Energy efficiency in homes

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We are improving the energy efficiency of homes in Scotland to support our work on eradicating fuel poverty, and to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, energy efficiency improvement alone will not get us close to our targets for net zero. We need a strong focus on heating system change to low and zero-carbon heating technologies. To help with this, we will introduce regulations and provide financial support to promote the uptake of such heating systems, as detailed below.

With around 2.45 million homes in Scotland, all varied in type, use, size, age, construction, and energy efficiency, this work will bring many challenges.

One of the ways in which we are improving home energy efficiency is by proposing long-term domestic standards.

In the Heat in buildings strategy (October 2021), we have also set out plans for how we will introduce regulations by 2025 for:

To prevent poor energy efficiency from contributing to fuel poverty, we have also set clear targets for improving the energy efficiency standards to the equivalent of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) B for households in fuel poverty.

Long-term domestic standards

Our consultation on Scotland’s Heat in buildings strategy demonstrated a clear consensus around setting long-term targets for energy efficiency in Scotland. In response, we will introduce regulations requiring that all residential properties in Scotland achieve an Energy Performance Certificate rating of at least equivalent to EPC C by 2033, where technically and legally feasible and cost-effective.

We are using EPCs to set the standard because the consultation showed that EPCs are widely known and provide a clear way to model and understand a building's energy performance. We are, however, aware of issues with the current EPC system, which we are planning to address through reform. We consulted in 2021 on our proposals to reform the EPC framework as set out in the Heat in buildings strategy.

Read the Energy Performance Certificates section for more information.

Standards for the social rented sector

We introduced the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) in 2014. As a result, homes in the social rented sector are now some of the most energy efficient in Scotland, with 88% already achieving EPC D or above.

The EESSH set a first milestone for social landlords to meet for social rented homes by 31 December 2020. A second milestone (EESSH2) was confirmed in June 2019, for social rented houses to meet by December 2032. The EESSH2 milestone is that:

"All social housing meets, or can be treated as meeting, EPC Band B (Energy Efficiency rating), or is as energy efficient as practically possible, by the end of December 2032 and within the limits of cost, technology and necessary consent."

In addition, no social housing below EPC Band D should be re-let from December 2025, subject to temporary specified exemptions.

We convened a review of EESSH2 in September 2022, to bring it in line with the Scottish Government’s net zero target, and our guiding principles of a just transition that is fair to everyone and leaves no one behind.

During the review of EESSH2 the 2025 and 2032 milestones are temporarily put on hold.

Interim guidance for social landlords has been issued to the sector for during the interim period until a new standard is established, acknowledging the need for the sector to have clarity whilst the review is under way.

Standards for the private rented sector

Private rented accommodation generally has poorer energy efficiency than other areas in the domestic sector. We are committed to improving the energy efficiency of these homes so that tenants can enjoy homes that are warmer and cheaper to heat.

The Heat in buildings strategy consolidates our approach to the zero emissions heat transition, finalising the draft published for consultation in February 2021 and providing a firm foundation for the heat transition in Scotland. 

It also confirms our approach to the introduction of a regulatory framework for energy efficiency and heat supply. This strengthens previous commitments made in the 2018 Energy Efficient Scotland Route Map, so that it covers both energy efficiency and zero-emissions heating to the extent that our powers allow.

  • for the private rented sector, we had previously committed to the introduction of regulations to ensure properties reached EPC D by 2025. However, in recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector this will not now be taken forward. Instead we have committed to work with the sector to introduce regulations in 2025, requiring all private rented properties to reach a minimum energy efficiency standard equivalent to EPC C, where technically feasible and cost-effective, by 2028
  • this change reflects our recognition of the ongoing pressure being faced by this sector, whilst maintaining our commitment to improving the energy efficiency of all domestic housing stock in Scotland
  • our Heat in Buildings Strategy also sets out our proposals that would prohibit all buildings (including privately rented homes) from using direct emissions heating systems by 2045

We intend to consult in 2023 on proposals that could inform a Heat in Buildings Bill, and the regulations that would follow, including on energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector.

Standards for owner occupiers

In 2019, 62% of homes were owner occupied, of which only 42% were rated as Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C or better. We have set out in our Heat in buildings strategy proposals to introduce energy efficiency regulations between 2023 to 2025 requiring all owner occupier homes to be energy efficient, meeting an EPC band C equivalent where technically feasible and cost effective. Our Heat in Buildings Strategy also sets out our proposals that would prohibit all buildings (including owner-occupied homes) from using direct emissions heating systems by 2045.

In December 2019, we consulted on proposals for introducing minimum energy efficiency standards in owner occupied housing, which included potential options for defining cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility, options for compliance and reform of the EPC assessment process. We intend to consult in 2023 on proposals that could inform a Heat in Buildings Bill, and the regulations that would follow, including on energy efficiency standards for owner-occupied homes.

Households in fuel poverty

The Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act sets statutory targets for reducing fuel poverty. It also introduces a new definition which aligns fuel poverty more closely with relative income poverty and requires Scottish ministers to produce a comprehensive strategy to show how they intend to meet the targets. 

The Fuel Poverty strategy (December 2021) includes actions to tackle each of the four drivers of fuel poverty:

  • poor energy efficiency of the home
  • high energy costs
  • low household income
  • how energy is used in the home

We already have a range of energy saving home improvements schemes to support people who have difficulty paying their fuel bills or keeping their home warm.

Further information is available on our home energy and fuel poverty policy.

Standards for domestic heating

Fossil fuel heating systems – such as gas and oil boilers as well as LPG systems – supply space heating (and often hot water) services to around 89% of Scotland’s homes.

Our use of fossil fuel heating systems makes a significant contribution to Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions, but there are alternatives, such as heat pumps and heat networks, which produce zero direct emissions (ZDE).

To encourage the transition to ZDE heating systems, we will legislate to introduce a new heat standard for Scotland that will require all homes to use ZDE heating systems by a ‘backstop date’ in 2045.

This legislation will support our commitment to phasing out the need to install new or replacement fossil fuel boilers in off gas properties from 2025, and in on-gas areas from 2030.

It may be appropriate to have an earlier ‘backstop date’ for certain types of properties or areas. This could, for example, apply in the ‘low regrets' areas of activity, such as where heat network zones have been identified and a heat network is available, or in high emissions properties, such as those that currently use heating oil or coal as their primary heating fuel.

We will consult further on these proposals during 2022 and, in doing so, we will consider whether these regulations will use the same (or similar) trigger points as those applying to energy efficiency standards.

New build heat standards (NBHS)

On 21 September 2023, the Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2023 (i.e. the NBHS) became law. This will require all new homes and buildings - constructed under a building warrant applied for on or after 1 April 2024 - to no longer use direct emissions heating systems. This means that, where there is an installed heating system contained within the curtilage of a new building, it will be required to produce zero direct greenhouse gas emissions (at the point of use). The NBHS is technology agnostic, allowing developers flexibility in the choice of technology used.

An external working group was established to act as a ‘critical friend’ and provide advice and expertise during the development of the NBHS, and the Scottish Government continues to work with the construction, property and commercial development sectors in advance of these regulations coming into force. 

More information can be found here:

We continue to liaise with the UK Government on their equivalent Future Homes and Future Building Standards (to be introduced in 2025).

Multi-owner and mixed-use buildings

Multi-owner and mixed-use buildings make up a significant portion of the building stock, with tenements and other flats accounting for around 40% of all homes in Scotland.

These buildings can include a mixture of owner occupied, private rented and social housing, or include commercial properties. While some energy efficiency measures can be installed in individual flats, others have to be performed at once and across the whole building for works to be technically feasible and cost effective. In some cases, a communal heat solution may also have advantages over individual systems. It may, therefore, be more helpful for energy efficiency measures and new heating systems to be installed in whole buildings rather than individual flats.

Carrying out common works to improve energy efficiency or install a communal zero emissions heating system in a multi-owner and/or mixed-use building requires owners to act together and can prove challenging. To facilitate common works we have asked the Scottish Law Commission to undertake a Law Reform Project with a view to drafting a new Tenements Maintenance Bill. This proposal builds on recommendations made by the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Working Group on Tenement Maintenance.

The Heat in Buildings Strategy acknowledges the unique challenges that are presented in tenements and other flats and buildings which have multiple-owners and mixed tenures. Some energy efficiency and zero emissions heating upgrades have to be performed at once and across the whole building for works to be technically-feasible and cost-effective. Energy efficiency and heat standards may need to apply to whole building rather than individual flats. An expert Tenements Short Life Working Group was convened in February 2022 and reported its recommendations to the Minister in March 2023. The Scottish Government will consult in 2023 on options for a regulatory approach for mixed-tenure buildings which would see them required to reach a good level of energy efficiency, equivalent to EPC C rating, where technically feasible and cost effective, and install a zero emissions heating supply by 2045.

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