New ministers must provide a cast-iron guarantee that social housing tenants won’t end up footing the bill for replacing existing heating with renewable systems such as heat pumps, says the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations.
Responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation on its Heat in Buildings Strategy, the Forum says it welcomes the recognition that new heating systems will be more expensive to both install and run.
But it says there is an overwhelming sense among its members that the right infrastructure – including funding – to cope with the desired pace and scale of change is a long way from being in place.
GWSF Chair Helen Moore said:
“We very much welcome the Scottish Government’s ambitious climate change targets, and our members look forward to identifying innovative and effective ways of embracing new technologies.
“The financial commitment to make transformation a reality and avoid loading costs onto users, including social housing tenants, will need to be very substantial.
“At this stage we’re not yet reassured that funding levels will be anywhere near sufficient, and we need the strongest possible commitment that the additional costs of installing and maintaining new heating systems won’t fall to tenants to pay through increased rents.
“On capital costs, we at least know that adequate subsidy for social landlords can protect tenants from high installation costs. But at this stage no-one is clear whether or how tenants who currently have gas heating can avoid the much higher fuel bills which will come with electricity-based systems.
“The Scottish Government states that significant progress in installing new-style heating systems needs to be made in the 2020s. In many respects this urgency is commendable, but on top of funding concerns, the sector is uneasy about the lack of solid data on the performance, reliability and costs – including longer term maintenance costs – of the newer technologies.
“Additionally, installing state of the art heating systems in buildings which are structurally unsound and leak a lot of heat doesn’t make sense. The challenges of improving the fabric of our older buildings must be addressed if energy efficiency is to be effectively tackled.
“The scale of the challenge will require outstanding leadership from the Scottish Government, and there is an argument for a dedicated Ministerial appointment to lead this.”