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Cta Man
Rum School

Isle of Rum Community Trust

Rum islanders are exploring the future of hydro energy supplies.

There’s so much potential for green energy on Rum. We have huge mountains full of water, there’s no reason why the hydro system can’t produce even more power than it currently does.
Steve Robertson, development officer, Isle of Rum Community Trust

Building capacity into an established hydro scheme

Rum is not connected to the National Grid. Instead, the island's main source of energy for decades has been generated by a local hydro power turbine drawing water from Coire Dubh. In 1957 it, along with the castle and estate, was transferred from private ownership to NatureScot.

While the hydro scheme is the primary source of electrical power, it has been out of use for over a year, and the 40 islanders are relying on a diesel back up. Even when in working order, electricity supplies from the current set-up are limited, with each property fitted with a five amp breaker to avoid overloading the system. 

So, to safeguard its future and improve reliability of the supply, the Isle of Rum Community Trust has been exploring how to take on community ownership and operation of the hydro scheme.

Rum Ferry

Wider community benefits

Abundant water resources on the island, particularly those close to the village, offer significant opportunities to increase hydro production. 

The Isle of Rum Community Trust's development officer, a post supported by HIE, successfully applied for CARES enablement grant funding a number of years ago. This funded feasibility work on the way forward for the hydro scheme.

It has outlined how investment in the system could support local energy needs, including the transition of island heating systems from wood and oil burning sources to electric heating powered by the hydro.

With NatureScot, the community has submitted an expression of interest to CARES through Local Energy Scotland to fund more ambitious restoration and expansion of hydro, or other low carbon energy on Rum.

Collaboration with other agencies could also see Rum pioneer the use of eco-friendly fuel for ferries. Ferries account for around 70% of all energy usage in the Small Isles, and they're currently running on inefficient diesel power.

Overnight hydro charging of an eco-ferry based on Rum could offer more efficient, greener services. Reduced running costs could have a major impact on inter-island connectivity, and on people's lives. For example, secondary school aged children could live on the island full time rather than boarding in Mallaig.

Rum Pontoon

Benefits and skills development from energy transition

Without the hydro system, every household and premises on Rum would rely on individual diesel generators. The pollution produced by these generators would be particularly harmful to the nature reserve which constitutes a large part of the island.

Increased capacity also offers opportunities for growth in population and in jobs to local people living in Rum. 

Four new houses were built on the island in 2020, all of which are now occupied. Members of two of the new households, and one other new island resident, now work as technicians on the hydro. This provided a welcome boost to the one person on the island who previously held sole responsibility for operating the system.

Publicity around the opportunity to live on Rum at the time generated huge interest, with 440 applications submitted for the four houses. Their arrival boosted the primary school role from one to eight pupils.

Isle of Eigg skyline

Clean islands initiative

Rum is part of the Scottish consortium in the EU clean energy for islands initiative. Find out what's happening to support off-grid remote communities decarbonise.

Pioneering low carbon communities

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