OXFORD’S £3.2m new hydroelectric power plant is finally generating electricity, managers have confirmed.

Sandford Hydro’s 22-tonne steel screws started turning around at the end of last year and were going for a total of eight days over Christmas.

However Oxford’s Low Carbon Hub has said the community-owned plant is still not turning nearly as much as it would like.

The four-year design and construction was completed in August last year, and the plant was hooked up to the national grid.

The hub was expecting it to start turning in October or November, but in his January update, operations director Adriano Figueiredo revealed the team had to wait impatiently through an unusually dry autumn which meant the river levels in Thames were simply not high enough to push the huge metal screws around.

Just when the plant finally got going at Christmas, the team then had to force it to stop on December 27 because the river levels were too high.

On January 4 they were ready to go again but now, Mr Figueiredo said, the Low Carbon Hub needs to get ‘express permission from the Environment Agency on a daily basis in order to operate’.

He explained: “This is mainly because a telemetry link requested by the EA has not been implemented yet on their side.”

This link will give the EA a live feed of river levels at Sandford Hydro to help them decide when it is safe for the plant to operate.

Mr Figueiredo added: “The outcome we are seeking is to get the hydro operating as much as possible and do so by working closely with the [Environment Agency] waterways team, who have been very helpful.

“Despite the frustration of not having the hydro fully operational, we believe that cooperation with the EA will benefit us all in the long term – we will be working with them for at least the next 40 years after all.”

The hub said it hoped Sandford Hydro would be ‘in full operation in the next fortnight’.

Mr Figueiredo also reassured the scheme’s more than 250 community investors – many of them Oxfordshire residents – that he did not expect the delays to have a negative impact on their financial returns (a dividend of a few per cent on their initial investment each year).

He said: “The financial model does not forecast interest payments to members in the first year of operation because of such risks at the start of operations.”

Investors leant the hub some £1.2m and a £2m loan from the Charity Bank covered the rest.

Concluding his New Year message on a positive note Mr Figueiredo said: “It’s great news that we’re now operational and generating clean energy from the Thames.

“Having seen the plant through from planning to operations has been a big job.

"I’m really pleased we’ve done it.”