The Environment Agency is about to massively raise its charges on new small hydro power schemes in England at a time when the Prime Minister has called for ‘much more use of renewables’ to address our energy crisis.
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA), which strongly advocates for electricity generation using a range of renewable technologies rather than by continued investment in costly and risky civil nuclear projects, is dismayed that the price hike will represent “a real dampener” on an industry that utilises access to a natural power source to generate green energy.
From 1 April, the Environment Agency is increasing fees for all businesses, which ‘abstract more than 20 cubic metres of water a day from a river, stream, canal or groundwater’, justifying this as a mechanism to help preserve England’s long-term water supply. The charges for the mandatory abstraction licences required by new hydropower schemes will rise from £1500 up to £13,392, depending on the size of the scheme. The fee was previously already raised 11-fold in 2014 from £135 to £1,500.
The British Hydropower Association has estimated that, since March 2020, 75 small hydro developments in England would have been deemed ‘unfeasible’ if they would have subjected to these new costs, and the NFLA believes that, whilst the fee increase may be justifiable with a large commercial agri-business or a water utility, both of which operate at a significant profit, it is illogical to apply the same fees to a not-for-profit community-owned hydro project or a small-scale farm scheme.
Responding to the news, Councillor David Blackburn, Chair of the NFLA, said:
“This increase is outrageous and illogical. We share the concern of the British Hydropower Association that the price hike may well kill off future small-scale hydro projects in England. A 900% rise in fees will deter new projects from being developed and delivered at a time when we should be encouraging more small hydro schemes to power our farms, commercial buildings and sustainable housing off-grid to reduce our carbon footprint and increase our energy security.”
On World Water Day (22 March) Councillor Blackburn has written to the DEFRA Minister responsible for the new charges, Rebecca Pow MP, asking her to exempt small hydro power schemes from the fee increase.
For more information please contact Richard Outram, Secretary, NFLA Email Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org / Mobile 07583 097793