A new research project by greenspace scotland will explore how we can transform our urban landscapes to support a low carbon future. Green Heat in Greenspaces (GHiGs) builds on greenspace scotland’s ground-breaking ParkPower project bringing together half of Scotland’s councils together with a wide range of public sector bodies to explore how urban greenspaces can support a Scottish low carbon heat transition.

The Challenge

Scotland is facing a major challenge to decouple its dependence on carbon-rich fossil fuels to heat its homes and businesses. For decades it has relied largely on a centralised mains gas grid to meet the needs of approximately 80% of its households.  As a consequence, the supply of heat has become the single biggest culprit for carbon emissions across our society. Scotland is poised to miss its 2020 government target for supplying 11% of heat demand from low carbon sources; with estimates suggesting we are stuck nearer 6% making future targets even more challenging.

The use of heat pumps to take heat from the ground, from water sources or from the air is a well-worn ‘pathway’ in countries like Sweden and Austria where installations are widespread. One key challenge facing both heat pumps and other heat projects that, to a large extent, differentiates them from electricity projects, is the cost of transport; it is expensive to transport heat over long distances. The viability of heat schemes is optimised by generating heat in close proximity to where it is needed. Heat demand is, of course, highest within our urban centres. Unfortunately, space in these locations is at a premium. While fossil fuel based heating solutions have tended to require minimal space, their green counterparts are generally more space hungry. We need to find open space in our towns and cities that could be used for new low carbon heat solutions.

One solution

The new research project launched this week aims to tackle this challenge directly. Green Heat in Greenspaces or “GHiGs” will explore how areas of greenspace across Scotland can contribute to transforming the urban landscape of the future to one based on low carbon heat.  Using Ordnance Survey’s most detailed mapping of urban greenspaces we will assess the heat potential of all significant greenspace sites nationally. Already this data has highlighted the true scale of the opportunity: far from being dominated by grey space, analysis shows our cities to be largely green, with coverage at over 60% in cities like Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

The project is led by greenspace scotland as part of its ongoing ParkPower programme and will be supported by low carbon energy specialists Ramboll.

Paul Steen, head of the energy team at Ramboll comments:
“Our work on the ParkPower programme to date clearly demonstrates that urban greenspace can play a critical enabling role in the generation and transmission of low carbon heat. The GHiGs project will allow us to explore its full potential Scotland-wide, short-list candidate sites and feed evidence into wider strategic energy planning.”

Project Partners

GHiGs has secured support from a wide range of partners across the public and third sectors including half of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, Improvement Service, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Enterprise, NHS Scotland, Scottish Land Commission, Architecture & Design Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, sportscotland, Strathclyde University and Zero Waste Scotland. GB-wide organisations like the British Geological Survey and Ordnance Survey are also contributing specialist expertise.

Project Outputs

The outputs from the project, due in early 2021, will enable us to assess the scale of opportunity across Scotland and provide greenspace owners with data to identify the most promising sites to progress. With the Scottish Government expecting the public sector to lead the way in terms of decarbonising its building assets, most organisations are looking at ways to make significant cuts to the carbon emissions of their buildings. The project will also feed into strategic work, supported by the Scottish Government, to aid Local Authorities in the production of a consistent set of nationwide plans to guide investment into low carbon heat and energy efficiency and help bring vacant and derelict land back into use.

All images copyright: Kensa Contracting