A new study commissioned by the Scottish Government for the Forum for Renewable Energy Development in Scotland on the status of the Scottish hydropower potential was published on 26 August 2008. The study reveals that Scotland has enough untapped hydropower potential to supply electricity to a quarter of the nation's homes. It shows that there is still about 657 Megawatts of financially viable hydro electricity schemes that could be exploited for the generation of electricity for 600,000 homes (around half the amount of 1379 Megawatts installed hydro capacity that already exists in Scotland).

Energy Minister Jim Mather said that "in making Scotland the green energy capital of Europe, we will utilise the rich mix of our diverse renewables potential, and hydro remains a hugely important part of that mix."

However, the question begs as to whether there is adequate investment to enable the development of this important untapped renewables potential in Scotland. In reply it seems that investment continues, with the Glendoe project near Fort Augustus, scheduled to open around mid 2009, a significant addition to Scotland's renewables capacity. Furthermore, the Scottish Government is currently considering 10 hydro applications. It also seems that the focus is no longer on large-scale developments with more opportunities for smaller and micro hydro schemes.

The British Hydropower Association has welcomed the study. The Scottish Renewables Hydro Work Group also supports the study and suggested that the systems could be further enhanced by allowing greater responsibility and support to local authorities in their decision making process on larger hydro schemes. The industry also points to getting environmental regulation right as a way of increasing investor confidence and unleashing more potential.

The study highlights the lack of transmission capacity in the existing network as a major barrier to around a third of potential schemes identified.

Overall, it is inevitable that this new development potential would safeguard a sustainable and profitable future and, at the same time, tackle climate change and continue to stimulate economic growth in Scotland.

Please note:

  • All applications for hydropower generation schemes in excess of 1 Megawatt are dealt with by the Scottish Ministers under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989. The relevant local planning authority deals with applications below 1 Megawatt.
  • The new Scottish Government's target is to deal with each application within nine months and each scheme will be assessed on its own merits.