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Energy Saving Trust report provides insight into Scotland’s ambitious energy efficiency programmes

Energy Saving Trust report provides insight into Scotland’s ambitious energy efficiency programmesTuesday, 29 October, 2019

Energy Saving Trust’s report, issued 29 October 2019, aims to respond to the demand for information about the home energy efficiency programmes it delivers on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Calton Hill view of Edinburgh

Our report aims to give stakeholders and policy makers inside and outside Scotland a clear picture of the range of Scotland’s home energy programmes.  It explains why Scotland has declared energy efficiency a National Infrastructure Priority.

The report also provides detail of key home energy policies managed for Scottish Government by the Energy Saving Trust. As one of the Scottish Government’s principal delivery partners in this area of policy, we manage many elements of the Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland (HEEPS), including grant, loan and other financing programmes. And we manage Home Energy Scotland – the single point of telephone, face-to-face and web-based contact for households who want to cut their carbon emissions or home energy bills.

Download the 2019 Energy Saving Trust Scottish Home Energy Programmes report in full.

For people concerned about addressing climate change and fuel poverty, particularly in England, some of the key learnings from this new report are:

1. Energy Efficiency as a National Infrastructure Priority addresses climate emergency, fuel poverty and economic growth objectives

The new report explains how Scottish Government’s designation of energy efficiency as an Infrastructure Priority forms part of a plan to end ‘Scotland’s contribution to climate change, definitively, within a generation’ and to eradicate fuel poverty.  But the priority given to energy efficiency also reflects the many economic benefits associated with energy efficiency. These are summarised by the Scottish Government as follows:

‘… [energy efficiency] puts money in people’s pockets, delivers savings to the public sector to reinvest in frontline services, and improves the competitiveness of our businesses Investing in energy efficiency will boost growth, with research showing a 10% improvement in the energy efficiency of all UK households leads to a sustained GDP expansion of around 0.16%’[1]

2. Households can access support through a range of attractive financial offers with grants and loans targeted at both lower income and able-to-pay households

There’s wide agreement that English households need additional financial support to help pay for energy efficiency improvements.  For example, although the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) financing programme is now fully targeted at low income households across Great Britain, the Committee on Fuel Poverty argues that: 'an enduring recurrent funding stream should be created to deliver the fuel poverty target [for England] by 2030.'[2]

In Scotland, financing is available to households at different stages of life and at different income levels. Zero interest loans are available for all households up to £28,000 for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.  Meanwhile, for households on a low income - and at risk of fuel poverty – Warmer Homes Scotland is Scotland’s national fuel poverty programme. Opened to applications in September 2015, Warmer Homes Scotland will spend at least £16 million plus VAT per year for up to seven years. Warmer Homes Scotland is available to vulnerable households in the private sector (tenants or owner-occupiers) and the programme offers fabric measures, such as insulation, as well as heating measures.    

Local authorities lead area-based programmes funded by Scottish Government to install measures in areas with high levels of fuel poverty. This funding is combined with owners’ contributions and funding from registered social landlords, who may choose to insulate their homes at the same time. Both Warmer Homes Scotland and area based schemes also draw down Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding, in order to install as many measures as possible in homes.

Beyond loans and grants, a Scottish Government equity release scheme is now available in some areas, enabling households to release funding from their home to make energy efficiency improvements.

The net effect is a wide range of different funded programmes and activity, with householders able to access the support that’s right for them.

3. A single point of contact provides access to government schemes and free, impartial, expert energy saving advice.

At the centre of Scottish programme delivery in home energy is the Home Energy Scotland advice service. To take advantage of many of the Scottish Government’s energy efficiency programmes, householders must first speak to an expert, local Home Energy Scotland advisor. As well as explaining the funding programmes, the Home Energy Scotland advisor can talk about low cost and no-cost energy saving steps the household can take, and refer callers to support with energy tariffs and welfare benefits.  

The importance of the advice provided by Home Energy Scotland is stressed in the Scottish Government’s Route Map for the new Energy Efficiency Scotland Programme (due to start officially in 2020) which notes that the ‘foundation of the programme offer’ is that ‘all households will be able to access good quality, independent advice and information on improving the energy efficiency of their property and reducing their fuel bills’ and that ‘independent advice will be the bedrock’ of the programme.

And it’s not just telephone advice.  Broadly, three types of advice are provided under Home Energy Scotland:

  • Personalised advice delivered over the phone by trained advisors working from regional advice centres across Scotland.
  • Free, in-home expert advice for households identified as needing in-depth advice and support: whether that’s very vulnerable households or people installing more complex home energy measures such as a renewable heating system.
  • Online advice consisting of both static webpages and online tools, managed and provided centrally by Energy Saving Trust on behalf of the Scottish Government.

And the provision of advice is continuing to evolve. For example, where home owners have a next generation smart meter, and have given permission for data access, Home Energy Scotland advisors can now base their advice on the smart meter data.

Conclusion

Most people interested in decarbonising our buildings, or in ending fuel poverty, know that there’s a lot more government activity to promote energy efficient homes in Scotland than there is in England. Last year, the think tank E3G estimated that Scotland spent four times a much per citizen on home energy efficiency as England in 2017[3]

Our new report on Scottish programmes provides pointers for policy options that could be developed in England. Energy Saving Trust is also a member of the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group (EEIG), which has just published an updated report, setting out the action needed from Government to deliver an equivalent retrofit programme in England. 

But it’s not just about funding: at Energy Saving Trust, we would particularly point to the Home Energy Scotland advice and single point of contact customer support infrastructure as a central part of the policy mix. 

There is an impressive range of home energy programmes in Scotland but, of course, even the Scottish Government recognises that: 'Energy Efficient Scotland is a very ambitious programme, with challenging targets.'[4] 

And the targets have become more stretching now that Scotland, like England, has adopted a Net Zero carbon emissions target (for the year 2045), in line with Committee on Climate Change advice. Hitting Net Zero will require achievement of further, major improvements to building insulation in both Scotland and England. Most importantly, it will require a wholesale change to low carbon heating systems in homes.  Nonetheless the home energy policy infrastructure in place in Scotland, for example around advice, provides a strong basis to achieve the next stage in the home energy transition.