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Harnessing the power of waste heat to drive Scotland’s net zero journey

31 Mar 2022

SSE was proud to be a partner for COP26 in Glasgow last November - an event which highlighted the urgent need for collaboration and innovation when it comes to getting to net zero.

So, it felt especially timely to be back in Glasgow this week to host a roundtable event at SSE’s offices designed to address the challenge of decarbonising heat in Scotland.

I’m pleased to say our event was a live ‘in person’ one that brought together some of the leading voices in the sector with the headline speaker Patrick Harvie MSP – the minister responsible for heat networks.

The question before us is key for those of us in heat networks; namely: How can we unlock the potential of waste heat to power heat networks in support of Scotland’s net zero journey?

Patrick Harvie spoke about the cultural challenges and public perceptions which must be addressed if we are to have much wider deployment of heat networks and move away from gas boilers. How we bring consumers along on that journey will be critical to our success.

This sentiment was echoed by attendees with sector experience in the Nordics where heat networks are widespread and currently creating price stability for their consumers. In fact, in some cases tariffs for heat network customers had dropped of late - thanks to the diversity of heat sources being deployed.

It was also apparent that we need to focus minds on how we can consume less energy – conserving our energy sources whatever they may be. In fact, we should stop using the term ‘waste heat’ and instead see it as an ‘energy resource’ so we can exploit more opportunities for heat networks.

As you’d expect greater understanding and collaboration between the private and public sector, bringing our respective strengths and expertise to the table, will also be vital if we’re going to build out heat networks at scale – something SSE Energy Solutions is doing right now.

Likewise, the public sector should feel empowered to become a trusted facilitator for heat network deployment. Early engagement with private sector heat network investor operators can also help unlock potential.

There was also wide support for the standardisation and industrialisation, wherever possible, of all aspects of the lifecycle of a project. This will help to reduce costs for everyone and, crucially, enable a large and replicable pipeline of projects across Scotland and the UK to be developed. Something that investors and the supply chain are very keen to see.

Taking the temperature in the room it was clear that there was a common desire to build on the momentum of COP26 so that we can unlock the full value that heat networks can provide.

It was great to hear that the Scottish Government has earmarked £1.8bn for heat and buildings over the course of this parliament. We know the private sector has a big part to play in investment terms.

At SSE Energy Solutions we stand ready to deliver on that potential and we’re excited to be part of Scotland’s transition to a zero-carbon heating future, unlocking new and plentiful heat sources such as geothermal, heat from sewers and heat from electricity transformers.

A big thank you to all those who attended, and I hope the event can map out a positive future direction of travel for this crucial sector.