Risk/opportunity:(from the Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland 2012):
BE9 Reduction in energy demand for heating

Narratives: Resilience and resource use

SCCAP theme: Buildings and infrastructure

SCCAP objectives:
B1: Understand the effects of climate change and their impacts on building and infrastructure networks
B2: Provide the knowledge, skills and tools to manage climate change impacts on buildings and infrastructure

Latest figures


Total domestic gas usage:28,073 GWh

Average usage per consumer:14,287 kWh

Total domestic gas consumption has decreased year on year, from 35,329 GWh in 2005 to 28,073 GWh in 2013.   There has also been a decrease in average domestic gas consumption per gas consumer between 2005 (20,042 kWh) and 2013 (14,287 kWh).

This represents a 20% decrease in gas consumption from 2005 to 2013, whilst consumption per gas consumer has dropped by 30%.

At a glance
  • Domestic gas consumption provides an indication of energy demand for heating
  • Climate change is expected to raise average winter temperatures, reducing the energy required for heating
  • The anticipated increase in the thermal efficiency and energy efficiency of households should also reduce the energy demand for heating
  • However, other drivers such as projected growth in household numbers and population along with a rise in preferred internal temperature settings may increase energy demand for heating
  • Total domestic gas usage decreased by around 20% between 2005 and 2013

An increase in average winter temperatures provides an opportunity for Scotland to reduce its gas consumption.  More than 75% of the energy used in the domestic sector is from gas-fired boilers, predominantly for heating, and cooking.  Reducing gas consumption will contribute to one of the four transformational outcomes (a largely decarbonised heat sector by 2050 with significant progress by 2030) necessary to meet Scotland’s target of an 80% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2050 (Scottish Government, 2013). Reducing the energy requirement for heating also plays a key role in reducing fuel poverty, which affects 39% of households in Scotland (see Indicator S61 – 65).

The aim of UK energy policy is to ensure consumers have access to energy services (physical security) while avoiding excessive price volatility (price security) (DECC (2012)). Energy policy is largely a reserved matter (i.e. policy from Westminster), but energy security is a priority for the Scottish Government, which has powers relating to planning, energy infrastructure and generation, and responsibility for resilience, response handling, and civil contingencies. Reducing gas demand for heating will reduce Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as making consumers less vulnerable to the volatility of wholesale gas prices (Scottish Government (2013)).

Related indicators

BB20  Energy Performance of Scottish Housing Stock

BB27 Natural gas usage; non-domestic

CRS61 Number of households in fuel poverty

CRS64 Uptake of energy efficiency measures

In line with Government aims, domestic gas consumption is decreasing (see data in next section).  The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has launched several initiatives to help increase energy efficiency in households. These include

  • The Green Deal, a programme to encourage individuals to improve energy efficiency with some or all costs covered by savings on energy bills. 
  • Rollout of smart meters - gas and electricity meters that provide real-time data on energy use for households and small businesses, to help consumers monitor and manage their energy use

A range of other government initiatives aim to reduce energy use in homes, many of which are outlined in Indicator S61- 65.  Building Standards also play a role by setting increasingly high standards for energy and thermal efficiency for new build.

In terms of decarbonisation, currently 11.6% of overall Scottish energy consumption is derived from renewable sources, including 3% of energy for heating. The Scottish Government has committed to an overall renewable energy target of 30% by 2020, with a specific target of deriving 11% of heating consumption from renewable sources by this date (Scottish Government, 2015).

Annual gas consumption statistics are calculated between 1st October one calendar year and 30thSeptember the next. Table 1 gives annual figures for total domestic gas usage between 2005 and 2013, and shows a decrease in consumption. Average consumption per (gas) consumer also shows a yearly decrease. The graphs in Figures 1 and 2 illustrate these trends visually.

Table 1 Total Scottish Domestic Gas Usage and Average Consumption per Consumer


Total domestic  gas sales (GWh)

Number of domestic gas meters (thousands)

Average domestic gas consumption per consumer in Scotland, kWh






































Figure 1 Total Scottish domestic Gas Usage in GWh


Figure 2 Average domestic consumption per consumer in kWh.


Competing drivers of gas usage are described in more detail in the next section ‘Patterns of change’. On one hand, there are drivers decreasing domestic gas consumption in Scotland, which include the improved energy efficiency of buildings and boilers, an increase in the uptake of low carbon heating such as ground source heat pumps, and an anticipated rise in gas prices. Conversely, there are drivers that contribute to an increase in consumption, such an increase in the number of households in Scotland, including those connected to the gas network, and a rise in preferred internal temperature for domestic heating. Current data suggests that the first group of drivers is more dominant so it is expected that domestic gas consumption in Scotland, both total and average per consumer, will continue to decrease in the future.


Climate change is anticipated to lead to warmer winters and hence a reduction in winter heating demand.  However, climate change is also expected to generate wetter winters, and in such conditions heating demand may not decrease as much as would otherwise be the case. As described above, there are other drivers contributing to a decrease in domestic gas consumption.

However, in contrast, consumer behaviour is a significant driver that may contribute to an increase in domestic gas consumption, as is shown by the modelling of the internal temperature settings chosen for domestic heating. Figures suggest that the temperature chosen for winter heating has risen from an average of 13.7 ºC in 1970, to an average of 17.7ºC in 2011, despite a trend towards an increase in external temperature over the same period (Palmer & Cooper, 2013).

There are also population drivers which will contribute to an increase in domestic gas consumption. In 2013 the estimated population of Scotland was 5.33 million, and is expected to grow by 9% over the twenty five years between 2012 and 2037 (National Records of Scotland (NROS, (2014)). Alongside this, the number of people living in each household is expected to fall, with these two factors contributing to an increase in the number of households across Scotland. Household numbers have increased by 8% over the last ten years, and this upward trend is predicted to continue.  In 2013, there were 2.4 million households and 2.5 million dwellings in Scotland. The number of households is expected to grow more rapidly than overall population, and is predicted to increase by 17% over the 25 years from 2012, thus reaching 2.78 million by 2037 (15,800 additional households per year on average), resulting in increased energy demand for heating in Scotland. However, this increase may be offset by improvements in insulation and heating efficiency which to date have made a significant contribution to the overall reduction in UK domestic energy consumption (Scottish Environment Statistics Online, 2015).

Consumption data shows 20% decrease in domestic gas consumption from 2005 to 2013, whilst consumption per consumer has dropped by 30%. The improved energy efficiency of boilers and homes, and the rise in gas prices, are identified as factors that have contributed to reduced gas consumption (Scottish Government, 2014), offset against a backdrop of population growth and the rise in internal temperature settings.

Users are classified as being “domestic” if they have a gas demand below 73,200 kWh per year, which in practice means a proportion of small business users are included in the domestic category.

In addition, the islands and parts of rural Scotland are not on the gas grid so the gas consumption statistics are presented per gas customer, rather than per total household numbers, as this gives a better indication of the amount of gas used by a typical gas user (Scottish Government, 2014).

While the Digest of UK energy statistics (DUKES) is compiled using a top-down approach, with statistics gathered by energy companies on a national level, sub-national datasets are compiled using a bottom-up approach, from an initial set of individual Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) data. At sub-national level, the figure provided to the DECC for energy consumption analysis for the Gas Industry is in the form of the Annual Quantity (AQ). This calculation is based on MPRN data provided by Xoserve and independent gas transporters (DECC, 2014a).

The formula for calculating the AQ represents an estimate of the consumption at a meter point (a single point of gas supply) for a 365-day year, under seasonal normal weather conditions. The AQ is based on consumption between two meter readings, which are unlikely to be taken precisely 365 days apart. To account for this, the AQ calculation adjusts for the bias of the read period towards winter or summer, and for the difference between seasonal normal conditions (DECC, 2014b).  This means that the data has been adjusted to account for differences in temperature and wind each year within the specific geographic area. This correction is applied to allow for more consistent comparison of gas consumption over time independent of yearly variations.  However, this effectively negates the utility of this indicator to reflect the effects of climate change. The current data sources available to DECC do not allow for removal of the weather correction factor from annual quantities (DECC, 2014a). A full description of the calculation is detailed in the methodology section.

Department of Energy & Climate Change (2012). Energy Security Strategy. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/65643/7101-energy-security-strategy.pdf

Department of Energy & Climate Change (2014a) Sub-national consumption statistics: Methodology and guidance booklet. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regional-energy-data-guidance-note

Department of Energy & Climate Change (2014b) Overview of weather correction of gas industry consumption data. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/overview-of-weather-correction-of-gas-industry-consumption-data

National Energy Efficiency Data framework (NEED) (2014). Summary of Analysis 2014. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-energy-efficiency-data-framework-need-report-summary-of-analysis-2014

National Records of Scotland (2014). High Level Summary of Statistics: Population and Migration.Available at: http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/files/statistics/high-level-summary/j11198/j1119800.htm

Palmer, J. & Cooper, I. (2013) United Kingdom housing energy fact file. DECC. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/345141/uk_housing_fact_file_2013.pdf

Scottish Environment Statistics Online (2015). Total amount of gas consumed in Scotland: 2005 – 2013. Available at: http://www.gov.scot/SESO/DatasetSearch.aspx?TID=197

The Scottish Government (2013). Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2013-2027: The Second Report on Proposals and Policies. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0042/00426134.pdf

The Scottish Government (2014). Energy in Scotland Compendium 2014. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0044/00444530.pdf

The Scottish Government (2015). Energy in Scotland 2015. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0046/00469235.pdf

The Digest of UK energy statistics is available at:


National Energy Efficiency Data framework (NEED information is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-energy-efficiency-data-framework-need-report-summary-of-analysis-2014

The 2015 Scottish Government energy report is available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0046/00469235.pdf

This indicator was produced by Ailsa Strathie, Lynne Jack and colleagues at Heriot-Watt University with input from Darcy Pimblett (CXC) and Katherine Beckmann (Heriot Watt and CXC).