Hydro power is produced when the kinetic energy of flowing water is converted into electricity by a turbine connected to an electricity generator. Most modern plants have energy conversion efficiencies above 90%. Research estimates the remaining hydro potential in the UK ranges from 850-1550MW, which could contribute significantly to the UK’s renewable energy targets.

Currently hydroelectricity is covered under the Government’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme as well as the Contract for Difference (CfD). Installations up to 50kW are eligible for the SEG, installations between 50kW and 5MW can choose between SEG or CfDs and installations over 5MW are only eligible for CfDs. For more information on CfDs and the SEG see the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) website.

Hydropower can be exploited at a wide range of different scales. Large-scale is typically taken to mean more than 10MW of grid-connected generating capacity and is usually associated with a dam and a storage reservoir. There are many large schemes in Scotland, which were built during the 1950s. Small-scale schemes – less than 10MW – now offer a greater opportunity for providing a reliable, flexible and cost-competitive power source with low environmental impacts. Small-scale schemes can be associated with a dam and storage reservoir or can be located in a moving stream which turns a small turbine creating renewable electricity. The amount of energy produced from these systems depends on the flow rate of the river and the volume of water in the river.

For more detailed information please see the REA’s Innovation Infrastructure & Markets Forum.