Climate Change Minister Greg Barker today revealed that former watermills and turbines which are revived to generate electricity will now be eligible for financial support under the feed-in tariff.
And the Department of Energy and Climate Change is launching a hydropower help guide, prepared by the Environment Agency, which offers advice to groups looking to use the power of local streams, weirs or rivers to cut emissions and generate new income for their areas.
Mr Barker made his announcement while visiting the Torrs Hydro scheme at New Mills in the Peak District. Torrs Hydro is a community share scheme supported by local action group, H2OPE and the Co-op Community Fund. The community group of 230 members invested over £125,000 and then raised the remainder of the scheme’s full £330,000 cost from community bank loans and grants.The scheme earns an income from the energy exported to a local Co-op supermarket.
Mr Barker said: “I’m calling on communities across the UK to harness the power of their rivers and streams to generate electricity and money.
“When it comes to the UK’s performance on renewables, there’s much more to do and hydropower is currently a missed opportunity. There is more to renewable energy than just large wind turbines. We need to unlock the clean energy of our past as well as the future.
“To do that we need to make it easy and attractive for local people to revive our traditional waterways and help produce more local clean energy.
“This hydro help guide will give clear information on how to get new schemes up and running. I also want to see old mills and turbines brought back to life, some of which were operating in the 1940s and 1950s before the National Grid existed.”
Mr Barker said that “Feed-in Tariffs are here to stay” and reiterated that the government does not want to change the tariffs until 2013 “to ensure ongoing investment in new projects”.
Currently hydropower in the UK is generating the equivalent of 1.4% of electricity demand with a potential to contribute up to a further 1% – enough to power the equivalent of one million homes. In the last two years, the Environment Agency has seen a 10-fold increase in applications for hydropower permits.
Head of climate changeat the Environment Agency Malcolm Fergusson said: “Hydropower can help in the fight against climate change, but it has to be sustainable. At the Environment Agency it is our job to ensure that hydropower schemes include measures to protect the local environment.
“We have seen a tenfold increase in hydropower applications in the past two years, and we expect to deal with even more in the future as developers and communities strive to take advantage of new financial incentives.”
The Renewable Energy Association praised the inclusion of hydro in Feed-in-Tariffs. Chief executive Gaynor Hartnell said: “We are delighted with today’s announcement on hydro as it made no sense to exclude older mills and turbines given the bespoke nature of hydro projects. This announcement willbreathe useful life back into thousands of schemes all over the UK, and will attract visitors keen to learn about renewables.”
Ms Hartnell also highlighted Greg Barker’s assertion that ‘Feed-in Tariffs are here to stay. “It’s hugely encouraging that Greg Barker gets the decentralised nature of renewable energy and the needto secure expansion throughlong-term stable support.Now he’s addressed refurbished hydro, we hope we can persuade him that biomass and deep geothermal should also be included in the FIT schemes.”