Most hydropower schemes are a waste of taxpayers' money and damaging to the environment, says new report
A new report has slammed the way in which the Environment Agency is pressing ahead with plans to allow huge, 'fish mincing' turbines to be installed on many rivers in England and Wales without adequate environmental protection, monitoring or regulation. Widespread development of hydropower could cause serious environmental damage and destroy productive fisheries. Huge amounts of public money are being wasted for precious little return in electricity generated.
Angling's representative body the Angling Trust has today published the report, detailing the impact of run of river hydropower turbines on rivers and their fisheries. The Trust sets out a 10 point plan for the Government and the Environment Agency to address current failings in public policy on hydropower. The report details these failings, along with a number of case studies which highlight an absence of proper planning, poor environmental impact assessments, no strategic appraisal of the impact of multiple turbines on river systems, a lack of enforcement of licence conditions and a licence application system which is biased towards developers.
The report gives examples of a massive waste of precious public funds on developing impractical schemes (£150,000 was wasted by one local authority); on regulating applications (at least 8,000 Environment Agency man hours were spent on one scheme alone); and on subsidising schemes with generous Feed in Tariffs. The Government's own advisors estimate that run of river hydropower will contribute less than 0.5% of the nation's electricity. To achieve this amount would require tens of thousands of turbines to be installed and cause massive damage to the ecology and beauty of the country's rivers.
The report, "Angling Trust Position Statement on Run of River Hydropower" is available from the Angling Trust website HERE.
The Trust acknowledges some exceptional good practice case studies, which pass the sustainable hydropower three stage test:
- if the development can be proved to have a very low impact on the ecology and other functions of the rivers both individually and cumulatively with other schemes and;
- if it is installed on an existing weir and;
- if that weir cannot be removed or eased for technical reasons or because it has some other legitimate and long standing function (such as navigation on heavily used rivers).
The 10 point plan calls on the Government to set out a clear vision for an integrated sustainable energy strategy and to pay subsidies only to schemes which pass the sustainable hydropower three stage test. It calls on the Environment Agency to apply the precautionary principle, to implement the EU's Water Framework Directive and not to issue licences which permit any fish to be killed in the turbines.
The Angling Trust has produced the report because it has been inundated by concerns raised by hundreds of its member clubs and riparian owners who fish on rivers threatened with turbines. Hydropower can damage fish and their habitats and the structures can hinder their migration up and downstream, something that nearly all species of fish need to do to complete their lifecycle. The more turbines there are on a river system, the greater the damage. Licences are currently being granted on a first-come, first-served basis, rather than to the least damaging and most efficient schemes.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said: "Tackling climate change is vitally important, but run of river hydropower is not the solution, or even a viable part of the solution, it's just green tokenism. It cannot be called green energy if it damages the natural functions of rivers and our already threatened fish stocks. There should be a halt to all new applications, and a withdrawal of Feed In Tariffs until a proper strategic environmental assessment of the impact of hydropower has been carried out. The chaotic gold rush that is going on at the moment could do huge damage to the future of river angling which is enjoyed by millions of people and supports tens of thousands of jobs."
David Hinks, Chairman of the Ribble Fisheries Consultative Association said: "We have seen first hand how a hydropower scheme has been badly planned, implemented and regulated at Settle weir. The prospect of further hydropower developments on the river where thousands of us fish fills us with despair. These schemes generate tiny amounts of power for the national grid, but do big damage to fisheries and our fishing."