Celebrating Scotland's hydro heritage

Scotland's long and illustrious history in hydro-electric power is being celebrated this week at a Scottish Renewables conference in Perth.

The event marks 70 years since the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act was passed in 1943, kick-starting the ‘Power from the Glens' campaign which brought large-scale hydropower to Scotland's lochs and rivers.

The celebrations, which take place on Wednesday (8 May), will feature the first ever Tom Johnston lecture by Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, in honour of the Secretary of State for Scotland who drove forward the ‘Power from the Glens' campaign. The event will also feature a special public gallery which will showcase a visual history of hydro from the last 70 years.

Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables said:

"Hydropower is a fundamentally important source of energy in Scotland, where there is now 1.5 gigawatts of capacity, or enough to power the equivalent of more than 900,000 homes. The hydro industry supports more than 500 direct jobs with hundreds more involved in supply chain activities such as construction, grid upgrades and consultancy, and for last year alone, it is estimated that in Scotland more than £25 million was invested in hydro.

"Scotland has been harnessing the power of water since the late 19th century, and has a proud heritage of engineering ingenuity and hydropower expertise through companies such as SSE. This renewable energy, which is even older than oil and gas, is also the most popular energy source in Scotland, retaining strong public support."

According to a recent poll conducted by YouGov for Scottish Renewables, some 80 per cent of people asked said they would support the development of a large-scale hydro project being built in their local council area. No other energy technology can claim higher levels of public acceptance.

Mr Blamire added: "This support bodes well for the future of hydro in Scotland, where small-scale local and community hydropower projects look set to feature strongly."

Peter Donaldson, Director of Renewable Operations at SSE, said: "Scotland has a rich history of hydro-electric power and it is testament to the engineering excellence of those hydro pioneers that all of the plants that were built by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board are still in reliable operation today. There are few other industries that can claim that level of longevity.

"Looking to the future, I believe hydro has an important role to play in Scotland's energy mix. Although the scope for new large-scale conventional hydro is limited, the development of large pumped storage projects, such as Coire Glas in the Great Glen, could be crucial in balancing against other renewable sources."

On 8 May the public gallery, part of the Year of Natural Scotland celebrations, will be situated at Perth Concert Hall between 9am and 5pm, and is free to access.

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