SNP-Greens to penalise gas boilers in ratings to ‘encourage’ heat pumps take-up

Greens Zero Carbon Buildings Minister, Patrick Harvie, has officially launched a Scottish Government consultation on plans to overhaul EPC ratings before requiring all buildings to meet certain standards at certain trigger points from 2025.

Under the plans, revealed exclusively by the Herald on Sunday, the SNP-Greens Government is considering transforming outdated EPC ratings from simply recognising the cost to heat a home.

Read more: Gas boilers set to be penalised under energy efficiency overhaul

The proposals could see fossil fuel boilers downgraded under the new standards, with gas boilers, hydrid heat bumps and biomass heating classed as a “heating system with direct emissions”.

Meanwhile, properties with heat pumps would be classed as having a “high efficiency zero direct emission” system or modern electric storage heaters or part of a heat network would also be classed favourably.

The type of heating system is one of three strands the Scottish Government is looking to include in its modernised energy efficiency ratings as part of its £33bn push to clean up how buildings are heated.

As recommended by statutory advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the Scottish Government is proposing to include the type of heating system alongside the fabric of the building and the costs of heating as part of the new certification.

Read more: Patrick Harvie urged to reform ‘not fit for purpose’ energy standards

In the consultation document published by the Scottish Government, the paper states that ministers “intend to classify systems depending on their efficiency, so that the benefits of more efficient systems are recognised”.

It adds: “This would mean that zero direct emissions systems with particular energy efficiency features, such as modern storage heaters, receive recognition for those features over direct electric heaters.

“Additionally, systems with high efficiency, such as heat pumps, would also be recognised.

“This proposal is intended to encourage owners to consider the efficiency of their heating system, and potential alternatives.”

Mr Harvie said: “Reform of EPCs to help us deliver net zero is long overdue.

“Our proposals will empower the public, giving people the comprehensive information they need to understand how to improve the energy efficiency of their building and reduce emissions from their heating systems.

Read more: Patrick Harvie: Why we need to change the way we heat our homes

“The consultation is in line with work being done elsewhere in the UK and responds directly to the advice of the Climate Change Committee on the need for clearer information about how well insulated a home is.

“We also propose changes to metrics that – for example – currently reward the installation of gas boilers and penalise the fitting of heat pumps.”

He added: “We want to enhance EPCs so they continue to be a valuable source of information for home buyers, owners and occupiers.

“An improved EPC system will help underpin wider reforms to cut emissions from our homes and end our dependency on volatile and increasingly expensive fossil fuels. This will be one of the overarching aims of our consultation on proposals which could inform a future Heat in Buildings Bill, and which we intend to publish later this summer.

“Scotland already has the most generous grants available of any of the UK nations for households that are switching to climate-friendly heating systems, but in every country making this vital transition, regulation is needed to steer choices about energy use and heating systems and Scotland is no different.

Read more: Patrick Harvie admits government ‘decades behind’ on renewable heating

“The changes we are proposing are essential, not just in making sure that Scotland meets the climate emergency head-on but in securing our energy future, providing the jobs and skills we need, and making us all less vulnerable to volatile fossil fuel prices.”

Fabrice Leveque, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said: “These proposals are a welcome step towards helping homeowners and landlords understand the best way to make our buildings more energy efficient, while reducing carbon emissions.

“But these changes are only one piece of the puzzle: it’s vital that other commitments in the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy are delivered if we’re not to fall further behind our climate change targets.”

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