Case Studies

The Iona Heat Network

The Iona Heat Network is the Social Innovation Challenge 2022 winner. This community-led project aims to decarbonise the heat supply on the island of Iona, alleviate fuel poverty and help residents move away from fossil fuels.

The Iona Heat Network has been in development for years. It is a project of the community-led charity Iona Renewables and its wholly-owned subsidiary Iona Energy Ltd.

The project uses a ground source heat network – a technology that works by extracting heat from the ground and pumping water through it in pipes – in a decentralised network design. This means that once up and running, the network will operate as a communal, low-emission, low-cost heating system for the island and will allow residents to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels.

Fuel poverty is an issue that disproportionally affects the residents of Iona. With all the island’s energy imported and reliant on expensive single-use electricity tariffs, oil and coal, heating costs for residents have always been exceptionally high, even before the recent increases caused by the war in Ukraine and other global factors.

Having identified that a ground source heat network was the only viable environmentally friendly energy solution for the island’s particular needs, the community of Iona, with the steadfast support of multiple local and national stakeholders, have collectively led the development of a transformative ground source heat network, which will be owned, operated, and maintained by island residents.

The £50,000 grant funding prize will be used to carry out essential technical work, as well as bring in expertise to steer the project over the line to the construction phase in 2023.

Once installed, the heat network will enable residents to reduce their energy costs and carbon emissions through adequate, affordable, renewable heat that is collectively owned. Long-term, the project hopes to offer a replicable model for other remote, vulnerable areas facing similar challenges.

Siona Ruhemann from Iona Energy Ltd is presented with a winner's certificate.
Carmen Paputa-Dutu, SIC Programme Manager and Siona Ruhemann from Iona Energy Ltd.

Shiona Ruhemann from Iona Renewables told us:

We are absolutely delighted to have won this year’s Social Innovation Challenge. Having come all this way through sheer community commitment and determination, the island community is in sight of delivering an innovative, exemplar ‘bottom-up’ model for addressing the most intractable low-carbon problems on Iona and for other challenging rural settings.

Shiona Ruhemann