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Scotland proposes new laws for energy efficiency in homes and buildings


The Scottish Government has launched a consultation, proposing new laws which will mandate the reduction of emissions in Scotland’s homes and buildings. This aims to support the country’s drive towards net zero by 2045.

In September, the UK Government announced plans to water down some of its net zero policies/commitments, which included a delay to the ban on installing oil and LPG boilers, and abandoning proposals to require private landlords to improve the energy efficiency of their properties.

However, Scotland appears to be pulling in an altogether different direction, with the ambition to act quickly when it comes to replacing fossil fuel heating with clean heating and improving the energy efficiency of all homes and buildings.

What is being proposed?

New Laws for Owner-Occupied Homes in 2033

Scottish Government has proposed the introduction of a new law, requiring homeowners to ensure that their homes meet a reasonable minimum energy efficiency standard by the end of 2033. The homes impacted by this would be those with a ‘polluting heating system’ such as gas and oil boilers.

It is not yet clear, what the standard will be, however within the Heat In Buildings Strategy: Achieving Net Zero Emissions in Scotland’s Buildings released by government back in 2021, it stated that “It is envisaged that these [minimum energy efficiency standards] will be set at a level equivalent to EPC C where it is technically feasible and cost-effective to do so. This will apply at key trigger points…Where it is not technically feasible or cost-effective to achieve the equivalent to EPC C rating, we propose that a minimum level of fabric energy performance through improvement to walls, roof, floor and windows, as recommended in the EPC, would apply”.

Minimum energy efficiency standard in the private rented sector

Private landlords in England and Wales have been required to meet a minimum energy efficiency standard since 1st April 2020. These standards mean that landlords can not let or continue to let a property with an EPC displaying an EPC Rating below an E. This was due to be uplifted to a C rating in the next few years, before the Prime Minister’s announcement back in September.

It would appear that Scotland are finally looking to implement their own minimum energy efficiency standard for the private rented sector, with landlords required to meet this standard by the end of 2028. The consultation document states that private rented homes typically have a poorer standard of energy efficiency and the people who live in those homes are usually unable to make improvements without permission.

As with the owner occupied sector, we may already have some idea of what we can expect here, with the Scottish Government stating the following within its 2021 Heat in Buildings Strategy documents: “We are working with the sector to introduce regulations in 2025. These will require all private rented sector properties to reach a minimum standard equivalent to EPC C, where technically feasible and cost effective, at change of tenancy, with a backstop of 2028 for all remaining existing properties”.

End use of polluting heating systems by 2045

In line with its obligation to reach net zero by 2045, the Scottish Government is proposing that all homes and non-domestic buildings will be required to end their use of polluting heating by the end of 2045. This will see a ban on systems such as gas boilers, oil boilers or LPG to heat or provide hot water in Scotland’s housing and non-domestic buildings.

Building owners will be given a choice as to how they get clean heating systems into their buildings. This could include heat networks, heat pumps and in some cases in the future, heat from renewable hydrogen.

In addition to this, All buildings owned by a Scottish public authority will be moving even earlier than privately owner property, with the aim to get public buildings using clean heating systems by the end of 2038.

Scotland’s Zero Carbon Buildings Minister, Patrick Harvie, admits that this will be a “huge challenge” for the country, due to the scale of the changes being proposed and also the timing, with people and businesses struggling to cope in a cost of living crisis. Yet, it remains critical to adopt clean heating systems in order to reduce cost pressures in the longer term, and reduce emissions, particularly as buildings represents around 20% of all of Scotland’s emissions.

Elmhurst’s Managing Director, Stuart Fairlie, comments: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s ambition when it comes to improving the country’s building stock. As Patrick has stated, it will be a big challenge when it comes to implementing the proposals and creating law, which requires not only landlords, but also owner occupiers to improve their property’s. Although change is needed, and quickly, in order to hit net zero by 2045, the cost of living crisis, cannot be ignored, and may drive landlords and homeowners to strongly oppose the changes. It is therefore essential that grant funding is made available to ensure that low carbon technology and installation is accessible and affordable. Elmhurst will be responding to the consultation in due course”.

The consultation is open until the 8th March 2024.

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