The Scottish Government introduced Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES) in 2017, and have since been piloting them with all 32 Scottish local authorities. LHEES will set out the long-term plan for decarbonising heat in buildings and improving energy efficiency across an entire local authority area.
This report presents the evaluation of the third, and final, phase of LHEES pilots, which involved nine local authorities and took place between November 2019 and April 2021. The LHEES phase 3 pilots focused on areas with either high heat demand, and therefore with significant opportunity for district heating, or a high proportion of off gas grid properties.
Findings and lessons can be used to inform the further development and implementation of the LHEES programme by Scottish Government, local authorities and project partners.
Headline findings & lessons learnt
Focus of this round of pilots:
The LHEES phase 3 pilots sought to address areas with high heat demand to highlight opportunities for district heating. However, in practice, recommendations for most of the local authorities included the deployment of air and ground source heat pumps.
Theme 1: Outcomes and achievements
The LHEES pilot process enabled councils to identify challenges and opportunities around decarbonisation, energy efficiency, heat networks and fuel poverty in their areas. Partnership working with consultants was instrumental in delivering the pilots and is expected to be central to future authority-wide LHEES programmes.
- Adequate resourcing (including financial support, skills development and guidance) is critical for the successful delivery of LHEES.
- LHEES have the potential to enable access to other sources of funding such as Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP) to support implementation and transition to low carbon technologies.
Theme 2: Staffing and resources
Local authority ownership of the LHEES process, as well as awareness and support by senior officers and elected officials, were key factors influencing experiences with the LHEES pilot and the extent to which officers felt empowered to conduct the pilot. This was, in all cases, dependent on knowledge sharing and guidance from expert consultants. Alignment with existing commitments and policy goals around climate change and fuel poverty is a strength of LHEES.
- Getting the message of LHEES across to senior management and elected officials, and securing their awareness, support and engagement is critical.
- External expertise is instrumental for local authorities to develop an LHEES.
Theme 3: Data sources and gaps
The phase 3 pilots provided a valuable opportunity for local authorities to work with data in new ways and to access new sources of data. However, data and software issues remain a challenge, particularly lack of data on non-domestic buildings, resulting in these buildings featuring less prominently in the strategies.
- The ability of local authorities to access better energy performance data for non-domestic buildings, as it becomes available, will be essential for refining LHEES in areas where non-domestic buildings have been excluded from local decarbonisation plans.
- Many councils require software updates and upskilling of staff on use of software.
Theme 4: Stakeholder engagement
The Phase 3 pilots have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, making stakeholder engagement difficult. Moreover, local authority officers were unsure about who they should engage with around LHEES and how. They recognise this as a major challenge not only because of the task itself being resource and time consuming, but also because they do not feel sufficiently trained to deliver effective stakeholder engagement activities.
- Local authorities would benefit from support from the Scottish Government to enable them to developing stakeholder mapping, engagement and management skills.
Theme 5: Future implementation
Local authority officers involved in Phase 3 pilots were broadly supportive of LHEES becoming a statutory duty. This will be critical to secure both government funding and internal allocation of resources to the further development of authority wide LHEES. Local authorities emphasised the importance of both adequate funding from Scottish Government for the development of LHEES and of considering future funding streams for the implementation of actions to deliver the strategy. The LHEES methodology should provide sufficient structure and guidelines, while allowing LHEES and the LHEES process to be adapted to unique local circumstances.
- If LHEES is introduced as a statutory duty, adequate funding, reflecting a comprehensive understanding of the resources and skills required to effectively design and deliver LHEES will be vital.
- The methodology for delivering LHEES must be replicable and provide consistency and structure across different councils while being flexible enough to adapt to different local realities.