and Coupar Angus, while they have high concertations of properties that are heat pump ready, have limited spare grid capacity.

6 Highland Council

“A significant number of domestic properties,” says the strategy, are detached, semi-detached and terraced properties.” Therefore there is an opportunity for individual heat pump installations. .

Where are the heat network zones?

Highland Council’s strategy identifies a number of zones. These include an area around Invergordon Academy and Invergordon Sports Centre. Two areas in Dingwall: a zone around Dingwall Academy and the Highland Council Tecs depot, and another around the Highland Football Academy and Ross Memorial Hospital. There are three zones in Inverness, one around the Justice Centre, another around Inverness High School and the third around the Police Headquarters. Fort William has one prospective zone around Bedford Hospital and The Nevis Centre.

The Herald: Inverness Justice CentreInverness Justice Centre

What about individual heat pumps and small heat networks?

Around 53% of on-gas properties are believed to be heat pump ready and 24% of off-gas are suitable – the rest would need energy efficiency upgrades, some of them considerable, to make them ready. As well as bigger heat networks, Highland Council has also identified areas where small-scale heat networks could be created using ground source heat pumps based in green areas. These include Thurso, Wick, Skye, Beauly and Muir of Ord.

7 Dumfries and Galloway

57% of buildings in Dumfries and Galloway are connected to the mains gas, with off-gas grid properties mainly being split between electricity and oil.

Heat pump viability and uptake?.

For properties not connected to mains gas, around 9% are either already on a low-carbon heating source, or the property is ready to be swapped to a heat pump without any major changes. “Therefore,” says the strategy, “these properties could be a priority for ‘quick wins’ to accelerate decarbonisation.”

Where are the prospective heat networks?

Key areas being considered for heat networks are  Dumfries Town Centre, the Crichton quarter, ‘Dumfries outer suburbs’ consisting of three clusters, the areas around an industrial park to the north, the Ice Bowl and Laurieknowe Primary school. An additional zone has been identified in the Lochside area north of Dumfries.

There is also a prospective zone in Stranraer around the area of the Caledonian Cheese Company and two in Annan around Annan Academy, Annan swimming pool and Annan hospital.