Decarbonising heat

Heating our homes and businesses makes up a significant part of our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonising heat – meaning reducing and eliminating the greenhouse gases emitted during its generation and use – is essential to tackling climate change.

The Heat Policy Statement published in 2015 set out three objectives for decarbonising heat:

  • reducing the need for heat
  • supplying heat efficiently and at least cost to consumers
  • using renewable and low carbon heat

We are working to decarbonise heat in Scotland by investing in things we can control:

  • improving heat efficiency, which includes reducing demand and supplying it more cost-effectively
  • supporting low-carbon heat solutions in individual buildings off the gas grid or heat networks where appropriate

In areas outside our control, including decarbonising the gas grid, we are working with the UK Government and our partners to determine the best route.

Heat efficiency: networks

We are working with partners to improve the efficiency with which heat is supplied to Scottish homes and businesses.

Scotland heat map

We are working with a large number of public bodies to provide the Scotland Heat Map, a tool for identifying opportunities to reduce carbon emissions from heat in buildings across Scotland. It can be used to:

  • identify where there are opportunities for heat networks
  • assess heat density and proximity to heat sources

We aim to update the heat demand estimates in the heat map annually. Additional data in the map (including energy supply points, heat network locations, tenure, planning constraints and geothermal data) is updated when appropriate. We are sharing the heat map with every local authority in Scotland via the Scotland heat map framework agreement, to help them plan heating networks and identify unused excess heat. Other public sector bodies can register interest in using the heat map by emailing

We also provide a simpler version of the map that anyone can use through the Scotland Heat Map Interactive website. Heat demand estimates are presented for areas ranging from 50m grid squares to whole local authorities. It also lets you see where there are existing and planned heat networks and existing and potential sources of energy supply, alongside other relevant data. Most of the data can be downloaded in a range of formats including, where appropriate, web mapping services, web feature services, text files and/or image files. Guidance on how to use the Scotland Heat Map interactive can be found in its quick user guide

We have provided a range of documentation and guidance for users of the Scotland heat map.

Regulation of heat networks

Heat networks are a distribution system of insulated pipes that take heat in the form of hot water or steam from a central source and deliver it to homes and businesses in an efficient way. 

We have consulted twice on proposals to introduce regulation to the heat network sector. This would stimulate the deployment of district and communal heating by de-risking investment and increasing consumer awareness and acceptance. We are working on legislation that will cover the heat networks market.

Heat Network Partnership

In 2013 we set up the Heat Network Partnership to provide co-ordinated support for district heating, and to develop a district heating strategy programme for local authorities to help accelerate the growth of heat networks. Find more information on the District Heating Scotland website.

Heat efficiency: buildings

We are reducing demand for heat by improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

Our target is that, by 2040, all Scottish homes will have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of band C where technically feasible and cost effective, and all non-domestic buildings will have their energy efficiency improved to the extent that it is technically feasible and cost effective.

By 2032, we aim to reduce residential heat demand by 15% and non-residential heat demand by 20% by improving the fabric of Scotland’s buildings and ensuring they are insulated to the maximum appropriate level.

We are achieving this through a number of schemes:

Find more information on these schemes on the Energy Efficient Scotland page.

We have set standards for energy efficiency in social housing and in private rented housing, and offer schemes to support people in fuel poverty to make their homes more energy efficient. Find more information on our home energy and fuel poverty policy.

Low-carbon heat solutions

We are developing policies and programmes to help communities and organisations across Scotland to transition to low-carbon heat solutions, primarily through the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme.

By 2020, our target is to have 11% of non-electrical heat demand met by renewable sources.

By 2032, our target is to have 35% of heat for domestic buildings and 70% of heat and cooling for non-domestic buildings supplied using low carbon heat technologies, where technically feasible.

UK Renewable Heat Incentive

We are promoting the uptake of the UK Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) through programmes delivered by Resource Efficient Scotland (RES). As of August 2017, we have paid more than £203 million to Scottish accredited installations for both the domestic and non-domestic schemes, accounting for around 20% of renewable heat capacity generated under the UK-wide scheme, which is well above pro-rata.

The RHI will end in 2021, so we are now analysing models for financing support for low-carbon heat once it has ended. We are working with the relevant Scottish skills agencies and other Government directorates to assess current skills capacity and capability to meet the expected ramp-up of renewable installations in Scotland, and to ensure there is geographical coverage for the whole country.