Article: Reconciling renewable energy and the local impacts of hydro-electric development

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The UK and Scottish governments’ policy commitments to renewable energy, driven by recognition of the impacts of global warming and climate change, have led to increasing interest in all aspects of renewable energy. This article is concerned with how the Scottish Executive is able to reconcile new hydro-electric developments as a source of renewable energy with the local impacts of those developments. The outcome of a recent application for consent to construct a hydro-electric scheme at Shieldaig and Slattadale in Wester Ross provides an illustration of the issues involved. The local environmental impacts of hydroelectric development are considerable and the application of environmental impact assessment to the approval procedure for new schemes means that a much broader range of environmental impacts is now considered than ever before. The decision shows the importance of compliance with European Community environmental law, and is particularly interesting for its application of the precautionary principle to prevent impacts on protected species.

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