Home   News   Article

EDWARD MOUNTAIN: New energy efficiency Bill could 'obliterate' Highland finances

By Scott Maclennan

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C is to be a legislative requirement by 2033.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C is to be a legislative requirement by 2033.

I don’t suppose setting aside an evening to respond to a laborious Scottish Government consultation is everyone’s idea of leisure time well-spent.

But there is one such process coming to a close which is likely to impact on people in the Highlands more than anywhere else in Scotland.

The controversial Heat in Buildings consultation will come to a close on March 8, after which point residents and businesses will have little opportunity to influence its content.

The bill contains a range of considerable changes, including the need for all new buildings to install “clean” heating systems – that means an end to the traditional gas boiler, and for off-grid homes even more significant alterations.

It also dictates that all homes must have an EPC rating of C or better by 2033.

Edward Mountain.
Edward Mountain.

For context, analysis last year found fewer than half of the properties for sale in the east of Scotland met this standard.

Given the bulk of those properties were in Edinburgh and Midlothian – Scotland’s new-build capital – it is safe to assume that here in the Highlands that figure would be even lower.

This means it is practically impossible for homes across the region to meet this standard.

Many people who do want to meet it will either have to buy a new, more modern home with up-to-date insulation. Or they face spending tens of thousands of pounds on renovations.

But there is no choice here – the proposals put down are for this to be law within a decade.

If you live in a home built in and around the Second World War, or before, you have next to no chance of achieving these changes without eye-watering investment of your own.

I don’t know where the Scottish Government thinks people are going to find this money. And it’s not only residents who will feel the pinch.

These rules don’t just apply to private homeowners – they will be imposed on social housing too.

That means Highland Council will also have to carry out refurbishments on its own stock to comply with this proposed legislation.

The exact figure is of course hard to pin down, but some analysis has suggested the cost of this work could be as much as £250 million.

That is more than a third of Highland Council’s total budget – a budget which is also expected to run local services, pay teachers and operate health and social care systems.

Businesses who own their premises would also have to stump up at a time when so many are facing crippling financial challenges.

I understand the need to improve insulation and reduce emissions. Indeed, the driving force behind this should be to save people money with their bills.

Instead, the Scottish Government has abandoned realism in pursuit of radicalism.

An EPC C rated home may well save on bills in the long-term, but it won’t be much comfort to those who’ve had to obliterate their own finances to get there.

So while responding to this consultation may be a tedious and time-consuming exercise, it could be one worth doing.

It’s essential that this SNP-Green government are reminded of the very severe consequences its cavalier, ill thought-through proposals could have on the people and businesses of the Highlands.

Whether you agree or not, you can make your feelings clear by clicking here.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More