The Scottish island of Eigg has a precarious connection to the outside world – which I experienced first-hand when a storm forced the cancellation of my ferry and I had to wait two days for the next boat. But largely because of that fragility, the tiny island – 15 miles (24km) west of the mainland – has learned how to be self-sufficient. Remarkably, even in terms of energy.
In 2008, Eigg became the world’s first community to launch an off-grid electric system powered by wind, water and solar – and this group of residents largely taught themselves how to do it. Before that, without access to a national grid, residents relied on noisy, expensive diesel generators that only ran for a few hours a day. The electrification scheme made 24-hour power available to residents for the first time.
Today, this 12 sq mile (30 sq km) island continues to set an example, …