THE race to retrofit homes for energy efficiency offers “huge opportunity” for Scotland, according to Patrick Harvie.

During a visit to the Gilmerton area of Edinburgh on Wednesday, the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings spoke to numerous homeowners and tenants who had benefited from Scottish Government funding allowing them to retrofit their homes.

By the end of May around 150 homes in the area will have been fitted with external wall insulation as well as solar panels, including battery storage.

The work was funded by the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficient Scotland Area Based Scheme (EES:ABS), which targets areas known to struggle with fuel poverty.

Last year, £1.2 million was spent on private properties in Gilmerton with a further £1.3 million due to be spent in 2024.

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As builders continued working on homes in various states of retrofitting, Harvie told The National that the transformation of the area needed to replicated in many more areas across Scotland.

“I’ve spoken to people who are seeing 60-70% reductions in their energy bills as a result of this kind of work,” he said.

“This is kind of stuff we need to be seeing in many more parts of Scotland to reduce our emissions as well as our bills”.

In February, Audit Scotland warned the Scottish Government that it would not be able to phase-out fossil fuel heating by the 2045 target unless it significantly increases the scale and pace of activity.

During the current parliament £1.8 billion has been invested by the Scottish Government into its strategy to do so.

The National: Colin Fraser's home (left) has been fitted with external insulation while neighbour's home has notColin Fraser's home (left) has been fitted with external insulation while neighbour's home has not (Image: NQ)

However, it estimates that the full phase out of fossil fuel heating will cost the public sector, private businesses and households around £33 billion in total.

When asked how this could be achieved despite the challenging financial circumstances facing the Scottish Government, Harvie said: “Audit Scotland are absolutely right, we can’t do this without a rapid acceleration of deployment of clean heating systems as well as improvements in energy efficiency.

“But the supply chain, the businesses, including manufacturers that are based here in Scotland, they’re all raring to go.

“They just need to know that we can unlock the demand that’s out there.

“If we link up the demand with the supply we can also bring maximum economic benefit for Scotland and ensure that we create high quality careers in the process.

“We can do that partly through schemes such as this, which involve the Scottish Government and local authorities working together to invest public money.

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“But also through regulation and making there’s assurance for businesses investing in things such as heat networks. They need to know the customers are going to be there.

“It’s a huge challenge that we’ve got but it’s also a huge opportunity for Scotland”.

Colin Fraser lives in a recently retrofitted property in Gilmerton with his wife and two cats.

He said the process for getting his home insulated and solar panels installed was “easy”.

“I just had a letter through the door,” he said.

“It was an easy process. I ticked a few boxes, got a visit from a guy who explained how it would work and that was it.

“I thought I was going to have pay but no. It was all free.

The National: Patrick Harvie (right) spoke to Colin Fraser about his newly retrofitted homePatrick Harvie (right) spoke to Colin Fraser about his newly retrofitted home (Image: NQ)

“Now it’s warmer and much nicer to look at”.

Speaking ahead of Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget, Harvie said he was “rarely hopeful” that announcements from the UK Government would help Scotland.

He said: “One of the really big issues the UK Government needs to deal with – and they’ve acknowledged this – is breaking the link between gas and electricity prices.

“At the moment Scotland is generating all of this cheap, abundant and clean renewable electricity, which is cheapest form of electricity generation.

“Yet we’re not able to pass that benefit on to bill payers because we’re paying electricity at an artificially high price because it’s linked to gas.

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“If the UK breaks that link, then we can remove a lot of the barriers people feel are there when it comes to shifting to electricity for both heat and transport.”

It comes as the Scottish Government’s consultation on its Heat in Buildings Bill is set to close on March 8.

The bill is set to introduce a new law that will require homeowners to make sure that their homes meet a reasonable minimum energy efficiency standard by 2033, with private landlords required to meet this standard by 2028.