NEW regulations will be rolled out in just four years’ time to force homeowners in Scotland to meet tough energy efficiency standards – with a backstop of 2033 for transforming all buildings.
In the first ever ministerial statement in Holyrood by a Greens MSP, Patrick Harvie announced there will be certain trigger points for buildings to meet EPC band C standards after the regulations are set out in 2025 – which could include a change of tenancy when a property is empty, at point of sale, when major refurbishment is carried out or when replacement or installation of a new heating system takes place.
But the vision is heavily caveated, with government documents suggesting the targets are subject to where it is “technically feasible and cost-effective to do so”.
Research published by Rightmove in June revealed that 1.7 million properties currently between D and G band EPC cannot be improved to the C rating.
Public buildings such as schools and hospitals will also be given timelines to improve efficiency and decarbonise – with a consultation to be launched in 2024 and hospitals expected to be decarbonised by 2038.
Mr Harvie also told MSPs that it is expected the total costs of ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change from buildings emissions will be more than £33 billion and warned that the Scottish Government cannot foot the entire bill.
The Scottish Government has only pledged £1.8 billion to help to transform Scotland’s domestic buildings over the next five years.
Mr Harvie said: “We’ll introduce regulations in 2025 that will require all homes to reach a good level of energy efficiency, EPC C or equivalent, for example at point of sale or change of tenancy.
“All homes will have to meet this standard by the backstop date of 2033 – with the private rented sector having an earlier backstop of 2028.
“This will support our commitment to phasing out the need to install fossil fuel boilers in off-gas properties from 2025 and in on-gas areas from 2030.”
Mr Harvie stressed that the strategy is subject “to the extent that devolved powers allow”.
A new green heat finance taskforce has been set up to “identify innovative solutions to maximising private sector investment” and “find new ways to support the upfront costs”, Mr Harvie added.
The announcement comes after a new heating and buildings strategy was published by the Scottish Government, which Mr Harvie said was “a pathway to decarbonise our homes”.
The government strategy states that “an appropriate grace period” may be required for some of the triggers for homes to reach EPC band C standards “so as not to place an undue burden on individuals and in some cases achieve changes more cost-effectively”.
But Mr Harvie admitted “there are challenges” with the strategy, pointing to costs.
He warned that many zero carbon heating systems are “currently more costly to install and can be more expensive to run” than fossil fuel alternatives.
But he stressed that “costs are coming down rapidly and will continue to do so”.
Mr Harvie said: “We estimate that the total investment required to transform our homes and buildings across the country to be in excess of £33 billion.
“Clearly, this cost cannot be borne by the government alone.
“We have established a new green heat finance taskforce to identify innovative solutions to maximise private sector investment and find new ways to support the upfront cost of making properties warner, greener and energy efficient.”
Mr Harvie insisted that “the heat transition is an unprecedented challenge that will directly touch the lives of virtually everyone in Scotland”.
He added: “Building owners and supply chains need to have confidence in the long-term pathway and the policies underpinning it.”
But he warned that the Scottish Government does not have “all the powers necessary to deliver the transformative change required”.
He added: “We are therefore calling on the UK Government to take urgent action to support the just transition to decarbonise heating.”
Mr Harvie called on UK ministers, in their delayed heat and buildings strategy, to set out how it will use “regulatory and policy levers” to “incentivise rapid deployment of zero emissions heat technology”.
Scottish Conservative net zero, energy and transport spokesperson, Liam Kerr, raised concerns that under the strategy to decarbonise one million homes by 2030, 335 homes “need to be decarbonised every single day”.
Mr Kerr said the strategy was “heavy on what needs to happen but light on the how”.
He added: “The strategy estimates that the total investment is likely to be in excess of £33 billion.
“From where or from whom does the minister expect the other £31 billion to come?”
Mr Harvie admitted the costs were “immense”, but stressed it was a “multi-decade programme”.
He added: “It’s going to have to come from a wide range of sources.”
Mr Kerr said: “Homeowners are going to pay the price for Patrick Harvie’s complete lack of detail and strategy on how homes will be heated in the future.
“The SNP-Green coalition are failing to say where they’ll get the money required and are preparing to saddle homeowners and businesses with a bill for over £30 billion.
“It is ironic that the anti-business Green minister is now going to have to rely on the private sector to bail him out if his strategy is to succeed.
“Patrick Harvie’s responses today showed that he is ill-prepared to deliver on the need, which we all accept, to decarbonise millions of homes across Scotland over the next decade.
“He is already trying to deflect blame onto the UK Government rather than standing up for Scottish homeowners.”
Labour’s Mark Griffin also raised fears about the costs.
He said: “This strategy pushes a £3 billion bill and all the risk and disruption onto home owners, tenants and landlords without enough funding or a partnership approach.”
Mr Griffin added that the new rules could potentially “regulate them into submission”.