Scottish island community leads the way with green heating

Scene Connect has worked closely with a community-led charity, Iona Renewables, on the island of Iona (Scotland) to secure £1.65M funding for a community-owned, low carbon and affordable heating system connecting island homes, school and businesses.

In a UK first, the island community of Iona, Scotland, will get green heating - through the collaborative efforts of local charity Iona Renewables and Scotland-based social enterprise Scene Connect.. The development of this innovative heat network will be the first step towards the island’s energy transition from imported, fossil fuel energy sources, to local renewable energy generation, storage and use.

Iona’s heat network will initially save over 150 tonnes of CO2e/year, the equivalent of taking 68 cars off the road – not bad for a population of only 177.  The network has the potential to save a further 90 tonnes/year when renewable electricity is used to run the heat pumps.

This pioneering community-owned project will not only benefit the environment. Households will see an average reduction in heating bills of over 20%.  

Iona’s green energy ambition is an extraordinary example of the potential of embedding sustainable energy usage into every day’s life. “Renewable energy is no longer a wish for the future, but a project of the present,” said Scene Connect Co-Director, Alex Schlicke, who continues: “We hope this successful partnership will incentivise other UK communities to adopt greener and more affordable energy solutions.”

The network uses ground source heat pumps connected to a shared ground loop, taking heat from boreholes either end of the village. The heat network will be 100% owned by the community (Iona Energy Ltd, Iona Renewables’ trading subsidiary), with profits to be used to support the island’s social, economic and environmental sustainability.

This is a pathfinder pilot project of Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP), developed by Iona Renewables and Scene Connect and funded by SEEP, Scottish District Heating Loan Fund, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Social Investment Scotland, and CARES programme, plus Russell Trust and Pebble Trust.

“Despite it being a modest-scale project, we are delighted to see an entire community transitioning to a greener future.” Says Rob Halliday, Social Investment Scotland. “There is potential to scale up. Inaction would have been an unforgivable missed opportunity to play our part in supporting Britain achieving its climate targets”, he concludes.

Shiona Ruhemann from Iona Renewables said, “There are so many important outcomes from this project including improving the building stock, reducing fuel poverty along with carbon emissions and the community owning its heat supply, which comes out of the ground of Iona, the earth beneath our feet. Scene have been immense in their vision, their technical skills and their sheer steadfast commitment to making this happen.”

Construction on the island is due to commence in September, with the system operational by March 2019.

More information on:


Notes to Editor

Contact: [Alex Schlicke, Scene Connect,, 07535 325205]

About Scene Connect

Scene is a social enterprise focused on strengthening communities through consultancy, research and development of ICT products. Its core mandate is to address the gap between energy generation and citizens. Founded in Edinburgh in 2011, Scene has built a reputation as one of UK’s foremost community energy organisations and has an emerging standing as researchers and product developers in energy access.

About Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP)

SEEP is the Scottish Government’s coordinated programme of work to improve the energy efficiency of homes and buildings in the commercial, public and industrial sectors across Scotland and decarbonising heat provision over the long term.

About Iona Renewables (IR)

IR is a community organisation, led entirely by local residents, which was formed in 2015 as a sub-group of the Community Council to investigate opportunities to take greater control of energy on Iona – to inczrease local ownership, and to decrease carbon emissions. IR is constituted as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation, with environmental protection and community development as its charitable purposes. IR is responsible for developing opportunities and managing delivery of these up to the stage of investment: ownership and operation of energy supply will be undertaken by a wholly owned trading subsidiary (Iona Energy Ltd.), with operational surpluses gifted to the parent charity.

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