MORE than one million homes and 50,000 commercial buildings will be transformed into low and zero carbon heating systems by 2030 under a strategy set out by the Scottish Government.

Ministers have committed £1.6 billion over the next five years to overhaul heating systems and energy efficiency in Scotland’s buildings.

Currently, gas central heating in the majority of existing buildings is a key barrier to Scotland transforming to a carbon net zero economy by 2045. MSPs have also pledged to cut 1990 levels of carbon emissions by a staggering 75 per cent by 2030.

The Scottish Government has estimated that in order for buildings to contribute fully to the 2030 commitment, more than one million homes and more than 50,000 non-domestic buildings will need to be transformed. Ministers hope that “at least 64,000 homes install renewable heating systems per year by 2025, and possibly many more”.

The SNP has already committed to gas central heating that produces carbon emissions being banned from all newly-built homes in Scotland by 2025.

READ MORE: Carbon gas heating to be banned from new homes in Scotland

In the draft strategy, which has been put out for public consultation, ministers warn “that there are no silver bullets or easy solutions” to instantly stop heating contributing to Scotland’s carbon emissions, stressing that success is “likely to require us all to take action”.

The strategy points to heat pumps and district heat networks as currently being the “key low and zero emissions heating solutions”, but adds that sustainable hydrogen may play an important role in the coming years – despite concerns over costs.

Electrolysis to produce hydrogen uses renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, but the technology has not yet been scaled up – but could be used as a less invasive replacement for current natural gas boilers.

Ministers have agreed to “keep the option of hydrogen open where it represents a potential cost - effective solution, whilst also making progress with technologies that are ready to deploy in the near term”.

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The SNP’s blueprint has called on the UK Government to play a part in enabling faster deployment of zero emissions heating in Scotland – including calling for Westminster to take early decisions on the future of the gas network, as well as increasing funding for UK-wide delivery programmes.

Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions arising from heating our homes and buildings is one of the most important things we can do to help end Scotland’s contribution to climate change, given that heating accounts for more than half the energy we consume as a society.

“We are therefore committed to rapidly scaling-up action on decarbonising heating, but doing so in a way that ensures that our fuel poverty objectives and our commitment to tackling climate change work together, ensuring a fair and just transition to net zero emissions. This strategy must play a part in helping everyone to have a warm home that supports their good health and wellbeing.”

READ MORE: Warning over 'credibility' of SNP's 2030 carbon reduction pledge

He added: “The draft strategy sets out our vision to achieving this and actions that we will take using the Scottish Parliament’s powers, while also demonstrating just how critical it is that the UK Government takes further action, and faster action, in areas of policy it controls if we are to achieve our respective net-zero ambitions.

“The changes needed to make our homes and buildings fit for a net-zero future, and to help avoid potentially serious damage to our climate for current and future generations of Scots, will touch on all our lives and are likely to require us all to take action. It is therefore only right that everyone in Scotland has an opportunity to feed in and shape our Heat in Buildings Strategy and I would urge everyone to take part in our consultation.”

Heat demand currently accounts for 50.7% of Scotland’s total energy consumption.

Citizens Advice Scotland's energy spokesperson, Kate Morrison, said: “Decarbonising heat is perhaps the most significant infrastructure challenge Scotland will face over the next 25 years. Achieving this in a way that benefits consumers and reduces fuel poverty will be vital to a just transition.

"We’re therefore pleased that the Scottish Government has recognised the central role of individuals in the delivery of this Strategy. That the Government also outlines the need to link the decarbonisation of heat with efforts to reduce fuel poverty is particularly welcome.  

  “Today’s strategy clarifies the standards the Government expects all buildings in Scotland to achieve. However, realising this ambition will be a big ask of many stakeholders, including landlords, home owners and local authorities. It will therefore be essential that sufficient resources are allocated to support partners to successfully deliver this strategy. With this in mind, we hope to see an increase in public energy efficiency investment in the Budget that reflects the scale of the commitments outlined in this strategy."  

She added: “CAS is a strong advocate of a ‘fabric first’ approach to the decarbonisation of heat. Failing to make buildings as energy efficient as possible before or alongside the installation of low carbon heating risks outcomes that do not benefit the occupier, and could exacerbate already worrying levels of fuel poverty in Scotland. 

“It is vital that clear, timely guidance is issued to enable people to make informed decisions in line with the strategy. This must be complimented by a robust consumer protection framework to protect the public as more and more becomes expected of them. 

 “There is a shared responsibility across the industry and its stakeholders to ensure that plans are implemented in line with the principles of ethical business practice, and we look forward to working in collaboration with partners in industry and Government to continue to make the case for this ambition.”