Environmental, planning and electrical permissions in the UK

This page provides information about the permissions required to install a hydropower scheme in the UK. The main permissions required are environmental consent, planning permission and a grid connection agreement. For information on permissions in other countries contact the national environmental and planning bodies. 

Hydromatch can be used to illustrate how the scheme will operate on a particular watercourse and support environmental applications to license the building of the scheme. See how it fits into a project plan with our step-by-step guide.



Environmental Consent


The Environment Agency are the regulating body for permissions in England. The first step is to submit a fairly simple hydropower pre-application. This will be used to determine what licenses are needed, which could include an abstraction license, an impoundment license and fish pass approval. Flood Defence Consent may be granted either by the Environment Agency or Local Authority depending on the type of river. The charge for submitting the applications is not costly but it takes time to collate the necessary supporting information and specialist surveys may be required. The application process can take between 6 and 12 months. For more information see the Environment Agency Hydropower pages.


Licensing in Wales is issued by Natural Resources Wales, who took over the responsibility from the Environment Agency in April 2013.


The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) regulate abstractions in Scotland. They recommend contacting them for pre-application advice. All hydropower developments in Scotland require a Controlled Activities Regulation (CAR) authorisation for abstractions and impounding works. It is possible to apply on line through their website.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency recommend contacting them for pre-application discussions as the first step. An application for an abstraction and impoundment license is required that will be considered on a case by case basis. Hydropower guidance can be found on their website.

Planning Permission

All hydropower systems require planning permission. It is recommended this is undertaken after the environmental body has been consulted. Planning applications are usually more straightforward than abstraction licenses and often the supporting information required is similar. The relevant websites for applying are detailed below.

England and Wales




Northern Ireland


Electrical Connection Agreement

UK wide

In order to connect to the National Grid the scheme must be consented by the local Distribution Network Operator (DNO). It is advisable to check at an early stage that a connection will be possible and whether any upgrade is required, as this can add significant cost to the project. A map of DNO's can be found on the National Grid website.