A bill to support the development of district heat networks to help meet climate change targets and tackle fuel poverty has been introduced at Holyrood by the Scottish Government.

The Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill will introduce regulation and a licensing system for district and communal heating to accelerate use of the networks across Scotland.

Heat networks deliver heat from a central source through insulated pipes to local homes and other buildings, and have the potential to reduce or remove emissions from heating buildings individually.

They are generally more efficient than individual gas boilers, and can be run wholly from renewable sources, reducing the need for customers to procure and maintain their own boilers.

To mark the publication of the bill, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, visited a heat network under construction at the St James Centre redevelopment in central Edinburgh.

He said there are currently more than 830 networks operating in Scotland, but the sector currently lacks a coherent regulatory framework. "The Heat Networks Bill therefore marks the beginning of a transformational change, as we seek to create a supportive market environment for the necessary expansion of heat networks."

The minister commented: "We are facing a global climate emergency and one of the major challenges is reducing and ultimately stopping the impact from heating our homes and buildings, which is where more than half the energy we consume as a society currently goes.

"Heat networks have huge potential to reduce that impact by providing more efficient, environmentally-friendly solutions. The Scottish Government is determined to unlock the potential for that sector wherever possible and stimulate local jobs across Scotland in the process of delivering projects."

Mr Wheelhouse added that heat networks also bring the benefits of saving space and removing combustion risk, and have been shown to save householders and businesses up to 36% in fuel costs.

Click here to access the bill and related papers.