The Scottish Government’s Energy Strategy has set ambitious targets to reduce emissions from domestic buildings by 23% and non-domestic buildings by 53% by 2032, compared to 2014 levels. This is essential for meeting climate targets, removing poor quality buildings as a driver of fuel poverty, and making Scottish homes and buildings warmer and more comfortable.

Scottish Government are currently piloting Energy Efficient Scotland as a flagship programme for retrofitting every building in Scotland. The Energy Efficient Scotland Routemap has set a target for all homes in Scotland to have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of C, where technically feasible and cost effective by 2032. In order to achieve this goal, it is anticipated that public and private investment in excess of £10 billion will be required over the lifetime of the programme. Between 2009 and 2021, Scottish Government will already have allocated over £1 billion to energy efficiency works. To make sure that this money is spent effectively, and climate targets are met, it is important to understand the mechanisms for delivering national-scale building retrofit.

Evaluating the pilots

To do this, the Energy Efficient Scotland programme is being piloted in different Local Authority areas. As the Programme is currently formulated, Local Authorities bid for funding to perform area-based retrofit projects, and then recruit sub-contractors and project partners to support completion of the work. For Phase 1 of the pilots, running 2016 – 2018, nine Local Authority-led pilot projects delivered energy efficiency and low carbon heat measures in 1,456 domestic buildings and 47 non-domestic buildings, including mixed-use tenement blocks, owner-occupied hard-to-treat homes, community centres, schools and office blocks. As Phase 1, this is just a snapshot of the variety of buildings that need to be considered and the complexity of the projects taking place.

We have been evaluating the pilot projects to date. It is important to do this so that we can inform Scottish Government’s approach to the Programme; for example, making sure that money is being spent in the most effective way and highlighting where additional support may need to be put in place (this might include making datasets available to local authorities or investigating regulatory mechanisms for supporting retrofit in mixed-use buildings, for example).

The evaluation included:

  • social surveys with building occupants before and after installation of energy efficiency measures;
  • monitoring of internal and external temperature, humidity, and energy consumption in buildings before and after installation of energy efficiency measures; and
  • interviews with local authorities and delivery partners; these provided detailed understandings of the delivery process.

Our latest findings are reported here. So far, through the evaluation we identified the impacts of the retrofitting projects, along with aspects of project design, delivery, funding and finance that all influenced the success of the energy retrofitting pilot.

For planning retrofits in non-domestic buildings, we found that local authority managers had a high level of expertise in organising complex retrofits within their estate, but that designing retrofit projects beyond public sector buildings was a new activity that would require the development of further in-house skills and knowledge. In particular, mixed-use and multi-property buildings (such as tenement flats with shops at the bottom) have complex consultation and decision-making arrangements that local authorities were not always familiar with. This means that a lot of time may be needed for planning and coordinating building upgrades, and agreement to proceed may be needed from lots of parties. Effective policy-making for complex retrofits should consider incorporating longer funding timescales.

We found well-established routes for delivery of retrofit in domestic buildings through the HEEPS:ABS (Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland: Area Based Schemes) programmes. These mean that Local Authorities and their contractors hold high quality data and useful knowledge about the building stock in particular areas. However, policy makers looking to encourage more retrofitting of this type need to consider the time it can take to establish such programmes: we found that communities unfamiliar with HEEPS:ABS needed more time for engagement to build trust in the grant and loan funding offer and secure sign-ups.

The role of funding

Critical for the success of the Energy Efficient Scotland programme will be securing public and private funding in the future (it has been estimated that more than £10 billion will be needed to meet the target of an EPC rating of C). Our evaluation has indicated that, as programmes move beyond grant-funding into encouraging take up of loans or private investment, opportunities to reduce costs through area-based delivery may become more difficult, since contractors will face uncertainty about numbers and locations of works. The development of ‘trusted trader’ lists is currently being explored by Local Authorities and their partners. These may help to provide more certainty. Further, the evaluation work has highlighted that to proceed with wider-scale retrofitting, the Home Energy Efficiency Database was perceived by Local Authorities to need updating with more available and accurate data.

There are critical lessons here for how energy retrofitting could be scaled-up to cover the whole of Scotland. Some of these findings have already been incorporated into further Energy Efficient Scotland pilots (Phase 2 and the Transition Programme are both currently up and running); others will require a longer time to develop. Our evaluation work is continuing with the ongoing Energy Efficient Scotland pilots. This is crucial for ensuring that lessons can continue to be documented and incorporated into the national-level scale up of Energy Efficient Scotland.

Read more about the project