Tens of thousands of rural homes in Scotland are facing bills of more than £30,000 each to meet Nicola Sturgeon’s government demand to replace their heating systems from 2025.
The SNP-Green coalition wants households living in properties without a gas grid in areas such as the Highlands and Islands to comply with the “new zero-emission heat” rules within three years.
Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens minister responsible for the plan, is asking them to install eco-friendly options, such as heat pumps, to replace systems that use oil, LPG and solid fuels.
However, he acknowledged in a response to parliament that about 40,000 cottages that could adopt the energy efficiency improvements needed to meet the required standard are not suitable for the installation of air source heat pumps.
Scottish Tories also pointed to research by the trade organization Liquid Gas UK, which found that forcing these homes to meet green standards could cost homeowners up to £32,000.
As part of the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings strategy, more than one million homes across Scotland must be converted to “zero emissions heat” by the end of the decade to meet the country’s greenhouse gas targets.
With the new standard, which will be implemented gradually for areas without gas network from 2025 and gas network areas from 2030, legislation requiring the installation of “heating systems with zero or very near zero emissions” will be introduced.
All buildings will be converted to “zero emissions” by 2045 at a total cost of £33 billion. But so far, the SNP-Green coalition has announced only £1.8bn in support, raising fears that homeowners and businesses will have to bear the bulk of the cost.
Liam Kerr, shadownet zero secretary for the Scottish Tories, said: “The risk of tens of thousands of rural homes being left behind and exposed tells you everything you need to know about this SNP-Green government.
“It constantly obsesses over the middle generation, while failing the rest of Scotland. When announcing these plans, the Scottish Government did not stop thinking about the impact it would have on tens of thousands of people living far from the gas grid.
“There is now a risk of enforcing a policy without ever thinking about how the people living in these homes will deal with it.”
He challenged Scottish ministers to “urgently identify alternatives for off-grid homes to meet the goals set by the government without being hit or bothered by the pocket”.
The Liquid Gas UK report estimates the upfront costs of installing a range of low carbon heating options with an air source heat pump costing £18,270.
However, the owner of a former rural property that also requires an “energy efficiency improvement” such as attic insulation and double glazing will face a £31,690 bill.
Other highlighted options included the biomass heating and heat pump hybrid boiler (£14,960) for an estimated £16,574 to install.
Ministers want all buildings to have at least an EPC “C” rating for energy efficiency. But research published in 2019 found that only 45 percent of Scottish homes meet this criterion.
how heat pumps work
In response to a parliamentary question from Mr. Kerr, Mr. Harvie said 39,500 to 40,400 off-grid gas houses that use high-emission fuels and can be upgraded to EPC C would “not be technically viable” for an air source heat pump.
Mr Harvie said: “Heating our homes and buildings is the third largest cause of emissions in Scotland. Poorly insulated homes and our reliance on fossil fuel heating expose homes and businesses to significant energy cost increases, as we’ve seen this year.
That’s why our Heat in Buildings Strategy, backed by £1.8bn in this parliament, sets ambitious targets to transform the way we heat and insulate buildings. The technologies we need are well-established and include air source heat pumps and heat networks. Where these are not available, there are many alternatives.”
He said the Scottish Government has now doubled down on funding for the Scotland Home Energy Grant and Loan Programme, which also includes “targeted support” for rural residents.