Heat in Buildings Bill explained

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on its Heat in Buildings Bill.

In this article, we will summarise the government’s proposals for improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s buildings.

What is the Heat in Buildings Bill?

The Heat in Buildings Bill will set out laws for how we heat Scotland’s buildings, as well as how energy efficient the buildings need to be. This will include timescales. For example, the use of polluting heating will be prohibited in all buildings from 2045 onwards.

The Bill is currently in its consultation phase. This means that the government has put together a list of proposals and is asking for feedback on them.

They will use this feedback to adapt their proposals before taking the Bill to the Scottish Parliament.

You can find out more about the post-consultation stages of a bill’s journey into law on the government’s website.

Why does Scotland need a Heat in Buildings Bill?

In response to the climate emergency, Scotland has committed to a legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2045.

There are interim targets too: a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030, and a 90% reduction in emissions by 2040 (compared to 1990 emission levels).

Meeting these targets will involve shifting our society away from a reliance on fossil fuels towards renewable energy.

According to the Scottish Government, domestic buildings account for around 13% of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Non-domestic buildings account for around 7%.

Therefore, with 20% of national emissions coming from our buildings, it’s impossible for us to reach net zero without decarbonising them.

What does the Heat in Buildings Bill propose?

The Heat in Buildings Bill makes proposals relating to two areas of decarbonisation:

  • How we heat our buildings
  • Improving energy efficiency

How we heat our buildings

The Bill states that use of polluting heating systems will be prohibited after 2045. To manage this phaseout, anyone purchasing a home or business premises will need to replace their polluting heating systems within a fixed period following completion of the sale.

The replacement systems will be zero direct emissions heating (ZDEH) systems. Examples of ZDEH include:

  • heat pumps
  • heat networks
  • modern electric storage heaters
  • wet electric heating
  • other direct electric heating technologies

Improving energy efficiency 

Scotland has some of the least energy efficient housing in Europe. This means that much of the heat we generate escapes through the fabric of our buildings instead of keeping us warm.

Improving the energy efficiency of our buildings means we can reduce the energy required to heat our homes to a comfortable level. This helps drive down our emissions.

To improve energy efficiency, the Heat in Buildings Bill proposes a new law requiring homes to meet a ‘reasonable minimum energy efficiency standard’ by 2033. The consultation also points out that privately-rented homes tend to have particularly poor levels of energy efficiency, so private landlords will need to meet this standard by 2028.

In terms of what a ‘reasonable minimum energy efficiency standard’ would be, the authors of the consultation suggest a list of measures. Any house that has these measures – or as many of them as is feasible – would meet the new standard. The proposed measures are:

  • 270 mm loft insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation (CWI)
  • Draught-proofing
  • Heating controls
  • 80 mm hot water cylinder insulation
  • Suspended floor insulation

However, the consultation also welcomes suggestions for different ways of setting a new energy efficiency standard. This could make use of reformed EPCs, requiring homes to meet a minimum level on a new ‘fabric efficiency metric’.

The Heat In Buildings Bill recognizes that reaching these targets is a big task with a small timeframe. Since the Scottish Government is committed to an equitable, just transition, the proposals would apply where they are affordable, fair and feasible.

Changeworks’ response

Changeworks welcomes the consultation and will be submitting a response. As we’ve made clear before, a timely Heat in Buildings Bill is vital for guiding home decarbonisation.

However, we remain concerned about both the insufficient pace of the transition and the inadequate support for householders trying to make these changes.

The Scottish public know that climate change is a huge problem – what they need is access to both decarbonisation advice and funding.

It remains critical that we ensure a just transition and maximise the opportunities for reducing fuel poverty as we collectively tackle the climate emergency.