Hydro power is a commercial technology, long established in Scotland, which accounts for a significant proportion of our existing renewable output. It contributes around 10% to Scotland's total current energy generation. Most output is produced by large scale hydro schemes. There are, however, an increasing number of proposals for small run of river hydro projects and these projects, together with the continuing refurbishment of the large hydro schemes will ensure that hydro will continue to play its part in Scotland's renewable energy mix.
The Scottish Hydropower Resource Study produced for the Forum for Renewable Energy Development in Scotland (FREDS) in Autumn 2008, found that there is huge untapped potential - and a sustainable and profitable future - in smaller and micro hydro schemes. It suggests that there are still 657 megawatts of financially viable hydro electricity schemes to exploit in Scotland.
Following on from the study, further research into potential job creation from micro-hydro schemes has been published in The Employment Potential of Scotland's Hydro Resource (2010).
The Renewables Action Plan which was published in June 2009 includes a specific Route-Map for Hydro which sets out key steps in realising the potential identified in the study. It also committed to establishing a new FREDS sub group on Micro-Hydro to galvanise action in the sector. The group met for the first time in October 2009.
In January 2010, Ministers published a policy statement on balancing the benefits of renewables generation and protection of the water environment.
In February 2011, after a consultation process, an Order to change the consenting threshold to bring hydro in line with other onshore renewable technologies was laid before the Scottish Parliament. The Order proposes that applications in excess of 50 megawatts installed capacity would be determined by Scottish Ministers, and smaller ones would be determined by planning authorities under the Town and Country Planning Act 1997. This Order requires the parliament's approval before it can come into force.