Zero Emission Social Housing Taskforce minutes: 29 April 2021

Minutes of the Zero Emission Social Housing Taskforce meeting held on 29 April 2021

Attendees and apologies

  • Aubrey Fawcett – Chief Executive, Inverclyde Council and SOLACE
  • David Bookbinder – Glasgow & West of Scotland Forum for Housing Associations (GWSF)
  • Laura Caven – Cosla
  • Michael Cameron – Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR)
  • Tony Cain – ALACHO
  • Ross Anderson – ALACHO
  • Mark McArthur – Energy Saving Trust (EST)
  • Craig Spence – Orkney HA
  • Bryan Leask - Hjaltland HA and Rural and Islands Housing Association Forum
  • Paul Leask - Hjaltland HA and Rural and Islands Housing Association Forum
  • Jon Turner – Link HA
  • Patrick McGrath – Southside HA
  • Chris Morgan – John Gilbert Architects
  • Barbara Lantschner – John Gilbert Architects
  • Casandra Dove – SFHA
  • Stephen Kemp – Orkney Builders
  • Sean Smith – Edinburgh University
  • Roddy Hamilton – Changeworks
  • Paul Thom – Changeworks

SG Secretariat

  • Naeem Bhatti – Scottish Government
  • Catriona MacKean – Scottish Government
  • Simon Roberts – Scottish Government
  • Tony Cruickshank – Scottish Government
  • Josh Kumar – Scottish Government


  • Sally Thomas – CEO, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA)
  • Stacey Dingwall – SFHA
  • Duncan Smith – Renfrewshire Council
  • Bruce Cuthbertson – Tenant Representation
  • Colin Reid – Wheatley Group

Items and actions

Actions from the previous group meeting and acceptance of previous meeting note

  • The actions form the previous group meeting of the 15 April were reviewed and the note of the meeting was agreed as a formal accurate record of the discussion.

Terms of Reference (ToR)

  • An additional bullet on the challenges and opportunities for island and rural housing was added to the framing question on barriers as per comments received from members. The ToR as amended was agreed.

Outputs from the Technical Sub-Group and next steps

  • The chair gave an update on the discussion from the Technical Sub-Group meeting and provided details of the topics that were discussed:
    • Fabric improvements being carried out first is fundamental to helping to reduce demand for heat and ensure more efficient use of heating – noted that fabric investment is a one-off cost compared with ongoing cost of maintaining and renewing other solutions.  
    • Making sure that requirements are client led as opposed to industry led solutions, that may or may not meet the bespoke requirements of a landlord’s housing stoc.
    • Concern that there is a significant performance gap between what is modelled and what investment actually delivers, quality assurance of  insulation is installed correctly and performs as designed are crucial.
    • Requirement for standard / easy to understand user manuals for tenants are important to ensure systems designed deliver what is envisaged, keeping things simple will help to get the best use of heating systems as any system that are not easy to understand will likely result in inefficient use and potentially higher energy costs for the end user.
    • The need to have design guides covering the various building types, especially tenements, 
    • The need for utility companies to be doing better,
    • The need to protect tenants going forward,
    • The need for pilots to be undertaken for projects to test other potential solutions that could be deployed such as microwave boilers.

In discussion the following points were made:

  • The review of EESHH2 was discussed and how it may not be compatible with a net zero approach. It could be more time-bound and focus on fabric improvements and educating consumers on their demands for heat.
  • Agreement that the need for newer technologies to be piloted for the foreseeable future to help consumers understand how to get the best form their current heating system.
  • Challenge on the relative contribution of social housing to overall emissions compared with other sectors, concern that this must be balanced with the impact on tenants as landlords will need to take account of how their investments will deliver value for money and achieve other requirements of services to tenant within the available financial resources.   
  • Experience with heat pumps in Orkney has not delivered what was originally envisaged due to component failures leading to higher maintenances and tenants not able to use the systems as envisaged.  A process is now underway of removing heat pumps for electric heating.   
  • Agreement that there is need to recognise the risk to social tenants for testing new technologies that may or may not work , but this should be balanced with the opportunity for social housing to lead the way, and we want people to have the best possible homes.
  • Agreement that another Tech Sub-Group meeting is required with a focus on capital costs and funding.
  • There is a need to take account of embedded carbon in the production of “zero carbon” systems.
  • Concerns about funding, if there are changes to current funding routes to require specific accreditation, that could make it more difficult to source local suppliers, especially in rural and island areas.

Papers for discussion


  • A paper was presented on the Scottish Government’s current position on Hydrogen.  
  • Funding provided by the Scottish Government for pilots currently being undertaken, to help gather the evidence base for the safe and potential use of using hydrogen in the gas grid in the future.  Pilots in Scotland and other parts of the UK will help inform the UK government’s decision on whether hydrogen could be used or not in the future as a decarbonised technology.   Some evidence emerging that hydrogen may not be the solution that was envisaged, but further work is needed which the current pilots will provide the necessary data. 
  • Agreement of the need to look at other technologies. Small number of members raised the question of  what would be plan ‘B’ if Hydrogen does not work Achieving a 20% blended mixing of hydrogen and methane in existing network would reduce rather than eliminates carbon in supply.
  • Due to the long lead in time to develop the evidence base before a decision on the future of hydrogen can be confirmed by the UK Government, it is important that near deployment technologies are considered to ensure time and opportunities will not  be lost if Scotland is to achieve its target of decarbonising homes by 2030.

Legislative Approaches

  • A paper was presented on the current legislation being undertaken and considered by the Scottish Government leading up to 2025. Noted:
    • Approach to new build is different from existing buildings
    • For existing buildings aim is broadly EPC C by 2035 or fabric measures if this cannot be achieved
    • For private rented similar by 2028
    • For social rented EESSH (non-statutory)
    • Intention to consult on reform of EPCs and consider new indicators
  • Concern about the alignment of all the legislation, will the right standard in different sectors, and for mixed tenure/mixed use buildings be achievd?
  • Agreement that the relationship  between what if and what is required to be done to be considered fully, in particular the impact on historical buildings and the need for investment.
  • The question of creating a Scottish version of SAP was asked. The existing system does not accurately reflect the improvements carried out to decarbonise heat/reduce emissions. Also SAP is insensitive to fabric performance.

Mapping and interdependencies work

  • An update was provided on the work currently being undertaken and it was agreed that the Scottish Government would provide a paper and update on the issues at the next group meeting.

Key priorities of the group

Work plan

  • Following changes to the work plan based on members’ comments, it was agreed by the ZEST group.

Costs & Affordability sub-group

  • The chair indicated that a sub-group would be set up to look at costs and affordability and the impact of these on tenants. Like the technical sub-group, members will be identified by the co-chairs  who would be contacted by the Scottish Government secretariat regarding a meeting date.
  • costs will be significant and there are likely to be potential impact on rents. The group will  consider both capital costs and on-going fuel costs.

Technical sub-group

  • Agreed the sub-group should continue to meet
  • A systematic exercise to get data is needed, to identify the gaps, and which house types require what solutions
  • View that the sub-group should carry on after ZEST report, if continued until Spring 2022 could help to cost models and inform infrastructure planning.
  • Suggestion was made that the sub-group could usefully examine  what is happening in other countries; some of them are further forward for decarbonising buildings than Scotland.

Actions & AOB​​​​​​​

  • Additional technical  sub-group meeting to be held, with calendar request to be issued once agreed by chairs.
  • Costs and affordability sub-group meeting request to be issued once membership and ToR has been agreed.
  • Scottish Government to provide papers on mapping for the next ZEST Group meeting.

Date of next meeting

13 May 2021 at 1.30pm to 2.30pm

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