Scotland has a proud tradition of generating hydro electricity, and many of the projects installed in the post-war years continue to provide clean and reliable power to Scotland's homes and businesses. Today the development of Scotland's vast renewable energy potential is at the heart of the Scottish Government's vision for a low carbon economy. The refurbishment of many of our large schemes along with recent developments like the Glendoe project will ensure that hydro will play a part in Scotland's energy story long into the future. In addition, the Scottish Government has granted consent to a number of smaller hydro projects in recent years, in recognition of the contribution such schemes can make towards both our renewables targets and our core objective of increasing sustainable economic growth in Scotland.
Future developments of new hydro schemes are likely to be mainly small and micro-scale, although there is still some potential for large scale schemes. A recent update on the 2008 Hydro Resource Study estimates there could be 1.2 Gigawatts of financially viable new hydro capacity across 7,043 schemes and highlights the jobs potential from these schemes.
However, whilst hydro offers vast potential, it is important that development is not pursued at any cost to the environment. With that in mind, Scottish Ministers issued a policy statement at the beginning of this year on balancing the benefits of renewables generation and protection of the water environment.
The Scottish Government has a responsibility, as detailed in the Renewables Action Plan (2009), to provide clear leadership for the renewable energy sector, driving progress and identifying and overcoming obstacles to energy generation. The 1 MW threshold for hydropower over which applications are dealt with under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 (Scotland) Order 1990 has been identified by the sector as one such obstacle. We are responding with this consultation.
This consultation sets out the implications of raising the consents planning threshold in Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 (Scotland) Order 1990 for onshore hydropower from 1 MW to 50 MW. I urge to you to consider the points raised in this consultation, and to respond with your thoughts, queries, and concerns.
I welcome your comments and look forward to further enhancement of the hydropower sector.
Jim Mather MSP
Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism