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District energy in Glasgow: Report on the Local Heating & Energy Efficiency Strategy to be released

The forthcoming report on the Local Heating and Energy Efficiency Strategy is expected to be released soon by the City Council. District heating system in Glasgow is not yet functional but promises to be one of the most efficient in Europe. Here is a quick tour of the local heating strategy and the most serious options explored by the Council.

The creation of contemporary district energy systems is necessary for many cities around the world to provide sustainable heating and cooling and decarbonise heat in the urban environment.

According to Patrick Harvie, the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings “Heat networks will play an increasingly important role over the coming years in cutting carbon emissions and making sure our homes are warmer, greener and cheaper to run."

In Glasgow the “Potential District Heating Zones should be extended to include large scale areas”.

“As part of our Climate Action Plan we are committed to supporting appropriate renewable heat and energy solutions in Glasgow,” a spokesperson for the council said.

Map of Glasgow’s downtown densely inhabited areas. By connecting the downtown to the underground heating pipework, the community aims to reduce GHG emissions as long as the energy bills. (Credit:

“Our Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy is due to be published shortly.”

The district energy network consists in displaying a system of insulated pipes that are buried beneath city streets and harnessing heat from industrial facilities in order to deliver hot or cold water to numerous buildings throughout a district, neighborhood, or city.
Modern district energy systems can cut the amount of primary energy needed to heat and cool urban structures in half.
The numerous advantages that progressive cities are committed to providing for their citizens, such as clean air and local jobs, are made possible by this dramatic reduction in energy consumption.
“Our Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy due to be presented at the Net Zero and Climate Progress Monitoring City Policy Committee later this month. This strategy is a long term, locally based plan, which looks to reduce local demand and decarbonise heat supplies. One of the opportunities we’ll be looking at through this is the development of heat networks in the city” insisted the Spokesman.

This strategy entitles Local heat and energy efficiency strategy (LHEES), will provide the baseline of this ambitious project. Four zones are proposed: the City Centre, Drumchapel, Waterfront & West End Innovation Quarter, and Clyde Gateway, Polmadie & the South.
However, the legal framework guidelines are still in progress. “The national regulations that will support these initiatives are currently being developed” says the City council spokesman. “we are working closely with the Scottish Government on how district heating systems can be supported in the city” he adds.

Innovative schemes that combines land use and energy, as well as collaboration between various city sectors like energy, transportation, housing, waste collection, and wastewater treatment are constantly explored.
The City council plans line with that vision. “We are already looking at a range of options on how locally generated and distributed low-carbon energy can support communities and help to address fuel poverty in the city” explains the Spokesman contacted by Breakthrough Press.

“This includes exploring geothermal technology, installing solar panels across the council estate and working with the private sector to establish how these options can be taken forward” he insisted.

View of the Viridor’s incinerator in Polmadie (credit: Stuart Patterson)

The Glasgow Recycling & Renewable Energy Centre:

In Glasgow the ambition is there: the Viridor’s (a leading UK company in waste management) Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre (GRREC) is increasingly being explored. The Glasgow network aims to serve the equivalent of 450,000 m2 homes by 2050, by “producing enough energy to power the equivalent of 26,496 households and heat the equivalent of some 8,000 homes'' according to the GRREC’s website, and this would save eventually up to 90 000 tonnes of CO² every year. Eventually the project targets 140 GWH of heat sales by 2050, with 74 km of pipework system with a total cost of the project reaching 250 millions Pounds.

Through a process known as anaerobic digestion, a process through which bacteria break down organic matter, the plant converts the collected waste into a gas called “refuse derived fuel”, which is then combusted with minimal oxygen. This energy then heats water to create steam that drives a turbine. This produces the electricity that is then fed into the national grid.

The transition to modern district energy requires creative local planning and innovative arrangement schemes such as public private partnerships. And the ongoing Glasgow Recycling & Renewable Energy Centre (GRREC) is the most advanced and brilliant example.

In the section 4.4 of the 2022 report on the LHEES it appears that “The GRREC creates renewable heat and energy from the city’s municipal waste and could provide a significant source of renewable heat should it be connected to a district heating scheme as part of the delivery of the LHEES.”
In the perspective of a potential public private partnership, as stated above, the Viridor is considering a partnership with Vattenfall, one of Europe’s leading energy and heat suppliers. This is supported by an entry on the Viridor website that mentions a “partnership with Vattenfall to explore heat networks and we are keen to do more. With a reliable supply of baseload clean heat, Viridor will be a catalyst for decarbonising our communities.”

The details of a possible district heating system connected to the GRREC are therefore still being developed.


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