PLANNED reductions to the feed-in-tariff threaten the future of the hydro industry as developers rush to push schemes through planning.

The current regime has created a bubble in the industry that the FIT policy was intended to prevent, warned John Heaton, senior project manager at Glen Hydro.

The British Hydro Association, Scottish Renewables and more recently the energy minister Fergus Ewing have engaged with the DECC to ask for minor adjustments to the policy in time to ensure that the sector has a future - before it reduced the feed-in-tariff.

Mr Heaton said: "The hydro industry is unanimous that current policy will, as well as prompting a gold rush to consent hydro schemes up to the end of 2015, result in a dead stop to further development of schemes beyond that time.

"This is not an outcome that DECC, the industry, the Scottish Government, SEPA, SNH or any other body has ever stated as being necessary, appropriate or desirable.

"Furthermore, the positive effects of hydro development to the Scottish rural economy, where the majority of the development capital is expended, will be short lived beyond the current wave of builds.

"This investment typically stretches to millions of pounds per scheme.

Glen Hydro will continue to lobby, and support others that are lobbying, for the minor amendments that are required to re-align the effect of the policy with the policy's aims.

"However it is becoming increasingly apparent that DECC is not willing to reconsider and at present it is difficult to foresee anything other than declining investment for small hydro in the UK."

Glen Hydro has started the formal consent process for seven 100 - 500kW hydro schemes on a single estate near Achnasheen.

The expectation is that these schemes, with a combined generation of over 7000 MWh/year (sufficient to supply 1700 homes) will be consented by December 2014 to secure a Feed-in Tariff rate that ensures they are economically viable.