Technologies: air source heat pump, LED Lighting, cavity wall and underfloor insulation
Location: Dundee
CARES funding: £75,670 capital grant
Date installed/operational: February 2023


St Ninian’s RC Parish Church, situated in the west of Dundee and built in the 1960s, is in the Diocese of Dunkeld and serves the community of Menzieshill and the surrounding area. The church holds regular cookery demonstrations, coffee mornings and afternoon teas in its popular community café and welcomes people of all faiths and none to attend.

James Hampton, chair of St Ninian’s Parish council, said that “it was at a meeting of the Dunked Diocesan council in 2021 that we were advised that the Catholic church wanted its member parishes to ‘go green’”.

The church already had solar panels fitted and had been awarded a Silver Award from Eco-Congregation Scotland for its environmental efforts. However, the church wanted to go further and switch from using gas boilers to a greener alternative such as an air source heat pump. It was during an Eco-Congregation Scotland meeting that church members first heard about the funding and support that the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) could give to communities to install renewable technologies.

Project aims and objectives

The church contacted Zero Waste Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Business Support Service (now Business Energy Scotland) for advice on upgrading its heating. An advisor from Zero Waste Scotland carried out an energy efficiency audit and gave the church a detailed report. This recommended that the church install an air source heat pump alongside other improvements, including its insulation and lighting.

James says that “after the survey, it became clear that before any grant for renewable heating could be approved, other items would need to be addressed first such as installing cavity wall and underfloor insulation and installing LED lighting. Contractors were duly approached, and we settled on the ones we thought would be most cost effective and they carried out the works to an extremely high standard.”

Outcomes and achievements

“The result is that the church has obtained good quality materials which will ultimately mean savings financially. We have also ticked the boxes as far as the Catholic church are concerned, having moved away from fossil fuels plus having the added benefit of the insulation and LED lighting. This project has achieved everything I was looking for and both the Parish and the Diocese are extremely pleased with what has been achieved.

“Because this project has been so successful, the bishop is using the project as an example to all other relevant parishes. I have already advised the bishop that I am willing to sit down with other parishes to assist them with the preparation of their paperwork, leading them through survey to completion.

“Staff from Local Energy Scotland/CARES have been extremely helpful throughout this journey with their knowledge and willingness to assist. It has been a great experience working with everyone within the CARES organisation.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that over the course of time St. Ninians will see a drop in heating costs once the new system beds itself in and becomes cost effective.

“The savings that we make will go towards running costs for the community café that we run that is open to the local community twice a week and where we always have around 20-25 people who attend for a free hot meal. It may be that we can look at opening for a further day to give more back to the local community with a coffee morning for people, free of charge.

“We have several fantastic volunteers that are always willing to help others and it is beneficial to have extra funds available, all thanks in a big way to the CARES grant.”

 St Ninian's RC Church heat pumps

Lessons learned

James says that “the whole process was extremely challenging because what we wanted was new and we did not know a lot about air source heat pumps. However, with the assistance of CARES, the task was made easier because no matter how many emails were sent, or phone calls made there was always assistance and a practical solution to what appeared to be a major hurdle was overcome.

“The main advice I pass on to others is to not be afraid to ask questions because someone else will have experienced the issue you think is very challenging and once discussed it allows the issue to be looked at and resolved.

“Each project requires a project leader and although there may be a group of people assisting, there needs to be one person who can ultimately make the final decision to move matters forward. If not, matters will bounce around if there are too many people involved.”

Published May 2023.