German energy giant announces major Scottish hydro power expansion plan

RWE Cia Aig run-of-river small-scale hydro power scheme
RWE’s Cia Aig run-of-river small-scale hydro power scheme

EXCLUSIVE report by Scottish-UK-Energy News

Giant German energy company RWE International has announced expansion plans to take advantage of Scottish natural resources by building a bigger fleet of assets in small-scale hydropower in Scotland – despite the UK Government’s decision to cut support for renewable energy projects.

Hans-Christoph Funk, who leads the hydropower division for RWE International, said Scotland offers a unique opportunity for developing a broader renewable energy footprint while at the same time preserving regional ecosystems.

He said: “Scotland offers optimum conditions for small-scale, distributed hydroelectric schemes, which preserve the ecosystems of small rivers and the landscape and make an important contribution to distributed renewable energy generation.

“We want to focus on such renewable energy projects in the future and intend to develop and build additional power plants. We count on the support of the British government.”

Hydropower often has base-load capability and is an important element in the renewable energy mix where it can offset ‘intermittency’ problems associated with wind power

RWE tapped into the renewable energy scheme in Scotland by developing prototype tidal current turbines installed offshore at the beginning of the decade. A long-term strategy called for as much as 100 megawatts of tidal power off the Scottish coast.

RWE also announced that it has commissioned the small-scale Cia Aig hydropower facility, and now operates 15 hydroelectric power stations in Scotland. With a capacity of 2 MW the station will produce sufficient green energy to supply an equivalent of about 1,850 homes annually. Construction of the 2 MW Grudie hydro scheme, which is approximately 80 miles north of Cia Aig, started in February.

The company said it was building its portfolio further – despite a British government decision to cut support for renewable energy projects.

Last year, the British energy Minister, Amber Rudd announced plans to end public subsidies for some parts of the renewable energy sector, defending the move as a way to keep consumer bills low. She said costs for renewable energy projects, meanwhile, were down “significantly” thanks in part to government support.

Scotland, for its part, has one of the most ambitious renewable energy schemes in the world. Renewable electricity capacity has grown at an average rate of 660 megawatts each year since 2007.

In 2015 the UK Government cut feed-in tariffs for small-scale hydropower, as well as removing the Climate Change Levy exemption for renewably sourced electricity. However, RWE International will remain committed to the further development plans of economic hydro power in the UK.

For many other technologies the changes have also been unfavourable, in that RWE International has had to put its onshore wind growth plans in the UK on hold and focus on constructing projects with a route to market.

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