The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and Dundee)
The hot issue for Scotland’s environment
New minister makes first official speech at Perth conference
Scotland’s new energy minister said achieving affordable and sustainable heat for our homes, buildings and industries is crucial to transforming the energy system in the coldest country in the UK.
In his first speech at an event since taking his new post Paul Wheelhouse told Scottish Renewables’ Low Carbon Heat Conference in Perth the country’s renewable future is bright.
Heat was 50% of energy demand, and he said heat delivery offers exciting opportunities for climate change ambitions, promoting growth and tackling inequalities.
Progress had been made to meeting the target of 11% of non-electrical heat demand from renewable sources by 2020.
In 2014 3,000 GWh of renewable heat was generated, equating to 3.8% of Scotland’s non-electrical heat demand that year.
The Scottish Government’s commitment to developing renewable heat involves initiatives in district heating, to which it is giving a further £7 million this year.
Its district heating loan fund has benefited more than 40 projects which cut energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Changes with renewable incentives posed significant challenges, and he welcomed the UK Government’s pledge that the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) budget will continue for five years for new installations.
“Scotland has done well to date with the uptake of the RHI being above pro rata, however, I do have a number of concerns on the proposed reforms,” he said.
“The Scottish Government has consistently pushed for consideration of issues raised by Scottish businesses and the particular circumstances of homes in Scotland.
“The lower average temperatures in Scotland naturally require more heating to reach similar temperatures to homes in the south. It costs more to heat homes here.”
Mr Wheelhouse said his officials continue to work with UK Government colleagues to ensure Scottish stakeholders’ views are taken into account to inform any changes.
Scotland’s overarching energy strategy will seek to give the country secure and affordable energy supplies as the system is decarbonised, he said.
The Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme has launched the Geothermal Energy Challenge Fund.
Its projects include a feasibility study to harness geothermal heat at Guardbridge in Fife.
Stephanie Clark, Scottish Renewables’ policy manager, said: “Scotland, and the UK as a whole, has a long way to go in the adoption of renewable heat but also in addressing the number of Scots who live in fuel poverty.
“Low-carbon infrastructure can play a part in that.”