The Scottish Government's draft Energy Strategy tells a story that Scotland should be proud of. When it comes to renewable generation Scotland is well ahead of the rest of GB and has been out-stripping its own targets in many areas. It's also well placed to lead the next wave of policy thinking and delivery on the journey to a low carbon future, including on heat.
When thinking about heat one of the critical policies that often gets overlooked by Westminster policy makers is energy efficiency. But the Scottish Government have it rightly centre stage in their strategy, building on the investment they have made over recent years and their decision to make it a national infrastructure priority.
Another strength of the Scottish Government's strategy is that it remains open minded about an enduring role for gas and for the investment that has already been made in the networks. It acknowledges the potential role for hydrogen - initially as part of a mix but ultimately potentially on its own. Again, the Scottish Government has been supporting trials which are vital in this new area, and is continuing to press for CCS. That said it perhaps underplays the other opportunities for unconventional gas including biogas, which is already being fed into the system but where more could be done.
The strategy acknowledges the value of district heating in the right location - initially using gas (but with the potential to change to other sources in future). The Scottish Government has kicked off an important debate about the need for regulation of district heating and how it might be funded.
Finally heat pumps get a mention (along with an acknowledgment of the significant impact on the electricity system) as do other new technologies including deep geothermal and energy from waste.
What's missing from this debate - as in many of the discussions around decarbonisation of heat - is a real consumer perspective. There's an acknowledgment that hydrogen could deliver the same sort of instant comfort that gas does now - and which consumers value - but little mention of the need to understand and improve the consumer experience of the different solutions.
In the Fintry project where FDT are installing heat pumps and also looking at use of electric storage heating there is a consumer emphasis. Temperatures are being monitored to understand how quickly homes heat up and cool down depending on the type of property, supported by consumer surveys. But more learning is needed in this area including looking at how to modernise electric storage heating. If storage heating could deliver a better customer experience while at the same time providing flexibility to the system, then it could play an important role going forward.
The Scottish Government envisage an important role for local authorities and cities in developing the roadmap for heat which makes sense given that the right answer will vary by geography and customer demographic. But there remains an important role for the centre in supporting research and development and sharing learning.
Finally, the one other area that the Scottish Government are emphasising but which is neglected at a UK level is community energy. The Scottish Government recognise the value in communities working to balance local energy involving renewables, storage and local demand - with wider benefits in terms of economic regeneration for example. They are providing significant funding for such projects and have also now set targets around the proportion of new generation which is shared ownership.
Of course, there is much more to be worked through but there is a clear ambition here to continue to build on the success of Scotland's historic oil and gas industries, to continue the strong growth that been seen in renewables and to move on tackle the next challenges around transport and heat. It sets a high benchmark for Westminster which is due to publish its own Emissions Reduction Plan shortly.
Maxine Frerk is a regulatory expert with Veitch Cooper Ltd
Chris Davidson, Genius Energy Lab
Find out more at: pledge.resourceefficientscotland.com
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Nigel Ellis is a consultant at Dunelm Energy, a Scottish based company that provides advice, assistance and connections to companies and individuals involved in the disruptive changes in the Energy Industry and a link to their Website www.dunelmenergy.co.uk
However many commentators still pursue old "centralist" thinking in offering solutions which rely on centralized energy provision invariably based on large capital heavy projects such as carbon capture, grid energy storage and district heating etc.
The potential for Demand Side Management and "smart demand" whilst not entirely ignored, is quite often the poor relation when it comes to recognition of potential solutions especially in the short to medium timescale required to address the pressing issues identified as the Trilemma.
To quote a recent UK Energy Research Council publication "Insights on Energy Demand" - September 2014.
"There has been a fundamental reorganization of energy policy in recent years including a departure from free-market principles on the supply side (e.g. Electricity Market Reform) and an intensified reliance on the market to deliver outcomes on the demand side (e.g. Green Deal).
Whilst this recognition of demand side as a solution is welcome, there is still a danger that "centralist thinking" predominates and demand reduction becomes the focus for energy policy.
Perhaps a Demand Side Management "Trilemma" is required to facilitate structured thinking and policy initiatives to encourage progress in this area. There are three existing energy market "drivers" which exist in various sectors of UK energy policy, which everyone will recognize, and are entirely aligned with the need to develop "Demand Side Management" solutions and more importantly "joined up policy" in this area.
There is nothing better than a couple of figures which highlight the potential for the demand side to play a significant part in addressing the underlying need (which has always existed) to balance energy supply with demand.
Watch out for future updates.