Yesterday in Parliament I took part in the Scottish Government debate on Hydropower. Hydro not only provides electricity and jobs to many rural places across Scotland but can also play a fairly significant part in helping us meet our future climate change targets.
The debate focused on the 70th anniversary of hydro-power in Scotland and I was recently at a dinner during Scottish Renewables hydro conference to mark the occasion. The night and conference was a great opportunity to recognise the contribution of hydro and its development in Scotland, it also proved an opportunity and forum for discussions on future challenges the industry may face.
The establishment of Scottish Hydro revolutionised the Highlands. At the time only one croft in every hundred had electricity, now over half of Scotland’s 145 hydroeclectic schemes are located in the Highlands and Islands. While agriculture is often at the centre of the rural economy, with the right training and investment renewables could bring hundreds of jobs to these areas. This helps strengthen local links and keeps young workers and families from moving away to find employment.
However the growth of hydro power in Scotland has slowed in recent years despite there still being many opportunities available for both large and small scale hydro power schemes. Whilst it still currently produces about 12% of Scotland’s electricity it has been overtaken by wind power despite at one time being the main contributor in Scotland’s drive for renewable energy.
Sadly, Scotland failed to meet their annual emission reduction target for the second year in a row and many feel only a significant redraft of the Governments Second Report on Proposals and Policies can get Scotland back on track. The Minister for the Environment is updating the chamber next week on RPP2 but he must rely on the help of his colleagues from other portfolios areas such as the Energy Minister. I therefore asked Mr Ewing if he could offer his views on the redraft and how he believes hydro power complimented other forms of renewable energy. I also asked if he knew how many applications for grants or loans there had been through the Government’s Warm Homes Fund for hydro schemes.
I also spoke of the benefits around community ownership, highlighting its potential as a vehicle for tackling inequality and delivering sustainable growth. By working together with local communities smaller scale energy schemes can benefit the area and the country at large. This has happened in certain cases, particularly in Scandinavia, and is an area that should be explored and developed further. If a small hydro scheme has the potential to generate power to around 150 homes it has the opportunity to help us meet our climate targets, provide green jobs and tackle fuel poverty.
Please find below a a video of the 1st part of the debate. Alternatively you can read my speech here.