Stewart’s speeches in parliament s5m-12140 energy efficient scotland mp electricity bill payment paschim kshetra

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The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-12140, in the name of Kevin Stewart, on a route map to an energy efficient Scotland. We have quite a bit of time in hand, so I can give time for wonderful speeches or interventions.

I am grateful to Ben Macpherson for making me aware that I have tenements in my constituency. I had not previously twigged that a block of four houses on two floors sharing a common stair could qualify as a tenement, so I will go away and have a wee look at the implications of that.

It has been an interesting debate in all sorts of ways. I want to pick up on a few wee things. One thing that we have spent comparatively little time debating is district heating. We recognise that it looks unlikely that the targets that were set previously look will be met.

In the north-east, we have a unique opportunity to use geothermal heating. I had the privilege, as a minister, to visit a Stagecoach bus depot to see its geothermal heating. Two boreholes went down only 100m, but water could be pumped down to the bottom of the hole and brought back up to heat a large garage, inside which, even with snow on the ground and the doors open, it was really too hot. The cost of doing that about 10 years ago was something like £40,000. That is not a huge amount of money for a heating proposition for a bus depot of that kind, but it is considerably more than most people would consider investing in a domestic scheme. On the other hand, if we think about 10 houses sharing such a facility, we start to get into the realms of economic possibility.

However, as I look at the subject, I find that there are some practical difficulties in relation to way leaves—in other words, taking utility supplies across other people’s properties. Statutory undertakers can get way leaves. They include rail, light rail, tram and road transport, water, ports, canals, inland navigation, docks, harbours, piers and lighthouses, airport operators and suppliers of hydraulic power. However, missing from the list of statutory undertakers are suppliers of heat. It seems from my research that no way-leave condition is available for transport of heat from one place to another. I have heard that that has proved to be difficult for Michelin Tyre plc in Dundee when it wanted to transport heat, so there is a legal issue in that regard.

I am unclear, to be candid, as to whether district heating comes under a reserved power. We have powers under section 9 of the Energy Act 1976 that allow us to legislate for liquefaction of offshore natural gas, but none of the other powers that might cover district heating appear to be devolved. There is a lack of clarity, and my research is not necessarily complete, but I think that there are opportunities to consider how we might produce district heating, particularly in the north-east. We have a very good example in Aberdeen, but it is of quite a different character. Geothermal energy is not just a north-east issue, although Mons Grampus, and the granite therein, provides particular opportunities.

I join Gail Ross in outbidding Graeme Dey on travel distances. When my wife was getting the insulation in our roof void taken from 200mm up to 600mm, workers came from Lanarkshire to rural Banffshire to do it. However, I can even outbid Gail Ross on the distance travelled, because they had to come twice. They did not bring enough material the first time and my wife would not let them in the house until they turned up with enough, which meant that they had to make the journey twice. I therefore claim precedence over Gail Ross on that.

There is a serious point in the story of putting in that insulation. In a rural single-storey dwelling that is never going to be EPC C-rated because of the way it is constructed, the simple act of putting in that insulation cut our fuel consumption of kerosene by 40 per cent. In fact, it took us a full week of tweaking the thermostats on the radiators to get the temperature down to an acceptable level, as we were roasting because of the additional insulation. Were that sort of intervention to be installed in all rural houses, that would be great. The Government has done a great deal; that installation was through a Government-funded scheme and did not cost us anything at all.

I will talk finally about tax incentives, about which we have heard a number of comments in the debate. As I mentioned in an earlier intervention, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which I had the privilege of taking through Parliament, provided tax incentives for improving houses. However, it relied on councils bringing forward schemes, but by no means all of them did so. In fact, I am not sure that very many did. I suggest that the track record for tax incentives based on houses is, at the moment, showing a “Not proven” verdict, at best.

I am a wee bit disappointed that the Tories are seeking to delete from the Government motion that there is a “‘whole economy’ value” of £10 billion. I would have thought that the Tories would have been quite interested in that sort of number. I certainly am, so I say “Go to it, minister.”