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[Episode #212] – Transition in Eigg

Twenty-six years ago, on a wee island with just 65 residents off the west coast of Scotland, the seeds of a fascinating energy transition project were planted. That began a long process which ultimately made it possible for the island’s inhabitants to become the world’s first community to launch an off-grid electric system powered by wind, water and solar.

In the Autumn of 2023, Chris traveled to that island—the Isle of Eigg—to see it for himself, and interview some of the key people who were involved in making it happen. You’ll learn all about how it happened and what the island’s residents plan to do next in their pursuit of greater self-determination and self-sufficiency.

This is our second show in the new, place-based format we piloted in Episodes #186 and #187. Instead of exploring a particular topic with one guest who has a noncommercial perspective, as most of our shows have done so far, this new format aims to tell the stories about how the energy transition is proceeding in some of the places Chris is visiting in his ongoing travels as a peripatetic podcaster. There will be more episodes in this format to come, and we hope you enjoy them.

Guest #1:

Becca Long is Development Manager for the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. Since 2017, she has coordinated and managed the Eigg timber harvesting operation; helped restructure the on-island woodfuel enterprise; and overseen the £3m redevelopment and expansion of An Laimhrig (Eigg’s Community Hub) to completion. Previously, she worked at a financial services consultancy. She continues to work on affordable housing and supporting Eigg’s decarbonization efforts.

Guest #2:

Bob Wallace is an engineer who has been part of the Eigg Electric team since inception, and has been managing the system since 2017. His training was in Marine Engineering in the merchant marine. He sailed with Greenpeace between 1986 and 2017 as engineer/chief engineer. Bob also has Bachelor and Masters degrees in Human Ecology, and a diploma in ship management.

On the Web:  Eigg Electric

Guest #3:

Lesley Riddoch is one of Scotland’s best-known commentators and broadcasters. She did her undergraduate education at Oxford University and her post-graduate work at Cardiff University. She is a veteran radio broadcaster who has produced programmes on BBC2, Channel 4, Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland, for which she won two Sony speech broadcaster awards. She now produces the weekly Lesley Riddoch Podcast with co-presenter Patrick Joyce.

Currently, Lesley is a weekly columnist for The Scotsman and The National and a regular contributor to the Guardian, Scotland Tonight, BBC Question Time and Any Questions.

Lesley was a Trustee of the Eigg Heritage Trust, which led to the successful community buyout in 1997. She has also supported other buyouts, and she founded the Our Land Festival in 2015, which continues to campaign for land reform in Scotland

On Twitter: @LesleyRiddoch

On the Web:

Guest #4:

Lucy Conway is a former director of the Eigg Heritage Trust, and is one of the principal instigators and fundraisers who supported the buyout of Eigg and setting up the Eigg Electric utility system, along with the island’s other activities. She has had many other roles in her working life, including as an Island Communities Fund Manager, where she helped deliver the Scottish Government’s Island Communities Fund, a £2.6 million investment to deliver a green economic recovery in Scotland’s Island communities. She has extensive experience in project management, advice, training, and more for a wide range of Highlands & Islands and Scotland-wide initiatives. She has also worked in the creative and arts sector for over 30 years, including organizing and coordinating events, training courses, theatre or music tours and conferences.

On Twitter: @eiggbox

On the Web:  Eigg Box

Guest #5:

Maggie Fyffe grew up in Lancashire and left school at 16. In the following years, she worked as a civil servant, a youth hostel warden, a chambermaid and a craft worker. After several years travelling, she and her husband moved to Eigg in 1976. Since the community buy-out in 1997, in which she played a key role, she has been working for Eigg Heritage Trust as administration secretary.

On the Web:  Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust

Recording date: September 22, 2023

Air date: November 29, 2023

Geek rating: 4