The Telegraph: Rural Scots face £30,000 bill to meet Nicola Sturgeon’s net zero demands

Home owners may end up covering the cost of replacing gas boilers under SNP-Greens’ zero emissions heat rules, report claims

Tens of thousands of rural homes in Scotland are facing bills of more than £30,000 each to meet the demand set by Nicola Sturgeon’s government to replace their heating systems from 2025.

The SNP-Green coalition wants households in areas such as the Highlands and Islands living in off-gas grid properties to comply with “new zero-emissions heat” rules within three years.

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens’ minister in charge of the plan, wants them to install environmentally friendly options, such as heat pumps, to replace systems that use oil, LPG and solid fuels.

However, he admitted in a parliamentary answer that about 40,000 countryside homes capable of adopting energy efficiency improvements required to meet the required standard were not suitable for the installation of air-source heat pumps.

The Scottish Tories also highlighted research by Liquid Gas UK, a trade body, which found that forcing these homes to meet green standards could cost home owners up to £32,000.

More than a million homes across Scotland must be converted to “zero emissions heat” by the end of the decade to meet the country’s greenhouse gas targets, under the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings strategy.

Legislation will be introduced requiring the “installation of zero or very near-zero emissions heating systems”, with the new standard to be phased in for off-gas grid areas from 2025 and on-gas grid areas from 2030.

All buildings are to be converted to “zero emissions” by 2045 at a total cost of £33 billion. But so far, the SNP-Green coalition has announced only £1.8 billion of support, raising fears that home owners and businesses will have to meet the vast bulk of the cost.

Liam Kerr, the Scottish Tories’ shadow net zero secretary, said: “The fact that tens of thousands of rural homes risk being left behind and exposed tells you everything you need to know about this SNP-Green government.

“It continually obsesses about the central belt while leaving the rest of Scotland in the lurch. In announcing these plans, the Scottish Government didn’t stop to think about the impact on tens of thousands of people living off the gas grid.

“Now it risks implementing a policy without giving any consideration to how the people living in these homes will cope.”

He challenged Scottish ministers to “urgently set out alternatives for off-grid homes to meet the targets set down by government without being hit in the pocket or inconvenienced”.

The Liquid Gas UK report estimated the upfront costs of installing a range of low-carbon heating options, with an air-source heat pump costing £18,270.

However, the owner of an ageing rural property that also required an “energy efficiency retrofit”, such as loft insulation and double glazing, would face a £31,690 bill.

Among the other options highlighted were biomass heating, costing an estimated £16,574 to install, and a hybrid boiler with a heat pump (£14,960).

Ministers want all buildings to have at least an EPC “C” rating for energy efficiency. However, research published in 2019 found only 45 per cent of Scottish homes reached this benchmark.

In response to a parliamentary question from Mr Kerr, Mr Harvie said that between 39,500 and 40,400 off-grid gas homes using high-emission fuels and capable of being improved to EPC C would be “technically unsuitable” for an air-source heat pump.

Mr Harvie said: “Heating our homes and buildings is the third-largest cause of emissions in Scotland. Poorly insulated homes and our reliance on fossil fuel heating also leaves households and business exposed to significant energy cost increases such as we have seen over this year.

“That is why our Heat in Buildings Strategy, supported by £1.8 billion over this parliament, sets out ambitious targets to transform how we heat and insulate buildings. The technologies we need are well-established and include air-source heat pumps and heat networks. And where these are not available, there are many alternatives.”

He said the Scottish Government had doubled funding for the Home Energy Scotland Grant and Loan Scheme, which now includes “targeted support” for those in rural areas.