Our aim to protect and improve the environment and human health means that we have a direct remit to regulate, control and monitor aspects of many renewable generation technologies, in line with UK and Scottish Government renewable energy targets.

Under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive,the UK has a binding targetto derive 15% of its overall energy from renewable sources by 2020, including 10% of transport energy. As part of this, Scottish Government has set targetsto meet an equivalent of 100% demand for electricity and 11% of heat from renewables. These targets fit into the UK’s longer-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels.

Details of how we regulate each technology can be found in the following sections:

SEPA is also a statutory consultee for development plans, many planning applications, and applications under Sections 36 and 37 of the Electricity Act 1989requiring an environmental impact assessment,as well as a designated consultation authority for strategic environmental assessments.

In addition to these roles, we have been working with the Scottish Government to inform and support its development of several policy documents that will play a significant role in the renewable energy sector, including its low carbon economic strategy, its renewables action planand linked renewable heat action plan,and also the energy efficiency action plan.

Wind (onshore)

Our remit in relation to onshore windfarms is to regulate the excavation and management of construction spoil and waste (particularly peat), to protect the water environment, and to minimise potential disturbances to the soil carbon balance. We also have a remit for other aspects of windfarms through acting as a consultation body for planningand environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

In order to mitigate these environmental concerns, we have a number of regulatory tools:

In addition to the requirements of these regulatory regimes, all windfarm developments require planning permission from the planning authority. Schemes over 50 MW require additional consent from the Energy Consents and Deployment Unit under Section 36 of the Electricity Actand are usually subject to EIA Regulations. Through these regulatory processes, windfarm developers will have to consider carbon savingsor development on peatlands.

For guidance and further information, please see:

Windfarm development

  • SEPA Guidance regarding life extension and decommissioning of onshore windfarms

    This guidance provides a SEPA position on the life extension and repowering of on-shore wind farms as they relate to areas within our remit such as sustainable resource use, carbon and the water environment.  This will facilitate a more efficient and effective response to planning consultations and licence determinations and provide a framework for engagement with other stakeholders to drive innovative approaches to delivering a sustainable and low carbon economy.

Peatland development

Development on forested land


All hydropower schemes, from run-of-river to pumped storage, require regulation because of their potential impact on river ecology and the wider water environment. Authorisation from SEPA is mandatory under Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011, as is permission from the local planning authority, to which SEPA is a statutory consultee. For hydropower schemes over 50 MW, permission is required from the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the Electricity Act.

Detailed information of our regulatory role and guidance on how regulations apply to developers can be found on our hydropower regulations webpage.


Although our remit in the marine environment extends to three miles offshore, we have no direct regulatory role in marine renewable generation. However, we act as a designated consultation authority for Marine Scotland,a Directorate of Scottish Government, and work closely with partners in marine licensing and monitoring. 

For more information, please see our standing advice for Marine Scotland on marine licence consultations and our marine development and marine aquaculture planning guidance.

For an overview of marine renewables in Scotland, please see the Scottish Renewablesand Offshore Wind Scotland websites.


We regulate abstractions from and discharges of pollutants to the water environment, including those associated with geothermal energy, through the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (CAR 2011). We also sit on the Geothermal Expert Group of the Scottish Government. For more information, see our regulatory guidance document for deep geothermal development and the independent study into the potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland, commissioned by the Scottish Government.


Subject to thresholds, the combustion of ‘fuels’ (which includes specifically grown energy crops, some industrial by-products and some clean recycled wood) and the incineration and co-incineration of ‘wastes’ (which includes mixed construction and demolition and municipal wood collections) are regulated by SEPA under Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012 known as PPC).

Energy generation from waste is also covered in the ‘Waste’ and ‘Heat’ sections of our Low carbon non-renewable generation and resource recovery page.

Single appliances with a net rated thermal input of <20 MW that burn energy crops, some industrial by-products and some clean recycled wood are regulated by local authorities via the Clean Air Act.

In addition to regulatory activities, we have worked with partners to help ensure that air quality and human health are protected in biomass developments, ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to limit the emission of harmful substances into the environment.

Depending on scale, we regulate waste and residue streams and installations (via Waste Management Licencing and Pollution Prevention and Control. Regulations) relating to biofuel production. We also provide advice to industry on biofuels derived from waste and residue streams.

For more information, please see:

Hydrogen (green source)

SEPA’s interest in energy generation from hydrogen covers the manufacture of the hydrogen as well as its use as a fuel in fuel cells and in some cases traditional combustion devices. The hydrogen manufacturing process is critical to the overall environmental impact, determining its status as either ‘green’ or ‘brown’ hydrogen:

  • If renewable energy sources are used to produce hydrogen, then the resulting ‘green hydrogen’ will have a very low carbon footprint, and can deliver real system-wide decarbonisation benefits as well as local benefits.
  • If the hydrogen is produced using fossil fuel based energy sources, this is often termed as ‘brown hydrogen’ and although it does not deliver the same scale of overall decarbonisation, the local benefits in terms of air quality improvements can still be very significant.

SEPA is working with the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA)to examine the potential environmental impacts from the different production routes for hydrogen. This work will help to provide clear evidence of the likely environmental benefits and impacts, with a view to setting suitable regulatory thresholds above which an environmental licence would be required. This work is still in its early stages but will be informed by evidence from projects based in Scotland such as the Hydrogen Officeand the Aberdeen Bus project.


Our remit with respect to solar power is small. Our interest is likely to be limited to the locations in which solar is deployed and the circumstances in which it has potential to impact the water environment.