Proposals for a Heat in Buildings Bill

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Government’s proposals for a Heat in Buildings Bill. Decarbonising buildings is an essential contribution to meeting Scotland’s ambitious net zero greenhouse gas emission (GHG) targets.

RSE policy advice paper, Proposals for a Heat in Buildings Bill (471KB, PDF)

Executive summary

  • We recognise that the climate crisis necessitates urgent, as well as pragmatic, action to decarbonise heating in buildings.
  • Overall, the RSE supports the introduction of a Heat in Buildings Bill and appreciates the accessibility of the proposals outlined in the consultation. However, the RSE is concerned about the lack of nuance and risks of over-simplification of certain issues, for example, the financial resources required.
  • While the RSE is supportive of decarbonising heating systems and implementing measures to make buildings more energy efficient, there should be greater transparency about the significant costs associated with this transition. Scottish Government should clearly state the expected costs and shares of responsibility for covering them. There should also be greater recognition that: costs will be particularly difficult to manage for various groups across Scotland, such as those in more remote rural communities; the challenges of transition will be compounded by the current cost of living crisis.
  • Garnering public support will be crucial to success. To balance the considerable costs of decarbonisation, the RSE recommends highlighting the significant benefits from this transition. The narrative must demonstrate that clean energy and building retrofit is advantageous for health, comfortable homes, workplaces, community facilities and local jobs, and essential for ensuring that Scotland does its part in creating a liveable environment for generations to come.
  • The RSE recommends establishing a more ambitious minimum energy efficiency standard, as more than 45% of homes in Scotland already meet the minimum energy performance certificate (EPC) band C requirement. Exemptions should not be universally granted to homeowners who have already met the requirement to install a clean heating system. Further clarification on who will be exempt, on what basis, is needed.
  • Regarding the ambition to implement clean heating systems across Scotland, the RSE is concerned that proposed timelines will be too slow to meet the goal of net zero by 2045. Ideally, an area-based retrofit programme would enable faster delivery. Furthermore, establishing additional dates between 2028, 2033, and 2045 would allow for review of progress and of required retrofit measures at critical periods.
  • The RSE also suggests that flexibility is needed in relation to clean heat and energy efficiency options outlined in the bill to allow for new developments and technical solutions. For example, it would be beneficial to have an assessment tool for homeowners which is updated in response to changes in technologies.
  • Additionally, the RSE recommends further development of enforcement mechanisms, as public support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is unlikely to be a sufficient incentive.
  • Finally, the RSE recommends that the Scottish Government make a concerted effort to collaborate with the UK Government on clean energy strategy for buildings. This will be particularly important when dealing with complexities of reserved and devolved powers over heat in buildings, including the future of the methane gas grid, and the developments that could ensue.

DOWNLOAD THIS POLICY ADVICE PAPER

RSE policy advice paper, Proposals for a Heat in Buildings Bill (471KB, PDF)

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