Maximising opportunities for UK hydro15 April 2005
A clear message throughout the British Hydropower Association annual conference was that hydro has a large part to play in the UK energy market, writes Carrieann Davies. But will UK companies be able to break the international markets?
HYDRO POWER is vital to Britain’s long term future. This statement, made by UK Minister of State for Energy and E-commerce, Mike O’Brien during the British Hydropower Association (BHA) annual event at the end of last year summed up the feelings of many who attended this interesting and varied meeting.
Held at the Department of Trade and Industry’s conference centre in the heart of London, the BHA delivered a two day event looking at world class engineering in a challenging environment. The event covered a number of different areas including energy policy, environmental legislation, river stewardship and hydro in the public eye.
O’Brien opened the conference by stating that the UK government has a strong commitment to renewables. ‘The vital nature of renewables is plain to see,’ he said, ‘we’re confident that hydro will continue to make a contribution to renewable targets and this will continue for decades to come.’
Mentioning the 2003 Energy White Paper ‘Our energy future – creating a low carbon economy’, O’Brien said there was a real need to bring renewables forward, and that the government was prepared to make significant capital investment in this area in the future.
The White Paper set out the government’s policy on renewable energy and confirmed the target that by 2010, 10% of electricity should come from renewables. This equates to a total of 39TWh/yr and includes provision for a future increase in electricity consumption, but also for an increase in energy efficiency. The paper also includes the aspiration that, by 2020, 20% of the UK’s electricity supply should be met by renewables, while encouraging local planning authorities to promote renewables through the planning system.
With regards to hydro power and its place in the UK’s renewable market, there are three main categories used by the UK government to define the output:
• Large scale capacity (more than 20MW), which is currently producing 907MW.
• Small scale capacity (systems producing less than 20MW) in the UK is currently 503MW.
• Micro-scale capacity (less than 1MW) is currently 46MW.
Total hydroelectric capacity in the UK is approximately 4244MW – including 2788MW of pumped storage capacity.
The UK currently generates about 0.8% of its electricity from hydroelectric schemes – most of which comes from large-scale schemes found in the Scottish Highlands. According to the DTI website, opportunities to increase large scale hydro are limited because most of the commercially attractive and environmentally acceptable sites are already in use. However, a 100MW scheme at Glendoe in the Scottish highlands has recently been approved, with work expected to begin in 2005 with a completion date of 2008/9 (see IWP&DC Dec 04)
A number of smaller schemes are also in the planning and development stages. Schemes recently approved include the 2.2MW Braevallich project, as well as refurbishment of some old watermills scheduled to be brought back into the energy network. Work has also recently been completed on the 3.5MW Kingairloch scheme in Morvern (see July 05 issue of IWP&DC for an in-depth report on this project).
On a smaller scale
A point O’Brien made during his keynote speech was that small hydro is an important area for development. ‘We need to guard against only thinking big,’ he said, ‘small scale is worth pursuing.’
The UK government is promoting the take up of micro-hydro in homes in the country. There have been a number of incidents in the country where people have installed micro schemes to power their homes, and even small scale schemes have been used to provide sufficient power for a small community.
The main source of funding for small scale renewable installations in the UK is the DTI funded Clear Skies programme, part of the Community Renewables Initiative. For household grants, the amount of grant is £1000 (US$1900) per kW installed up to a maximum of £5000 (US$9500). The minimum size is 0.5kW. Installations larger than 5kW are allowable but capacity above that level will not incur a grant. For community grants, the size of the grant is the lower of 50% of installed cost or £100,000 (US$190,000) regardless of the technology.
To help support and encourage this development, the BHA has included a guide to UK mini-hydro developments on its website. The guide, designed to assist anyone in the UK who is planning to develop a small-scale scheme, explains the basic concept of generating power from water and the purpose of different components of a scheme. It also covers the principle steps in developing a project, the technology involved and where to go for help and sources of funding.
The guide is available as a PDF, or as an interactive website, where you can pick out the topics of interest from the drop down menus on www.british-hydro.org/mini-hydro.
The comprehensive guide explains in detail the main elements of a scheme and what information you need before you consider a site for hydro generation. It takes you step by step through commissioning a feasibility study, planning and licences, costs and economics and contracting a scheme. It even explains the different kinds of technology which can be used, together with a useful reference list at the end.
Another major area for development in the country is international trade. ‘UK companies are enjoying business in difficult markets, like Japan, US etc. The government is working with industry to help them maximise opportunities and ensure they work through the supply chain,’ said O’Brien. ‘We want to see government and industry working more closely together.’
Kieron Hanson of the BHA said that he thought more needed to be done in this area. ‘It’s a matter of giving us a level playing field with our competitors,’ he claimed. ‘We are disadvantaged because of the amount of support European companies get from their governments. The UK government needs to be more supportive.’
One of the ways the government is hoping to do this is through the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the government organisation that supports both companies in the UK trading internationally and overseas enterprises seeking to locate in the UK. The organisation can help develop export capabilities and provide expert advice, reliable data, and professional research. This can also include financial support to attend industry events abroad, in order to gain exposure to new markets.
The BHA is also helping to raise the profile of the UK hydro industry by attending many international events and giving presentations to a worldwide audience. For example, the organisation is involved in the UK exhibition pavilion at Hydro 2005 from 17-20 October 2005 in Villach, Austria. It has also organised a UK Hydropower Scoping mission to Vietnam and Laos from 27 April to 4 May 2005, and a trade mission to Romania and Bosnia from 4-8 July 2005.
With such missions on the horizon, it seems as if the future is bright for the UK hydro industry. It will be interesting to look back in a few years to see how the country’s hydro companies fare in the international markets, and whether, as O’Brien suggested during the conference, ‘we’ll see a green revolution in our lifetime.’
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