SNP and Greens ministers have been criticised over their environmental record days before Glasgow hosts COP26 after failing to hit a target for non-electrical heat demand being met from renewable sources.

The lack of progress is a blow to the Scottish Government's ambition to have one million homes with renewable heating by 2030.

New figures released from the Scottish Government showed that against an 11 per cent target for non-electrical heat demand being met from renewable sources by 2020, only 6.4% was achieved.

Progress has even got worse since 2019 when 6.6% of non-electrical heat demand was produced from renewable sources – which a Scottish Government minister has blamed on “a difficult year for the Scottish economy due to the pandemic”.

As in previous years, the majority of the renewable heat came from biomass - where material is burnt to produce energy, contributing 71% of useful renewable heat. The next largest contribution was biomethane at 15%.

A government report says that in 2020, “an estimated 2.14 GW of renewable heat capacity was operational in Scotland, producing an estimated 5,074 GWh of useful renewable heat”.

It adds: “This represents a 4% increase in renewable heat capacity.”

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Scottish Labour has called on the SNP-Greens Government to do more to increase the proportion of heat generated from renewable sources.

Scottish Labour’s net zero, energy and transport spokesperson, Monica Lennon, said: “Despite all their warm words, the SNP’s track record on the environment is one of failure.

“Not only have they missed yet another key target, but things are actually getting worse. “With COP26 a matter of days away, this exposes the gulf between SNP rhetoric and reality.

“Being a world-leader on the environment requires deeds not words – the First Minister should take her own advice and deliver credible action.”


Scottish Conservative net zero, energy and transport spokesperson, Liam Kerr, added: “These numbers show the disappointing reality of an SNP Government once again missing their climate change targets.

“In their so-called catch up plan, the SNP need to come clean and provide real details of how they are going to get Scotland’s drive to net zero back on track. 

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“With COP26 in a few days this is further evidence that Nicola Sturgeon’s rhetoric far outweighs her own government’s ability to deliver on climate change. 

“The SNP’s repeated and far-reaching failures on the environment don’t just have negative consequences for Scotland – they harm the overall fight against global warming too”

Greens Zero Carbon Buildings Minister Patick Harvie has labeled the missed target “disappointing” but has pointed to the government’s expanding heat pump strategy as a solution.

He said: “Renewable heat generated in Scotland in 2020 was equivalent to 6.4% of non-electrical fuels consumed for heat.

“This represents a slight decrease in useful renewable heat generated since 2019. This reduction in renewable heat was largely due to reduced output from large biomass systems at industrial sites, and should be seen in the context of a difficult year for the Scottish economy due to the pandemic.

“Reaching 6.4% renewable heat means we missed the 11% target, and is clearly disappointing.

"Deployment of renewable heat has seen challenges over the past decade. For example, the delay in introducing tariff guarantees for the renewable heat incentive resulted in uncertainties for businesses in Scotland and delays to investment in new capacity.

“Challenges to deployment have been accompanied by outturn data on higher than anticipated demand that indicate that around a third more non-electrical fuel is consumed for heat than had been anticipated in 2009.”

Mr Harvie added: “Beneath the headline statistic we see continued growth in the deployment of building-level renewable heat systems, particularly heat pumps.

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“The heat in buildings strategy, published earlier this month, makes clear we must accelerate deployment of zero emissions heat technologies so that by 2030 over 1 million homes and the equivalent of 50,000 non-domestic buildings are converted to zero emissions heat.

“The heat in buildings strategy sets out an ambitious policy package to achieve this, including our commitment to invest at least £1.8 billion over the course of this parliament to help kick-start growth in the market and support those least able to pay.”

Mr Harvie said the Scottish Government is “maximising effort in devolved areas”, but he warned “there are limits to what we can achieve on our own and critical policy areas remain reserved to the UK Government.”

He added: “While the UK’s new heat and buildings strategy includes measures which will complement the comprehensive support package already available in Scotland the overall plan for action does not go far or fast enough.

“We will continue to work with the UK Government as it implements its strategy and call on it to accelerate action to support and enable delivery in Scotland, such as reforming the energy markets and amending the Gas Act.”

Holly O’Donnell, climate and energy manager at WWF Scotland, said: "It’s disappointing to see this target missed, given how urgent it is that we move away from fossil fuel heating to reduce Scotland’s climate emissions.

"The pandemic will have disrupted progress in 2020 but even before this, the roll-out of energy efficiency, heat pumps and heat networks was too slow.

"The recent rise in gas prices is an urgent reminder that the move to renewables isn’t just good for the climate, it can protect us against volatile fuel prices and create new green jobs.

"We need to see stronger regulation and incentives from the Scottish Government if it’s to meet its target of switching a million homes to renewable heating by 2030."