Scottish hydro potential double early estimates, says report

22 January 2010

An update on the 2008 study on Scotland's hydro resources now estimates there could be 1.2GW of potential new hydro capacity in 7043 schemes. This compares to 657MW according to the 2008 study.

The study has taken account of micro-hydro schemes under 100kW and has factored in payments to supply electricity to the grid.

New hydro schemes must be sustainable and the Scottish Government has today published a short policy statement on its support for hydro while protecting the water environment.

"There is a clear untapped potential for smaller, community hydro schemes which can create green energy and tackle climate change,” said Energy Minister Jim Mather. "While large scale renewable energy development is helping drive economic recovery, there could also be substantial economic and social benefit from micro-hydro schemes. Today's report identifies the welcome potential for hundreds of new jobs in hydro power in manufacturing, installation and distribution.

"In optimising that potential, care must be taken to avoid adverse impacts on our water environment. Our policy statement published today supports this approach and SEPA is developing guidance to help the sector prevent such impacts.

"While every new scheme must be assessed on its own merits, if we can tap into new hydro power we can tackle climate change and continue to stimulate sustainable economic growth,” he added.

The increase in site numbers compared to the 2008 study is largely in the sub-100 kW range due to the favourable tariff for micro-hydro generation.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will be developing guidance to facilitate the appropriate siting and authorisation of sub 100kW schemes which will be available in Spring.

Forestry Commission Scotland is maximising its contribution to generating clean, renewable energy. There is potential from the national forest estate to produce 50MW and the Commission is currently discussing development potential with a number of interested parties.

The British Hydropower Association (BHA) welcomed the publication of the report, however, in a statement it said the the report reviews different growth scenarios up to the year 2030 and the major bottleneck is in the amount of skill available in Scotland and the rest of the UK to achieve worthwhile targets.

To create jobs, meet renewable energy targets and fight climate change, the organisation says the Scottish and UK government support is needed to optimise hydro development in areas such as: training in hydro skills; streamlining of consents processes; removal of unwieldy and inappropriate bureaucracy; and improved infrastructure

“Hydro is better placed than some other renewable energy technologies and can accelerate quicker to meet demand,” said BHA Chief Executive David Williams. “We have an existing hydro industry which before the rush for UK renewable energy development relied heavily on export work. Now, with a flourishing home market, we are well placed to provide the bulk of equipment and services required to maximise on this opportunity.”

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