SNP and Greens ministers have set up a £300 million pot to help zero emission heat networks be developed from a communal source.
Ministers believe it will cost up to £33 million to fully decarbonise Scotland’s buildings which mostly rely on gas central heating, powered by fossil fuels.
But the Scottish Government’s top adviser on climate has warned that unless a co-orindated and costed strategy for decarbonising buildings is started, the costs are likely to rise further.
The £300 million funding, part of an already-pledged £1.8 billion to help Scotland decarbonise buildings, will support projects where the heat for individual properties is supplied from a communal source – common practice in other European countries, but currently rare in Scotland.
Greens Zero Carbon Buildings Minister, Patrick Harvie, also announced the opening of applications for asocial housing net zero heat development fund and the extension of funding for “fabric first” energy efficiency projects in social housing.
The development funding will be targeted at small and medium sized registered social landlords (RSLs) who have indicated they need extra financial support to plan and deliver the roll out of zero emissions heating within their properties.
Mr Harvie said: “We have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our homes and buildings by more than two thirds by 2030.
“By the end of this decade, we aim to have switched over one million homes and the equivalent of 50,000 non-domestic buildings from fossil fuels to zero emission heating.
“The heat network fund will accelerate the development of heat networks across Scotland as we move towards our ambitious targets set by the Heat Networks (Scotland) Act 2021.
“The projects that receive support from the fund will fully align with the Scottish Government’s aim to eradicate fuel poverty by supplying heat at affordable prices to consumers, which is especially important now when we are seeing record rises in the cost of heating.”
He added: “We can’t reach these targets alone. We know how important increasing private and community investment will be alongside investment from the Scottish Government, that is why we have established the green heat finance taskforce.
“The taskforce brings together leading voices and expertise from the building, finance and energy sectors and aims to identify and develop solutions to deliver the overall investment that’s needed to meet our vital goals for cutting emissions from homes and buildings.”
Fabrice Leveque, climate change and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said: “Heat networks have a vital role to play in cutting emissions from our homes and buildings, and so this scale of investment from Scottish Government is welcome.
“As well as cutting carbon on our journey to net zero emissions, these projects can generate new work for Scotland’s construction and engineering supply chains. To get the best value for money, however, it’s important that the fund should prioritise projects that will serve existing buildings, rather than new-builds.
“We need all hands to the wheel to ensure our homes and buildings can be heated affordably and in a climate-friendly way.”
Scotland has pledged to become net zero by 2045 and set an ambitious legal target to cut 1990 levels of carbon emissions by 75 per cent by 2030.
Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, the statutory advisers of the UK and Scottish governments, said politicians are “not short of strategies” to decarbonise buildings.
Speaking at an online event organised by the Fraser of Allander Institute, Mr Stark stressed that “the big gains” in terms of cutting emissions, are likely to come from debarbonising heat supplies to buildings, particularly in cities.
He said: “There’s no getting away from it – this is a big cost, this is a big investment.
“It is in the long-run, worth it – partly because of the carbon savings, partly because many of the technologies in the end that will replace the fossil fuels ones are so much more efficient but it is a big shift.”
Mr Stark added: “We’ve got to get real about this. We have lots of ways in which we could do it but until you knuckle down and actually start making plans, particularly for the cities – and that’s where the big win is – it aint going to happen.
“I have some concerns, to put it mildly, about the heat story.
“The longer we leave it to put those plans in place, the more expensive it will be if we want to come in on time for that 2030 target.”