SNP warned gas boiler ban will halt house building in Scotland

A ban on gas boilers in new build homes is threatening to halt house building because there isn’t enough capacity on the National Grid for heat pumps, industry experts have warned the SNP.

All new housing built in Scotland from December 2024 will have to be built to the highest energy efficiency standard, which aims to minimise the need to heat or cool buildings.

Homes for Scotland and the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) told a Holyrood inquiry on Tuesday (September 12) that developers cannot get the vast amount of electricity they need from the National Grid to run the heat pumps they will need to install as an alternative to gas.

Fionna Kell, Homes for Scotland’s Director of Policy, told MSPs there was a shortfall of about 114,000 homes in Scotland, warning the proposals for the new build heat standard would likely have a significant impact on the supply of future new homes.

Alan Stark, who chairs the SPF’s sustainability and building design committee, said the organisation is “very supportive” of the move away from fossil fuels.

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But he warned demand for electricity is outstripping supply, pointing to a large housing development in Winchburgh, West Lothian, which required eight megavolt amperes (MVA) before the new standard was announced, but which now needs 35MVA.

Mr Stark said: “So it’s not a fairly small change. This is a vast change and the new power supply they have, they have been told the maximum they can get is 15 (MVA).

“So in effect, until that’s resolved nationwide, these developments are not going to be able to proceed to full development. They are going to have to stop at some point unless we can have the infrastructure resolved.”

Ms Kell told MSPs that predicament replicated across Scotland demonstrated and Homes for Scotland’s fundamental concern.

She said: “Whilst we fully recognise the need to be addressing the climate crisis, we just respectfully want to lay down the fact there’s still a housing crisis in Scotland as well.”

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Peter Drummond, Chair of Practice Committee at the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, told the inquiry the policy needs to be introduced as soon as reasonably practicable.

He said supply concerns are primarily in large housing developments in the central belt of Scotland, with enough infrastructure in smaller schemes. But he warned households reliant on electricity to heat their homes in remoter parts of Scotland may find themselves without power during storms and seek a back up source which uses fossil fuel, thus defeating the purpose of the new standard.

Mr Drummond also said the concern is less to do with infrastructure and more about the gap in skills and training among contractors and consultants, adding the new standard is “absolutely essential”.

Ms Kell said the electricity shortage problem is linked to UK-wide supply chains, with many suppliers preparing to deal with where the majority of their customers are, which is in the rest of the UK and not Scotland.

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David Bookbinder, Director of Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations, told the inquiry there is “anxiety” not about installation of renewables but their annual maintenance.

A further concern centres around how planning departments across Scotland will embrace some of the new technologies.

He added: “The general worry is we have a slowing down new build programme in the social sector and that this might slow things down further.

“It’s not necessarily a reason not to do it – there are always difficult decisions – but there is hesitation amongst a number of our members about do they carry on developing or not. This will be another factor that has them thinking very hard about whether to cross that line and develop, even if the grant funding is there.”

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