Consultation on the hydro abstraction scheme charges

Closed 30 Apr 2021

Opened 17 Dec 2020

Results updated 26 Apr 2022

This is a summary of the responses to SEPA’s consultation on charges for hydro scheme licences that ran from 17 Dec 2020 until the 30 April 2021.

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Full details of SEPA's charging schemes are available on our website. 



This consultation document outlines the proposed changes for the subsistence fees we charge under The Environmental Regulation (Scotland) Charging Scheme for hydro-electric installations regulated by SEPA under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 for abstraction charges. It sets out, how these revised charges have been developed, and how you can respond to this consultation. These changes will amend the Environmental Regulation (Scotland) Charging Scheme 2018.

As part of SEPA’s work to deliver our “One Planet Prosperity - Our Regulatory Strategy” we ensure that changes still meet our goals.

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Why your views matter

SEPA is the regulator for the authorisation, compliance and enforcement of water abstractions from the Scottish environment, for example, for distilleries taking water for whisky production or farmers taking water for irrigation. This consultation deals with water abstraction for hydropower generation only. 

Abstraction of water can cause harm to the environment, if for example, too much water is taken leaving rivers with too little flow to support the eco-systems (plants, microorganisms and animals to thrive). For this reason, SEPA regulates those who abstract more than 10 cubic metres a day and imposes charges to cover the costs of this work.  

Charges for abstractions and impoundments were introduced in 2006 but it was not until 2018 that charges were introduced for small hydropower schemes with an installed capacity of less than or equal to 2MW but greater than 0.1MW. The recent introduction of charges for small hydropower was phased-in with charges increasing up to their final levels in 2020-2021. 

Representatives of small-scale hydropower have told SEPA that while the current charges take into account the environmental impact of their activities, the scheme treats certain schemes unfairly. They also considered their charges as disproportionate compared to the larger hydropower schemes. As a result, they asked SEPA to review how the rules of the scheme had been applied to small hydropower schemes. 

We have reviewed the way we assess the impact of hydropower abstractions and are proposing modifications to the way we allocate charges whilst avoiding impacts upon charging out with hydropower.

SEPA and industry representatives have been in discussion since 2018. As this has progressed there has been a greater understand of the main issues: for SEPA to ensure that charges are related to the work undertaken and industries drive for a more straightforward scheme that smaller operators can understand.  


  • Hydropower
  • Local Authorities
  • Responsible Authorities
  • Fisheries
  • Landowners/ managers
  • Aquaculture
  • Public
  • Water


  • Water Regulation
  • Fisheries
  • Water Quality
  • Water flows and levels
  • Regulated activities