Postgraduate research opportunities

UK Hydropower energy capacity - a poorly tapped resource?

This research will investigate the capacity of UK hydropower resources to provide a sustainable energy resource exploited over the next 50 years to support renewable energy targets and provide a greater renewable energy resource to fulfil government targets.

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


13 July 2020


1 October 2020


36 months


The opportunity is open to Home, EU and International applicants, who meet the required University of Strathclyde eligibility criteria. In particular the applicant must not have been awarded a previous Doctoral Degree.

In addition to the above, the applicant will hold, or in the process of obtaining, an integrated Master’s degree or equivalent in Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Geography or Earth Sciences or another discipline related to the proposed research projects.

UKRI Studentship Eligibility

The eligibility criteria for UKRI funding has changed for studentships commencing in the 2021/22 academic year. Now, all home and international students are eligible to apply for UKRI funding which will cover the full stipend and tuition fees at the home rate (not the international rate). Under the new criteria, UKRI have stipulated a maximum percentage of international students that can be recruited each year against individual training grants. This will be managed at the institutional level for all EPSRC DTP and ICASE grants. For EPSRC CDT grants, this will be managed by the individual CDT administrative/management team. For ESRC and AHRC studentships the final funding decision will be made by the respective grant holder.


To be classed as a home student, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter.


The residency requirements are based on the Education (Fees and Awards) (England) Regulations 2007 and subsequent amendments. Normally to be eligible for a full award a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education).

If a student does not meet the criteria above, they will be classed as an international student. The international portion of the tuition fee cannot be funded by the UKRI grant and must be covered from other sources. International students are permitted to self-fund the difference between the home and international fee rates.

Project Details

To encourage development of renewable energy generation, the Scottish Government is fully committed to an ambitious 100% renewable electricity generation target to be achieved by 2020 and 50% of the total energy consumption from renewables by 2030.  Moreover, Scotland has set clear targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045.  Renewable energy resource development activity has predominantly focused on wind, both on-shore and offshore, and solar resources to meet the challenges above, overlooking the significant potential of Scotland’s hydro resource given the increased water availability under the latest UKCCIP future climate change projections.  Furthermore, wind turbine and solar system infrastructure life-expectancy sit in the order of 20 years whereas hydropower systems offer up to 5 times this operational capacity, with infrastructure lifespans of 50-100 years typical of larger schemes and many small systems too. Indeed, recent research through the British Hydropower Association has even proposed potential lifespans of up to 3 centuries for some assets.  This indicates hydropower, if correctly sited and exploited, offers significant advantages over other renewables for long term generation. This is confirmed when we note that the likes of Lanark Hydro Electric Scheme (run-of-river) at the Falls of Clyde celebrated its 95th anniversary and the Loch Sloy storage schemes 70th anniversary of operations this year.  No wind farm has yet to equal this.  To date no study has comprehensively addressed the full UK hydropower picture and these identified knowledge gaps or provided holistic review of the whole UK hydro sector potential as compared to other generation options.  Hydropower offers the UK a renewable electricity generation capability that, if harnessed correctly through effective planning, design and water resource management, can provide both options to manage peak power demands and balance fluctuations, as well as provide for the baseload energy requirements that are typically required for electrical heating.  The key risks to this model are in understanding the hydrology and water resources available, matching effective technologies to each site and context for maximising energy yields, and in long term resource planning.

The aim of this project is to develop a framework for assessing how UK hydropower resources can be developed and sustainably exploited over the next 50 years to support renewable energy targets and provide a greater renewable energy resource to fulfil government targets and provide renewable energy contribution for both peak and base load generation requirements.  The project scope will review the successful implementation of Hydro to date and then subsequently evaluate the available future resource in 3 key sectors:

1) Potential large schemes, conventional and pumped

2) Potential small schemes including run of river

3) Potential other water based schemes, coastal tidal etc.

 Working from the University of Strathclyde, the initial research will objectively review hydro power resources currently available in the UK. This would cover existing schemes of all sizes showing location, type, available power and over what time period. Along with the locations there should be a nod to knock on amenities, recreation, irrigation, flood control and water supply, where appropriate. The second objectives would look at large scheme potential within Scotland, North England and Wales including conventional and pumped storage schemes; and the third part would cover small micro-hydro, typically run of river schemes, as well as other potential shoreline tidal storage and other water based schemes. The final part will research the hypothesis hydro (either on shore or offshore) is a far better suited to long term UK energy security than wind and solar resources in terms of predictability, resource estimation, management and control and examine how it could sensibly replace wind generation in the longer term if correctly developed.

 The outputs of the research are also expected to contribute towards future publication via academic papers and a text book



Funding Details

Home/EU fees & stipend.

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