Residents across the Highlands, Islands and north-east could face costs of more than £30,000 to meet new green housing targets.
The SNP-Green government set itself a target of 2025 to phase out the need to install new or replacement fossil fuel boilers in properties not connected to mains gas.
Up to 63% of homes in the Highlands are not connected to the gas grid and instead use heating oil and other off-grid fuels.
Government minister Patrick Harvie wants more sustainable options, such as heat pumps, installed to replace fossil fuel alternatives.
But the Green MSP admitted that around 40,000 countryside homes – nearly a quarter of Scotland’s 170,000 off-grid properties – were not suitable for the installation of air source heat pumps.
Research by the trade association Liquid Gas UK found forcing these homes to upgrade to greener electric systems could cost homeowners up to £32,000.
Rural homes risk ‘being left behind’
North-east Tory MSP Liam Kerr said the government “obssesses about the central belt” and leaves the rest of Scotland “in the lurch”.
He said: “In announcing these plans, the Scottish Government didn’t stop to think about the impact of thousands of people living off the gas grid.
“Now it risks implementing a policy without giving any consideration to how the people living in these homes will cope.”
Mr Harvie unveiled the government’s energy strategy in October 2021, which included a target of 2033 for making all buildings in Scotland energy efficient.
He estimated the total investment required to transform homes and buildings across the country is likely to be in excess of £33 billion.
The Green MSP said recently that in the properties where air source heat pumps “may not be viable”, alternative options under current technology include air-to-air heat pumps, other electric heating or bioenergy from sustainable sources.
Scottish Government increase funding for Home Energy Scotland Grant
In response to the concerns raised, Mr Harvie said: “This year we’ve doubled our funding for the Home Energy Scotland Grant and Loan Scheme – which now includes, importantly, targeted support for those in rural areas.
“The scheme will make it easier for people to access funding to help ensure their homes are more energy efficient, and use climate friendly heating.
“We want to make it as easy and affordable as possible for people to replace their heating systems at appropriate points in time.
“Next year we will consult on our proposals and introduce legislation which will provide long term certainty for property owners and the supply chain, which will help drive prices down for consumers.
“It is vital that we take action to reduce emissions but do so in a way that supports households and tackles fuel poverty.”