Dear Editor, In response to the article called ‘Powering up the river Thames’ in the November issue of IWP&DC 9pp34-5), I wanted to share my experience of small hydro on the river Thames and with the Environment Agency in the UK.
IT Power has been working with the Royal Household to develop a 200kW hydro scheme on the Thames near Windsor. It has been extremely time-consuming trying to work through all the many issues with the Environment Agency — we are still discussing things after three years.
Our experience has been that although many of the individuals at the Agency are sympathetic to the concept they have statutory obligations to fulfil which are not sympathetic to hydro power; they have little or no knowledge of the ins and outs of hydro projects (and there is currently no reason why they should), plus in the Thames region people move positions with amazing frequency.
Small scale hydro power in the UK has no future until it is taken on board by the Agency as a positive contribution to the environment, not just any old development, and the Agency develops a unit which is properly resourced with knowledgeable staff who can help guide projects through to completion.
My impression is that in the last year things have started to move in that direction, but there is still some way to go.
The Agency’s own literature states that its strategy on climate change is to:
• Help ensure the government’s greenhouse gas reduction targets are met.
• Support the use of energy from sustainable renewable resources.
• Reduce internal consumption of energy and fossil fuels.
But this message has not yet worked its way through to the interpretation of statutory obligations.
From the commercial point of view, the effect of the Climate Change Levy and Utilities Bill (see IWP&DC December 200, pp28-9) will be that in the near future the saleable value of hydroelectricity will jump from the 2.7 – 3.0p/kWh offered today, to something in the range 4.0 – 5.0p/kWh. This will have a dramatic effect on the economic viability of UK hydro power and the pressure for new projects. In Germany, the government imposed a value of around 5p/kWh for small hydro in 1996 and there has been a rapid turnover of projects ever since. The Environment Agency must prepare itself for these developments.