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1 July 2024
Renewable Energy

‘Skilled Green Jobs’ Celebrated as Hydropower Scheme Reaches Milestone Anniversary

Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy has marked 60 years since its hydropower scheme near Aberystwyth was officially opened.

Rheidol is the largest hydropower scheme of its kind in England and Wales and has been owned by Statkraft since 2009. The 49MW scheme generates enough clean energy to power the equivalent of over 35,000 homes

The anniversary was celebrated with an event bringing together past and present employees, alongside Rt Hon Elin Jones MS, the Llywydd of the Senedd. Statkraft has also produced a new film documenting the construction of Rheidol and its early years of operation, with contributions from former employees.

The Rheidol Hydro-Electric Scheme, as it was originally known, was built by the Central Electricity Generating Board, which was responsible for the generation and supply of electricity in England and Wales, before privatisation. The scheme cost £10 million to build – the equivalent of £180 million in today’s money. The official opening took place on 3 July 1964.

Construction began in 1957, with some 1,800 people employed at its peak. Most of the villages, hamlets, and farms in the valley and mountains near the scheme benefitted in some way from the construction work, whether through the new network of roads, bridges, and cattle grids, or the road built across Nant-y-Moch dam which opened up a new scenic route through the Plynlimon mountains for tourists.

Rheidol remains a fully operational hydropower plant, but has also evolved and grown to include Statkraft’s UK and Ireland control centre, managing 15 Statkraft renewable projects, monitoring almost 40 wind and solar projects on behalf of third parties. It also has a significant role in stabilising the electricity grid, and future projects being developed and operated by Statkraft will eventually see the Rheidol Control Centre directing up to 45% of Great Britain’s entire grid stability services.

As part of the 60th anniversary celebrations, Statkraft appealed for local people who had worked at Rheidol in the past to come forward and share their photos and recollections of their time working on the scheme. These have now been compiled as part of a new video, The People Who Made Rheidol.

The contributors are:

  • Bill Doyle, a 98-year-old originally from Ireland, who was one of many labourers working to dig the underground tunnels used to carry water for electricity generation
  • John Elfed Jones who was the deputy project manager during the build, and went on to be the deputy manager at the power station
  • Margaret Dryburgh, who was 17 years old when she became a secretary at Rheidol in 1963
  • Dai Charles Evans, who worked there in various roles between 1961 and 1991, including as a driver and an operator in the control room. He appears with his wife Nancy Evans, a tour guide at the power plant for almost 20 years

The former staff members attended the anniversary event, held at the Rheidol Visitor Centre, and were thanked by Statkraft’s Executive Vice President for Europe, Barbara Flesche, and Kevin O’Donovan, UK Managing Director, for their almost 70 years of combined service to the construction and operation of Rheidol.

Rt Hon Elin Jones MS, Presiding Officer of the Senedd and Member for Ceredigion, said:

“It was a privilege to join with Statkraft in celebrating the anniversary of Rheidol, and meeting some of the staff who helped build it, as well as the current employees who are continuing to ensure it thrives.

“It’s particularly rewarding to see how Statkraft is not only celebrating Wales’ engineering heritage, but also looking ahead – providing apprenticeship opportunities to the next generation of skilled workers in Wales. This will support rural job creation and retention in Ceredigion – a region that can be a real driver of the energy transition in Wales.”

Dennis Geyermann, Statkraft’s Vice President of Operations and Maintenance, said:

“It is fitting that we mark this significant anniversary alongside some of the people who made the building of Rheidol possible, and I’m pleased that we have been able to celebrate their contributions. When this scheme was commissioned, it was expected to last around six decades. Today we can say it will be here for at least another six decades – and very likely longer. We’re proud to be the custodians of Rheidol, and its future is secure.

“But as we celebrate the past, it is important to look to the future. Rheidol is strategically important to Statkraft – a hub for skilled green jobs in rural Wales. And as we continue to develop wind, solar, grid, hydro and green hydrogen projects, the team here will expand further in years ahead and we’re determined that Rheidol will continue to operate in a way that best serves that local community that helped build it. We’re committed to playing our part in the transition to cleaner energy, and supporting the jobs needed to make it happen.”

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