Supporting the Energy Efficient Scotland Programme

The Scottish Government has designated energy efficiency as a National Infrastructure Priority. The cornerstone of delivering this is the Energy Efficiency Scotland programme.

This is a 15 to 20 year programme that aims to reduce energy use and costs, and improve warmth in homes, schools, hospitals and businesses.

Three phases of local authority-led pilot projects were developed to test innovative approaches to delivering energy efficiency and low carbon heat across the domestic and non-domestic sectors. We provided an evaluation of all three pilot phases to learn lessons for further roll out of the programme and have made recommendations for future energy policy.

Our evaluation included interviewing local authority officers, conducting surveys with building occupants and owners who have experienced the retrofits, and analysing local authority pilot reports. The research team worked in close cooperation with the Scottish Government, local authorities, and third sector organisations across the whole of Scotland.



Phase 1 of the Energy Efficient Scotland pilots started in September 2016 and was completed in Spring 2018. It included projects across nine local authorities. For the evaluation of this phase, we worked with the Energy Saving Trust, who conducted technical monitoring of energy use, internal temperature, and humidity before and after retrofit. This was combined with our own insights from discussion with local authority officers.

Read the Phase 1 evaluation report

Phase 2 included a further 10 local authorities and started in September 2017. Alongside domestic and non-domestic building retrofits, this phase incorporated the piloting of Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES). At this preliminary stage, LHEES require councils to develop area-based heat and energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation plans for a specific area over a 15 to 20 year period.

Read the first LHEES pilot evaluation report

Phase 3 (or the Transition Phase) included an additional 17 local authorities. It ran from September 2018 to August 2020. Participants in this phase developed strategies for engaging domestic and non-domestic property owners in self-funding retrofit. Our evaluation of these projects included interviews with the delivery teams, and a large-scale survey to capture the impacts of engagement strategies. This round also included further LHEES pilots.

Read the second LHEES pilot evaluation report

Read the transition pilot survey evaluation report

Key findings

Our findings have looked at the pilot projects’ governance, management, and partnership structures. 


They provide valuable lessons for the rollout of the Energy Efficient Scotland programme in particular:

  • Planning Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES), and managing the coordination of area-based retrofit, even on a small scale, requires significant local authority staff time and new cross-council teams.
  • Councils use either in-house resources or external contractors for project planning and delivery. Further work is needed to compare costs and benefits of in-house management and outsourcing. Either way, additional resource is likely to be required for councils to participate in the planning and management aspects of the Energy Efficient Scotland Programme.
  • Development of comprehensive LHEES needs to combine distinctive local elements, with opportunities to pool energy planning expertise across Scotland, for access by all local authorities. Gaps in available data need to be filled and standardised best practice methodologies are needed to support consistency in planning across the country, and to manage uncertainty in data and methodologies.
  • Local authorities highlighted the need for extensive, coordinated public engagement to establish understanding and acceptance of low carbon heating technologies and energy efficiency measures. This engagement must extend across the commercial, industrial, third, and public sectors. Appropriate resources, in terms of funding, skills, and staff capacity, are needed to support local authorities in delivering effective engagement and advice services, and catalyse effective change.
  • Cost was the primary barrier that prevented household respondents taking energy efficiency measures. Most respondents stated that they would need a grant, as opposed to an interest-free loan, to support their uptake of efficiency measures.
  • Lack of new information was a barrier to household change. The Scottish Government and local authorities could provide more detailed information, tailored to household type, including those in conservation areas.


Related scientific publications

Emerging linked ecologies for a national scales retrofitting programme: The role of local authorities and delivery partners

Local government capacities to support net zero: Developing comprehensive heat and energy efficiency strategies in Scotland

Retrofitting at scale: Comparing transition experiments in Scotland and the Netherlands

Local heat and energy efficiency policy: Ambiguity and ambivalence in England and Scotland


Useful links

Heat and the City – read more about the research

Energy Efficient Scotland

Response to Scottish Government’s “Energy Efficient Scotland Consultation: Making our homes and buildings warmer, greener and more efficient”

Workshop report: Scottish policy for energy efficiency and buildings


Faye Wade