Effective tenant engagement needs to be carried out by social landlords when installing new heating systems to ensure affordability for tenants, recommends new research published today by environmental charity Changeworks.

Hot off the Grid: Delivering energy efficiency to rural, off-gas Scotland is a report commissioned by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) which researches heating replacements in social housing in off-gas, rural parts of Scotland and reviews how energy efficiency and fuel poverty schemes have been delivered these areas.

Changeworks carried out energy surveying and modelling of heating systems, research with social landlords and social housing tenants and a review of energy efficiency schemes, mapping which areas had benefitted most and least, in partnership with CAG Consultants.

Tessa Clark, Changeworks’ Senior Consultant says, “The research tells us newer technologies, such as air source heat pumps and ‘smart’ storage heaters, are becoming more commonplace in social housing in off-gas rural areas in Scotland. This is positive, as people in rural Scotland are subject to more expensive heating fuels than mains gas, such as electricity, liquid petroleum gas and oil. We also found that while most tenants were broadly satisfied with their new heating system, landlords need to carry out more effective tenant engagement, such as demonstrations, to ensure all tenants gain the full benefits of the new system. We’ve found this to be a recurring issue, backed up by our previous research in energy and fuel poverty.”

Report findings and recommendations are relevant and of interest to social landlords, UK and Scottish Government.

Findings include:

  • Social landlords are installing new heating systems into their properties because old heating systems are outdated, they need to meet energy efficiency standards set out in the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) and to reduce tenants’ bills
  • A range of heating systems are being fitted, such as wet electric boilers, biomass boilers and smart storage heaters, with air source heat pumps (ASHPs) the most common
  • Landlord and tenant experiences suggest that no one technology offers the best solution but that different technologies suit different circumstances and different householders
  • Tenant engagement and support is often considered by landlords but more needs to be done and done well to maximise energy bill savings (more details provided in the report recommendations)
  • Energy modelling shows that new heating systems are likely to reduce tenants’ energy bills, however there are cases where this hasn’t happened. Some technologies will have greater impact
  • Analysis shows that overall energy efficiency schemes running until the start of the Energy Company Obligation in 2013 have not had an urban bias. On average, rural areas have benefitted slightly less in terms of number of measures installed per household, than the overall average. But, this does not equate to an overall urban bias because large urban areas have also benefitted less than the average.
  • UK and Scottish Governments need to consider rural off gas areas when developing schemes to tackle energy efficiency and fuel poverty, especially given the high levels of fuel poverty in these areas.



  1. Changeworks is one of Scotland’s largest environmental charities, working with organisations, communities and individuals to deliver practical solutions that reduce carbon emissions, fuel poverty and waste www.changeworks.org.uk
  2. Research report Hot off the Grid:Delivering energy efficiency to rural, off-gas Scotland, was commissioned by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) and is available on Changeworks (with appendices) and CAS websites
  3. The Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) sets out minimum energy efficiency standards for social landlords in Scotland to meet by 2020
  4. The research report and findings was launched at Citizens Advice Scotland’s conference ‘Energy in Scotland – Future for Consumers’, 29 June 2016.
  5. CAG Consultants partnered with Changeworks to carry out the research. www.cagconsultants.co.uk