Last week Scotland moved a step closer to becoming a nation where no one has to live in a cold home and where keeping warm no longer costs the earth. At the All Energy Conference, the First Minister launched a “route map” for an Energy Efficient Scotland – a new 20 year programme to transform the country’s building stock, saving tonnes of carbon emissions and tackling fuel poverty.
There’s a lot to welcome in the new plans. A proposal to ramp up ambition in social housing and plans to regulate for minimum energy efficiency standards in Scotland’s growing private rented sector will improve the lives of tens of thousands of tenants. Particularly welcome is the Government’s expectation that most homes will achieve an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of C by 2030. But this expectation is not a firm target. Instead, the route map’s target date to reach EPC C is a full decade later at 2040.
For several years WWF Scotland and many others have called for a target to get the vast majority of Scotland’s homes to an EPC rating of C by 2025. Doing so would make a significant dent in the number of people facing fuel poverty and could save as much as a million extra tonnes of CO2. There is also strong evidence that such an ambitious target could also save the NHS tens of millions of pounds a year and create thousands of jobs in communities across the country as well as boosting economic growth.
The Scottish Government could reap all of these benefits if they were to set an earlier target date for EPC C and match the target with the necessary funding, incentives and regulation. That extra funding is essential for landlords, councils and housing associations, but also for homeowners.
Owner occupiers make up nearly two thirds of Scotland’s households so bringing their homes up to standard is essential in meeting the overall target of EPC C. Yet the new plans contain no new incentives like tax breaks, grants or loans to help people meet the costs of improvements and no clear plan for when or how any regulations would be introduced down the line.
Setting a plan now for regulation and incentives would give homeowners the certainty they need to invest and would send a strong signal to the energy efficiency industry that there is sufficient demand to create new jobs.
The planet simply cannot wait until 2040 for us to stop wasting energy through our leaky buildings, and a generation of tenants and homeowners cannot afford to face the consequences of fuel poverty for decades to come.
If Scotland is to reap the benefits of a low carbon future and tackle the scourge of fuel poverty, the Government’s plans for energy efficiency must be strengthened. MSPs have a chance to set stronger targets in the new Climate Change Bill and the upcoming Fuel Poverty (Scotland) Bill this year. For Scotland’s people and for the planet, I hope they do.
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