LOCAL authorities from across the UK have written to Tory ministers urging them to act on pumped-storage hydro power or risk seeing investment in the area "evaporate".

The intervention from the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) – a group representing some 40 councils across Britain and Ireland – comes after industry bodies Scottish Renewables and the British Hydropower Association wrote to Rishi Sunak calling for action.

The NFLA said it “particularly” wanted to see financial backing for pumped-storage hydro schemes in Scotland, with the industry saying there are six “shovel-ready” projects north of the Border just waiting for the UK Government to step up.

READ MORE: Six Scots renewables projects to deliver 15,000 jobs – if UK steps up, report says

Industry figures, First Minister Humza Yousaf, and now the NFLA are all asking the Tory government to bring in a mechanism which would provide commercial operators with a level of guarantee of return on their investment.

West Dunbartonshire’s Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, who serves as the chair of the NFLA steering committee, has written to Tory energy minister Grant Shapps and Andrew Bowie over the issue.

He said: “It is simply too long to wait until 2024 when the government says it shall be introducing a new investment mechanism to support LLES [large-scale, long-duration electricity storage]; the time to do so is now.

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“Failure to do so could mean that the significant private sector interest and investment in this market could evaporate in the interim and it shall certainly mean the continuation of current practice where wind farm operators are paid astronomical sums of money to turn off their turbines because there is no means to store the excess electricity that is produced.

“The current cost of these ‘transmission constraints fees’ amounted to £1.3 billion in 2022 and this will rise still further as wind generation capacity increases. This is £1.3bn wasted on pay offs that would be unnecessary if we had more storage capacity.”

These “curtailment” costs are ultimately footed by the public through their energy bills.

READ MORE: Scottish renewable power 'utterly wasted' as wind farms paid to shut down

Campaigners have said the costs could be significantly reduced if the excess power created through renewable means during times of surplus was instead stored in pumped-hydro projects.

The technology, which has existed for decades, sees water pumped to higher elevations when there is excess power, and then allowed to flow back down during times of scarcity, generating power as it goes.

As such, it helps to provide a stable energy supply as part of a renewables network, which can be reliant on whether the wind is blowing, for example.

In his letter, O’Neill said it was “unfortunate” that Scottish Tory minister John Lamont recently seemed unaware of the long history of pumped-storage hydro (PSH).

He wrote: “PSH is a proven form of LLES. It is most unfortunate that your Scottish Office colleague John Lamont MP recently referred to PSH as a ‘new technology’ as we have had such facilities in the UK since the 1960s, and indeed the world’s first plant came online at Engeweiher in Switzerland in 1907 and is expected to remain operational until 2052!”

Bowie (below) has made a similar error, referring to pumped-hydro as a “nascent” technology while giving evidence to MSPs at Holyrood.

The National: Andrew Bowie

As it stands, the UK has four pumped-storage hydro facilities, which were all commissioned between 1963 and 1984.

There are six “shovel-ready” projects in Scotland which have the potential to more than double the UK’s pumped storage hydro capacity to 7.7GW and create almost 15,000 jobs, according to a report from BiGGAR Economics which O’Neill also cited.

“If, as a Minister, you can speak out to introduce more alacrity to the process of bringing in an investment mechanism, we in the NFLAs would urge you to do so,” he concluded.

A spokesperson for the UK Government’s energy department said in response to the industry letter sent earlier in July: “Technologies such as pumped-hydro storage are critical to delivering greater energy security and economic growth, which is why we are removing regulatory and investment barriers to ensure storage can compete alongside other energy solutions.

"The UK has blazed a trail globally for green growth, having already attracted billions for over a decade in green investment and there is huge potential still.

“Scotland has played a key role in this and has benefited hugely from this work. Our plans to power up Britain are expected to attract a further £100 billion investment and support 480,000 jobs across the UK by 2030.”