Around 100 social housing properties in the north-east of Scotland are set to be upgraded with energy-saving measures and green innovations as part of a pioneering £5.2 million project.

The move is aimed at improving residents’ quality of life, cutting fuel bills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, helping the country achieve net-zero climate targets.

Around a quarter of all Scottish households are estimated to be living in fuel poverty, struggling to pay for heating, with one in ten suffering ‘extreme’ fuel poverty.

Glasgow-based firm SMS plc is running the scheme in conjunction with thermal imaging specialists IRT Surveys and construction company Robertson Group after launching a partnership with Aberdeen City Council to deliver the changes to the homes.

The landmark initiative will see a programme of fabric improvements and renewable energy technologies put in.

This will include installation of solar panels, batteries and heat pumps to remove the consumption of carbon-intensive fuels, alongside a behind-the-meter battery storage system to create a decarbonised neighbourhood.

There will be no cost to tenants or landlords for the work, which has backing of £2.2 million from Westminster’s newly launched Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator.

As part of the project’s ‘fabric-first, whole-home’ approach, IRT Surveys will use cutting-edge thermal imaging technology to pinpoint the areas where improvements are required to reduce space heating demand.

Implementing these fabric upgrades, in tandem with the installation of renewable energy assets, the project will showcase a route to achieving net-zero emissions through a financed and scalable business model.

If successful, similar initiatives could be rolled out across Scotland and the UK.

Stewart Little, chief executive of IRT Surveys, said: “We are delighted to have been appointed for this landmark project with Aberdeen City Council, a scheme which we are pleased to say has received government support through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator.

“The urgency of the climate crisis means it is vital that we address all carbon impacts from buildings, including the UK’s social housing stock.

“By working alongside Aberdeen City Council, and our delivery partners SMS and Robertson Group, we will develop an intelligent, scalable model that will help decarbonise the council’s extensive housing portfolio in ways that are both commercially viable and affordable for residents.”

Sean Keating, head of new energy systems at SMS, said: “By creating an expected 39 jobs locally through the initial trial phase of the scheme, our project additionally looks to demonstrate how – when delivered at scale – investment in green infrastructure can support the government’s agenda to level up regional economic growth.

“Indeed, above all this project is about creating a more sustainable future: one that ensures affordable comfort in our homes, reduces fuel poverty, creates jobs and ultimately protects our environment amidst climate change.”

The Scottish and UK governments have set out goals to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions – where quantities generated by human activities are no greater than the amount absorbed – 2045 north of the border and 2050 for the nation as a whole.

Currently there are around 2.58 million dwellings in Scotland, most of which are occupied – three per cent are empty and one per cent are second homes.

The housing sector is one one of the biggest contributors to Scotland’s and the UK’s climate impact, responsible for around 15 per cent of total emissions.

Heating homes accounts for a major portion of this, particularly older housing stock with inefficient insulation and energy systems in place.

A significant proportion of Scotland’s domestic buildings were put up prior to 1919 and built using traditional techniques and materials.

Achieving the climate targets is going to involve major retrofitting works and substantial costs to homeowners and housing providers.

The installation phase of the Aberdeen scheme is scheduled for completion in December this year, after which the energy performance of the 100 homes will be reassessed and monitored for a period of six months to demonstrate the concept’s efficacy.

The multi-million-pound project comes following a successful bid to the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

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