10th March 2009
We have heard rumours about wind turbines and small scale hydro electric projects on our waterways but today these dreams took a significant step towards reality. David Milliband announced a £120m investment programme in 25 hydro electric plants around the system. These units will generate 210,000 megawatts of electricity per annum, which in real money equates to the power needs of 40,000 homes - say a town the size of Grantham.
Not only will the initiative reduce CO2 emissions, provide a small but sustainable supply of electricity, but it will also create about 150 construction jobs and provide an additional source of income for BW. This is really good news because in these cash strapped times BW will need every penny it can lay its hands on to make ends meet.
Whilst £120m may not sound much amid the £billions being bandied about as part of the recent economic stimulation measures, it is more than twice the £56.6m annual payment made to BW each year for the maintenance of the canal infrastructure.
Whilst I like the green angle on this, I am particularly pleased to see the waterways resource finding a new commercial application. We spend so much time selling the "soft" environmental and recreational benefits, and it makes a change to think of them being seen once more as a viable commercial resource, capable of delivering more than pleasant surroundings for boaters, walkers, anglers and nature enthusiasts.
Supplying the needs on one modest town may not seem like a lot but I can't see us finding a "big new power solution" so the answer must come from a myriad of smaller schemes and reduced consumption. And where better to start than among the boating community who know all about juggling power supplies and usage via a diminutive battery bank.
Also, hydro electricity plants need water and that means well maintained and properly dredged channels. So who knows, as well as a useful cash boost the initiative may also provide added impetus to maintain the network to a reasonable standard. Thats good news for us and the next generation of boaters.