Energy technology phase-out: Using international analogues to inform ‘net zero’ heat decarbonisation policy

In order to achieve Scotland’s net-zero target, a low-carbon heating system will be required in virtually every property in Scotland by 2045. This is a significant policy and technological challenge.

This report seeks to inform the design of policy for the phase-out of fossil fuel heating by reviewing relevant historical and ongoing experiences of technology phase-out policy, and, by extension, phase-in, in the energy sector.

The case studies reviewed include natural gas grids, personal transport, electricity supply, electricity metering, transport biofuels and condensing boilers. 

 Key findings
  • Major infrastructure transitions, such as gas grid repurposing, necessarily rely on an area-based approach rather than individual decision-making. Transitions in off-grid heating, by contrast, may involve individual household decision-making at the point of replacement.
  • As is being seen in the transport sector, some phase-outs are driven by proactive supply side policies and international market competition. Close collaboration between government and businesses were also seen.
  • Hybrid technologies, such as hybrid gas and electric heat pumps, are appealing ways of ameliorating the effects of phase-out because they offer less disruptive and perhaps more affordable solutions.
  • A number of cases reviewed highlight the importance of how policy decisions are justified and communicated, suggesting careful attention as to how heat decarbonisation policy is developed and presented.