This Hydroworld article sets out our poor support compared to the rest of Europe-
“Support for small hydropower and development potential are not equal throughout the EU. Development of small hydropower is more challenging for a number of countries, generally in lower- lying areas. Among these countries, Ireland, Hungary, the eastern Baltic states, and Denmark rank as some of the least-developed small hydro sectors.
Ireland ranks low in terms of installed small hydro capacity, with only 42 MW in 2010 and a projected total of 60 MW in 2020. The country has 50 plants online, with potential to build 10 more. The country has a generation potential from small hydro of 227 GWh/year. As a result of the low level of development, hydro-related employment is also low, with only 124 positions at 31 companies, and the market for developers is small.
Small hydro has struggled to gain a foothold in the Irish renewable sector since some large projects, including pumped storage facilities, were developed in the mid-20th century. Despite a permitting and approval process of less than two years on average, the cost to develop small hydropower has thus far been a deterrent to investors and developers alike, ESHA says. According to the report, investment costs range from €3 million to €6 million per MW in Ireland, while heavy producers Italy and Romania have average investment costs of €4.5 million and €3 million per MW, respectively. Additionally, small hydro development in Ireland, as in many other European countries, faces tremendous pushback from the fishing industry, which has worked to prevent development that has an effect on fish and their habitat. Environmental impact assessments for new hydro development are rigorous, and water flow availability is a common point of contention for developers and lobbyists.
While the recent adoption of a feed-in tariff program in Ireland may spur development, the government’s eyes are not on the industry as a heavyweight renewable contributor, ESHA says. This oversight diminishes the public’s perception of small hydro’s benefits and affects support of the industry.”