Before the development of renewable energy, electric service was spotty. Residents mostly relied on noisy, expensive diesel generators or mini-hydroelectric generators. But since February 1, Eigg has switched on its own continuous, clean, and renewable energy supply. Now, the islanders enjoy luxuries of modern living that mainlanders take for granted.
The self-supply system is built to generate 95% energy that the island needs. The system is equipped with a storage battery system and two diesel generators in case of emergency. It took 10 years to finish the project which was completed on February 2009. 45 houses are connected to the system, 6 buildings and 20 shops along 10 miles are covered by the system (Figure 4). The houses have access to 5 kW and the business 10 kW. 5 kW is less than half of energy of a house in the United States has access to
and one-half to two-thirds of the amount used by a household in Britain. Islander can add the electricity ration with a diesel generator or heat from a wood stove. If the islanders use too much electricity and trip up the system, they will have to pay £20 ($40) to be switched on again. All of these conditions were agreed to by the residents.
Project Starting Point
The project starting point has a correlation with the history of the island. For centuries, the entire island has been owned by a series single landowners. It means, the residents only could rental without having opportunity to own the island. The residents only could survive. In 1996, the exasperated islanders teamed up to buy the island for themselves. Donation are collected from across Britain up to Detroit. June 1997, the islanders took ownership of Eigg. In the following years, they built a new jetty, renovated the village hall, school, shop, tearoom (Figure 5), and the last was created the new electrical grid
after the commissioned of feasibility studies in 2006.
Development of the System
There are many parties involved from starting point of the development of renewable energy up to Eigg became energy self sufficiency island. Started from islanders, investors, Eigg Electric, and the Island of Eigg Heritage Trust.
The Island of Eigg Heritage Trust
It is a a company limited by guarantee, and a registered Scottish charity. The Trust has three members, Eigg Residents’ Association, The Highland Council and The Scottish Wildlife Trust. Each of these members appoints directors to the board of the Trust. On 12th June 2007, they celebrated 10 years of ownership.
The electrification in Eigg began after members of the Island of Eigg Heritage Trust commissioned feasibility studies on the best way of connecting islanders to one main power grid.
Eigg Electricity Ltd.
Eigg Electricity Ltd. is one of subsidiary companies of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust.
This company, during the development of electrification from renewable energy, appointed a project manager and partnered with an electrical company from the mainland. Eigg Electric co-director, John Booth (Figure 6) led the push of self sufficiency. John Booth is a retired industrial relations consultant from England who moved to the island in 2000 with his wife to renovate an old house. When the idea for the project was executed, he made himself as a full-time volunteer. No one knew if the grid would really work. Booth said, “We did our homework, and when we came up against something we didn’t know, we went back to the physics books.”
Project Cost and Fair Pricing System
Overall budget have been spent was more than $8 million dollars. $3.2 million dollars was raised from investors. This fund come from many sources, including the European Union Regional Development Fund, Britain’s National Lottery, the Scottish government, and also local and regional government programs.
This system is expensive due to they had to tap the mainland’s power grid through an underwater cable. In fact, none of them islanders, said it is too expensive and a waste of taxpayers’ money. The islanders prefer to generate electricity from renewable than nuclear power.
According to Booth, the benefits of Eigg’s green power outweigh the cost. Renewable energy doesn’t risk becoming much more expensive, unlike the diesel fuel used to power the old generators. Islanders also say their pricing system is fairer. The system has a much more social aspect. Everybody is allocated the same amount of electricity, so everybody pays the same. That way everyone benefits.