Scotland politics

Call for 'shared boilers' to heat homes

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Household boilers should be replaced with large shared boilers to heat multiple homes in Scottish cities, according to a group of MSPs, environmentalists and academics.

They called on the Scottish government to encourage investment in "district heating" as part of a Warm Homes Act.

District heating sees large boilers provide heat for entire districts through a network of pipes.

The system is popular in several other European countries.

The Scottish convention is for homes to have their own self-contained gas boiler - although there are some district heating schemes, including Caithness Heat and Power (Chap), which provides heat to about 200 homes and the local hospital in Wick.

Environmental group WWF Scotland, the University of Edinburgh, heatpump manufacturer Star Renewable Energy and cross-party MSPs are behind the calls for district heating to be more widely used in Scotland.

'Climate targets'

They said that less than 4% of Scotland's heat demand is delivered by renewables, with just 1% by district heating - a figure they said research had suggested needed to jump to 40% by 2030 if climate targets were to be met.

And they have claimed that district heating had the potential to cut both energy bills and carbon emissions.

Dr Sam Gardner, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: "That's why we're calling on the new Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse to adopt the recommendations from the government's expert advisers on district heating in the promised Warm Homes Act.

"Regulation for district heating has broad stakeholder support and if acted upon will help ensure Scotland reaps the huge benefits investment in renewable heat and district heating infrastructure will bring to the country."

The group said the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Sweden all use regulation to secure investment in the district heating infrastructure, at a long-term affordable cost of capital, as well as ensuring good standards of practice by operators and fair pricing for customers.

'Fuel poverty'

Scottish Green energy spokesman Mark Ruskell said: "We must take the opportunity of a Warm Homes Bill to deliver affordable, renewable heat for homes and workplaces.

"District heating systems are commonplace in other European countries, and Scottish ministers would do well to target capital investment at such schemes.

"Scotland needs to catch up quickly if we're to meet our ambitions for a low-carbon society, tackle fuel poverty and create high quality jobs."

A Scottish government spokesman said community energy had the potential to "empower people and help tackle some of our most pressing issues including fuel poverty, increasing costs and security of supply, while it can also support Scotland's efforts to cut damaging greenhouse gas emissions."

He said the government had put in place a wide range of support to allow communities to take control of their local energy use and supply, including the announcement of £10m to fund nine district heating projects.