Following a consultation process which closed in December 2010, the Scottish Government has committed to changing the current planning process for onshore hydro schemes of 50MW or less.

At present, any application for an onshore hydro scheme generating in excess of 1MW of electricity per annum must be submitted to the Scottish Ministers under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989.

As from 1 June 2011, applications for onshore hydro schemes generating up to 50MW will be submitted to and decided by the relevant local authority. This will bring the onshore hydro planning threshold into line with that currently applying in England and Wales.

The perceived benefits of this approach include:

  • removal of a layer of administration (local authorities currently consider applications and make recommendations to the Scottish Ministers)
  • planning authorities can apply local knowledge to decision making  
  • the process should be more appropriate and understandable for communities proposing hydro projects.

Any applications for schemes in excess of 1MW lodged before 1 June 2011 will continue to be processed by the Scottish Ministers under section 36. The thresholds for all other forms of renewable generation remain unaltered.