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Community Hydropower Overview

Community Hydropower

Community Hydropower Overview

These pages are aimed at landowners, groups of landowners and established community groups, and provide the key information you need to develop a community hydro project from scratch. Use the links at the side of the page now to find out more.

Over the next few decades the UK energy supply infrastructure will change dramatically from a centralised, fossil-fuelled system to a decentralised ‘distributed’ system with a significant proportion of renewable generators, including hydro turbines. This will be largely driven by CO2 emission reduction targets due to climate change, economic drivers (if fossil-fuel prices continue to rise) and strategic moves to increase home-grown energy security.

In parallel there will be a revolution in the ownership of the equipment that generates our electricity and an increasing expectation that the community that hosts a generator should also own it (at least partially) and get the financial benefits. In Germany 15% of renewable energy generation is owned by local communities, and in Denmark it is 86%. For comparison in the UK it is less than 0.5%!

The UK Government has launched an ambitious Community Energy Strategy which aims to open the door to community ownership for renewable energy generators. The strategy is quite broad and includes energy efficiency, demand management and collective purchasing, as well as generating energy. It is likely that most activity will be centred around the generation of energy with community wind and solar projects the most popular, plus a reasonable amount of community hydro.

Community hydro projects have the potential to really engage with your community and create a great sense of wellbeing by taking responsibility for your energy supply and doing your bit to fight climate change. There will of course be some local opponents who can cause friction, but it’s surprising how much opposition disappears when the financial benefits from a hydro turbine stay in the local community. Nowadays the usual ‘anti-hydro’ arguments have all been shown to be unfounded.

You may ask ‘what does Renewables First get out of it?’ We are a commercial business that offers all of the engineering and technical expertise you need to take a hydro project from initial idea to working turbine. By partnering with communities at the beginning of projects we hope to build a successful partnership so you would choose Renewables First to provide the technical services to deliver your project. These would be chargeable services, but we are very good value and provide an excellent service!

How does the Feed-in-Tariff work for community projects?

The Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) for community hydro projects works in exactly the same way as with commercial developments, with two additional benefits available to groups which meet the definition outlined above.

The first benefit extends FiT pre-accreditation for community hydro projects to 30 months (previously 24 months), acknowledging the additional time required for administration and community engagement.

The second benefit affects shared ownership projects, allowing two projects to share a single grid connection point but receive separate FiT rates, providing one project is community-owned and the other is commercial.

If your project involves several community groups working together, it is worth noting that only one community organisation may apply for FiT at each development. Any arrangements for shared ownership using community subgroups need to be agreed privately between each of the parties.

Use our expert technical consultancy services

Make use of our technical expertise by requesting a hydro feasibility study, planning and environmental consenting service or installation management service.

Are you considering a hydropower project in the UK, Ireland or overseas?

Renewables First have considerable experience as a hydro consultant and have a full project capability, from initial feasibility study through to system design and installation.

The first step to develop any small or micro hydropower site is to conduct a full feasibility study.

Contact us about a feasibility study today!

Once complete, you will understand the site potential and be guided through the next steps to develop your project. You can read more about hydropower in our Hydro Learning Centre.

Maximise the financial return of you hydropower system with GoFlo Travelling Screens. Find out more here.