In 2010 licences were granted for 65 schemes, compared with 10 in 2008, the EA said.

This year, it will be more more straightforward to make an application, in order to assist the communities, developers and individuals looking to capitalise on Government incentives to produce renewable electricity. Simpler application forms will be published on the EA’s website during February 2011. EA teams throughout England and Wales will provide early advice to developers of hydropower schemes to help them produce well-designed sustainable schemes.

The EA has been working with industry, anglers, NGOs and landowners on ways to improve the existing permitting process. These improvements will not need any changes to the complex legal framework around the various permissions and have been implemented in response to the growing interest in hydropower.

The EA had been asked by Defra in 2009 to carry out a review of the permitting procedures for hydropower.

“It’s vital that getting hydro power schemes up and running is as simple as possible. There’s been a big rise in applications over the past two years and, with new financial incentives, there’ll be even more this year,” said Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne. “We have already allowed former mills and water turbines to get financial support to increase the amount of clean electricity generated in this way. Hydro power helps meet our renewable energy goals.”

With around 350 hydropower schemes currently licensed in England and Wales, the EA estimates that this number could rise to around 1200 by 2020.