Hydropower in United Kingdom

Installed capacity1.63GW

Production490ktoe per year

While the overall amount of installed hydro-electric capacity is extremely modest, opportunities for development do exist, especially in the small-hydro sector (defined in this context as plants up to 5 MW). Hydropower & Dams World Atlas quotes the technically feasible potential for small hydro so defined as 4  100 GWh/yr, with the economically feasible potential for undeveloped sites as 1 000 GWh/yr.

The UK WEC Member Committee reports that a study into the potential hydro resource is currently under way. The draft findings of this study show a potential of up to 248 MW of small-scale hydro left to be developed in England and Wales. This study complements one undertaken in Scotland on behalf of the Forum for Renewable Energy Development in Scotland, which showed a potential for up to 657 MW of small-scale hydropower.

The 2008 Energy Act provided the wherewithal for the Government to introduce feed-in tariffs (FIT). From 1 April 2010 renewable energy electricity-generating technologies, up to a maximum of 5 MW, qualify for generation and export tariffs. FITs will work alongside the Renewables Obligations. In the case of new hydro schemes, where both the product and installer are certificated, the generation tariffs are on a decreasing scale from GBP 0.199/kWh for up to 15 kW capacity to GBP 0.045/kWh for installations of 2-5 MW. These rates will remain the same for a period of 20 years (although adjusted for inflation through a link to the Retail Price Index). The tariff payable for electricity exported to the grid is GBP 0.03/kWh, regardless of the size of the installation.

The UK currently (2011) generates about 1.5% (5,700 Gwh) of its electricity from hydroelectric schemes – most of which are large-scale schemes in the Scottish Highlands.

Hydroelectric energy uses proven and efficient technology; the most modern plants have energy conversion efficiencies of 90% and above. Hydro has a typical load factor of 35 to 40%.