Community-based housing associations want their homes to be as warm as possible, and their tenants’ wellbeing is paramount. But difficult choices will have to be made about how much energy efficiency work can be afforded and which property types to focus on most.

That’s the view of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations, which has submitted its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on a new Social Housing Net Zero Standard.

GWSF says that its members remain keen to innovate, and includes three case studies of recent initiatives in its response. But it says that without significant grant funding to complement what associations themselves can cover through rents, energy efficiency work is likely to be limited to those homes where relatively modest expenditure will make a meaningful difference to tenants’ energy bills.

The Forum says it may well be that a significant proportion of homes will have little or no further work carried out as associations focus limited resources on specific property types. It says this won’t mean the homes are cold, just that the amount of money needed to make them a little bit more energy efficient is simply not proportionate.

GWSF research and policy lead, Colleen Rowan, said: “Our members have a strong track record in identifying ways of meeting energy efficiency standards across a range of property types, and the case studies included in our response demonstrate this very tangibly.

“But it’s not a coincidence that all the case studies we feature in our response received at least some grant funding, and even then, they still involved associations putting in large sums – for example £17,500 per unit – which just couldn’t be replicated across all the stock that could potentially be improved.

“In the coming years we’ll be aiming to support our members to home in on those properties where a limited amount of money can make a significant difference. In a perfect world, every socially rented home would reach a high standard of energy efficiency before renewable heating is installed, but in practice, without mainstream grant subsidy, compromises and tricky decisions are inevitable.”

She added: “And there’s no likelihood of any association rushing into things anyway, with so many uncertainties – not just about funding but over which technologies will emerge as the better options in different stock types, and over how we actually assess energy efficiency levels.

“As a sector we have to keep things in perspective. Without sounding complacent, social housing is already more energy efficient than private housing, and the sector’s role in reducing carbon emissions shouldn’t be overplayed.

“One thing is clear, though. A ‘just transition’ won’t happen without widely available subsidy for both social landlords and owners. Ministers can say the words as often as they want to, but it’s not going to happen by magic.”