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Sociology: News


Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP) – what can we learn from the first projects?

Kick-off local authority workshop

SEEP workshop

Edinburgh sociologists are working with Scottish central and local governments on the development of Scotland’s radical energy efficiency programme. This stage of our project asks what we can learn from the first round of energy efficiency pilots, which are led by 11 local authorities across Scotland.

In 2015, Scottish politicians designated energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, with plans to improve the standards of thermal comfort in every building in the country – commercial, public and residential - and to reduce the need for heating.

At the same time, Scotland’s climate change plans mean an end to the use of fossil fuels, including methane gas, for heating. These major innovations are commonly thought of as technical problems, with engineering solutions, but our research shows that we already have most of the technical solutions – we just aren’t using them. Hence there are big questions about the kinds of societal innovations needed for new understandings of energy supply and use, and for clean heating systems, in homes, public facilities and workplaces.

In a first small step, our workshop brought together representatives from 8 of the local authorities and their partners responsible for the energy efficiency pilot projects, as well as Energy Saving Trust and Scottish Government officials. The projects are testing innovative approaches to energy efficiency upgrades and low carbon heating for both domestic and non-domestic buildings.

The workshop was an opportunity for all participants to learn about each other’s plans, and to do some mutual problem solving, given the difficulties of managing an area-based approach to the work. Participants discussed their objectives, the demands of the monitoring actual energy use in buildings, the issues of persuading building owners to sign up, how to use a social survey to assess people’s responses to the work, and next steps towards completing the project.

From 2018, SEEP will be the ‘cornerstone’ of Scottish Government policy for reducing the need for energy and decarbonising heat supply in the residential and service sectors. The Scottish Government’s draft Climate Change Plan (published for consultation on 19 January 2017) sets out strong ambitions for the residential and service sectors to reduce their emissions by 75% and 98% respectively by 2032.

The evaluation of the pilots, led by Prof. Jan Webb and Dr. Ruth Bush from the Heat and the City research group, is funded through Scottish ClimateXChange. Working with government and local authorities, our findings will inform the development of this major change in energy policy, practice and society.

Read more and follow outputs from the project: