The following information sets out the recommended process and key criteria for applying for the Let’s Do Net Zero Community Buildings Fund.

Please also read our answers to some frequently asked questions to work out if the fund is right for you.

CARES funding available

How to apply for funding

Key criteria for funding

What improvements will CARES fund?

Your choice of measure

Are there any measures which are not eligible for funding?

Match funding

Choosing an installer

Timescales

Subsidy control

Fair Work First

Other help and support from CARES

Resources to help you deliver your project

CARES funding available

Get up to 80% as a grant. Get up to £80,000 to decarbonise your community building

Grant funding is available for up to 80% of eligible costs, up to a maximum of £80,000. The inclusion or exclusion of VAT in CARES funding offers does not alter the grant maximum of £80,000.

CARES funding can be used for project development and capital costs. For example, it can be used for:

  • project development costs such as building warrants, planning permission, grid connection, design and contractor appointment
  • capital or installation costs; the cost to install the ‘core’ renewable energy measures and the ‘add on’ energy efficiency and energy storage measures
  • development costs and ‘add on’ measures should be a minority of the requested costs.

Funding should only be requested where the project could not proceed as planned without support from CARES. 80% funding is available for those who can demonstrate need. If you have already earmarked funds for energy efficiency upgrades, have your own resources, or can access funds from elsewhere (for example, from community benefit funds), you should only apply for the amount you require from CARES to progress your project. Funding is subject to availability and limited so asking for less than 80% will enable us to fund more community projects. Local Energy Scotland reserves the right to request additional information and to reject applications where need is not demonstrated.

There is no guarantee that CARES funding will be available. Funding is subject to available budget and your application may be put in a queue or rejected if insufficient budget remains.

The available funding percentage rate and maximum grant is subject to change. If funding is available, the eligible grant intervention rate will be the rate on the Local Energy Scotland website on the date when a fully completed and compliant application is received with supporting information.

How to apply for funding and deliver your project

How to apply for funding and deliver your project. Read the guidance. Fill out and expression of interest form. Start your application. Evidence your technology choices. Seek quote(s). Submit your application. Application assessed and funding awarded. Commence works. Submit claims.

  1. Read the guidance below.
  2. Fill out an expression of interest form on the CARES project portal by clicking the ‘Begin a New Project’ button.
  3. If you’re eligible, we’ll send you a link and you can start your application.
  4. Evidence your technology choices.
  5. Seek quote(s).
  6. Submit your application along with your preferred supplier quotation(s).

How to use the CARES project portal

If you are a CARES applicant that has not been in receipt of CARES funding before, please click the ‘Begin a new project’ button on our CARES project portal. This will allow you to submit an expression of interest form containing basic information about your organisation and project to enable us to assess eligibility. If we approve your expression of interest, we will send you a link to create a new account for your project.

If you are an organisation that has received CARES funding in the past, we are currently setting up a CARES project portal account on your behalf. We will contact you shortly with details of how to access your new account and how to apply for additional funding including for any new CARES eligible project you wish to progress.

Key criteria for funding

Are you eligible for the Community Buildings Fund? You may be eligible if you are a community organisation or charity based in Scotland that owns or has a long-term lease on a community building that is used frequently and has high energy costs. More information is in the key criteria.

Eligible applicant

Applicants must be constituted non-profit distributing community organisations, including organisations with charitable status, that are established and operating across a geographically defined community or faith groups.

Some common community organisation structures include:

  • Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (SCIO)
  • Private Companies Limited by Guarantee (CLG)
  • Community Benefit Societies (BenCom)
  • Community Interest Companies (CIC).

Organisations that are constituted but unincorporated may also apply but must provide additional information.

To be eligible applicants must demonstrate:

  • a minimum of three unrelated persons on the organisations’ management committee or board that are local to the area served by the community building
  • that their area of benefit is in Scotland
  • a commitment to demonstrating the low carbon technologies in the building and raising awareness among building users and the wider community. This should also include raising awareness of support available through Home Energy Scotland to help people reduce energy in their homes.

Eligible buildings

The funding is available to support decarbonising self-managed community buildings. Eligible community buildings include, but are not limited to:

  • village halls
  • community centres
  • community hubs
  • sports facilities
  • faith buildings.

To be eligible, a building must be used by the local community or charitable organisation. Applicants must demonstrate:

  • how the building is used by the community
  • through your constituting documents, that either:
    • anyone in the community can use the space or
    • that no-one is explicitly excluded from being able to use the building or
    • the building is used by vulnerable or defined groups stated in the charity’s objectives, for example children, women, refugees.
  • good levels of building utilisation/occupancy.

The building must be owned or leased by the applicant and, if you are a tenant, you must have:

  • a valid and viable lease in place for at least a further five years following the completion of the project and/or has the right to extend for the equivalent period
  • evidence of permission from the building owners (or the rights stated in the lease) to carry out all proposed works.

What improvements will CARES fund?

CARES funding is targeted at supporting communities to decarbonise their buildings. Your project must meet the heating requirement as set out below.

You must apply for at least one core measure and you may also apply for add-on measures. Please see the examples we have provided in the frequently asked questions.

1. Heating requirement

You will be installing one of these measures as part of your current project:

  • a heat pump (including air-to-air units, air source, ground source or water source) and heat distribution system including radiators/underfloor heating, pipework and controls
  • connections to a heat network.

Or

Your building will already have one of the following:

  • a heat pump (air, ground or water sourced) and heat distribution system including radiators/underfloor heating, pipework and controls
  • a connection to a heat network
  • direct electric (including storage heating or electric boilers)
  • biomass heating.

If applying for CARES funding to install a heat pump to replace an existing direct electric heating system, the existing heating must be broken or ineffective. See FAQs for further information on eligibility requirements.

2. Core measures eligible for CARES funding.

You must install at least one of the following:

  • a heat pump (air, ground or water source)
  • a connection to heat network
  • solar photovoltaic (PV) panels (if the heating requirement has been met)
  • solar water heating (if the heating requirement has been met).

 

3. Add-on measures.

In addition to installing a core measure(s), you can also apply for funding to install one or more of the following:

  • energy storage – heat/ thermal or electrical
  • insulation – any loft, underfloor or cavity wall insulation
  • secondary glazing
  • draught proofing
  • replacement LEDs bulbs and for appropriate light fittings
  • smart controls.

Note: Add-on measures must be a minority element of the overall funding requested.

Your choice of measure

In all cases, you must meet the heating requirement and install at least one core measure to be eligible for funding.

Applying without seeking independent advice

If you already know the measures that you’d like to install, and these are included in the following list, you do not need to seek independent advice before applying.

  • An air source heat pump and hot water heating system.
  • Solar photovoltatic (PV) panels and battery storage, installed at the same time and by the same installer.
  • Cavity wall, loft, and underfloor insulation, where these can be readily installed.
  • Replacing existing lighting with new LED lighting and installing energy efficiency controls (for example, motion/daylight detection, timer/zoned switching).

We will review your choice of measures as part of the appraisal process. If required, we will ask you or your contractor to provide additional information, or we will request that you get independent advice to evidence your choice.

Applying with independent advice

If you have already sought independent advice on the technologies suited to your building, or you wish to seek independent advice, please provide this information alongside your application.

If you are unsure about which measures to include, we recommend that you seek independent advice. You can get this advice in the following ways:

  • If your project is part of a larger renovation or new build, the project’s professional advisors should confirm the rationale for the technology choice.
  • A recommendation from an independent advisor registered with an appropriate professional institution such as CIBSE.
  • An energy report from Business Energy Scotland.
  • An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) that includes the appropriate recommendations.
  • A feasibility study or options appraisal completed by an independent energy consultancy.

Are there any measures which are not eligible for funding?

CARES will not fund the following.

  • Measures that do not result in carbon savings, or result in carbon increases, are ineligible for funding.
  • Intrusive energy efficiency measures – for example new double glazing, external wall insulation or internal wall insulation that require wider renovation/significant access and/or reinstatement work.
  • The cost related to wider building renovations – if your building requires a major refurbishment, you must ensure you have sufficient funding for that project, including all design costs, preliminaries, and an adequate contingency budget.
  • Improvements that are required to meet the building regulations – for example, for new builds. CARES will only fund measures that go beyond regulations and the applicant’s design team must have a robust method to identify, evidence, and quantify costs related to improvements that go beyond minimum regulation standards.
  • Community buildings with gas, oil, coal or LPG heating where the heating is not being decarbonised as part of the proposed CARES-funded project.
  • For buildings where the majority of your energy consumption relates to non-space heating (for example, community swimming pools), please contact us to discuss potential options, as support may still be available.
  • You cannot get funding for an ‘add on’ measure like loft insulation if you are not installing one of the core measures such as a heat pump.
  • Retrospective work – for example, if the work has already started or has been completed.

Funding to replace an existing direct electric heating system with a heat pump is not available where the existing system is working effectively, is affordable, controllable and comfortably heats the community building for the intended uses.

Match funding

Match funding of at least 20% is required. You cannot use other Scottish Government grants or in-kind as match funding. Common sources of match funding include:

  • community reserves or fundraising
  • community benefit funds – for example, from local wind farms or power utilities
  • grants – for example, from trusts, lottery, local authorities, or enterprise agencies
  • The Scottish Government’s SME Loan Scheme for an interest-free loan, provided you do not claim the cashback on this loan. (You can apply for the interest free loan, but you cannot receive a grant (the cashback element) if you are already receiving a grant from CARES)
  • bank loans.

If you are applying for other grants funding, please check their guidance carefully to ensure that it can be matched with CARES.

CARES grants are usually claimed in stages as the project progresses and claims must be submitted as contractor invoice(s) are received. Each claim should be submitted at the approved CARES funding percentage, so you must have match funding in place and be ready to draw down the funding.

Choosing an installer

Your chosen contractor should design the system, apply for permissions, and install your chosen renewable and energy efficiency measure in your community building. You must supply the quotation(s) from your preferred supplier for the main renewable energy measures.

There must be an appropriate selection process to appoint your contractor/installer that ensures best value. We recommend that you seek, or have sought, at least three quotations to ensure you are getting the right choice of contractor for you. Where it is not possible/practical to secure more than one quote, and where evidence of seeking additional quotes is provided, and you wish to appoint a contractor, their quote can be submitted to us at Local Energy Scotland and we can assess this for value for money. To carry out these checks we require contractors/installers to split costs per technology within their quotation and to include confirmation of scale of each technology being quoted for. It is important to note that we don’t undertake a technical review of your quote. Where the quote is within benchmark costs, the CARES grant can be approved if the application satisfies all other criteria.

Where measures are being installed as part of a wider renovation process the procurement may be completed by your design team. Where this is the case, you must demonstrate to Local Energy Scotland that a fair procurement process has been undertaken. An example process is set out on our frequently asked questions webpage.

Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified installers and products should be used for all installations of renewable technologies.

  • Where the proposed technology is covered by the MCS, accredited installers must be used. You can use Energy Saving Trust’s Renewables Installer Finder to find accredited installers near you or the CARES capital works supplier list for contractors who have expressed an interest to work on CARES projects. For most projects, choosing contractors is best started early in the process so that they can support you with any consents and permissions required.
  • MCS products should be installed to ensure the best consumer protection. The installation of non-MCS products must be approved in writing by Local Energy Scotland.

Where possible, energy efficiency measures should be installed by contractors certified to install the measures against the relevant Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) standards. This may vary according to the work required and the building to be upgraded, but may include PAS 2030, PAS 2035 or PAS 2038. Where certified contractors aren’t available in your area, applicants should set out the relevant experience of the contractor/trade person. For more significant energy efficiency measures such as cavity wall insulation, you’ll need to use a specialist energy efficiency contractor who we expect to be accredited.

LEDs and light fittings and controls should be fitted be a qualified electrician.

We’ve put together some text that you can use when contacting installers for quotations, see our guidance on obtaining quotes from installers.

CARES grants are usually claimed in stages after you’ve paid the contractors’ invoice(s). You will be required to submit monthly reports on progress.

Timescales

The Community Buildings Fund will pause on 31 March 2025. Once approved for funding, all work related to this funding must be completed and funding claimed within 12 months or by 31 March 2025, whichever is sooner.

Extensions can be requested, and these are likely to be approved where projects can evidence significant progress, however we will not be able to approve extensions beyond 31 March 2025.

Extensions are likely to be rejected where sufficient progress is not demonstrated and/or where monthly progress reports have not been completed, to ensure that CARES funding is available for other projects where progress can be made.

Funding is limited and successful applicants will be allocated funding on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note your funding isn’t allocated to you until you have submitted a full application and have received a grant offer letter. To be approved you will need to submit a quotation showing an installation date from your preferred supplier – please prioritise getting a quote and see our guidance on requesting quotations from installers.

Subsidy control

Subsidy control replaces state aid, which was applicable to the provision of subsidies when we were part of the European Union. Please read our guidance on subsidy control. It is important that you read and understand this and consider whether or not a CARES grant should be considered a subsidy.

Fair Work First

From 1 July 2023, the Scottish Government’s Fair Work First guidance requires all organisations that receive public sector grants to meet the Fair Work First criteria. All applicants that receive funding through the Scottish Government’s CARES must, therefore, meet the criteria that includes paying at least the real living wage and providing appropriate channels for effective workers’ voice.

Read our guidance about Fair Work First and how this applies to CARES funding.

Other help and support available from CARES 

As well as funding, CARES provides free and impartial advice and support in other ways too. For example: 

  • local development officers can help you progress your funding application and plan your project 
  • for complex projects, or where a more technical assessment is required, we can fund one of our technical consultants to support you 
  • for higher cost projects, our technical consultants can review quotes or contracts on your behalf, where appropriate 
  • our website is packed with resources including case studies, reports and downloadable guides. 

Resources to help you deliver your project

These are some of the resources available to help you deliver your project.