Department of Energy and Climate Change

Barker calls for water mill renaissance


Local finance flows as old mills and weirs come back on stream

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker today called on enterprising communities to harness the power of their rivers and streams to generate both green electricity and money, as he visited the Torrs Hydro scheme in New Mills, Peak District.

Greg Barker will use today’s visit to a successful community hydro scheme in the Peak District to announce that former mills and water turbines which are brought back to life will now be eligible for financial support under the feed-in tariff.

To help drive forward the ambitious new plan, DECC is also launching the new hydropower help guide, prepared by the Environment Agency, which offers advice to groups looking to use the power of local streams, weirs or rivers to cut emissions and generate new income for their areas.

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker, said:

“I’m calling on communities across the UK to harness the power of their rivers and streams to generate electricity and money. The community of New Mills in the Peak District are already doing this.

“When it comes to the UK’s performance on renewables there’s much more to do and hydropower is currently a missed opportunity. There is more to renewable energy than just large wind turbines. We need to unlock the clean energy of our past as well as the future.

“To do that we need to make it easy and attractive for local people to revive our traditional waterways and help produce more local clean energy.

“This hydro help guide will give clear information on how to get new schemes up and running. I also want to see old mills and turbines brought back to life, some of which were operating in the 1940s and 1950s before the National Grid existed.

“Feed-in Tariffs are here to stay and we confirmed last week that we don’t want to change the tariffs until 2013 to ensure ongoing investment in new projects.”

Currently hydropower in the UK is generating the equivalent of 1.4% of electricity demand with a potential to contribute up to a further 1%– enough to power the equivalent of one million homes. In the last two years alone the Environment Agency have seen a 10-fold increase in applications for hydropower permits.

Malcolm Fergusson, head of climate change at the Environment Agency said: “Hydropower can help in the fight against climate change but it has to be sustainable. At the Environment Agency it is our job to ensure that hydropower schemes include measures to protect the local environment.

'We have seen a tenfold increase in hydropower applications in the past two years, and we expect to deal with even more in the future as developers and communities strive to take advantage of new financial incentives.

“To help communities and developers we have published a range of guidance on our website – including the new community hydropower guide. We have also made our permitting process simpler, including offering one single point of contact within the Environment Agency for the developer. “

As part of today’s announcement old waterwheels and turbines will receive a lifeline as Feed in Tariffs (FITs) will now support “remanufactured as new” hydro equipment.

Torrs Hydro is a community share scheme supported by local action group, H2OPE and the Co-op Community Fund. The community group of 230 members invested over £125,000 and then raised the remainder of the scheme’s full cost (£330,000) from community bank loans and grants.

The scheme earns an income from the energy exported to the local Co-op supermarket. This is a clear example of the power of local action and the sound investment from hydro projects that can be rolled out across the UK.

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