Scottish Government Heat in Buildings Strategy

14 Oct 2021

On the 7th October the Scottish Government published their Heat in Buildings Strategy you can read a response by Christian Calvillo and Jamie Stewart below.

Following this on the 18th October the UK Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy was published alongside the Net Zero Strategy. Read a response to this by Meysam Qadrdan and Jianzhong Wu here.

The current gas crisis emphasises that the way we heat our homes and businesses impacts everyday lives and livelihoods.

It was in this context that last week the Scottish Government published its Heat in Buildings Strategy, which outlines its updated targets and ambition for low carbon heat. The strategy sets a number of ambitious targets on, among others, energy efficiency, emissions and low carbon heating system installations. These include:

  • A large majority of buildings should achieve a good level of energy efficiency by 2030, and all homes should meet at least equivalent to an EPC band C standard by 2033.
  • A 68% reduction in emissions from heat in buildings by 2030 (relative to 2020 levels).
  • The vast majority of the 170,000 off-gas homes in Scotland, as well as at least 1 million homes currently using mains gas (around 50% of the total), must convert to zero emissions heating by 2030.

To support these ambitions, the Scottish Government is expected to invest at least £1.8 billion over the next five years, in addition to publishing a number of complementary policy documents, detailed plans and regulation in the short to medium term.

A people centred transition

In addition to the ambitious targets that align with the Climate Change Committee 6th carbon budget recommendations, the strategy recognises the challenge of tackling fuel poverty, with even higher energy efficiency targets, funding and (upcoming) policies directed at this issue which affects almost a quarter of all Scottish households.

The Scottish Government has also committed to taking a ‘people-centred transition’ by developing a bespoke public engagement strategy for heat in buildings, aiming to raise awareness and enabling people to actively participate in shaping policy.

There are also plans to create a ‘National Public Energy Agency’ which is intended to ‘raise public understanding and awareness, coordinate delivery of investment, and coordinate national, regional and local government delivery of heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency rollout’. Given the anticipated level of engagement needed from households across society, having a well-known single point of call to find support, guidance and information could play an important role.

The challenges ahead

As with most things in life, the devil is in the detail, and the strategy recognises that more specific plans, policies and regulation will be needed. However, some accompanying policies and regulation are in the pipeline, including heat networks regulation, building standards for retrofitting and low carbon heat installation, and the creation of a Green Heat Finance Taskforce.

The establishment of a Green Heat Finance Taskforce in particular, highlights that understanding how to pay for the transition in an equitable way, while capitalising on economic opportunities, is a key challenge moving forward. In the strategy, the Scottish Government estimates that the total capital cost of converting the building stock to zero emissions by 2045 is in the region of £33 billion, and that most of this cost will need to be met by private investment.

Numbers set out in the strategy also highlight the scale of the challenge around workforce and supply chain capacity. The strategy states that the number of low carbon heating systems installed must scale up to at least 124,000 systems annually between 2021 and 2026, with a need to peak at over 200,000 system installations per annum in the late-2020s. While this pace of delivery presents an opportunity to deliver jobs and prosperity across communities in Scotland, current issues around labour market shortages highlight the risks associated with relying on high numbers of skilled workers.

Delivering a sustainable and equitable heat transition

Understanding the most sustainable and equitable transition pathway for heat decarbonisation is the focus of our new UKERC research project at the Centre for Energy Policy. We hope that our project, along with others at UKERC, can support Governments in Scotland and the UK with the very real challenges and opportunities of delivering the essential transition to low carbon heat.