SEPA warns against badly designed hydro schemes

Small scale renewable energy projects are becoming increasingly popular in Scotland but environmental regulator SEPA is urging those looking to install hydro schemes to make sure they do the necessary paperwork to avoid damaging vulnerable waterways.

SEPA has stressed it is overwhelmingly supportive of hydro as part of the energy mix necessary to reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions, but has warned that schemes must be regulated and well managed.

Any Scottish hydro scheme, no matter how big or small, requires authorisation from SEPA and may also need planning permission from the local authority.

Lin Bunten, one of SEPA’s senior environment protection managers, said: “SEPA recognises the importance of renewable energy generation as a contribution to reducing global warming.

“Small scale hydro projects can be a good investment, they can offset your carbon footprint and contribute to sustainable development.

“They can, however, have a significant impact on the water environment if not managed properly, which is why we urge anyone who is interested to contact us for advice and guidance.

“At present there are significant incentives and benefits for installing small scale hydro turbines into watercourses and burns on your land.

“There are grants and financial incentives available to you for producing green energy. We are required by the Scottish Government to recover the costs of regulation from applicants and licence holders, but it is important to us that our charging scheme does not act as a disincentive for small-scale energy generation.

“There are different charges depending on the size of a scheme, and each will be looked at individually.

“SEPA and the Scottish Government are supportive of such schemes.”

The regulator has produced guidance for those considering hydro developments which can be found at

Sam Bond

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