Comparing the investment and return costs for hydropower

The investment potential of a new site can be estimated using the calculator on this page. The CAPEX (capital expenditure) and OPEX (operating expenditure) are compared with revenues from Feed-in-Tariffs, electricity savings and export sales. The cost per kilowatt begins to increases with mini and micro hydro. This is usually because fixed costs such as scheme design and licensing form a greater part of the budget and also because site factors often have a greater influence on cost. 

The cost per kilowatt values are derived from the cost curve shown. This estimate is based on historical costs for hydro power projects installed in the United Kingdom (obtained by the British Hydropower Association in 2009) and was used by the British Government Department for Energy and Climate Change to establish an appropriate rate for United Kingdom's Feed-in-Tariff. A large proportion of the hydro power industry consider this cost prediction now to be out dated and underestimate the average cost of scheme development by up to 20%. More information on typical development costs of UK hydropower is available here.

We want to improve the accuracy of this cost prediction and are also collecting information on hydropower costs. Please email us with details of your project capacity, country and installed cost so that we can refine this financial model.

Typical hydropower system costs (UK 2009)

Design Power
Esitmated Project Cost
Cost per kW installed

£0.00 Estimate CAPEXbased on historical data:

Source: British Hydropower Association

Installed system size and output

Design power (kW)

Estimated annual energy generation (kWh)

Maintenance downtime (%)

Maintenance downtime (kWh)

Net generation (kWh)

CAPEX cost of scheme (ex VAT) (£)

CAPEX VAT rate (%)

CAPEX cost of scheme (inc VAT) (£)

OPEX Annual maintenance costs (ex VAT) (£)

OPEX VAT rate (%)

OPEX Annual maintenance costs (inc VAT) (£)

Value of energy generated

Export tariff (UK FIT eligible projects < 2MW 2013) (£)

Assumed export (%)

Purchase tariff (£)

Income from FIT (£)

Income from export (£)

Value of electricity consumed (saving) (£)

Annual value of electricity generated (£)

Calculate return on investment

Simple payback (years)

Annual return on investment (%)