The heat is on
Renewable heat is rising up the policy agenda as Scotland’s climate change target of reducing 75% carbon emissions by 2030 starts to loom over us.
In the last year we’ve seen that regulations are urgently needed to drive progress to low-carbon heat, yet the promised heat and energy efficiency regulatory framework set out in the Heat in Buildings Strategy won’t be consulted on until later this year.
The ambitious proposals in the Heat in Buildings Strategy of a million homes and 50,000 non-domestic properties to install low-carbon heating systems by 2030 is encouraging but we must go further and faster if we’re going to decarbonise Scotland’s building stock by 2045.
That’s why in our Beyond COP 26: Next Steps for Scotland’s Clean Energy Revolution publication we proposed an acceleration of these targets to heating 45% of homes and 25% of our commercial, industrial and public buildings from renewable sources by 2030.
Despite these ambitious targets in some areas, there’s a lack in others.
Building standards are being refreshed but don’t go far enough. The New Build Heat Standard will require, from 2024, that new homes as well as commercial buildings will only use heating systems which produce zero direct greenhouse gas emissions.
This is good but ignores the elephant in the room - existing buildings.
What would help is a hard target for the endpoint of fossil fuel boilers in Scotland, currently mentioned in the Heat in Buildings Strategy as a commitment to phasing out the need to install new or replacement fossil fuel boilers in off gas properties from 2025 and in on-gas areas from 2030.
The Scottish Government created a Green Heat Finance Taskforce which will look at innovative funding solutions for homes and business owners to help them decarbonise.
But there is still much work to be done to explain what heating solution works best for each area.
The Scottish Government partly attempted to do this recently in their zoning study however this is just a first analysis for heat network zones, doesn’t cover most of Scotland and omits residential areas.
The Heat Networks Delivery Plan was published in April 2022 but we have concerns about the deliverability of this and crucial areas such as planning have been glossed over.
There is a danger that policy will be overtaken by action resulting in heat networks that will need to apply for retrospective licenses and consents.
We also have concerns that the strategy for describing how local authority costs will be met is happening much too late in the process and needs to occur considerably sooner.
Much of the rollout of heat networks will be driven by the Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies so local authorities need to be resourced effectively for these to work well.
Last year the Heat Pump Sector Deal Expert Advisory Group published its final report and the Government stated that it will respond to these recommendations in its Supply Chain Delivery Plan, which is expected to be published in September 2022.
Transitioning to low-carbon heat is the challenge of this decade and it’s critical we address these issues to ensure we meet our targets which are a crucial piece of the net-zero puzzle.