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Getting warmer – and 'greener' – in Scotland

Good news in Scotland, where new Scottish Government figures, compiled by Energy Saving Trust, show renewable heat on the up. 

2015 marked the highest annual increase in renewable heat output since records began in 2008 – over 1,100GWh. 

Assistant Data Insight Manager Fiona Flynn, who compiled the report, said: “We took over responsibility for compiling the data in 2010. It has shown renewable heat rising ever since. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has played a massive role, and we've seen big biomass momentum – all of which helps hitting Scotland's ambitious green heating targets.”

Big projects lead the way

Heat accounts for more than half of Scotland's energy use, and approximately 47% of its emissions – but the aim is for 11 per cent of Scotland's non-electrical heat demand to be satisfied by renewables by 2020. 

Last year, Scotland was at the 5.3-5.6 per cent mark, up from 3.8 per cent in 2014. Complimenting existing Scottish Government programmes, such as the District Heating Loan Fund and the Home Energy Scotland Renewables Loan, Flynn expects a significant driver to further improvement will be newer schemes like the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP), which aims to develop more innovative technologies like deep geothermal and larger heat pumps in Scotland. 

Domestic momentum

But on the home front, there is also solid progress. Domestic installations of technologies like small-scale biomass and heat pumps saw a rise of 44 per cent between 2014 and 2015. 

Strategy Manager Elaine Waterson said: “It’s clear that, if we're to hit our targets, renewable heat needs continued support. The Scottish Government is definitely taking a lead on this. Services like in-home visits for those interested in renewables and the provision of loans to support take up of the domestic RHI are having a positive effect.

“There's a significant drive towards district heating and using excess heat from commercial activities in Scotland, so it's not just about installations in homes -  it's about giving whole communities the benefits, and using what's already there.”

Scotland has a higher proportion of off-gas properties than the UK as a whole, and incentive schemes have often been targeted at people in these homes. It seems to be working, with 87 per cent of installations under RHI taking place in off-grid areas.  

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Progress – but more to come

The figures have understandably pleased the Scottish Government. Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said: “These record-breaking figures are so encouraging. They show that programmes such as the District Heating Loan Scheme, the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme and the Home Energy Scotland renewables loans scheme are inspiring people to harness renewable energy to heat their homes and their businesses. 

“These and our other programmes support the uptake of the GB wide Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, in which Scotland continues to punch above its weight.”

Although renewable heat capacity is increasing, it's certainly not the time to sit back and admire progress so far. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has noted that projects still tend to be small-scale, and progress could be much faster. 

The CCC also has suggested that Scotland should be aiming to have 430,000 heat pumps installed in homes by 2030 – a steep target, which will require a concerted effort from here on in. 

It's all to play for as Scotland looks to lead the way in low-carbon heating.

Find out more about what grants and loan schemes are available in Scotland. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, or tweet @EnergySvgTrust.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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