We must transform how we heat our homes - Lorna Slater

​Some of the old images of Edinburgh make clear why it was known as Auld Reekie. The smoke from household chimneys, powered by open coal fires, hung over our city as a thick and choking fog.
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna SlaterMinister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater

Over time those fireplaces and chimneys were blocked-off and replaced by radiators and boilers, which solved some problems but created others. But that transition from open fires to central heating took place in a short period of time and that is what we are facing again as we move to a cleaner, greener future.

We can all see that the current energy market is broken. With bills going up again right at the start of a long and cold winter, we can’t keep relying on fossil fuels which are priced by volatile global markets.

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Today, my Scottish Green colleague Patrick Harvie will launch proposals for a new Heat in Buildings bill that will set out ambitious and measured plans to transform how we heat and insulate our homes. It’ll be a big step forward in our efforts to cut emissions.

Around one fifth of Scotland’s climate emissions come from our buildings.

Part of our focus has to be on better insulation, which can cut costs and fuel poverty and reduce demand on the electricity grid. But that alone will not be enough. A zero emissions Scotland needs better insulation, but it also needs other ways of heating our homes.

There is an important role for heat networks (where more than one building draws on a common heat source), particularly in cities like Edinburgh where we have a growing number of networks. But growth will take time and there will be limits on where it makes economic and practical sense to roll them out.

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That’s why heat pump technology, pictured, also has a huge role to play – a tried, tested and reliable technology which is decades-old, highly-efficient and already installed in thousands of Scottish homes and used by millions of people across Europe.

To see their impact we only have to look to Scandinavia, where clean heat is a normal part of everyday life. It has meant warm and climate-friendly homes that aren’t reliant on fossil fuels and don’t cost the earth to heat.

Scotland offers the most generous package of support anywhere in the UK: a £7500 grant for switching to a heat pump; with similar help for energy efficiency work.

The change we need won’t be easy and won’t happen overnight, but that makes it all the more important that we take the steps we can here and now.

The shift from Auld Reekie has meant cleaner air and more liveable communities. The transition we need now can be every bit as transformative for our city and future generations.