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Low and Zero Direct Emission Heating Technologies National Targets and Key Current (and Expected) Policies

September 2023

National Targets

  • By 2025, zero emissions heating systems are to account for at least 50% of new systems being installed each year and by the late 2020s an installation rate of over 200,000 per year should be achieved (Heat in Buildings Strategy).
  • By 2030, at least 1.2 million homes and 50,000 non-domestic buildings currently using mains gas should receive low-carbon heating systems Heat in Buildings Strategy).
  • By 2030, at least 22% of non-electrical heat in buildings to be supplied by renewable sources (such as biomass or heat pumps) up from the current estimated level of 4% (Heat in Buildings Strategy).
  • By 2038, all publicly owned buildings must meet zero direct emission heating requirements (Note: Biomass/biofuel is not considered a zero direct emission technology).
  • The government has committed to phasing out the need to install new or replacement fossil fuel boilers in off gas properties from 2025, and in on-gas areas from 2030.

Key Legislation and Policies

Section 44 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 places a duty on public bodies, in exercising their functions, to contribute to the delivery of the Scotland’s emission reduction targets in the ways they consider to be best calculated. The public sector should consider taking a zero emissions-first approach to heating system replacement, with new or replacement heating systems designed to be compliant with these duties.

Policies and Reports

  • The Heat in Buildings Strategy (2021) outlines the governments ambitions to rapidly scale up deployment of zero emissions heating systems.
  • The Heat Pump Sector Deal Expert Advisory Group published a Report (Dec 2021) which proposes recommendations the government should take and the potential scope of a Heat Pump Sector Deal. The government’s response (Nov 2022) can be found here.
  • The UK government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy (2021).
  • National Planning Framework 4 (Feb 2023) is Scotland’s national spatial strategy. This framework introduces new policies that address a wider range of energy generation technologies, for example for electrical and thermal storage and hydrogen and strengthens planning policy to support low carbon developments to include ways to actively facilitate decarbonised heating and electricity generation and distribution. 

Looking Ahead

  • The government is likely to legislate to phase out the need to install new or replacement fossil fuel boilers in off gas properties from 2025 and in on gas areas from 2030 with a backstop of 2045, subject to technological developments and decisions by the UK Government in reserved areas. The Scottish Government expects public sector leadership to include the early phase-out of all fossil fuel-based heating systems in the public estate. Consulting on these proposals is planned to take place in 2023 and is likely to be followed by primary legislation thereafter that will provide the regulatory framework for zero emissions heating and energy efficiency.
  • The Scottish Government is developing a new regulatory framework for zero emissions heating and energy efficiency in non-domestic buildings by 2025. A call for evidence was published in 2021, see here the government’s response to this (May 2022).
  • The New Build Heat Standard (due to be laid in parliament in 2023) will prohibit the use of direct emissions heating systems to meet their heating and cooling demand in new residential and non-residential buildings - as well as conversions to existing buildings - consented from 1st April 2024. See here consultation documents part 1 (Oct 2021) and part two (Jul 2022). This will be achieved through amendments to the building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. For more information relating specifically to new builds on the SSN website click here.
  • A new target for renewable heat generation will be published in 2023. An update on progress (2021) can be found here.
  • Regarding listed buildings, the government is working with stakeholders, including Historic Environment Scotland, to consider what specific support may be needed within regulations to take account of buildings which are designated as listed, in conservation areas or are of traditional build type, in meeting requirements for decarbonisation of their heat supply and reducing their demand.
  • The Green Heat Finance Taskforce will make its final report and recommendations in September 2023 with interim findings expected March 2023. The Green Heat Finance Taskforce was established in 2022 to develop a portfolio of innovative financial solutions for building owners for financing low-carbon heat and energy efficiency. The taskforce aims to be a catalyst for long term relationships and partnering across the public and private sectors and will be engaging with stakeholders, including local authorities and the wider public sector as part of its work.