Often it seems as if there’s more heat than light when we’re talking about decarbonising our heating; more fear and confusion than drive and clarity.

At the heart of this, in part, is the fact that it has felt mostly as if this process that we are to go through as a country is presented as an atomised issue. We face if alone as individuals, up against it, fearful of costs and penalties, or that we will make the wrong decision - staring at the frayed fabric of our homes or a bamboozling online grant form.

Many of us have been arguing for some time that district heating or ‘heat networks’, through which hot water, heated through renewables, is delivered in insulated pipes to whole neighbourhoods, has to be key to the answer.

So it’s a relief to see increasing emphasis on district heating from the Scottish Government. I was glad, for instance, to see the Heat in Buildings bill put emphasis on the building of “heat networks” across Scotland.

But even more glad to hear Patrick Harvie’s response when Martin Geissler, on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, asked the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings whether he should get an air source heat pump.

"You should certainly be looking at all the options,” said Mr Harvie. “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."

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Of course, this doesn’t quite lift the confusion. I've long been wondering if the place in which live, in a double-upper 19th century flat, in densely-populated Leith, is  more heat network friendly than private air-source heat pump - and I still don't know the actual answer. But it feels at least like policy is starting to point more in a particular direction.

The news that district heating is going to play a role is not new. The Heat Networks Scotland Act created targets to achieve 2.5 terawatt hours of thermal energy delivery through heat networks by 2027 (3% of today’s non-electrical heat consumption) and 6twh by 2030 (8% of current use).

But the percentages seemed fairly small, of the sort that might make a householder think, "Probably not my place, then!" Or, "Only for the few."

But actually, heat networks could be bigger than that, particularly in cities - and how big is likely to be revealed when councils publish their Local Heat and Energy Efficency Strategies (LHEES) due by the end of this year.

There is no one-size-fits-all all, in spite of the dominance of the talk about heat pump grants – and what is clear is that there is likely to be a wide variety of approaches. But, if Glasgow, which has already approved its LHEES, is anything to go by, heat networks could have a key role.

Its plan estimates that 66% of households – around 200,000 homes, could be heated by networks. That’s an astonishing 77% of Glasgow’s total heat demand of 4.82TWh.

READ MORE: Big boiler question: Surely the answer is district heating?

READ MORE: People in towns and cities will not have to install heat pumps

READ MORE: Harvie's heat pump plans warning after grant completions stall

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that if you think an air-source heat pump might work for your home, you shouldn't go for it. If you're a city dweller who lives in a well-insulated house with outdoor space, fire ahead.

But some homes are going to need a heat network - and it's good to see this plan growing. Glasgow is already home to one of Scotland’s flagship models of the technology, the Queen’s Quay District Heating Network, which extracts heat through a water-source heat pump from the Clyde. But many other parts of Scotland have pioneering heat network projects too - and from a wide range of renewable sources.

For instance, there’s the Vattenfall plan to harness heat from Millerhill Recycling and Energy Recovery Centre to heat the equivalent of 170,000 homes by 2050. Or there’s the £ 10 million Torry Heat Network in Aberdeen which will supply heat for 146 flats using an energy-from-waste plant.

Like all forms of heating, heat pumps have flaws, which critics will no doubt highlight. For instance, if the system goes wrong, that’s the whole neighbourhood down - though let's not forget that networks have heated half the homes of Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

It’s also interesting to see that the network solution has its sticks as well as carrots. Local authorities, according to the new Heat in Buildings bill, will be given power to require those “within a Heat Network Zone to end their use of polluting heating systems (by a certain date and with a minimum notice period)”. Nor will it be cheap. 

But decarbonising our heating is one of Scotland’s biggest challenges – and in a world that is still seeing fossil fuel emissions rise, and reports that 1.5C may be a sobering seven years away.

86% of Scotland relies on fossil fuels to heat our homes. It’s going to be difficult to kick that habit – but so much easier if most of us are doing it together.