The Scottish Government has designated energy efficiency as a National Infrastructure Priority. The cornerstone of delivering this is Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP). 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.

A series of local authority-led pilot projects are currently testing innovative approaches to delivering energy efficiency and low carbon heat across the domestic and non-domestic sectors. We are evaluating the pilots to learn lessons for further roll out of the programme and for future energy policy. The research team work in close cooperation with the Energy Saving Trust, Scottish Government, and local authorities across the whole of Scotland.

Under SEEP, two pilot phases are currently in progress:

Phase 1 included nine local authorities and commenced in September 2016; Phase 2 included a further ten local authorities and started in September 2017. In addition, Phase 2 incorporated the opportunity to pilot Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES). At this preliminary stage, councils are required to set out area-based heat and energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation plans for a 15-20 year period.

Our evaluation of these pilots has included interviewing local authority officers, conducting surveys with building occupants who have experienced the retrofits, and technical monitoring of energy use and temperatures before and after retrofit. Our early findings have been presented in Phase 1 and Phase 2 interim reports. These have looked at the pilot projects' governance, management, and partnership structures.

They provide valuable lessons for extending the rollout of SEEP across Scotland, in particular:

  • Managing the coordination of area-based retrofit of a relatively small number of buildings required significant local authority staff time; data collection requirements for both the technical and social aspects of the evaluation, as well as financial investment in technical monitoring equipment, were also challenging.
  • Councils use varied approaches to project delivery. Some carried out installation of monitoring equipment and survey data collection using in-house resources; others needed to appoint external contractors to carry out these tasks.

  • Alignment across governmental scales and regions is needed. This includes Scottish and UK Government policies, as well as alignment across Scottish Government departments, and local authority departments.

  • A Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy (LHEES) needs distinctively local elements to address the specific contexts of each area. Equally there is recognition of the opportunity to pool energy expertise across Scotland in a way that can be accessed by all local authorities, as well as developing standardised ‘best practice’ methodologies to ensure consistency across the country, and to deal with uncertainty in data and methodologies.

  • Local authorities highlighted the need for widespread 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.