Green energy savings transform finances of Highland hostelry

It is the historic inn powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, where even the leftovers are used to warm the water to wash the plates.

Dont ask for chips at the inn where leftovers wash dishes. Picture: Contributed
Dont ask for chips at the inn where leftovers wash dishes. Picture: Contributed

The Glenuig Inn at Lochailort, which had its roof burned off in 1746 for seemingly lending support to Bonnie Prince Charlie, is now helping to lead the charge in Scotland’s green energy revolution.

Owner Steve Macfarlane took over the business nine years ago and set about finding ways of cutting the fuel bills at a time when year-on-year energy price rises were in the pipeline. Since then, he has cut energy costs from around nine per cent of his turnover to around 2.5 per cent – saving tens of thousands of pounds a year.

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“If you look at other businesses of our type in the West Highlands, almost every one of them is trading in fuel poverty,” he said.

“The savings mean I am open all day, every day and can offer a full menu all day, every day. I think we are the only business west of Fort William that is able to do that.”

The first changes he made were to knock down and replace the poorly built extensions to the original inn and wrap the whole building in a “duvet jacket” of wood fibre insulation.

Electricity is drawn from a hydro power scheme with the heat for water and rooms provided by a bio-mass boiler which is partly run on the leftovers scraped from customer’s plates. “Anything that comes off the plate goes into our food waste dryer which sterilises it and turns it into a crumb. This fuels the bio-mass boiler which then goes on to heat the water. So your leftovers are basically used to wash your plate.”

The property is lit only by LED bulbs with no extraction system in place to pull the heat created by appliances, such as fridges and freezers, out the building.

Cooking oil and gas has also been banished to cut emissions. While that means the Scottish staple of chips is not on the menu, Macfarlane said he did some great oven-cooked wedges.

Glenuig Inn is one of 32 Scottish companies that have been shortlisted for this year’s Vision in Business for the Environment of Scotland (VIBES) Awards following a record number of entries.

Macfarlane, who funded part of the inn’s switch to renewables through loans from the Energy Saving Trust, said he hoped the results would encourage other businesses to follow suit.