Net zero heating and energy efficiency standards - phase 1 and 2: qualitative research

The Scottish Government commissioned Energy Saving Trust and Taylor McKenzie to undertake research to explore attitudes of homeowners in Scotland to the potential regulatory standards that may be implemented over 2025 to 2045 , dependent on further consultation.

1. Executive summary

The Scottish Government commissioned Energy Saving Trust and Taylor McKenzie to undertake research to explore attitudes of homeowners in Scotland to the potential regulatory standards that may be implemented over 2025 – 2045 , dependent on further consultation, for both zero emissions heating and energy efficiency in domestic properties. The qualitative research was conducted in two phases and this report outlines the findings from both phases of the work. A total of 20 focus groups were conducted with 120 homeowners from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, locations and housing types. The research explored participants' views on: (i) the concept of net zero, (ii) three proposed scenarios for introducing new regulations, (iii) the support needed to comply with any new regulations and (iv) the fairest way to introduce these regulations in a phased approach.

Overall, there were similar views on the topics discussed across all types of participants. Energy Saving Trust's analysis highlights two clear issues that need addressing for any regulations that come into force:

  • Clear communications to raise awareness. More specifically, participants expressed a desire for more information on:
    • what net zero means and what the impact of not working towards being net zero is, both globally and to them personally
    • what the regulations are and when they come into force
    • what zero direct emissions heating is and how it works
    • what they personally need to do to meet the regulations
    • how they can go about making these changes and who can advise them on what to do
    • the economics of the required changes – how much it will cost to install, what the servicing costs are, what, if any, the cost savings will be and what financial support will be provided
  • Financial support. There was an expectation that there will be financial support available to homeowners for any required changes. This was especially the case for those on low incomes, with some suggestions that financial support was means-tested to support the most vulnerable. Suggestions for financial support include grants, interest-free loans, equity loans and financial support tied into mortgage repayments.

Three scenarios of how potential new regulations could be introduced were presented to participants. The most salient views on these included:

  • Any home changing ownership would be required to meet a minimum energy efficiency standard and have a zero-emissions heating system installed – this was seen as unfair on the buyer as it will be an additional cost in buying a property which is already an expensive process. This was seen as especially unfair for first-time buyers and the financially vulnerable. Participants said that having to make the changes would not be achievable for many who are struggling to afford to buy a property in the first place and so would not have any savings left over to pay for the required changes.
  • The regulations would set deadlines for property owners to carry out certain energy efficiency improvements (2033) and zero emissions heating system installations (2045) – this was seen as the fairest and most achievable scenario out of the three. It gives people time to prepare and know what they need to do.
  • The regulations would apply at the point of boiler breakdown – this was also seen as unfair due to having to do this in an emergency situation. Almost all participants said that if their heating system broke, they would need to replace it as soon as possible and they would not have the time to research a technology that they do not know much about let alone the time to raise additional funds over and above what they would have to spend on replacing like for like.

According to the participants, the Scottish Government should lead by example by upgrading council housing and public buildings first. Vulnerable groups eg low income, older adults etc. should be the last ones required to comply with the regulations, unless they are financially supported by the government to do so. Properties not falling into either of these two categories should comply in a phased approach, based on either a property's environmental impact or a homeowner's ability to pay.



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