We support the development of hydropower in Scotland, while aiming to strike an appropriate balance between these schemes and protecting the water environment and its users.
Hydropower developments in Scotland are regulated by the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 more commonly known as CAR regulations – and their amendments.
If you are developing a hydropower scheme, you will require CAR authorisation. Our CAR practical guide gives more information about the regulations and how they are implemented.
This page explains how to apply for an authorisation and identifies the minimum information you will need to provide us in support of your application.
- Why does hydropower have to be regulated?
- Do the regulations apply to me?
- What do I need to do?
- Compliance with regulations
- Help, advice and more information
Serious environmental harm could result from the operation of hydropower schemes, specifically from the associated impounding works and abstractions. All hydropower schemes will have to demonstrate appropriate mitigation to ensure that the these impacts are reduced to an acceptable level.
Our guide to hydropower construction best practice explains the risks involved in constructing your scheme and refers to the appropriate sections of existing guidance which should be followed.
All hydropower developments require a CAR water use licence for abstractions, impounding works (weirs and dams) and any other engineering works associated with the scheme, and we determine applications in line with the Scottish Government’s policy statement.
1. Assess your proposal
Our guidance for developers of run-of-river hydropower schemes will help to assess the suitability of your proposal.
The web tool can be used to steer you through Part A of this guidance and will provide you with an outcome and summary at the end of your assessment.
It is essential that the impounding structure is designed to deliver all appropriate mitigation flows and takes fish passage into account. We have created a checklist for reference, this should be completed and submitted with the final design drawings.
If you need any further help or advice, or to discuss any issues with your proposal, please contact us.
2. Apply for a licence
Our guidance for applicants on supporting information requirements for hydropower applications will help you gather the appropriate information, but note that some sections of that document have been updated. The amended sections are available here:
SEPA is a statutory consultee for planning applications relating to hydropower schemes. Our guidance note LUPS 18 - Planning guidance on hydropower developments outlines the approach we take when dealing with hydropower development management consultations, and details the information we will require at the planning stage.
If you require any advice on any aspect of the application process, please contact us.
Prior to your scheme becoming operational, you must submit a construction quality assurance report for the impounding structure and intake. Details of how to take the appropriate measurements are explained in our Guidance for mitigation flow compliance checks. The SEPA mitigation flow check sheet should be used to record these measurements.
Regulations and licences authorised under CAR are regulated by our compliance assessment scheme.
Operators are expected to uphold the conditions of their registration or licence and we have powers to withdraw your authorisation if you fail to meet its conditions.
Even after an authorisation has been granted, we can, if necessary, move activities between registration and licences, or from GBR to registration or licences in order to protect the water environment.
If you do not agree with the conditions and requirements imposed by a CAR authorisation or notice, you can make an appeal directly to the Scottish Government. The submission of an appeal does not suspend the operations of all authorisations or notices and its conditions.
If you require any further help or advice at any stage during the application process, please contact us.