Too many Scottish homes still relying on coal for heat

The 14,000 Scottish homes which use coal as their main form of heating must switch to cleaner alternatives if Scotland is to hit its ambitious climate change targets, according to industry body Scottish Renewables.

A home heated by coal emits up to five times more carbon than one heated using a modern heat pump or a modern biomass boiler.

A further 186,000 homes which use oil or bottled gas should also consider switching to modern, low-carbon heating solutions, Scottish Renewables has said.

Coal is the dirtiest form of energy production and is responsible for half of the world’s energy-related climate change emissions each year, with the majority used to make electricity.

Scottish Renewables is calling for the Scottish Government to use its Energy Efficient Scotland programme, which launches in 2020, to tackle the issue of fossil fuel heating.

Fabrice Leveque, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “It’s incredible that in 2018 14,000 Scottish homes still rely on coal as their main source of heating.

“Coal-powered electricity generation has already become a thing of the past in Scotland and it’s time household coal heating was consigned to the dustbin of history too.

“Schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive are available to help people switch to more sustainable alternatives and the benefits of doing so are clear: cleaner air, a healthier environment and less of the harmful emissions which cause climate change.

“The Scottish Government’s Energy Efficient Scotland programme launches in 2020 and we believe it needs to tackle the issue of coal heating, as well as the polluting oil and LPG systems which remain so common in the large areas of Scotland which do not have a mains gas supply.”

Gina Hanrahan, head of policy at WWF Scotland, added: “It’s really saddening to learn so many homes in Scotland are still forced to rely on dirty coal as the main source of heating. We know ending our use of fossil fuels is not only good for the environment, but also for our health. Heating our homes and buildings accounts for around half of all our energy and climate emissions. It’s time we saw bold leadership and action from the Scottish Government to accelerate the decarbonisation of our homes, especially in off-gas grid areas.”

Renewable heating alternatives include electric heat pumps (which use a small amount of electricity to extract heat from the air and ground and use it to power radiators or fan heaters), solar thermal panels and biomass boilers, which can use wood from Scotland’s abundant forests.

Homes using these forms of heating emit between 1.5 and 2 tonnes of carbon per year. The comparable figure for coal is eight tonnes, up to five times as much. Even homes burning mains gas emit four tonnes of carbon per year.