New figures: Scotland Rules Hydro Sector

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The UK’s hydro industry is now 100% Scottish, with new research showing ALL projects with planning permission are north of the border.

Twenty-seven schemes totalling 58.5MW – enough to power 42,000 homes – have planning consent, from Stirlingshire to Sutherland.

Research by Scottish Renewables ahead of the industry body’s Hydro Conference and Exhibition in Perth on May 18 shows 14 schemes (26.8MW) are under construction in the UK – all in Scotland.

They include one 1.5MW project at the iconic Falls of Bruar in Perthshire, and another on the West Highland Way near Loch Lomond.

No projects in England, Wales or Northern Ireland currently have the green light to proceed.

Cuts to support under the Feed-in Tariff last year have caused dismay in the hydro industry, which was enjoying a renaissance as organisations, many of them rural businesses, took advantage of the home-grown, green and stable power schemes provide.

Hannah Smith, Policy Officer at industry body Scottish Renewables, 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.

“These figures show that a huge cut to support in the UK Government’s Feed-in Tariff review in December (2015) has already caused a contraction in the number of schemes being developed and, it seems, a geographical withdrawal to hydro’s traditional heartland.

“Hydropower provides green electricity with very low environmental impacts. Properly-maintained turbines can produce power for more than 80 years, and 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.”

Scottish Renewables’ Hydro 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 pumped storage and hydro’s role in the energy system.