Ambergate Hydro on Hold Again

A local potential community-owned hydro project is on hold again following new barriers to the project from government agencies and departments.

Amber and Derwent Valley Community Energy (ADVyCE) would like to install a small turbine on an existing industrial site at The Wire Works. The turbine would be owned by members of the community and has the potential to generate 1.3 million kWh, reduce carbon emissions by 683 tonnes and power nearly 400 homes annually. It would also provide funding for local community work.

ADVyCE first proposed the project in 2011 and began work on the necessary applications, but in 2015, the government made unexpected changes to the Feed In Tariff (FIT), which pays for energy produced by small scale renewable projects. The project was shelved for a few years. In early 2018 the group revisited their plans and decided to have one last go at gaining Ofgem accreditation and a guaranteed FIT for the life of the project before the closure of the FIT support scheme in March 2019. They recently resubmitted an abstraction licence pre-application to the Environment Agency. Unfortunately, the EA has changed their conditions and requirements, compared to their 2013 response, to such a degree that the project cannot progress. There is now a requirement for a fish pass to be designed, approved and included in the project, plus additional survey’s and studies.

In addition, changes in policy mean that the group cannot be told what the business rates on the project will be until after it is complete, making it impossible to ascertain if the project will be financially viable. It is possible that the group could install the turbine and then find that all the profit raised for Community Benefit aspect of the project would instead have to be paid in Business Rates.

The group will now be lobbying three MP’s whose constituencies would have benefited from the scheme, requesting that feedback goes to the three government departments that the group believes have impacted the project significantly (BEIS, DEFRA and MHCLG) and to the Prime Minister.

The group announced the disappointing news in a newsletter to supporters, in which they said:

‘Many people and organisations are also working hard across the country to find new ways of developing Community Owned renewable energy projects with new developments such as battery storage, community power purchase agreements, Energy Local supplies, EV car charging or hydrogen generation. These models are being developed with a range of renewable technologies, but it still seems that hydro power projects will continue to struggle under the currently regulatory climate.

‘A lot of work has been completed by the project team to enable Ambergate Hydro at some point in the future and we know there is strong local support for the project; so a change in policy and regulation by any future government could restart the project.’