Off the back of Scotland's Climate Change Act, Scottish Government has just published a draft Energy Strategy – and it's ambitious stuff.
It sets out a target for 50 per cent of Scotland’s energy consumption across the board to come from renewables by 2030 – building on an existing target to supply all of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. There are also bold targets for transport and heating.
Energy Saving Trust Scotland is preparing a response to the publication now, and Strategy Manager, Elaine Waterson, commented:
“We're really positive about the vision, particularly around residential housing. Looking at our key areas, the targets for 80 per cent of homes to use low carbon heating, and improving building fabric to reduce heat demand by six per cent, both by 2032, stand out.” Elaine Waterson, Strategy Manager, Energy Saving Trust
The strategy calls for the decarbonisation of energy in Scotland to be both socially and economically sustainable – and Elaine points to the key focus of social responsibility when improving energy efficiency and security of supply at domestic level. She said:
“In terms of the plans being socially sustainable, it's a must that fuel poverty is considered. Whatever comes next can't significantly increase bills for households already struggling to pay.”
A striking feature of the strategy is the goal to make Scotland's buildings 'near zero carbon' by 2050 - with a number of possible routes to achieving this cited. Elaine said:
“At the moment, it's not entirely clear how the zero carbon target will be achieved – will it be helped, for example, by pumping hydrogen onto the gas grid, or introducing large numbers of technologies like air source heat pumps. Again, the vision is really admirable, but there will have to be a lot of time and effort ploughed in to make sure the detail's right.”
There's no doubt that the final version of the strategy will have fine-tuned some of the points – as well as laying down where responsibility will lie in stimulating the market for, and delivering, the large quantities of measures and infrastructure required.
Councils look set to have a lot of responsibility to accelerate the pace of energy efficiency and low-carbon heating – something they have long been involved in through schemes like Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP) and area-based partnerships. Elaine said:
“Local authorities in Scotland have lots of experience in delivering programmes. They know their areas well, and understand the local housing stock. I'd say they're very well placed.”
Despite the obvious ambition, Elaine believes there are some areas where the strategy could go a bit further.
She said: “We'd like to see even more priority given to energy efficiency – closer to the Existing Homes Alliance ask for the vast majority of homes in Scotland to be a band C by 2025 and more consideration given to the possibility of deeper energy efficiency retrofits.”
What does strike home when considering this proposed energy future for Scotland, is the possibility of the nation taking a considerably different path to the rest of the UK. Does Elaine think this is likely?
Elaine said: “Possibly, especially in energy efficiency. This is acknowledged in the draft strategy, but also the fact that some aspects still rest on decisions made in Westminster, such as on the future of the gas grid. Broadly speaking that's not the case with home energy efficiency, where Scotland can go ahead singularly and build on existing progress.”
There's no doubt that the foundations are already in place – and that a firm steer from Scottish Government has been a key part of successes so far. Elaine added:
“We're building on strong support for renewables and energy efficiency – this is not trying to create something from scratch. We can learn from what's been done before, and add to it.
“But we can't underestimate the importance of regulation. It's especially needed if we're to tackle the energy efficiency of not just the private rented sector, but all owner occupied housing too. Looking at Scotland's figures on things like renewables compared to the rest of the UK, it's undeniable that government intervention has made an impact overall.”
The strategy is currently open for consultation, with the final version to be published later in the year.