Hydropower in Scotland

Research by renewable energy industry trade body Scottish Renewables has shown that all renewable hydro projects with planning permission in the UK are in Scotland. The announcement, made prior to the Scottish Renewables Hydro Conference and Exhibition in Perth on 18 May shows 14 schemes due to generate 26.8 MW of electricity are under construction including one 1.5MW project at the iconic Falls of Bruar in Perthshire, and another on the West Highland Way near Loch Lomond.

A further twenty seven projects potentially generating 58.5 MW have planning consent, from Stirlingshire to Sutherland and when constructed will be able to power up to 42,000 homes.

All the above proposed developments are in Scotland whilst none in England, Wales or Northern Ireland currently have the green light to proceed.

Speaking of the findings, Scottish Renewables policy officer Hannah Smith 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.”

Scottish Renewables also confirmed that UK government’s cuts to renewable subsides (a 37% reduction for hydro) has alarmed the hydro industry at the time when new schemes were being planning throughout the country.

Hannah Smith added “These figures show that a huge cut to support under the UK Government’s feed-in tariff review in December has already caused a contraction in the number of schemes being developed and, it seems, a geographical withdrawal to hydro’s traditional heartland.

“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.”

The 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 hydro’s role in the energy system.

There is a rich history of hydropower in Scotland dating back to the 1950s and a number of large scale installations developed by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. At the time it was a nationalised industry before being sold to the private sector in the 1980s. Many of the developments put in place at that time are still in operation and provide local communities with clean renewable energy.

It is estimated that a further 1.3GW of capacity could be available in Scotland via small and medium scale installations which would go a long way in reducing our carbon emissions. Hydropower is also a more constant source of renewable energy compared to other forms meaning an increase in capacity would lead to a more secure energy future.

Scotland is the windiest country in Europe which has played a large role in the success of the wind energy industry. As many of my fellow Scots will agree, we also get our fair share of rain. Using the plentiful natural resources to produce clean renewable energy is a logical step we should be taking in order to reduce the above mentioned carbon emissions.

Hydropower could be utilised well beyond its current capacity level but it needs a stable platform on which to build upon. With the legally binding carbon emission reductions due in four years it is our hope that hydropower along with other forms of renewable energy generation benefit from a shift of government policy.

After all it would be a shame not to utilise those plentiful resources.

 

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