Virescent mountains, verdant valleys, and clean energy, sound like a scene from The Sound of Music or a fictional novel about utopia. It is neither. It is in fact, the description of the one place on this planet that is about to be 100% self-sustaining – Scotland’s Eigg Island. Eigg has a pristine landscape, a broad array of sustainable strategies and gets over 90% of its energy from renewable sources. Along with their witty accent, the Scots offer an example of how to live well, without fossil fuels and rampant ecological and environmental degradation.
Solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric schemes sprinkled across the island meet the energy requirements of almost all of its residents. With a $2.64 million electricity grid switched on back in 2008, operating independently of the UK’s national grid, the island wasn’t able to bring in big energy companies, so they did something unthinkable – they used their electricity economically – keeping consumption under 5 kilowatts, with a limit for businesses at 10 kilowatts. The island also enjoys a wonderful geographic locale. It has abundant sun, and wind – what some would call ‘harsh’ weather conditions, but a phenomenon the islanders use to their benefit. They even have free heating in public spaces, like churches and their community centre.
What’s even more shocking – the island is owned by its residents! In 1997 Eigg Islanders bought the farm – quite literally. Anyone who lives on the island for more than six months becomes a member of the resident committee that decides how things are run in their town.
Since we can’t all move to Eigg, we can at least implement some of their novel ideas. Sovereignty of power, in multiple versions of the word, apparently, is no pipe dream.