The comparative costings are derived from US EIA data as updated in February 2022. These data are denominated in 2021 US$ / Megawatt hour.
These costs are summarised and translated into US$billion/GW.
The US EIA table above gives values for the overnight capital costs of each technology as well as variable costs, (including fuel), and estimated fixed maintenance costs. The above table condenses those total costs of each technology when maintained in operation for 40 years. It is expressed as US$billion/Gigawatt installed.
The service life allocated for “Renewables” used above may well be generous, particularly for Offshore Wind and Solar Photovoltaics. The production capability of all “Renewable” technologies have been shown to progressively deteriorate significantly over their service life.
These values do not account for the productivity of each technology. The productivity profile over an extended period is shown below. This long-term data is summarised as the bar chart above.
Conventional Generation is assessed at ~90% the output achievable when these technologies are employed fully, unencumbered by the need to compensate for the intermittent output variability of Weather-Dependent “Renewables”.
The comparisons are stark when the actual productivity of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” is taken into account, comparing the actual costs of supplying units of power to the Grid.
These basic data should avoid the distorting effects of Government fiscal and subsidy policies supporting “Renewable” Energy, whereby it might be claimed that “Renewables” approximate to cost parity with conventional Fossil Fuel and Nuclear generators. These comparisons give a valid comparative analysis of the true comparative cost effectiveness of Weather-Dependent “Renewables”.
There have also been aggressive underbids for Offshore Wind power which are not accounted for here. Recent 2022 EIA updates fully account for any cost reductions or underbids for “Renewable” technology, particularly those for Solar panels. The costs of Solar panels themselves may be reducing but this only affects about 1/4 of the installation costs, these are mainly made up of the other ancillary costs of a Solar installations, foundations, support structures, rectifiers, grid connections, etcetera those costs remain largely immutable.
The above graphics give an indication of the real comparative annual costs of the power from Weather-Dependent “Renewables”as supplied to the Grid. It is only when the actual capital and running costs of each generation technology are combined with their routinely achieved productivity that the true costs per unit of power actually supplied to the Grid can be compared.
These are annual performance results, they in no way account for the variability and intermittency of Weather-Dependent “Renewables”which continually diminish Energy security.
Any assertion that Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are cheaper than or are even reaching cost parity with Conventional generation is patently false.
The ancillary Costs and CO2 emissions implications of Weather-Dependent “Renewables”
The above adverse comparative figures from the US EIA above are underestimates of the true costs of politically mandating Weather-Dependent “Renewables”. The results shown above only account trivially for the cost comparisons for capital and running costs for the electrical power generated by the installations themselves.
In addition the comparative costs projected here ignore all the ancillary costs inevitably associated with Wind power and Solar power “Renewables” resulting from:
- their unreliability in terms of both power intermittency and power variability.
The above graphic shows real live hourly data for “Renewable” generation in the UK in late March 2022. It exemplifies the scale of the “dunkelflaute” problem that has to be met to maintain the viability of the power Grid. Adverse weather conditions can occur at any time during the year.
- the non-dispatchablity of Renewables: the wind will not blow, the clouds will not clear away and the world will not stop rotating to order, whenever power is needed:
Weather-Dependent “Renewables” do not run 24/7: they cannot achieve ~90% productivity.
- the poor timing of power generation by Weather-Dependent “Renewables”, it is often ill-coordinated with demand. Taking for example Solar energy, power output falls off at the times of evening peak demand. This situation has been seen recently in California leading to rolling blackouts at times of peak evening demand. Even in Southern countries Winter Solar output is only ~1/9th of the output possible in the Summer, the period of lower power demand.
- the long transmission lines from remote, dispersed generators, incur both power losses in transmission and increased maintenance costs.
- the requirement for the sterilisation of large land areas, especially when compared with conventional electricity generation, (Gas-firing, Coal or Nuclear).
- Much additional engineering infrastructure is needed for access.
- The continuing costs of back-up generation, which is essential to maintain power on the Grid but is only used on occasions but has to be wastefully running in spinning reserve, emitting CO2 nonetheless:
Sufficient back-up power capacity, using mainly fossil fuels, is needed to support the grid whenever wind and solar are not available. Such support is inevitably costly to run as it is providing power and only charging for its output of intermittent power, as opposed to running consistently at its full potential.
If 100% back-up is needed, then there is very little point in doubling up the generation capacity, available 24/7, with comparatively non-productive Weather-Dependent “Renewables”. Even though they might substitute some CO2 emissions, they certainly emit substantial levels of CO2 for their manufacture, installation and maintenance.
In the UK the nominal size of the installed base of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” already exceeds the maximum required power by ~40%: in Germany the installed nominal output of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” exceeds maximum demand by ~+130%.
The use of Biomass, pelletised wood chips from felled forest, (nominally considered to be CO2 neutral). For example at Drax Yorkshire, ~7% UK generation, produces ~3.5 times the CO2 emissions for the same power output as Gas-firing. So the mandating of Biomass and calling it “Renewable” is a self-defeating policy in there is need to be concerned about CO2 emissions.
- any consideration of electrical storage using batteries, which would impose very significant additional costs, were long-term, (only a few days), battery storage even economically feasible. This is the scale of the power loss that would have to be covered by any longer-term battery storage.
- unsynchronised generation with a lack of inherent consistent inertia to maintain grid frequency.
- Weather-Dependent “Renewables” can not provide inherent inertia in the grid to overcome short term sudden variability.
- Weather-Dependent “Renewables” cannot enable a “Black Start”, when needed.
Importantly in addition these cost analyses do not account for:
- the Energy Return on Energy Invested: Weather-Dependent “Renewables” produce only a minimal excess of Energy during their service life beyond what was needed for their original manufacture and installation. They certainly do not provide the regular massive excess power sufficient to support the multiple power needs of a developed society. Having excess power well over the economic threshold level enables civilisations to flourish, the more the better. As a result Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are parasitic on the use of fossil fuels for their existence.
- the inevitable environmental damage and wildlife destruction caused by Weather-Dependent “Renewables”.
- the “Carbon footprint” of Weather-Dependent “Renewable” technologies: they may never save as much CO2 during their service life as they are likely to require for their materials sourcing, manufacture, installation, maintenance and eventual demolition.
- when viewed in the round, all these installation activities are entirely dependent on the use of substantial amounts of fossil fuels both as feedstocks for materials and as fuels.