Holyrood has passed new legislation on heating that could be “crucial” in Scotland’s response to the climate change emergency.
MSPs unanimously approved a bill that aims to “accelerate significantly” the number of properties covered by heat networks.
Such systems see networks of pipes transport hot water or steam to buildings, with this then being used to heat them.
Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said heating buildings, which typically relies on gas or electricity, currently accounts for 21% of greenhouse gas emissions, the third largest source of these in Scotland.
And he said there needed to be a “transformational change” in how homes and businesses are supplied with heat.
The Scottish Government has set the target of having a million homes heated by low carbon or renewable sources by 2030 – with Mr Wheelhouse adding that heat networks will have “a strong role, perhaps the predominant role to play, in achieving this”.
Currently just 34,000 properties across Scotland benefit from such systems – which can save people almost a fifth (17%) in annual fuel bills, he said.
Mr Wheelhouse explained: “In simple terms a heat network is a distribution system of insulated pipes that carry hot water or steam from a central source to homes and businesses.
“Heat networks are generally more efficient than individual gas boilers and can be run from a wide range of renewable and low carbon sources, including large scale heat pumps which extract heat from our rivers or even waste heat recovered from industrial processes.
“In the right circumstances they also provide average fuel savings of 17% per household.”
The Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill aims to accelerate the development of such systems, by introducing a new licensing regime to ensure that operators are “solvent, fit and proper”.
It also includes measures aimed at encouraging the development of heat networks where they would have most benefit.
Mr Wheelhouse told MSPs at Holyrood: “I believe the Bill is a very important step in providing Scotland with the warmer, greener, more efficient buildings that we need to combat climate change, tackle fuel poverty and live healthier and more comfortable lives.”