Renewable Heat Incentive

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th December 2015.

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Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government on its plans to reduce the renewable heat incentive by 40 per cent. (S4O-04906)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I have been engaged in extensive communications with the UK Government over a prolonged period, calling for it to continue the renewable heat incentive and give confidence to householders, businesses and the wider heat market.

There has been no detailed discussion about the £700 million efficiency in the budget over the period to 2021, which I presume the member’s figure of 40 per cent refers to, nor about the detail of changes to the RHI, regardless of the fact that I have consistently requested that.

Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

What are the knock-on effects of the UK policy change on the Scottish Government’s investment in energy efficiency schemes such as the home energy Scotland renewables loan scheme and other measures aimed at tackling fuel poverty?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The announcement that was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot aid investment, because it lacks what is required. A parliamentary statement should be characterised by clarity. Instead, Mr Osborne’s statement, in so far as it related to the RHI, was characterised by opacity. It is as though, instead of devising a parliamentary statement, he was making up a crossword clue whose purpose was to guide people away from the actual answer and meaning. We are therefore pressing the UK Government for clarity.

I am pleased that, as far as the RHI scheme is concerned, the amendments will not take effect until 2017 and that more than £45 million has been paid to accredited installations in Scotland since the introduction of the RHI in November 2011.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I thank the minister for that useful answer. In the opportunity that exists between now and 2017, what new schemes might be brought forward? There is general agreement that renewable heat is the missing link in our energy and heat, not just in terms of green energy but also in terms of green jobs and apprenticeships.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Sarah Boyack raises a very good point. Just yesterday I had the privilege of opening a brand-new waste-to-energy scheme providing heat at the Borders College campus in Galashiels. That is an excellent scheme, where the costs are clear and guaranteed. We also have a low-carbon infrastructure transition scheme, with investment of £76 million or thereby, and we have made further investments.

I will give some specific examples in response to the question. We are seeking to incentivise geothermal solutions, one potentially in Aberdeen, serving the proposed new conference centre there. We are also looking at water-source heat pumps. Although we are seeking to bring forward all those schemes, we do not have the legal competence or responsibility for energy and therefore we are seeking to use the limited budgets that we have to best effect for demonstrator projects. Nonetheless, we are taking forward schemes that I hope will receive the approval of Ms Boyack and members across the chamber.