I have heard from the Environment Agency (EA) that they plan a further limited consultation on flow standards before finalising the consultation process on the Hydropower Good Practice Guidelines (GPG) on which work started 15 months ago.
As a result of the delay in revising the guidelines, the EA has decided that only the present GPG1 low head guidance (link currently here) will apply until further notice. More details and advice on licensing of high head schemes are on the Blog page.
The EA have also said that they will provide access to all the documents currently being used by EA staff for permitting hydropower so as to avoid confusion when applications for licences are being prepared and discussed.
The position regarding “high head” schemes remains unclear in the mean time. The EA advise that early contact should be made to their local staff as part of the pre application process. They will use their local knowledge and expertise to advise on local environmental requirements. In the absence of EA guidelines for high head schemes, the publicly available guidelines provided by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) may provide a useful starting point for discussions. While there has been no decision by the EA to adopt these standards, they have been considered during the consultation process as candidates for use for schemes in England and Wales. For this purpose I would suggest that “high head” schemes are taken to be those involving diversion of water into a penstock with a net head of 10m or more.
The SEPA guidelines are available at this link: http://www.sepa.org.uk/water/idoc.ashx?docid=eb64480b-e4d8-434a-82fe-f8a6490d6676&version=-1. In particular they contain checklists in “Annex A to Part A” (page 5) to assess provisionally acceptable schemes and to indicate standards where SEPA believe there is some risk.
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