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Hydropower on the increase

There has been a six-fold increase in the number of hydropower schemes planned in England and Wales since 2008, the Environment Agency announced today.

In 2010, the Environment Agency granted licences for 65 schemes, up from 10 in 2008.

To assist the communities, developers and individuals looking to capitalise on Government incentives to produce renewable electricity, the Environment Agency has simplified the application process to install hydropower schemes. There will be no change to the standards of environmental protection as a result. 

Hydropower schemes can have complicated impacts, including changing river flows, which in turn can affect fish migration and downstream habitats as well as introducing flood risk. To ensure the environment and river life are protected, a range of permissions covering abstraction, fish movement and flood defence, are required from the Environment Agency.

It will now be more straightforward to make an application. Simpler application forms will be published on the Environment Agency’s website during February 2011. Environment Agency teams throughout England and Wales will provide early advice to developers of hydropower schemes to help them produce well-designed sustainable schemes.

The Environment Agency has been working with industry, anglers, NGOs and landowners on ways to improve the existing permitting process. These improvements will not need any changes to the complex legal framework around the various permissions and have been implemented in response to the growing interest in hydropower.

The Environment Agency had been asked by Defra in 2009 to carry out a review of the permitting procedures for hydropower.  

“Hydropower is a reliable and proven technology and it is increasingly attractive to local communities, organisations and individuals,” said Environment Agency’s Chief Executive Paul Leinster. “But poorly designed schemes could have damaging impacts on the environment and increase risk of flooding.  ”

“The Environment Agency is committed to getting the regulatory balance right – supporting the development of sustainable renewable energy by making it as easy as possible for organisations to apply for hydropower permits whilst ensuring that the environment is protected.”

“It’s vital that getting hydro power schemes up and running is as simple as possible,” said Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne. “There’s been a big rise in applications over the past two years and, with new financial incentives, there’ll be even more this year. We have already allowed former mills and water turbines to get financial support to increase the amount of clean electricity generated in this way. Hydro power helps meet our renewable energy goals.”

With around 350 hydropower schemes currently licensed by the Environment Agency in England and Wales, the Environment Agency estimates that this number could rise to around 1,200 by 2020.

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