Scotland outlines plans to end fossil-fuelled building heating by 2045

The Scottish Government has drafted proposals for a new Heat in Buildings Bill, confirming that new mandatory energy efficiency requirements are in the pipeline, as well as a more detailed plan to phase out oil and gas boilers.

Scotland outlines plans to end fossil-fuelled building heating by 2045

Published on Tuesday (28 November), the proposals include an outright ban on all fossil-based heating for buildings by 2045 – the date by which Scotland is aiming to reach net-zero. The ban would apply to non-domestic premises and homes alike.

“In practice, this would mean that homes and non-domestic buildings will instead need to use clean heating systems such as heat pumps, electric storage heaters or heat networks,” the Government said in a statement, adding that other technologies may also fall under proposed laws.

Heat networks will be encouraged as a priority “where appropriate”. The Government has noted that this option is best-suited to cities and towns and stated that it will assess the “particular challenges” with heating in rural areas, including electricity outages during storms.

The Government has stated that it wishes to develop an assessment tool which would help building owners assess which solutions are best for them. It has already set out a vision for 124,000 properties to be connected to low-carbon heating systems each year through to 2026.

Scotland’s Zero-Carbon Buildings Minister Patrick Harvie said: “Heat from our homes and buildings represents around 20% of Scotland’s carbon emissions, to there is no route to meeting our legal duty to be a net-zero country by 2045 without making the heat transition.

“There will be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to what we’re proposing – we recognise that different types of buildings in different areas need different solutions – but today we are giving certainty to households to plan and clarity for businesses to invest, with a pathway which recognises the cost pressures that so many of us are currently facing.”

Energy efficiency focus

Technologies such as heat pumps are more effective in more energy-efficient homes. Moreover, improving home energy efficiency is a way to contribute to social sustainability ambitions as well as the low-carbon transition.

As such, Holyrood is also proposing new mandatory energy efficiency standards for homes. It has, for now, ruled out a similar mandate for non-domestic buildings.

Its proposals include a new minimum energy efficiency standard for landlords by the end of 2028, and a new minimum energy efficiency standard for owner-occupied homes by the end of 2033.

Owner-occupied homes can only be exempted if they switch away from an individual fossil fuel heating system by 2033.

There are no exemptions for the private rented sector. If properties do not meet the new standard, the landlord will not be allowed to lease to a new tenant if the existing tenant leaves.

An energy efficiency standard is yet to be finalised. The Government has stated that homes will meet the standard if they have good loft insulation; cavity wall insulation; draught-proofing; heating controls; floor insulation and hot water cylinder insulation.

Many homes will already meet these standards, the Government has stated, and a great deal more will only need to make one or two changes.

Policymakers are cautious about setting a standard that would require less straightforward and most costly measures. Upfront costs for landlords and homeowners were the reasons Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cited for rolling back home decarbonisation policies this September. The Climate Change Committee has warned that his delays in this space could make decarbonising buildings as the decades go on more expensive.

Scotland is consulting on its proposals until 8 March 2024. It is hoping that the Bill could be passed in 2025 with new regulations applying soon after.

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