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MSP calls for expansion of hydro power to help meet climate change targets

26th October 2017

MSP David Stewart, Labour's Environment and Climate Change Shadow Minister, highlighted Highland's record of achievement in hydro power at an energy debate, calling for an expansion to meet climate change targets.

At the Scottish Government’s Hydro Nation debate in Parliament this afternoon (Thursday), Mr Stewart said hydro power was a key renewable that helped reduce reliance on imported gas and coal while increasing diversity of generation mix.

He said it was time for a fresh hydro revolution, explaining hydro was cheap when oil costs $51.47 a barrel, and its operating costs were one tenth of those of gas-fired or coal-fired stations.

"The lights might not go out all over Edinburgh but, if we get the energy balance wrong, in the next decade we will be paying over a barrel or indeed, over a therm of gas to countries with the political stability of Burma and the civil liberties record of Zimbabwe," said Mr Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands.

He explained the first public supply of hydro power was at the former Benedictine Abbey in Fort Augustus, on Loch Ness-side, to 800 inhabitants in 1890.

In 1896 a hydropower station was built in Foyers by the British Aluminium Company. Around 1900, a large hydropower station was basically responsible for the development of the village of Kinlochleven.

"As members will also be aware, Tom Johnston, Labour’s Secretary of State for Scotland under Winston Churchill, created a network of dams and transmission towers that produced electricity to poor highlanders for the first time" he said.

“The Labour Government of 1945 nationalised hydro power. At the time it was estimated that only one farm in six and one croft in 100 had electricity. Today virtually every home has mains electricity.”

Mr Stewart explained that by the 1960s the Highlands had changed beyond all recognition due to new dams on larger lochs. Now Scotland has 85% of UK’s hydropower capacity, which could power 1 million homes but there are severe limiting factors. Mr Stewart called for development in
pumped electricity storage, in run-of-the-river developments and streamlining of the planning processes.

“We all know that the task is great but Scotland has both the opportunities and skills necessary. Sustainable development of hydropower can be a crucial contribution to meeting our global climate change responsibilities. With the appropriate development, the right technology and the proven skills of our workforce Scotland can take the lead in Europe and beyond,” he said.

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