By Adrian Pargeter, Kingspan Director of Technical, Marketing and Regulatory Affairs GB

IT has been three months since the First Minister declared a climate emergency at a packed SNP conference. Reinforcing the Scottish Government’s commitment to decarbonise Scotland’s economy, the First Minister declared that “if the advice says we can go further or go faster, we will do so”. Less than a week later, the Committee on Climate Change made that exact recommendation; calling for Scotland to reach net-zero by 2045, with the rest of the UK following in 2050.

With a widespread programme of reform already under way within the Scottish Government, one policy in particular could have significant financial implications for homeowners: the current target for all of Scotland’s homes to achieve an EPC rating of at least band C by 2040.

The Scottish Government, with support from opposition parties, is consulting on accelerating this target, a bold ambition that Kingspan supports. Whilst the emphasis to date has rightly been on households in fuel poverty, owner-occupied homes account for 61 per cent of domestic housing in Scotland, an area of the market which requires policy interventions to support Scotland’s transition towards a more energy-efficient housing stock.

At the extreme, such a policy could prevent homeowners from being able to sell their property until they have installed enough measures to bring the EPC rating up to band C – potentially costing thousands of pounds. However, there are a mix of policy approaches that could be taken by the Scottish Government to help drive the uptake of energy efficiency measures, a large number of which pay for themselves over time through reduced heating bills and increased property values.

Behavioural nudges, such as including average consumer comparisons of energy usage onto bills, could be used to tap into the social insecurity of consumers to keep up with their peers. Alternatively, more support could be offered at the point of sale such as a partial rebate of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax for buyers who invest in energy efficiency measures within 12 months of purchasing the property.

Despite these options, the biggest energy efficiency improvements come from the harder-to-implement technologies such as solid wall insulation. Understanding the gains from this type of intervention, the Scottish Government has already made funding for solid wall insulation available, but to date these have only been for those in fuel poverty. Expanding this financial support to the owner-occupied sector could allow households, especially in rural areas, to achieve significant improvements in energy efficiency and help the government meet its admirable targets.

Whilst homeowners can be more easily convinced to take smaller measures on their own, in many cases this will not be enough to bring their property up to standards, simply postponing the cost burden. Where possible, any government intervention should support a whole-house approach to retrofitting, ensuring that quality is at the forefront of improvements.

All sectors of the Scottish economy will need to act in partnership if Scotland is going to meet the 2045 net-zero target, and we are committed to playing our part in tackling climate change, currently on track to becoming a Net Zero Energy company by 2020. Whilst innovations in insulation can help support the efficiency of improvements, the Scottish Government needs to support homeowners to take action to meet these crucial climate obligations. By taking a cooperative approach, Scotland has a huge opportunity to continue leading the way in home energy efficiency and set the standard for the rest of the UK to follow.