As Scotland leads the way...

Hydro industry fears cuts will lead to contraction

Hannah SmithNew research shows that all of Britain’s hydro industry is based in Scotland, boosted by its ideal terrain and weather. But those behind new schemes are worried that cuts to government support will hold it back.

Reductions under the Feed-in Tariff last year have caused widespread dismay at a time when it has been enjoying a renaissance.

Organisations, many of them rural businesses, have taken advantage of the home-grown, green and stable power these schemes provide.

Twenty-seven schemes, from Stirlingshire to Sutherland, totalling 58.5MW – enough to power 42,000 homes – have planning consent.

Research by Scottish Renewables ahead of its Hydro Conference and Exhibition in Perth on 18 May shows 14 schemes (26.8MW) are under construction in the UK – all in Scotland.

They include one 1.5MW project at the iconic Falls of Bruar in Perthshire, and another on the West Highland Way near Loch Lomond.

No projects in England, Wales or Northern Ireland currently have the green light to proceed.

Hannah Smith (pictured), policy officer at industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland’s terrain and rainfall mean the country is ideal for the development of hydroelectricity, but the rest of the UK has historically invested in this technology too.

“These figures show that a huge cut to support in the UK Government’s Feed-in Tariff review in December (2015) has already caused a contraction in the number of schemes being developed and, it seems, a geographical withdrawal to hydro’s traditional heartland.

“Hydropower provides green electricity with very low environmental impacts. Properly-maintained turbines can produce power for more than 80 years, and hydro enjoys huge public support, so it was particularly galling to see cuts of 37% imposed on the sector last year.

“Developers are now looking to innovation to make projects financially viable, which is just one of the topics we’ll be discussing at our conference in May.”

Scottish Renewables’ Hydro Conference and Exhibition, to be held at Perth Concert Hall, will look at alternative sources of finance and how communities can be better-engaged in novel financing alternatives; the future of hydro across Scotland; improving construction techniques to reduce cost and pumped storage and hydro’s role in the energy system.

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