More on ‘Our Common Home’

Earlier this week we shared a video of Tiffany Kane talking about Common Weal’s plan for a Green New Deal for Scotland. This post is a review of the plan written by Pete Roche. It was originally published in the bulletin of Nuclear Free Local Authorities.

commonweal

The Common Weal think tank has published a revolutionary green new deal plan for Scotland that will cost billions of pounds and create thousands of new jobs. The most costly of the raft of proposals is the biggest overhaul of housing since the Second World War, with a plan to have greener Scottish homes by installing loft installation, double glazing and renewable technologies. That would involve setting up a national housing company and spend £40 billion to make every home in Scotland more thermally efficient, saving 40% off heating bills.

The Common Weal’s plan of action would be financed through public borrowing – and it is understood it could be paid off over 50 years. It would require no additional private spending by households – while creating a carbon-neutral Scotland and future-proofing the nation for generations. The think tank says it is one of the most ambitious projects they have ever organised and consists of a “fully costed” blueprint for how to bring about a net zero Scotland – the first in the world. It will also claim that all current projections about how much of Scotland’s GDP will be needed to tackle climate change are underestimates and that every year for the next 50 years Scotland will have to spend an annual amount closer to three per cent of GDP than to the two per cent often quoted. (1)

Guiding Principles:

Take responsibility to identify what can be done domestically rather than waiting for multilateral agreements.

The crisis can’t be solved through market forces alone.

The time for setting targets is long gone – these tend to emphasise what it would be good to achieve, not how to achieve it.

You don’t want to have to make any transformations twice. The scale of investment needed is so large it must deliver value for money for many generations.

The plan must be a once-in-many-generations fix for persistent social problems.

Above all this will transition Scotland away from a linear extractive economy to a circular participatory economy – more wealth would be retained and circulated round the domestic economy and much less exported in the form of corporate profits.

Because this is a collective task which will serve many generations, the cost should be met through low cost public borrowing paid back through progressive taxation.

The headline cost of £170bn may be a sobering figure, but it is less than double Scotland’s contribution to the 2009 UK financial bailout, and will only have to be found over 25 years, and gradually repaid over 50 years. And the investment will create new revenue streams, for instance there would be a publicly-owned energy system for electricity and heating which would generate an income. The plan would create around 40,000 direct jobs. Other positive impacts would be: warmer homes, cheaper to heat; healthier food; travel faster and more efficient; quality of life would improve.

Buildings

The thermal performance of all new build houses and other buildings should be up to Passivhaus standard. (15kWh/m2/yr) But the materials used should be healthy and organic mostly sourced in Scotland.

All new houses should be ready for district heating unless they are energy neutral.

A National Housing Company should be set up to retrofit all existing houses to achieve 70 to 90% thermal efficiency. Commercial premises should be retrofitted to a similar standard. All public buildings should become energy positive.

Heating

Moving to electric heating would roughly double the load on the grid which would require significant upgrades to cope. But peak load might increase by a factor of five. While better-insulated houses would reduce the problem much of the spike would come from water heating which would not be reduced by insulation. Ground source heat pumps require a substantial land area. Air source heat pumps struggle to provide sufficient heat in the winter.

Hydrogen would have problems with leakage. All household boilers would need to be replaced. Because of the difficulty of phasing in hydrogen, boilers would probably need to be dual use. Hydrogen would probably be expensive.

Solar thermal, geothermal and industrial waste heat recovery delivered via a district heating network are probably the most viable method of heat delivery.

Heat Budget

Scotland uses around 86TWh of heating each year. Firstly, we need to reduce demand by about 40% to about 52TWh. The next step would be to make the most of solar thermal, but this would also require inter-seasonal storage. This could provide around 20TWh via district heating. Geothermal from old mines could provide another 12GWh. Biomass could also add around 6.5TWh of heat to the mix.

A Heat Supply Act could be implemented to require all developers of large waste heat sources to recover and recycle heat to feed local homes.

An Energy Development Agency would plan the shift to renewable heating; a National Energy Company would install a national district heating system and renewable heat generation infrastructure.

Electricity

Planning the future electricity generation requirements involves replacing current non-renewable electricity generation and meeting the needs for the electrification of transport and the production of hydrogen for transport and heating.

The National Energy Company would progressively take over energy supply to customers and would develop and own all future large-scale energy generating facilities. It would also generate hydrogen for energy storage.

The Scottish Energy Development Agency would plan all new capacity and have responsibility for ensuring the lights stay on while meeting the decarbonisation agenda.

Oil & Gas

The Common Home Plan says Scotland must stop extracting oil and gas. By the end of the 25-year plan Scotland will no longer be using oil and gas.

Transport

One of the biggest unknowns is the development of driverless vehicles. On call vehicles, if deployed effectively, could displace a large volume of car ownership resulting in some major changes in urban planning assumptions.

The Common Home Plan calls for the establishment of a National Transport Company which would roll out a comprehensive charging infrastructure and develop a national transport transition plan.

The Company should integrate the ability to make more journeys by foot and bike with its overall transition plan.

Scotland has around 3 million vehicles. It is generally assumed that this number will increase as population rises. Most of these would be parked in residential streets which would imply the need for charging facilities in every residential street – an enormous task. But if other transport approaches develop this could be an enormous white elephant. The National Transport Company would have to make some decisions on which way forward.

Hydrogen could become the fuel of choice for HGVs, ferries, and trains on non-electrified lines. A strategy for air travel will need to be developed.

Food and Land-Use

The plan envisages the establishment of a National Food Agency and a National Land Agency. Amongst the proposals is the suggestion that 50% of Scotland’s land area should be reforested.

There are also chapters on Resources, Trade, Learning and Us. The plan calls for, for instance, a circular economy; and training for an appropriate workforce (there are only 140 plumbers being trained at the moment and yet we will need thousands to install district heating).

The Common Home Plan can be found at https://commonweal.scot/policy-library/common- home-plan

  1. Herald 9th Nov 2019 https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18025538.radical-multi-billion-pound-green- plan-scotland-unveiled/

 

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