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Scotland's hydropower potential boosted by small hydro projects

The Scottish government reports that Scotland's hydropower potential is nearly double the amount previously estimated, with small hydro playing a key role in hydro development and job creation.

A recently-published update on a 2008 study on Scotland's hydro resources estimates there could be 1.2 GW of potential new hydro capacity in 7,043 hydro projects. This compares to 657 MW according to the 2008 study.

"There is a clear untapped potential for smaller, community hydro schemes which can create green energy and tackle climate change,” said Energy Minister Jim Mathers. "While large-scale renewable energy development is helping drive economic recovery, there could also be substantial economic and social benefit from micro-hydro schemes.”

The British Hydropower Association (BHA) said it welcomes the publication of the Scottish government’s recent reports regarding hydropower, including “The Employment Potential of Scotland’s Hydro Resource.”

BHA Chief Executive David Williams said “We are particularly pleased that the renewable policies that have been put in place since the major “Scottish Hydro Resource Potential survey,” published in late 2008, have increased the number of financially-viable hydro projects. This increase, which is mainly due to the wider acceptance of micro-hydro generation, boosts the overall generation capacity from 657 MW to 1,204 MW, which would generate up to 4 million MWh a year – up to a third of Scotland’s domestic demand.”

However, 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, Scottish and UK government support is needed to optimize hydro development in several areas, the BHA reported. Those areas include, training in hydro skills, streamlining of the consents processes, removal of bureaucracy, and improved infrastructure.

“Hydro is better placed than some other renewable energy technologies and can accelerate quicker to meet demand,” Williams said. “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 maximize on this opportunity.”

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