Denmark is a world leader in renewable energy, with more than half of its electricity coming from wind and solar power. The Scandinavian country has also pioneered district heating, a system that uses waste heat from power plants and other sources to warm homes and buildings. Denmark’s green energy revolution can inspire Scotland to ditch fossil fuels and achieve its ambitious climate goals.
Denmark’s district heating system: a model for Scotland
District heating is a network of pipes that delivers hot water or steam to multiple buildings, providing space heating and domestic hot water. The heat can come from various sources, such as waste incineration, biomass, geothermal, or surplus heat from industrial processes. District heating can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and lower energy costs for consumers.
Denmark has been developing its district heating system since the 1970s, when the oil crisis prompted the country to look for alternative energy sources. Today, district heating covers about 64% of the country’s heating demand, and more than 80% of the heat is produced from renewable or low-carbon sources. Denmark aims to increase the share of renewable heat to 100% by 2030.
Scotland, on the other hand, has a low penetration of district heating, with only about 1% of the heating demand met by this technology. Most of the heat in Scotland comes from natural gas, which accounts for 78% of the residential heating and 54% of the non-residential heating. This contributes to Scotland’s high carbon footprint, as heating and cooling account for about half of the country’s energy consumption and 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions.
However, Scotland has a huge potential to adopt district heating, as it has abundant sources of waste and renewable heat, such as biomass, biogas, hydro, wind, solar, and marine energy. Scotland also has a high heat demand, especially in urban areas, where district heating can be more cost-effective and efficient than individual heating systems. Moreover, Scotland has a strong political commitment to tackle climate change, as it has set a target to reach net-zero emissions by 2045.
How district heating can benefit Scotland’s economy, environment, and society
By adopting district heating, Scotland can reap multiple benefits for its economy, environment, and society. Some of these benefits are:
- Reducing energy bills and fuel poverty: District heating can offer lower and more stable energy prices for consumers, as it can use cheaper and locally available heat sources, and avoid the fluctuations of global gas markets. District heating can also help reduce fuel poverty, which affects about 25% of Scottish households, by providing affordable and reliable heating services.
- Creating jobs and local development: District heating can create new jobs and business opportunities in the heat sector, as well as in related industries, such as construction, engineering, and maintenance. District heating can also support local development, by stimulating the circular economy, enhancing energy security, and improving the quality of life for residents.
- Cutting greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution: District heating can cut greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, by replacing fossil fuels with renewable or low-carbon heat sources, and by improving the energy efficiency of the heat system. District heating can also help Scotland achieve its net-zero target, by enabling the integration of variable renewable electricity, such as wind and solar, into the heat system, through technologies such as heat pumps, thermal storage, and power-to-heat.
- Increasing resilience and flexibility: District heating can increase the resilience and flexibility of the energy system, by providing backup heating in case of power outages, and by balancing the supply and demand of heat and electricity, through smart grid solutions. District heating can also adapt to changing heat demand, by expanding or upgrading the network, and by adding or switching heat sources.
How Scotland can learn from Denmark’s experience and best practices
Scotland can learn from Denmark’s experience and best practices in developing and implementing district heating. Some of the key lessons are:
- Establishing a clear and long-term policy framework: Denmark has a clear and long-term policy framework for district heating, which includes targets, regulations, incentives, and standards. This provides certainty and direction for the heat sector, and encourages investment and innovation. Scotland should also establish a clear and long-term policy framework for district heating, which aligns with its net-zero target and supports its heat decarbonization strategy.
- Engaging and empowering local authorities and communities: Denmark has a high level of engagement and empowerment of local authorities and communities in district heating planning and operation. Local authorities have the responsibility and authority to decide on the heat supply and demand in their areas, and to enforce the connection of buildings to the district heating network. Communities have the opportunity and right to own and participate in district heating projects, through cooperatives or municipal companies. Scotland should also engage and empower local authorities and communities in district heating, by providing them with guidance, support, and funding, and by enabling them to have a say and a stake in the heat sector.
- Promoting cooperation and coordination among stakeholders: Denmark has a high level of cooperation and coordination among stakeholders in the district heating sector, such as heat producers, distributors, consumers, regulators, and researchers. This facilitates the exchange of information, knowledge, and best practices, and fosters innovation and collaboration. Scotland should also promote cooperation and coordination among stakeholders in the district heating sector, by creating platforms, networks, and partnerships, and by supporting research and development.
Denmark’s green energy revolution can inspire Scotland to ditch fossil fuels and achieve its ambitious climate goals. By adopting district heating, Scotland can benefit from lower energy bills, cleaner air, more jobs, and greater resilience. Scotland can learn from Denmark’s experience and best practices in developing and implementing district heating, and become a leader in renewable heat in Europe and beyond.