Back to the future as renewables sector issues new call for massive expansion in Scottish hydro power


The hydro power electricity scheme at Cruachan dam
The hydro power electricity scheme at Cruachan dam

The trade association for the renewable energy industry in Scotland today calls for the governments in Holyrood and Westminster to examine the potential of a new hydro electric power to unlock £1 billion of investment to boost UK energy security.

The UK and Scottish Governments have been asked to join forces to drive forward ’the only electricity storage technology which can operate on a commercial scale.’

Hydro electric pumped storage (HEPS) works by using electricity to pump water from a lower to a higher reservoir where it can be stored and then, when required, be released to generate electricity, as a conventional hydroelectric power station would. In this way pumped storage technology effectively acts like a giant battery, storing energy when it is not required and releasing it when it is.

There are already initial plans for investment in new and upgraded pumped storage schemes in Scotland, which could unlock over £1 billion worth of investment and create several hundred jobs during construction and operation.

Iberdrola – the Spanish utility giant which owns Scottish Power – recently announced that it would explore a major expansion of its Cruachan hydro electricity plant in Argyllshire – one of the first such renewable power plants to be developed in the public sector after the second world war, when it was initially called the North of Scotland Hydro Electricity Board (NoSHEB).

Pumped storage is not currently recognised within the UK Government’s new Electricity Market Reform (EMR) framework.

But pumped hydroelectric storage is already included as a national development in the Scot.Govt’s proposed National Planning Framework-3.

A trade association spokesman said:  “A new generation of pumped storage has the potential to play an important role in helping to deliver a secure energy system for the UK, while also providing a number of other environmental and economic benefits.

“This tried and tested energy storage technology can also help facilitate our transition to a low-carbon future, ensuring that renewable energy can be stored when it is generated and used as required.

 “The case for new hydro pumped storage has never been stronger than it is today. That is why the renewables industry is calling on UK and Scottish Governments to establish an inter-governmental panel to consider how this technology should be supported for the benefit of our energy security, the environment and consumers.”

But – speaking exclusively today to Scottish Energy News  – Scotland’s Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, said: We welcome proposals to extend pump storage technology which will allow us to build on Scotland’s powerful position as a world leader in harnessing natural resources. 

“We also recognise the potential for further Hydro Electric Pumped Storage, alongside other, emerging, energy storage technologies and know this is a key part of contributing to a balanced energy mix in Scotland and to enhance security of supply both north and south of the border”.

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