View of the Cruachan dam. The expansion project was one of the six projects studied in the new report

Six new pumped storage hydro projects currently under development in Scotland are set to more than double the UK’s capacity for pumped storage hydro to 7.7 GW, create almost 15,000 jobs, and generate up to £5.8 billion for the UK economy by 2035, according to a new report by Scottish Renewables and BiGGAR Economics.

The report, titled ‘The Economic Impact of Pumped Storage Hydro’, studied the Cruachan Expansion and Balliemeanoch projects, both in Argyll and Bute, Corrievarkie in Perth and Kinross, Glenmuckloch in Dumfries and Galloway, and Red John and Coire Glas in the Scottish Highlands. If constructed, these projects would add 4.9 GW to the UK’s existing capacity of 2.8GW, taking the country over halfway towards achieving the 15GW of capacity that is expected to be needed by 2050.

The report found that pumped storage hydro will improve the electricity network by reducing the curtailment of renewable energy, reducing the need for grid reinforcement, increasing energy security, and reducing consumer bills. It also found that once additional projects are in development, pumped storage hydro will generate up to £14.8 billion for the UK economy and create up to 9,400 jobs annually.

Many of the best locations for pumped storage hydro are in the north of Scotland, where there are plans for a significant increase in the generation of clean power with the construction of onshore and offshore wind farms.

To meet the UK Government’s net-zero targets, substantial increases in clean energy are required. However, since many technologies, such as offshore wind, are variable in their output, storage assets will be essential to support demands placed on the electricity network.

Scottish Renewables, the voice of the renewable energy industry in Scotland, is calling on the UK Government to urgently deliver the measures it has promised to enable investment in large-scale, long-duration energy storage, so developers can deliver the existing pipeline of ‘shovel-ready’ pumped storage hydro projects.

No pumped storage hydro facility has been commissioned in the UK since 1984, but the report argues that pumped storage hydro is uniquely placed to deliver socio-economic benefits to communities across the UK and will play a crucial role in achieving the UK Government’s net-zero ambitions and delivering energy security for consumers.

Andrew MacNish Porter, Policy Manager for Economics and Markets at Scottish Renewables, said: “However, an investment framework is needed to secure the massive capital investment required for these projects. We therefore urgently need the UK Government to clarify its support for pumped storage hydro and deliver the required policy support to unlock the huge value these projects promise to deliver.”

“The case for pumped storage hydro is clear: as evidenced in BiGGAR Economics’ report, projects including SSE Renewables’ Coire Glas will not only play a critical role in decarbonising the UK’s electricity system and reducing consumer bills but will help unlock billions of pounds of investment and create thousands of skilled jobs across the country,” added Finlay McCutcheon, Director of Onshore Renewables (Europe) at SSE Renewables. “We stand ready to invest in this vital technology and call on the UK Government to urgently confirm its intention for a market investment framework to facilitate the deployment of pumped storage hydro projects so that the sector can reach its vast potential.”

Mark Wilson, CEO of Intelligent Land Investments Group, commented: "Pumped storage hydro is the key to unlocking a cleaner, more resilient energy system for the UK, while generating significant economic benefits. With the potential to create over 8,000 jobs annually and an estimated investment of up to £21 billion, it's time for the UK government to take action. By introducing policies that support long-term investment signals, such as 'cap and floor', we can unlock the full potential of this technology, enhance energy security, and accelerate our transition to net-zero."

“Building a new generation of pumped storage hydro plants is vital to unlocking Scotland’s wind power potential and creating highly-skilled green jobs for our communities,” said Ian Kinnaird, Director of Scottish Assets at Drax. “That is why it is so important that the UK Government progresses its plans to introduce a new policy framework which will encourage and support private investment in these projects. With the right support in place, Drax stands ready to invest more than £500m in expanding our iconic Cruachan plant on the shores of Loch Awe.”

‘The Economic Impact of Pumped Storage Hydro’ report was jointly funded by Buccleuch, Drax, Foresight Group, Intelligent Land Investments Group and SSE Renewables.

Planned location for the new Coire Glas project in Loch Lochy (c) SSE Renewables