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We support all forms of renewable energy, including hydro. We do not have a specific policy statement on hydroelectricity generation, but our general policy towards renewable energy is set out in our Renewable Energy Policy Statement (currently offline).


The impacts from hydroelectric schemes on Scotland's nature and landscapes can occur over a wide area. In considering these impacts, issues of particular concern are sediment transport, water quality and quantity, water temperature, morphological changes to running and standing waters, impacts on species (particularly migratory fish, oceanic bryophytes and fresh water pearl mussel), landscape, recreational use of rivers/burns and wild land qualities.

We have published guidance on hydro-electric schemes and the natural heritage  PDF document   (v3, 2015). The guidance focuses on design and mitigation and is intended to inform pre - application discussions where we can influence site design.

Screening checklist

This checklist has been specifically developed to aid planning officers in screening small-scale hydro developments external site that are Schedule 2 installations. The specific planning authority policies and supplementary planning guidance relevant to that area should be referred to and planning officers should undertake a constraints check. This checklist is designed for planning authorities to complete but also could be completed by a developer and submitted with a pre-application enquiry. 

Early planning stages of development

At the early stages in the planning process/ CAR licensing process, and before SNH enter into discussions about a hydroelectric proposal, we would advise that a developer should apply the SEPA Guidance for developers of run-of-river hydropower schemes external site . This sets out how SEPA intends to achieve Scottish Ministers' policy objectives and contains guidance on the developments that are likely to be acceptable in the context of the Scottish Ministers' policy statement external site . Emphasis will be placed on supporting hydropower developments which can make a significant contribution to Scotland's Renewable Energy targets while also minimising any adverse impacts on the water environment. Should your proposal prove to be provisionally acceptable using the SEPA guidance, we would be happy to provide you with further advice on assessing the impacts on the Natural Heritage, if required.

Further information

We have published joint guidance with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Marine Scotland on 'Guidance for applicants on supporting information requirements for hydropower applications' external site

A Guide to Hydropower Construction Best Practice external site   is an SNH, SEPA and industry produced document developed to direct the construction industry to appropriate sections of existing guidance for pollution prevention measures.

Recent years have brought an increased demand for new Constructed tracks in the Scottish uplands . Such activities have an impact on natural heritage interests such as landscape, biodiversity, geodiversity and access and recreation.

These links-pages  PDF document  aim at providing developers, land-owners, decision makers and advisors with a collation of useful links which can be used to gather appropriate and required environmental information. It also directs developers to available guidance in order to complete an Environmental Statement and improve mitigation works to keep the impacts of a proposed and working hydro-electric scheme to a minimum.

SNH Commissioned Report 421: Assessing the impacts of small scale hydroelectric schemes on rare bryophytes and lichens  This report considers the potential impacts of small hydroelectric schemes on bryophytes and lichens. Monitoring methods to detect these impacts are reviewed and recommendations for future monitoring methods proposed (2011).

SNH Commissioned Report 449b: Bryological assessment for hydroelectric schemes in the west Highlands (2012) This report helps to clarify whether or not a bryophyte survey is needed for any particular hydroelectric proposal. It also provides guidance on how to assess whether hydroelectric schemes could have an impact of national importance on the bryophyte flora.

Review of hydroelectricity developments: SNH and SEPA recommendations and actions

The follow up review was undertaken by SNH and SEPA Board Members, Sue Walker and Bill McKelvey following their original review in 2014. The terms of reference were to firstly provide a view on the effectiveness of the work undertaken to date to progress actions and recommendations on the SNH and SEPA approach to supporting Hydro development identified in the original review and discussed with the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change in 2014. Secondly to identify any remaining issues and advise on any additional actions required.

Key documents:

Supporting hydro-electricity development: Review of SNH and SEPA actions and recommendations, actions and requests - Summary (May 2015)  PDF document

Supporting hydro-electricity development: Review of progress with recommendations, actions and requests - Detailed assessment (May 2015)  PDF document  

June 2015 - Letter from the SNH Chairman to Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA): Improvements to support hydro-electricity development  PDF document


Kenny Taylor - 07901 008450

Last updated on Tuesday 14th June 2016 at 16:07 PM. Click here to comment on this page