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 are providing an evaluation of all three pilot phases to learn lessons for further roll out of the programme and to make recommendations for future energy policy. Our evaluation includes 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 work 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 was completed in Spring 2018; this included projects across nine local authorities and commenced in September 2016. 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 includes a further ten local authorities and started in September 2017. Alongside domestic and non-domestic building retrofits, Phase 2 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 15-20 year period.

Read the first LHEES pilot evaluation report

Phase 3 (or the Transition Phase) includes an additional 17 local authorities, and commenced in September 2018. 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, and will be published later in the year. This round also included further LHEES pilots.

Read the second LHEES pilot 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 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 varied approaches. Some used in-house resources for project planning and delivery; others appointed external contractors to carry out these tasks. 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 Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES) needs to combine distinctively 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.