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Scottish govt seeks ‘urgent’ action from Westminster to publish its own strategy and to rapidly deploy zero emissions heat technology

The Scottish Government has published its own Heat in Buildings Strategy, piling pressure on Westminster to follow suit and release its much-delayed version before the COP 26 meeting in November.

Scotland’s Heat in Buildings Strategy (see summary and full strategy below) sets out the pathway for a two-thirds cut in greenhouse gas emissions from homes and buildings, which it says currently account for about a fifth of Scotland’s emissions, by 2030. It will require over a million homes and the equivalent of 50,000 non-domestic buildings to convert to zero emissions heat by 2030, using primarily a combination of heat pumps and heat networks, which it describes as ‘no- or low-regret’ technologies.

Its most ambitious measure is to establish regulation that will require all new buildings for which a building warrant is applied for from 2024 to use zero emissions heat. This, the government says, will avoid new buildings having to be net zero retrofitted at a later date.

Energy efficiency

At the heart of the strategy will be efforts to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and ramping up of heat pump installations. The government envisages ‘the large majority’ of buildings to be at EPC Level C by 2030 and all buildings by 2033.

It says: “To achieve  this, we need to quickly ramp up the pace of installations of zero emissions heating systems. Recent years have seen around 3,000 renewable heating systems installed in Scotland’s homes annually. To maintain progress towards our statutory emission reduction targets, this must scale up to a total of at least 124,000 systems installed between 2021 and 2026. The installation rate will need to peak at over 200,000 new systems per annum by the late-2020s – which is above the natural replacement rate for boilers.””

“Over the coming years we propose a focus on energy efficiency, heat pumps in off-gas areas and in those on-gas areas least likely to convert to hydrogen, and heat networks in suitable areas. These are the key “no and low regrets” deployment opportunities and strategic technologies available today. They are the technological solutions where cost uncertainty is low .”

 Technology focus

Among other main elements of the technology strategy are a focus on increasing the proportion of biomethane in the gas grid over the next decade; continued research into the economics and practicalities of blending hydrogen into the network, together with rapid development of renewable hydrogen sources; and increased deployment of heat networks, including consulting on proposals to make anchor commercial buildings  ‘heat-network-ready’.

The strategy calls for heat networks to be powered by low and zero emission sources, namely heat pumps and recovered waste heat. It says:When regulation of the heat network sector is implemented we will only consent heat networks with low and zero emission heat sources.”

Another key element is the establishment of a Green Heat Finance Task Force to identify ‘innovative solutions to maximise private sector investment, and to find new ways to help individuals and organisations spread the upfront cost of investing in making their properties warmer, greener and more energy efficient.’

It intends a major public engagement exercise to raise awareness of the importance of zero emission technologies, but highlights that low running costs must also be a priority for fuel-poor homes.

Economic uplift

The Scottish Government estimates that the transition to zero emissions heat could support around 16,400 jobs across the economy in 2030

Scotland’s Zero Carbon Buildings Minister Patrick Harvie said: “The ambition set out in our Heat in Buildings Strategy is significant, and rightly so on the eve of COP26 coming to Glasgow. Urgent action is needed if we are to stand a chance of limiting warming to under 1.5 degrees. As we take these bold steps to reduce emissions from our homes and buildings, we must do so in a way that leaves no-one behind. This strategy sets out the guiding principles that will ensure our actions to decarbonise heat do not have a detrimental impact on rates of fuel poverty and instead serve to tackle social inequalities.”

He said: “This is a huge transition, affecting communities, businesses and households all across Scotland and we must work collaboratively – across public and private sectors, across parliament, and across governments – to deliver it. Our Strategy also makes it clear that, to deliver the transformational change required, the UK Government must take urgent action in reserved areas to support the just transition to decarbonised heating. Our Strategy commits to phasing out the need to install new or replacement fossil fuel boilers, and to consult on introducing new legislation and regulations to underpin this transition and ambitious investment programme, but equivalent action from the UK Government in reserved areas, such as on energy pricing, will be essential to deliver these commitments.”

Mr Harvie was visiting the NG Homes project in Springburn, Glasgow, where Scottish Government funding of £9 million has supported the installation of a communal zero emissions heating system. The project, which spans across six social housing tower blocks, is expected save more than 650 households up to 60 per cent in energy bills.

The prospects for low carbon heat, including a special focus on heat networks, will be discussed at our summit next Thursday, 14 October (see article below).

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