Today Iain Gray MSP, Labour’s Scottish leader, launched Labour’s Green Housing Revolution. We’ve made a commitment to work with local authorities and housing associations to transform how we heat and power our homes.
Rising fuel prices are a big worry for many people, particularly those on fixed or low incomes. We urgently need to do more to insulate people’s houses and we need more ambitious programmes than currently exist if we are to meet the target of eradicating fuel poverty in the lifetime of the next parliament.
The Feed in Tariff, developed by Labour Leader Ed Milliband when he was Energy Secretary in the Labour Government, provides a new way to fund renewables such as solar panels which produce electricity and mini wind turbines by paying for the electricity produced and exported to the grid.
I will be campaigning for the UK Government to keep investing in the Feed in Tariff and to properly implement the forthcoming Renewable Heat Incentive to enable us to make the step change from seeing renewables as an add on to being standard practice in our built environment.
Scotland led the way in promoting large scale renewables, but under the SNP Government progress on smaller scale and household renewables has stalled. That means we’re missing out on manufacturing jobs and the ability to keep people’s fuel bills down. There’s also the chance to provide local training opportunities to train up young people in the new green jobs that have big potential over the next few years. Our initial target is 10,000 houses to get going, so we’ll work with local authorities to make sure that people whose houses are suitable are given the chance to benefit from these proven technologies.
The benefits will not just be for social housing tenants because, as we begin to get bulk purchasing, prices for installation should drop and house owners will be able to buy in too. As we come out of recession using renewable technologies in our communities ticks every box: they’re good for the environment, good for the economy and good for householders who benefit from warmer homes that are cheaper to heat.
We have to be as ambitious with small scale and community renewables as we’ve been with bigger scale developments. When I visited Aberdeen a couple of years ago I was very impressed with the renewable heat schemes they have developed which ensure that pensioners and tenants in tower blocks now have affordable warmth. I’ve also visited individual householders in Edinburgh who have invested in new kit, supported by grants. They have seen their bills drop with their families impressed by the difference it’s made to their quality of life.
When visiting the Dunedin Canmore Housing Association development in south Edinburgh this morning I was struck by how the new building standards we’ve set are really making a difference. The 58 flat sheltered housing development has 3 boilers, only two of which are ever on at the same time, because insulation standards are so effective, plus solar panels which will keep prices down for residents. Over the next decade we need to get to the point where renewable heat and power needs to be built in as standard in new developments. The amendments Labour MSPs moved to the Climate Change Act we passed in 2009 will help that become a reality.
The challenge of the next session of the Scottish Parliament will be to eradicate fuel poverty and promote community scale renewables across the country. As Energy Action Scotland’s Director Norman Kerr said today “Harnessing the technologies and funding streams open to householders through these proposals would make a difference to how we heat and power our homes. However, this move will not replace the need for the Scottish Government to continue to resource programmes specifically for the fuel poor such as the Energy Assistance Package.” I agree. We need to make sure that the existing packages work much better – but also we need to be more ambitious. That’s where our new proposals, which have been welcomed by a number of organisations, come in. Scotland should be leading the way – not lagging behind.