Heat decarbonisation: building the evidence base

Reducing emissions from our homes and buildings is one of the most important things we can do to help end Scotland’s contribution to climate change. Over the next 24 years Scotland’s homes and workplaces must transform, so they are warmer, greener and more efficient. This Heat in Buildings Strategy, which updates both the Energy Efficient Scotland Route Map and the Heat Policy Statement, sets out how we will achieve that ambition.

Ministerial foreword, Heat in Buildings Strategy, October 2021

Over a two-year period, ClimateXChange commissioned and coordinated a substantial body of research in heat decarbonisation, one of the most challenging areas for achieving net zero.

  • Our research directly contributed to, and provided a solid evidence base for, the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy.
  • The research was wide-ranging and accessible, highlighting ClimateXChange’s ability to access a breadth of expertise and our skill in communicating complex issues simply.
  • As part of the research, we facilitated valuable knowledge exchange between academic researchers and policymakers.

Transforming every property

Decarbonising the heating of homes and non-domestic buildings is among the most significant challenges Scotland faces to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. Homes accounted for 13% of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions with non-domestic buildings contributing a further 7%, according to 2019 Scottish Government figures used in the Heat in Buildings Strategy. As set out in the 2020 Climate Change Plan update, these emissions will have to fall by 68% by 2030, compared to 2020 levels – a substantial undertaking from both the technological and policy perspectives. By 2045, virtually every property will need to have a low-carbon heating system, together with considerable energy efficiency improvements.

The options for decarbonisation

The challenge of decarbonising heat requires changes across the sector – from replacing natural gas with hydrogen and re-using waste heat to installing heat pumps and stimulating the market for low-carbon heating. In all, in 2020 and 2021, ClimateXChange produced 13 pieces of heat-related research exploring the many different aspects of, and options for, decarbonisation. These fed into – and provided a solid evidence base for – the Heat in Buildings Strategy, released in October 2021. Six of our reports were published at the same time.

As a basis for the individual projects, we facilitated knowledge exchange between academic researchers and policymakers, including organising a Scottish and Danish Government workshop, over two half-days, to consider policy-relevant lessons from research on heat decarbonisation for off-gas grid residential buildings.

The portfolio of commissioned research through CXC has been a valuable resource to draw on in developing the Heat in Buildings Strategy. We have been able to access a wealth of evidence and research insight across a range of technology, economic and social issues – from questions on the potential use of hydrogen for heating to lessons from transition policy approaches in other countries. It would be very difficult to get this solid and accessible evidence base to inform heat in buildings policy without support from a centre like CXC.

Ragne Low, Head of Heat Strategy, Scottish Government