The BHA Annual Conference is our flagship event and the essential forum for the UK hydropower sector to share experiences, debate key issues, review improvements and consider future opportunities for the industry. This 2-day event, held in Glasgow on the 7th & 8th November, celebrated the world of hydropower through a stimulating, high quality and diverse conference programme, a popular technical exhibition and an inspiring conference dinner (held in association with Alba Energy). Paul Wheelhouse MSP, the Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, delivered the keynote address on the first morning, followed by more than 30 speakers over the packed two days.
(including presentation abstracts, conference programme, speaker biographies and the Exhibitor Guide)
Conference Sessions Overview and Presentations
CHAIR: Simon Hamlyn, Chief Executive Officer, BHA
- Keynote address – Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scottish Government: Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, opened the conference by congratulating the new BHA chair, Mary Drury on her appointment and followed this by conveying a clear key message that the Scottish Government is committed to supporting the hydro sector and will continue to do so both now and in the future. Mr Wheelhouse then provided a brief summary of Scotland’s hydro history which included details around his 2017 site visit to the Nevis Range hydro project and an overview of key hydropower facts and figures in Scotland -1.6 GW capacity and over 88% of UK hydro installations are located in Scotland. The Minister explained how the Scottish Government Community and Renewable Energy Scheme [CARES] is supporting hydro projects across the country though c70 organisations and where c£5m of funding has been offered. He used his 2018 visit to Arrochar Community hydro project to highlight the collaboration between the public and private sector. Mr Wheelhouse provided delegates with an overview of the Hydro Task Force and Finish Group set up at the request of the BHA members, key work streams, etc. and outlined some of the successes of Group to date, such as planning fees and the relationship with Ofgem, whilst at the same time recognising the many on-going challenges facing industry including business rates. He emphasised that as both Tretton Review and Barclay Review consultation are still on-going it was difficult for him to provide any updates in advance of the Q&A. On the subject of challenges the Minister covered the Scottish Government’s response to the proposed closure of the Feed-in Tariff scheme (FITS) and re-iterated the Scottish Government’s disappointment in the decision and commitment to try and work together with UK Government colleagues and his desire to avoid a cliff-edge scenario in 2019. There was also an update of the accelerated hydro FITS support package available for applicants via CARES. In concluding his address, Mr Wheelhouse provided his thoughts on opportunities for the future. He encouraged delegates and wider-industry to work together/collaborate and recognise the change in energy landscape to more localised/decentralised models. He also challenged delegates to innovate and devise new ways of working to flourish in post-subsidy world, recognising the longevity and flexibility of hydro. The Minister finished by wishing delegates a very successful conference.
- Beyond 2019 – Mary Drury, Innogy (BHA Chair) & Simon Hamlyn, BHA: Mary and Simon explained the work that the BHA had undertaken within the sector for decentralised low-carbon power and how the decentralised low-carbon power sector will drive a fundamental transition in the UK power system. Mary and Simon took delegates through the BHA submissions to the recent BEIS FIT Consultation and the Call for Evidence on The Future for small-scale low-carbon generation to which the BHA had responded in August and September. This presentation identified the challenges to be faced and the concerns that the BHA has identified and raised with BEIS officials very recently, as we transition into a post FIT environment. Mary covered what we’ve told BEIS, why hydropower is so important and its main benefits to the UK energy mix. Simon then covered the urgent need for a long-term strategy for a sustainable renewables sector, including a future revenue stream sufficient to support long-term investments. Simon also explained to delegates that the BHA has requested an extension to the Feed-in Tariff scheme until there are alternative mechanisms in place. This is to mitigate the imminent cliff edge of the 31st March 2019. Simon concluded this session by stating that if support does not continue for the industry, further new hydropower development beyond April 2019 will cease with an impact on job losses, the crippling of an industry and increased CO2 emissions – all this for the sake of a future annual saving of <£1 per household.
- The Tretton Review into non-domestic rates for hydro – Kenny Hunter, Hunter Hydro Services: Kenny’s forceful presentation, listened to intently by Mr Wheelhouse, addressed the single biggest issue facing hydro in Scotland which is the issue around non-domestic rates for hydro. Kenny began with a potted history of business rates in Scotland. This covered the period from 2010 when there were few schemes and Rateable Values [RVs] were low, the introduction from 2010 – 2016 of the renewable energy relief scheme and the subsequent withdrawal of 100% relief in 2016. Kenny the covered the 2017 Revaluation where the Feed-in Tariff was then factored into RV calculations. Kenny then covered the industry-wide response to the 2017 revaluation, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Tretton Review. Kenny explained that the Tretton review has two main objectives; one ‘to consider the present law governing rating valuation of plant and machinery for hydropower schemes in Scotland’ and the other ‘to recommend any legislative changes required in respect of the extent of rateable property for such schemes, having regard to the financial, technical and other considerations involved’. Kenny then provided an update on the current status of the Tretton Review, which he summarised as being that the PMR exemption is probably ruled out with no real appetite for any changes to primary legislation. It appears that continuing the current relief scheme may be the preferred option of Government and Kenny explained the industry significant objection to reliefs as they are not a long-term or sustainable. There was also the possibility of considering revisions to the current valuation methodology. Kenny concluded with a direct request for support from Scottish Government as industry needs ‘Hydro Champions’ at Cabinet level.
CHAIR: Richard Haworth, Glen Hydro
This session provided a good opportunity to get SSE, OFGEM and National grid on stage to discuss the challenges faced by Operators of hydro schemes. All parties acknowledged that much progress has been made on streamlining the Connections process, but the interface between the DNO’s and scheme operators is still work-in-progress. The sessions touched on many topics, and focused on Network Outages and the change to DSO. Chris McKaig, for SSEN, responded to the industry’s concerns and there is a plan in place to discuss these further.
- Grid issues post connection – Richard Haworth, Glen Hydro
- Delivering regulatory outputs on a modern distribution system – Chris McKaig, SSE
- Connections, network access and the RIIO Framework – Grant McEachran, OFGEM
- Electricity System Operator; future markets – Jonathan Wisdom, National Grid
CHAIR: Mary Drury, Innogy (BHA Chair)
In our third session, our four speakers delivered presentations full of ideas on the theme of maximising potential:
- Optimising existing hydro sites – Austin Flather, ANF Consulting Ltd: Austin started with how we should look more broadly when trying to optimise our schemes, presenting an example where repairing the crest of a low-head weir made significant generation improvements.
- The Knoydart Electrolyte; transporting tanks of local electricity – Jamie Adam, Community Energy Scotland: Jamie gave a fascinating presentation on how their KE:TTLE project will install a large-scale dual-liquid battery on the Knoydart off-grid system, which will have the benefit of both stabilising their grid and supplying power to local offshore fish farms by transporting the charged electrolyte fluid.
- LogBox; affordable, efficient and detailed remote monitoring for your hydro schemes – Jamie Needle and Simon Needle, Derwent Hydro: Simon and Jamie showcased their LogBox; a very reasonably priced box that logs your turbine data and provides access to the data via the Web. (Notes to accompany presentation).
- Maximising revenue from hydropower – John Heaton, Glen Hydro: John shared his experience from reviewing the overall performance of a large number of hydro schemes – apparently every scheme has something that can be improved!
CHAIR: Jonathan Cox, Erre Due
- Nuclear industry innovation transferred to the hydropower industry – Francois Richard, EFINOR Ltd: Francois have a well evidenced and thorough technical talk on the OBTOPLUS pipe-sealing ‘plug’, using a large dam site n Corsica as an example. EDF’s endorsement is certainly impressive and, on further investigation, it became clear that this reusable product has many smaller (and cheaper) applications that could be useful for the small and micro hydro landscape in the UK.
- Pumps as Turbines (PAT) for hydro recovery – Stuart Wallis, SPP Pumps: Stuart expanded on the growing popularity of Pumps as Turbines (PAT) in the water utility industry where the ‘utilities’ are exploring methods for enhancing their green credentials. He made a compelling case for the replacement of existing centrifugal pumps with PAT and helped us all understand the need for pipework planning to avoid hydraulic pitfalls. It transpires that PAT are commercially favourable as compared with typical hydro turbines of an equivalent output.
- Environmental net gain in hydropower – Catherine Anderson, AECOM: Catherine brought us ENG insight and used case studies that were ‘hot off the press’ or, indeed, ‘spoilers’ for an application that went to press the day after her presentation – no doubt much midnight oil had been burnt. It is clear that HM Government’s 25-year Environment Plan has many commitments and that ENG will be an essential component of any future hydro scheme application, so needs careful consideration.
- Post-FIT Hydro; Welsh Water as an example of a high energy user – Crispin Angood, Dulas: Crispin took us on a canter, using his civil engineer’s eye, through various ‘energy recovery’ hydro schemes delivered by Dulas for Welsh Water – including a light-hearted take on a rally driver trying to stay ‘shiny side up’ rather than stuffing his chariot at the base of a dam. Clearly, the ‘Welsh utility’ has designs on maximising its regeneration capability to reduce its imported energy consumption and, with 1% of the UK energy output being used by the UK’s water industry, there is plenty of potential!
- Planning and consenting hydro projects – Robin Hutchison, CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP: Robin examined key considerations for those looking to develop or invest in hydro projects in the UK, including the new Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, compulsory acquisition, DCO vs s36, and minimising the risk of legal challenges. Robin compared and contrasted planning and consent processes in England, Scotland and Wales for large hydro projects. He made special note of a couple of recent developments and concluded with some general advice on how to get projects consented as smoothly as possible.
CHAIR: Richard Rees, North Wales Hydropower)
- Pumped storage hydro; the challenges and opportunities – Mark Wilson, ILI Group: Mark presented his views on why hydro is the best form of storage technology, emphasising the benefit that energy storage will bring to the consumer – having the ability to reduce household bills by £50 per annum.
- Glenmuckloch pumped storage hydropower – Alan Wilson, Buccleuch Estate: Alan provided an update on the Glenmuckloch scheme as a case study, which included an interesting video about the scheme. The Glenmuckloch site is utilising a recently reinstated open cast coal mine and the project is currently tendering many of the delivery contracts. Alan noted that in October 2018, £5m was paid on one day alone to curtail wind generation, this is a waste of resources which would be better employed promoting pumped storage hydro.
- Pumped energy storage; competing with batteries – Stephen Crosher, Fleet Renewables: Stephen presented on the huge opportunities for potential smaller scale 5-50MW storage projects in the UK. It was noteworthy that a liquid that has been developed that increases pumped storage power output by 2.5 times is used in a closed loop and therefore the permitting burden is reduced as it isn’t necessary to require consent from the likes of SEPA and NRW for abstraction.
- Funding hydropower – Graham Cook, Cook Capital Advisors: Graham spoke about the importance of track record when raising funding and the importance of refinancing operational schemes, so as to reduce the cost of interest repayments. Finance will no doubt be harder to raise post FiT, however it is essential to create as much certainty as possible on income streams and to reduce cost uncertainty going forwards for construction and operation.
- Co-located battery storage with a hydro scheme – Russ Blaber, Cobalt: Russ provided an overview of the co-located hydro and battery storage schemes that he has been involved in delivering for Eelpower and Barn Energy. He explained the complexity of the engineering solution in getting everything connected correctly and the importance of the likes of the DNO and aggregators. A sufficiently sized grid connection is key when it comes to adding battery technology onto a hydro scheme, returns are in the region of 10 years.
CHAIR: Jamie Needle, Derwent Hydro
- Empowering service teams through mobile app technology – Jonathan Brindley, Mobaro Energy: Jonathan opened the session by describing Mobaro Energy’s mobile phone app, which has been developed to support the gathering and filing of site information for renewable energy installations. Jonathan covered the technology itself as well as its benefits in, for example, improving O&M effectiveness and promoting safety.
- A comprehensive approach for mini-hydro applications – Philipp Daus, Koessler GmbH: Philipp covered a very wide range of Voith products, outlining models that have been designed for deployment with minimised site works. He also discussed his company’s streamlined equipment selection process.
- Experimental and theoretical examination of outlet power losses in Archimedes screw generators – Scott Simmons, the University of Guelph: Scott, an academic visiting from Canada, disseminated some of his research on sources of power losses in Archimedes Screw generators, with a particular focus on the modelling of inefficiencies in the area of the outlet of the turbine.
- Hydro insurance market conditions – Stuart MacLeod, Bruce Stevenson: Finally, the session’s attendees were brought up to date on issues in the insurance market for small scale hydropower in the UK. Unfortunately, insurers have experienced claims above their expectations in recent years and consequently premiums are likely to increase in the near term.
CHAIR: Alex Reading, SIMEC Green Highland
Session Chair’s summary to follow.
- Construction of the Rumbling Bridge community hydro scheme – Chris Pasteur, Caireyhill Ltd:
- Disrupting hydro economics with heat – Robert Thompson, Rotaheat:
- Coanda Screen Cleaner – Peter Zell, SSES:
- Maximise the value of hydro generation – Daniel Pargeter, Limejump:
Simon Hamlyn closed the event, thanking all those who contributed and everyone that attended.
We hope to see you all at future BHA events!
The BHA has no shareholders and we are funded entirely through membership and event revenues. All proceeds from this event will be invested into developing the UK hydro industry.