Visiting a pumped hydro storage plant at Foyers, near Loch Ness – one of more than 200 similar plants in Scotland – he said today that the industry was “at a crossroads” with new projects coming on stream – but with future investments and jobs threatened by the UK Government subsidy regime.
Wheelhouse highlighted the role pumped hydro storage – a mature and highly flexible technology that enables the storage of renewable power – could play in Scotland’s energy system and called for closer working between the two governments on extending pumped storage capacity. He said:
“Hydro generation in 2015 was at a record high level – 5,780 GWh, up 6.3% on 2014.
“But the hydro sector is at a crossroads, with a number of exciting developments opening, but with some future investments, especially in small scale hydro, at risk due to changes in subsidies, brought in by the UK government, putting jobs at risk in many rural communities.
“Pumped hydro storage – like the facility I have seen today in Foyers – is a case in point. This tried and tested technology can play a key role in enhancing energy security, providing local jobs and helping to integrate renewables onto the network.
“As well as being able to further support peak demand, expanded pumped hydro storage would also be able to effectively store greater levels of electricity at times when renewable energy output is high but demand is low.
“However, this part of the hydropower industry requires substantial government support – not the kind of extra hurdles that changes in subsidies from the UK Government have put in place. That is why I am using this visit to urge the UK Government to do all that is can to support the real and continued potential in this energy resource.”
Like the Solar Trade Association Scotland, the Scottish hydro power association is pushing hard for this kind of renewable energy to be ‘fully-included’ in the emerging Scottish Energy Strategy, which will be rolled out later this year by Wheelhouse.