ELECTRIC heat pumps could cut household energy bills by hundreds of pounds and reduce homes’ carbon emissions by 90 per cent – but minsters are set to fall short of a key renewable heating target, new analysis has revealed.

The Scottish Government has pledged that one million homes will have low carbon heating systems installed by 2030.

But modelling for the new study has found that the SNP-Greens government is set to “miss our crucial 2030 climate target”, adding that “annual emissions from homes in 2030 could be over double the government’s ambitions”.

The Scottish Government missed a target for 11 per cent of non-electrical heat to be generated by renewables in 2020 with the proportion at just 6.4%.

SNP and Greens ministers have now been urged to focus efforts on scaling up electric heat pumps instead of the “distraction” of renewable hydrogen and bring forward timescales for action.

The call comes as the Scottish Government remains off track for its progress installing heat pumps.

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

The new report by WWF Scotland shows that the country could successfully make the switch from traditional oil and gas boilers to electric heat pumps to keep homes warm with an affordable and climate friendly strategy, despite large upfront costs.

The analysis, conducted by Cambridge Architectural Research, found that heat pumps can be fitted in all types of Scottish homes and are likely to be a cheaper way to heat our houses when Scottish Government proposals come into force in 2025.

In just three years’ time, around half of homes in Scotland will require moderate cost insulation improvements to enjoy cheaper bills with heat pumps. With renewables providing the vast majority of Scotland’s electricity, they can also cut a typical Scottish home’s annual carbon emissions by up to 90%.

Homes currently account for 30% of all energy used in Scotland, with 90% of that coming from fossil fuels.

But concerns have been raised that the switch to renewable heat is happening too slowly, with emissions from homes falling by only 2% since 2015.

With high fossil fuel prices driving the cost-of-living crisis, heat pumps and energy efficiency measures can minimise fuel poverty and tackle climate change at the same time, according to the research.

Read more: Heat pumps to be as cheap as fossil fuels boilers under grant scheme

WWF Scotland’s energy policy manager, Fabrice Leveque, told The Herald that those with traditional fossil fuel gas boilers could expect to see energy bills fall by an average of £180 per year, while those with an oil or electric storage heaters could see annual savings of up to £800 by making a switch to heat pumps.

Mr Leveque said: “With the right kind of government decisions, we can move people to heat pumps and actually both low their energy bills, but also get them away from that kind of sky-high fossil fuel prices.”

He added: “Our reliance on gas and oil boilers is driving up our energy bills and creating damaging carbon pollution.

“Scotland is a renewable energy powerhouse and we can harness that to heat our homes using electric heat pumps.

“New rules proposed by the Scottish Government requiring heating upgrades in some homes are a critical step to boost investment, grow supply chains and bring costs down.

“But more detail about these plans is urgently needed to secure the benefits of cleaner heating that will free households from unstable fossil fuel prices and make the most of our ever-cheaper renewables.”

WWF Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to set bring forward deadlines for action including bringing forward the deadline for all homes in Scotland to reach a minimum standard of energy efficiency from 2033 to 2030.

The organisation is also calling for the requirement of older and less efficient gas boilers being replaced to be brought forward from 2030 to 2025.

Mr Leveque said the 2030 buildings climate target could only be met with a “phenomenal amount of energy efficiency and heat pump deployment”.

Read more: Anger as only one Scottish Government building has heat pump installed

He added: “Other countries are seeing huge increases in the scale at which they're rolling out this technology. So it has been done.

“The longer we leave that, the steeper the incline we have to go up, but it's not too late. And that's why the Scottish Government really has to come forward with the next steps soon because its heat in buildings strategy came out I think two years ago now and the clock is ticking.”

The analysis also investigated the use of hydrogen for heating buildings but has warned against its use.

The report insisted that “if available at all, deployment at scale is unlikely to be possible until the mid-2030s” and that “it is also likely to be much more expensive to run than natural gas heating”.

Instead, WWF Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to focus efforts on scaling up heat pumps as well as energy efficiency measures.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, said: “The Scottish Government has big ambitions for decarbonising the economy, but so far there’s been too little action to make these a reality.

“Cleaning up home heating will require significant investment and this research shows that this is achievable and desirable.

“A huge amount of value is locked up in housing and accessing this to invest in better heating systems is a vital step to close the gap to our climate targets.”

In December, the Scottish Government moved to make it simpler and more affordable for people to install heat pumps with a standalone grant of £7,500 from the Home Energy Scotland scheme made available as well as an extra £1,500 to homeowners in rural areas.

Zero carbon buildings minister, Patrick Harvie, said: “Reducing emissions from our homes and buildings is one of the most important things we can do to help end Scotland’s contribution to climate change.

“Our heat in buildings strategy sets out ambitious targets to transform how we heat and insulate buildings and we have committed £1.8 billion over this parliament to support its delivery.”