Scotland double down on EPC plans despite parliament opposition

The Scottish government has defied its own parliament by pressing ahead with its plans that all homes north of the border must meet an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of band C by 2040, with the Scottish parliament having voted in May to bring forward to 2030 the date by which all homes north of the border should meet EPC band C.

But in an update to the Holyrood parliament on his government’s energy efficiency plans last week, Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said it would be sticking with the original target of 2040.

Under band C, homes must have a Standard Assessment Procedure of 69 to 80 points out of 100.

Defending the government, Wheelhouse said: “Arguments can be made for going faster, but we are concerned that moving too quickly would not only cause an inflationary effect on prices per intervention but potentially be detrimental to the Scottish economy by driving an increased need to import equipment and installers from outside Scotland, rather than developing and growing locally based supply chains here at home.

“Our approach will better allow us to seize the opportunity for our local supply chain, bringing local economic and social benefits. It might also undermine public confidence if we were to move too fast; it is imperative that we have credible, deliverable proposals and can take the public with us.

“Those calling for an accelerated target have yet to set out an alternative credible delivery plan that overcomes the risks and missed opportunities.”

However in an olive branch to the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) government’s critics, Wheelhouse said a consultation paper will be published in January on how the energy efficiency programme can be accelerated.

And he said Kevin Stewart, minister for local government and housing, will publish draft regulations for minimum energy efficiency standards for private rented homes in the New Year.

He said these new regulations would be introduced to parliament ahead of summer recess, with the aim that they will be in force from April 2020.

Stewart will also bring forward proposals later next year on beefing up energy efficiency standards in owner-occupied properties.

Wheelhouse also told his fellow MSPs that the Scottish government would be launching a call for evidence in early 2019 on strengthening its policy framework for low-carbon heat.

The framework, which will have specific focus on off-gas areas, will complement a draft bioenergy action plan also being worked on by the Scottish government.

It also intends to prepare legislation for a regulatory and licensing regime for district heating and will be consulting in January on whether further incentives can be made available to the sector, within the constraints of competition and human rights laws.

Wheelhouse said he will “shortly” commission an advisory group to inform the development of the district heating licensing regime and is investigating the potential for granting permitted development rights to put district heating developments on a similar footing to other utilities.

Alexander Burnett, Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, criticised the SNP government for ignoring the parliament’s vote to bring forward the EPC band C target.

He said: “Although the Scottish parliament’s settled will on 10 May 2018 was to bring forward from 2040 to 2030 the target for all homes to reach EPC band C rating, the Scottish National Party has yet again chosen to ignore parliament when it suits it.”

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