How to Heat Scotland's Homes

Social innovation agency, Nesta in Scotland, commissioned Energy Systems Catapult to help Scotland better understand which dwellings are most and least well suited to the transition to ground and air source heat pumps.

One of Nesta’s focus areas is to help Scotland to reach net zero by 2045 by accelerating the decarbonisation of household activities and to help boost productivity and people’s prosperity by developing skills for green jobs.

This included supporting a 28 per cent reduction in household emission by 2030. This will require wholesale change to the way homes are heated, away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.

One of the problems, however, is that mains gas, which makes up 81% of Scottish household heating fuel (11 per cent use electricity and 5 per cent use oil), is a very effective way to heat poorly insulated and drafty homes. And the UK’s homes are some of the worst performing in Europe.

With an objective to identify the barriers to installing low carbon heating technologies within existing housing stock in Scotland and the steps required to overcome them,  Nesta asked Energy Systems Catapult to test some of their assumptions about the suitability of different property types’ for ground and air source heat pump installations:

  • Low-carbon domestic heating options will be costly to install.
  • The running costs and effectiveness of heat pumps will vary in different types of properties.
  • There is a portion of Scotland’s housing stock for which heat humps may not be a viable heating option at all.
  • Older tenement flats (which are around 28 per cent of urban housing stock in Scotland) pose particular problems to become sufficiently energy efficient and to site and install a heat pump.

Key points

As part of this research Energy Systems Catapult collated energy efficiency data for several housing archetypes and conducted detailed modelling – using our Home Energy Dynamics tool – for heating a tenement flat in different retrofit/upgrade scenarios.

The report How to Heat Scotland’s Homes found that:

  • Housing stock in Scotland has a poor standard of energy efficiency with over 70 per cent of dwellings having an EPC rating D or C and 15 per cent having the lowest ratings of E, F or G.
  • Barriers to installation of heat pumps, including cost, supply, public awareness and practicalities such as space, exist across all housing types in Scotland.
  • Older, pre-1914 housing stock such as tenement blocks would require substantial and costly energy efficiency measures including to the fabric of the buildings (often prohibited by current planning restrictions), in order for heat pumps to deliver an acceptable standard of comfort and cost.

Decarbonising the way we heat our homes in Scotland is an essential step towards our Net Zero target. This research highlights how doing so will mean overcoming numerous challenges and developing and testing multiple solutions to suit the different requirements of different homes.

Read the Report

How to Heat Scotland's Homes

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