City of Edinburgh Council has set out its vision for how decarbonised heating may be delivered over the coming decades. The plan offers clues for those wondering whether the area in which they live will be one more likely to be dominated by individual heat pumps or joined up to some kind of district heating network.

The plan, called a Local Authority Heating and Energy Efficiency Strategy (LHEES), was delivered to meet the Scottish Government deadline for strategies from all local authorities.

The profile of types of homes in Edinburgh has a big impact on the strategy. 91 % of Edinburgh's homes are fueled by gas,  69% are flats and half of all homes in Edinburgh are located in mixed-tenure buildings. It also has a lot of old buildings, with a quarter lying in conservation areas. Many of these buildings will have to be retrofitted – and the strategy recommends a total of 248,888 interventions.

It also states that at least "229,798 homes in Edinburgh will need their existing fossil fuel-based heating systems replaced, the vast majority of them (227,550) being homes currently heated using gas boilers".

Edinburgh’s strategy has identified heat network zones across the city but there are also networks already in development. Granton Waterfront and Edinburgh BioQuarter are the two furthest advanced.

Heat networks aren’t new to Edinburgh. There were already 153 heat networks and communal heating systems in the city as of 2023 – around 14% of the Scottish total – which could potentially be decarbonised.

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 Yown.

The Herald: Map of potential heat networks across Edinburgh

It’s worth looking at the maps included in the strategy to work out whether your home will be within these (for instance my own, in Leith, is not covered by any element of the plan) and also bear in mind the heat sources in the areas are still mostly speculative. Many homeowners may still find individual heat pumps or other heating to be appropriate.

Maps of four of the heat networks follow, but it's possible to see the rest in the draft delivery plan which is published online

Edinburgh New Town

The Herald: Edinburgh New Town heat network map

A zone encompassing multiple large buildings, including shops, hotels, offices, and civic buildings such as General Register House. Possible heat sources include "Sainsbury's supermarket on St Andrew Square, a major sewer running beneath Princes Street Gardens, and green spaces such as Charlotte Square and St Andrew Square".

Key challenges are the "built-up nature of the New Town, coupled with its protected character".


The Herald: Edinburgh's Granton area heat network map

A zone which, the plan says, encompasses: "Granton Waterfront regeneration area in north Edinburgh – including brownfield land in and around the former Granton Gasworks – along with the housing estates of Muirhouse, Pennywell, and Pilton to the south."

Key possible heat sources include the Firth of Forth, major sewers, supermarkets and substations. There is already a district heating network being developed in the area at Granton Waterfront. 

Old Town and SouthsideThe Herald: Edinburgh Old Town and Southside heat network map


One of Edinburgh's larger zones, encompassing the  Old Town,as well as the modern Exchange District and Fountainbridge neighbourhoods to the west and the University of Edinburgh’s King’s Buildings campus to the south.

Potential heat sources include, the plan says, "supermarkets; multiple major sewers; the Union Canal; green spaces such as the Meadows; substations; and potential geothermal resources to the south."

The challenge are its historic character and "challenging subterranean conditions".


The Herald: Map of potential Leith heat network

A zone that includes the Port of Leith along with surrounding residential and commercial areas. Possible heat sources include the Firth of Forth, sewers, and the Seafield Waste Water Treatment Plant. The plan notes: "Forth Ports, as the owner and operator of the Port of Leith, would be a key partner in the development of a heat network in this area."

READ MORE: Heat pumps or heat networks? Scottish council plans

What heat sources are being considered for Edinburgh networks?

Heat sources identified  include capturing heat from the sewers running beneath Edinburgh, water source heat pumps that capture heat from the Firth of Forth or the Almond river, heat from Seafield Waste Water Treatment Works, heat from mine water in disused mines under Edinburgh, heat from 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 for heat pump delivery of mostly mid-rise or high-rise blocks. They are in various parts of the city and include Lochend Butterfly Way, Waterfront Park, Robertson Avenue, Fountainbridge, Oxgangs Avenue, West Pilton Grove, Craigour Place, Elgin Street, Morrison Crescent and Craighouse Gardens, listed in ascending order of average retrofit cost.

Heat networks already in development

The Granton Waterfront development revolves around a heat pump utilising heat from the sewer running beneath Granton Waterfront, supplemented by two solar-powered electric boilers for resilience. Edinburgh BioQuarter,a life sciences development in the Little France neighbourhood of Edinburgh is set to revolve around a heat network utilising waste heat from the Millerhill Recycling and Energy Recovery Centre supplemented by electric boilers.

There is also a network in development at Gracemount (plans are for a closed loop 750-kilowatt ground source heat pump with electric boiler top-up and a thermal store).

Barriers to heat pump uptake and execution of LHEES

"One of the main barriers," say the strategy, "to the delivery of the Edinburgh LHEES is the shortage of suppliers with the necessary skills, for example tradespersons qualified to install and maintain heat pumps."

Other factors include "the existing electricity price regime," which in many cases makes heat pumps unattractive relative to gas from a running cost perspective. and "pressures on the electricity grid".

"At present," the LHEES notes,  "there is no financial strategy for the investment required to decarbonise Edinburgh or Scotland."