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 proposed to 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 four phases and this report outlines the findings from phases three and four. A total of 12 focus groups were conducted during the last two phases, with 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, (iv) the fairest way to introduce these regulations in a phased approach and (v) the different ways in which the public can be educated on the proposed regulations and home upgrades that will be required to reach the net zero targets.
Overall, there were similar views on the topics discussed across all types of participants. Energy Saving Trust’s analysis highlights two areas that need to be considered before any regulations come into force:
- clear advice on what is required of homeowners and why through an engagement/awareness campaign. Participants are looking mainly to the Scottish Government to provide advice and clear information on the regulations and what is needed to meet the standards. The information must be easily accessible and simple to understand, and the Scottish Government should also signpost people to other trusted sources which might offer advice and explanations.
- Financial support. Due to the current cost of living crisis, all participants requested significant financial support available to everyone who asks for it, not only the most vulnerable. Many mentioned that there is an assumption that people who own their own homes have disposable income and money to spend on home improvements, however, given the current climate, many people who would be considered financially stable are struggling. Support might be in the form of grants, interest-free loans, equity loans, arrangements through mortgages or other incentives i.e. reduced electricity bills, tax relief etc. All financial support must be signposted with clear information on eligibility and must be easily accessible.
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 – The overall reaction to this scenario was negative, specifically for the new or soon-to-be buyers. According to the participants, this scenario would harm the housing market and people's ability to buy properties.
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 considered the least wasteful way to implement changes as it does not enforce the replacement of heating systems that still work well. Questions were raised about the practicality of making these changes in an emergency because participants were aware that more work needs to be done in a house before a heat pump is installed.
There needs to be a large-scale campaign to engage with the public about all required changes and the reasoning behind them. The campaign needs to be widely distributed and target all aspects of the population; it needs to start with an upfront ‘education’ piece to help people understand why the changes are required, what net zero means and the impact it will have on people and their properties. The information needs to be distributed as soon as possible, to give people enough time to understand what is going to change and the impact this will have on them.
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