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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Micro Hydropower in the UK: Assessment of New Projects

Silvia Fernanda Palomino

Micro Hydropower in the UK: Assessment of New Projects


The UK has launched several initiatives to promote the development of micro generation technologies. Among these we find the feed‐in tariff (FIT) which gives financial incentives to micro generation developers and the recently launched microgeneration strategy which sets a path forward for removing the non‐financial barriers preventing further development.

It has been recognized by the government that despite these initiatives, microgeneration, and in particular, micro hydro power, has not taken off as intended. Three main barriers preventing further development of micro hydro power have been identified: High Capital costs, confusing permitting system and lack of awareness among potential generators.

To be able to contribute to public awareness, a tool integrating the key factors for determining micro hydro project feasibility was developed. It aimed to simplify this process for the user, therefore encouraging micro hydro development. First, a comprehensive literature review was undertaken, followed by field visits to the House Mill project in London and five existing schemes in Southwest Scotland. Interviews to project developers complement these field visits. The tool was evaluated and refined against 13 case studies.

In order to demonstrate the tool’s utility, it was used to assess the feasibility of a low head hydro project in the River Avon (Bristol). From the legal and environmental side of the project, no problems were encountered. However, under the current financial incentives, payback will be of 9 years.

Finally, this research highlights some key issues in the pre planning stage of micro hydropower that arose while creating and using the tool. It also explores the options to overcome the financial barrier faced while reviews key components of the UK policy that could be improved.

This research concludes with some key questions, such as the validity of the UK spending in micro hydro promotion, the current legal approach not differentiating low and high head schemes and the current process of determination of FIT.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.