Plans to ban gas boilers threatens a 'significant reduction' in new Scotland houses, warns industry
Plans to ban gas boilers and other direct emission heating systems in new build houses will endanger the Scottish Government’s push to build 25,000 new homes a year, worsen the housing crisis and increase the cost of a home, ministers have been warned.
It comes as the Scottish Government is set to unveil its legislation for ensuring new homes are built with climate-friendly heating systems next week.
They will see rules around building warrants change to ensure heating systems, such as gas boilers, are replaced by greener alternatives such as heat pumps, solar and electric energy.
However, housebuilders across Scotland have heavily criticised the plans, citing a lack of infrastructure around the electricity grid and increased costs to consumers, including on energy.
Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green minister leading on the legislation, has said the proposals will “lead the way” in cutting emissions from homes and help in hitting tough climate targets.
Ministers must cut levels of emissions by 75 per cent, compared to their height in 1990, by the end of the decade, decarbonising one million buildings in the process, as part of a drive to become net zero by 2045.
Despite widespread support for decarbonisation of buildings, major housebuilders such as Persimmon Homes, Cala Homes and Taylor Wimpey all pointed at a lack of capacity within the electricity network and the lack of a supply chain.
They said this could have the unintended consequence of slowing down housebuilding, putting Scottish Government targets of building 25,000 homes a year at risk.
As part of the consultation, Persimmon Homes said: “The unintended consequences will be many and varied. Many fewer houses will be built. The housing crisis we are in will worsen. The construction industry is recognised as being a major driver in a strong economy. To significantly reduce the output of the housebuilding industry will result in a corresponding damage to the wider economy.”
Cala Homes raised the fact there was “every chance that development will slow down until such times as the electrical network and supply chain is in a position to facilitate national decarbonisation”. Taylor Wimpey said the electricity network in Scotland was not “sufficiently developed to provide the required capacity” to allow for 25,000 new homes a year being built without fossil fuel boilers.
Homes for Scotland, the industry representative body, said they had “significant concern” about the plan, which would “significantly increase” the cost of buying a home and “reduce the delivery of homes in Scotland”.
The body said: “This proposal will have a direct negative influence on the number of homes built in Scotland where we are likely to see a significant reduction of both affordable homes and private residential accommodation built in the short to medium term, as both the grid and supply chains are unable to provide the capacity needed to service the homes that need to be built.
“The aforementioned challenges pose a significant risk of achieving a just transition for Scotland. If these challenges are not addressed immediately, (in a cross-industry and Scottish Government approach), we will witness escalating costs for homes through a reduction in delivery and increases in material and install costs for home builders.”
A business and regulatory impact assessment of the proposals, undertaken by the Government, highlighted the increased costs of installing an air-source heat pump compared to a gas boiler, equivalent to around £10,000 in additional costs.
In the main consultation analysis, respondents were also found to have raised concerns about the impact of the proposals on rural communities, with many suggesting an exemption for some properties in remote areas. There were also concerns raised about the increased costs of energy associated with running electric heat pumps.
The consultation said respondents believed those switching from coal to zero-emission systems and the high cost of energy “could add to the cost-of-living crisis”.
Scottish Tories net zero, energy and transport secretary Liam Kerr said: “Huge additional costs will be imposed on householders– and very possibly also on energy bills – under Patrick Harvie’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to reducing emissions.
“But the consultation shows that industry believes it will create a serious disincentive for desperately needed new housing, driving up costs and having a disastrous impact on the wider economy.
“We all want to see a managed, just transition towards net zero, but that means realistic, proportionate policies. The Greens’ extreme position will saddle homebuyers with further huge bills during a cost-of-living crisis.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Heating Scotland’s homes and buildings is one of the biggest contributors to our carbon emissions and we know we have to take bold action to meet the legal climate targets, which all parties in Parliament voted for.
“The sale price of a new building is determined by individual developers and takes into account a range of factors related to building construction costs and local housing markets. Retrofitting a home is more expensive than installing a heat pump from the outset – so people buying a new home will be buying one that is future-proofed against higher costs down the line."
“We initially announced our intention to regulate new build heating systems in September 2019 - almost five years in advance of the regulations coming into force. That has given the construction sector significant time in which to plan for these new regulations, and we have laid these nine months before they come into force to ensure industry have sight of the detail in advance to aid planning.”
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