Until 2008 Isle of Eigg residents were largely dependent on costly fossil fuels shipped in from the mainland.
Now the Isle of Eigg is home to the world’s first stand alone energy grid that provides electricity from a combination of three renewable energy sources: 11km of underground high voltage cable connects residents to energy generated from three hydroelectric plants (100kW, 5kW and 6kW), four 6kW wind turbines and 50kW solar photovoltaic capacity which produce approximately 90% of electricity needed locally. A battery bank able to provide electricity for up to 24 hours helps smooth out supply and demand and two 80kW diesel generators are used for back-up.
Legal structure & set-up
Eigg Electric, which operates the islands energy infrastructure, is a subsidiary of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. The Trust was set-up in 1997 by Eigg residents, the Highland Council and Scottish Wildlife Trust in order to buy the island. The trust is governed by a voluntary, elected board of directors comprising 4 Eigg residents, one member each from the Highland Council and Scottish Wildlife Trust and an independent chair. All subsidiaries of the Eigg Heritage Trust, including Eigg Electric, employ the same company secretary. Four residents are appointed to a separate Eigg Electric board. In addition Eigg Electric employs a maintenance team equivalent to one full time paid member of staff.
The Eigg Heritage trust employed a renewables development officer, Ian Leaver, for six months who managed to secure financing needed to set up Eigg Electric. The £1.6 million (€2 million) required for this came largely from EU funds. In addition, residents paid £500 or £1000 (€625 or €1250) for a 5kW domestic or 10kW business connection. £125,000 (€156,000) needed for extras, were originally financed by overdrafts from Triodos bank with the remainder later turned into a bank loan.
To keep capital investment down, the Isle of Eigg community decided to restrict access to electricity to 5kW per household and 10kW per business. Every household and business has to manage its consumption with the help of an energy monitor. In the rare event that a household for example, consumes over 5kW at any one time, it is automatically cut off from supply and can only be reconnected by the Eigg Electric maintenance team.
The running cost of Eigg Electric is covered through income from an off-grid Feed-in Tariff (FIT)*, Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) and a local energy tariff for residents and businesses. Ian Leaver explains the project was timed well as shortly after regulation in the UK changed which excluded renewable energy installations from FIT and ROC benefits if they received public grant funding.
- Complexity of project
- 24/7 electricity
- Drastic reduction in energy costs
- Has sparked interest in other energy efficiency initiatives on the island
* Like the Feed-in Tariff, the off-grid FIT pays households or businesses a fixed payment per unit of energy generated to promote the use of renewable technology.
Isle of Eigg
Size of Community
Local population: 96
Type of Energy Project
Renewable energy generation (wind, hydro, solar); independent grid management
Stage of Development
Eigg residents buy-out island
Econnect outline design; costing report complete; funding for Renewables Development Officer in place
Business plan complete & potential funders identified
Eigg Electric Ltd incorporated
Funding in place; design phase started
Site surveys complete
Design phase complete; tender awarded
Full planning granted; control building complete
Dam complete & pipe work to hydro in place
Laig Hydro in place; cable laying in progress
Wind turbines in place
Contractors hand over the system to Eigg Electric