Bangor Mail



SMALL-SCALE hydro operators have accused the Welsh Government of abandoning the sector after they withdrew business rates support – blaming the impact of Covid on budgets.

Hydro power schemes were threatened with giant rate hikes three years ago when there was a revaluatio­n but a temporary relief grant was introduced for small commercial projects to cap increases in business rates at 10% – or £1,000.

There are over 120 small hydro plants in Wales paying business rates – and around half benefit from the grant scheme.

But Welsh Government has informed the British Hydropower Associatio­n it would not renew this from April 1 next year.

Simon Hamlyn, chief executive of the BHA, said: “The Welsh Government has pushed small-scale hydro operators to a cliff edge and now it seems they’re simply abandoning them. The government is seeking to hide behind Covid-19.”

He added: “We understand the government’s budget has been affected by Covid. We’ve offered a short-term solution which would reduce the

annual cost to government by around £140,000.”

Richard Rees runs North Wales Hydro Power, which owns and operates 11 small hydro schemes mostly in Snowdonia National Park.

He said: “It is extremely disappoint­ing that the government has deserted private hydro operators in

Wales who provide much needed renewable energy and rural investment.

“They’ve taken away the short-term solution for a problem which they know exists, without implementi­ng the long-term solution.

“I am especially grateful for the support shown over the last four years by the Welsh

Government however I am incredibly frustrated that they have now taken a very short-sighted view in abandoning the sector without delivering on the long-term solution.

“It’s the worst of all worlds, it is ill-conceived, and it is unsustaina­ble for businesses like ours.

“Like any business, we aren’t averse to paying our share of business rates, we just want to pay our fair proportion.”

North Wales Hydro Power say they will suffer a business rates increase of more than 8,000% because of the removal of the grant scheme.

Seven community hydropower schemes currently operating in Wales will continue to receive the grant.

A Welsh Government spokeswoma­n said: “Over half of Wales’ electricit­y needs are now met through renewables, including a 2% contributi­on from Wales’s 363 hydropower projects.

“We are also 83% of the way towards meeting our local ownership target of 1GW by 2030 – with 825 MW of renewable energy capacity in local ownership.

“The support scheme we introduced in 2018 has provided more than £1m of support to the sector. We have worked closely with the British Hydropower Associatio­n to address the impact of the 2017 revaluatio­n of business rates on the sector, and will consider options for longer term support for hydropower and other renewable technologi­es when the next revaluatio­n takes place.

“The impact of Covid-19 has put unpreceden­ted pressure on budgets and difficult decisions need to be made on where to prioritise future support. To date, we have no evidence of hydropower projects ceasing to operate due to unsustaina­ble costs.”

 ??  ?? ● 100kw hydro intake at Afon Dyfrdwy
● 100kw hydro intake at Afon Dyfrdwy

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