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Future of hydropower

Published: 22 Aug 2016 14:22

Key renewables industry “at a crossroads”.

The UK Government must work closely with its Scottish counterpart to secure the future of the hydropower industry, according to Business, Innovation and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

Visiting a pumped hydro storage plant at Foyers, near Loch Ness, Paul Wheelhouse said the industry was "at a cross roads" with new projects coming on stream but with future investments and jobs threatened by the UK Government subsidy regime.

Mr Wheelhouse highlighted the role pumped hydro storage – a mature and highly flexible technology that enables the storage of renewable power – could play in Scotland's energy system and called for closer working between the two governments on extending pumped storage capacity.

Mr Wheelhouse said:

"Hydro generation in 2015 was at a record high level - 5,780 GWh, up 6.3% on 2014.

"But the hydro sector is at a crossroads, with a number of exciting developments opening, but with some future investments, especially in small scale hydro, at risk due to changes in subsidies, brought in by the UKG, putting jobs at risk in many rural communities.

"Pumped hydro storage – like the facility I have seen today in Foyers – is a case in point. This tried and tested technology can play a key role in enhancing energy security, providing local jobs and helping to integrate renewables onto the network.

"As well as being able to further support peak demand, expanded pumped hydro storage would also be able to effectively store greater levels of electricity at times when renewable energy output is high but demand is low. However, this part of the hydropower industry requires substantial government support - not the kind of extra hurdles that changes in subsidies from the UK Government have put in place. That is why I am using this visit to urge the UK Government to do all that is can to support the real and continued potential in this energy resource.

"We are committed to supporting the development of renewables as part of a balanced energy portfolio, and are already developing an overarching energy strategy, setting out what we can do to optimise the benefits of Scotland's significant energy resources and expertise through to 2030. We will do all that we can to ensure hydropower, and pumped hydro storage, will play an important role as part of a balanced energy portfolio."

Notes to editors

Business, Innovation and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse will go on to visit RWE Innogy UK on Wednesday, August 24 for the inauguration of their hydro power station Cia Aig. Media interviews will be available.