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20 February 2023

Press Release

For immediate release

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Heat pumps, a cleaner future for Scotland's homes

A new report by WWF Scotland shows that Scotland could successfully make the switch from traditional oil and gas boilers to electric heat pumps to keep our homes warm, affordable to heat and climate friendly. [1]

The analysis by Cambridge Architectural Research [2] found that heat pumps can be fitted in all types of Scottish home [3] and are likely to be a cheaper way to heat our houses when Scottish Government proposals come into force in 2025 [4]. Around half of homes will require moderate cost insulation improvements to enjoy cheaper bills with heat pumps [5]. With renewables providing the vast majority of Scotland’s electricity, they can also cut a typical Scottish home’s annual carbon emissions by up to 90%.

Presently homes account for 30% of all energy used in Scotland, with 90% of that coming from fossil fuels. The switch to renewable heat is happening too slowly, with emissions from homes falling only 2% since 2015. With high fossil fuel prices driving the cost-of-living crisis, heat pumps and energy efficiency measures are the best way to minimise fuel poverty and tackle climate change at the same time.

The Scottish Government has already proposed regulations that would require low-carbon heating and energy efficiency to be installed in specific circumstances – such as when replacing a boiler or purchasing a house [6]. These proposals are vital to increase activity, and are going in the right direction, but WWF is urgently calling for more detail and more ambition.

These vital regulations could help lower energy bills, but households will need support with initial upfront costs. That’s why WWF Scotland is also calling on the Scottish Government to continue providing grants alongside regulations, with households in fuel poverty having all costs covered [7] with upfront grants provided to others. The estimated cost of installing a heat pump starts at around £12,000, but with current Scottish Government grant support, the amount paid by householders starts from around £4,500.   Some of these upfront costs are a one off due to the change of heating system and costs are likely to fall as supply chains expand and mature. 

With regards to the Scottish Government’s own climate targets, WWF’s analysis shows the need for more ambition, or we risk emissions being more than double (2.6 million tonnes more) than its 2030 target for homes. Regulation is crucial to increase installations of energy efficiency and clean heating. To cut emissions faster, WWF is calling on the Scottish Government to set bring forward deadlines for action including:

Bring forward the deadline for all homes in Scotland to reach a minimum standard of energy efficiency from 2033 to 2030

Require replacement of some gas boilers (older and less efficient models) from 2025 (rather than 2030)

WWF also worked with experts to explore the potential for hydrogen heating. WWF also worked with experts to explore the potential for hydrogen heating. The research suggests that hydrogen, if available at all, should not be relied upon to heat homes. It is unlikely to be available until the next decade and heating costs to households are expected to be high. WWF recommends that low carbon hydrogen should instead be used in sectors of the economy such as heavy industry, heavy transport and peak power generation. [8]

Fabrice Leveque, Energy Policy Manager at WWF Scotland said:

“Our reliance on gas and oil boilers is driving up our energy bills and creating damaging carbon pollution. Scotland is a renewable energy powerhouse, and we can harness that to heat our homes using electric heat pumps. New rules proposed by the Scottish Government requiring heating upgrades in some homes are a critical step to boost investment, grow supply chains and bring costs down. But more detail about these plans is urgently needed to secure the benefits of cleaner heating that will free households from unstable fossil fuel prices and make the most of our ever-cheaper renewables.

Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change said:

“The Scottish Government has big ambitions for decarbonising the economy, but so far there’s been too little action to make these a reality. Cleaning up home heating will require significant investment and this research shows that this is achievable and desirable. A huge amount of value is locked up in housing and accessing this to invest in better heating systems is a vital step to close the gap to our climate targets.”

Rob McGaughey, Head of Smart Heat at ScottishPower, said:

“This latest research complements our own findings that electric heat pumps are the best low-carbon solution for many of our homes. We’re already working to make it cheaper and easier for people across the country to access heat pumps and make their properties warmer and more energy efficient. We’re installing heat pumps across the country at lower than the national average cost, and for homes that require fewer updates the price after Scottish Government support can be lower than replacing their existing fossil fuel boiler.”

David Cowdrey, Director of External Affairs at MCS Charitable Foundation, said:

“The evidence could not be clearer: heat pumps are the best way to cut carbon and slash bills. It is encouraging to see that the Scottish Government is considering replacement of polluting gas boilers with clean heat pumps; this new report shows that Scotland can and must go faster in switching all homes to heat pumps.

“To fully harness the potential of this green and cheap heat, Scotland must invest in skills and bring down the upfront costs of installations. We also need reform of energy markets so that the financial benefits of renewables are properly reflected in the price of electricity, bringing down the costs to households even further.”


Phillipa installed a heat pump in her 40-year-old detached home in Stirling during the winter of 2021.  Prior to fitting the heat pump she made several energy efficiency improvements to her home. She also has solar PV panels. [9]

Phillipa said:

“We're really pleased to have been able to make such a significant step in reducing our carbon footprint. In the first month of using the heat pump, the combined amount we spent on gas and electricity was the same or less when compared to the same month in the previous year, which is a good start.”

Notes to Editors

[1] Affordable warmth: next steps for clean heat in Scotland’

[2] Faster deployment of heat pumps in Scotland: Settling the figures

[3] The study found that air source heat pumps can be fitted in all types of home, with air to air heat pumps an alternative option where space is limited. Individual heat pumps are most suited to houses – they can be installed in flats and tenements but there are extra challenges. These could be overcome by shared systems like heat networks, for example connecting multiple flats to a single large heat pump.

[4] The study, using forecasts of future energy prices, finds that a majority of homes could have lower energy bills – all homes with oil boilers and electric storage heaters, and many with gas boilers.  Future energy prices are very uncertain but policy changes by the UK Government (to remove policy levies from energy bills, and reform electricity markets) would help ensure that heat pumps are cheaper than gas.

[5] The study found that energy efficiency makes heat pumps cheaper. The recommended level of energy efficiency is broadly equivalent to an EPC ‘C’ rating. Most homes that need improvements to meet this standard will require draught proofing, loft and cavity wall insulation and double glazing;

average costs are £1,800.  

[6] Regulations proposed in the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy (2021) would require homeowners and landlords to make improvements to homes. The exact details are to be consulted on in 2023 but broadly it is proposed that:

Energy efficiency: houses purchased, rented, or undergoing major renovation would need to meet a minimum level of energy efficiency from 2025, which is equivalent to an Energy Performance Certificate rating (EPC) of ‘C’. All remaining houses must meet this standard by 2033 (2028 for rented properties). The purchaser of a house could be given 12 months to meet the requirement, should their property be below standard.

Phasing out oil and gas boilers: no new installations of coal, oil and LPG boilers from 2025 (applies to houses only). No new installations of gas boilers from 2030. Homes replacing these boilers would need to fit low-carbon alternatives. This could also be required at other ‘trigger points’ (e.g. house purchase).

Flats and tenements and other multi- purpose buildings will need to meet a combined energy efficiency and heating standard by 2045, with earlier deadlines possible.

Energy efficiency standards are to be enforced through updated Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s). Scottish Government has proposed adding a new rating to EPCs that is more appropriate for getting to net-zero emissions. WWF recommends that this be set according to the energy efficiency of a home’s exterior (walls, roof, windows/doors and floor).

[7] Scottish Government currently provides the following support to households fitting low carbon heating and energy efficiency improvements:

Heat pumps: a £7,500 cashback grant (£9,000 for homes that qualify for a rural uplift)

Energy efficiency: a cashback grant for up to 75% of the combined cost of: loft, floor, cavity/solid wall insulation. Up to a maximum amount of £7,500 (£9,000 for rural homes).

Households in fuel poverty (to qualify, households must typically be in receipt of a state benefit) can receive partially or fully funded improvements through the Warmer Homes Scotland programme.

[8] The potential use of hydrogen for heating in Scotland

[9] Link to case study