Comparative costing model of Power Generation technologies


When assessed on the basis of the cost of power actually delivered to the Grid by Weather-Dependent Renewables, (Wind and Solar), these straightforward cost comparisons show not only that the power output from Gas-fired generation is currently the most economic available power, but:

  • Onshore Wind power is roughly 7-8 times more costly.
  • Offshore wind power is likely to be 15-22 times more costly.
  • Solar PV power, although cheap in capital cost terms, is 10-15 times more costly because, of its very poor productivity / capacity factor.

These comparisons are limited in their scope.  They only consider the costs of delivery of power to the Grid, but they do not explore the full extent of further additional ancillary costs.

The Renewables industry assertion that their Wind and Solar products for power generation have reached or are approaching cost parity with conventional power generation technologies are both patently false and misleading especially when Weather-Dependency means that the costs of Renewables are on occasions virtually infinite whenever they are unproductive.

Costing data for generation technologies

The comparative costings for power generation technologies are derived from U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, as updated in February 2021.

EIA  costs .jpg

The US EIA table quotes the overnight capital costs, variable costs including fuel and the fixed operation and maintenance costs of each technology.  A simple assumption is made the purchasing power of the Euro is equivalent to the US$.

That data is condensed as the table below.

Screenshot 2021-08-06 at 18.24.48.png

The above comparative data avoids the distorting effects of Government fiscal and subsidy policies supporting Weather-Dependent Renewable power generation.  Such political interventions mean that it has been unrealistically claimed that Renewables now reach cost parity with conventional generation technologies, including:

  • subsidies
  • tax breaks
  • preferential tariffs
  • renewable obligations
  • and the ancillary costs of Weather-Dependent Renewable Energy such as:
    • intermittency
    • non-dispatchability
    • variability.

A period of 60 years is used for long term comparisons as it is close the service life of current and future generation of Nuclear installations.  The table above aggregates the total costs of the technology when maintained in operation for 60 years expressed as $:€billion/Gigawatt.

The values used in this cost model ignore the “EIA Technological optimism factor” above, which would adversely increase the comparative costs of Offshore wind, (by about 9€billion/Gigawatt: long-term) and to a much less extent Nuclear power.

The assumed full service life for Renewables may well be generous, particularly for Offshore Wind and Solar Photovoltaics.  The productivity of all Weather-Dependent Renewable technologies has been shown to deteriorate significantly over their service life.

Recent 2021 US 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 price reduction can only affect about 1/4 of the installation costs, these are mainly made up of the other costs of Solar installations, those ancillary costs remain immutable.

These results thus give a comparative analysis of the bare capital and long-term costs of Weather-Dependent Renewables.

Screenshot 2021-08-06 at 18.27.21.png

  • Onshore Wind power and Solar PV power is nominally competitive with Hydro or Coal-firing in Capital cost terms.
  • Offshore wind power costs almost as much as Nuclear power to install.
  • Nonetheless Gas-firing using Fracked Gas is certainly the cheapest form of power generation.

Because both Wind power and Solar power are dilute, diffuse and variable, the collection of “Renewable Energy” from the environment requires large scale engineering installations.  Individual Wind power generators, however large, in are in fact small scale wide-spread separate installations when compared with centralised Nuclear or fossil fuel generation plants:  2-3 Megawatts each as opposed to units at the scale of 500 – 1000+ Megawatts.  Unlike microprocessor fabrication technologies “Moore’s Law” miniaturisation does not apply to the electronics manufacturing of Solar Power.

Comparative costs of Weather-Dependent Renewables accounting for Productivity / Capacity percentages

The promoters of Weather-Dependent-Renewables always conveniently forget their  downsides including:

  • their productivity differentials.
  • their comparative unreliability.
  • the poor timing of the power produced.

as opposed to the consistent service provided by conventional, dispatchable power generation.

In their assertions of approaching cost parity, they also ignore the value of their political support, subsidies etc. they receive from the policies exclusively mandating Weather-Dependent Renewables.

The actual achieved Productivity / Capacity percentages in EU(28) in 2019 were as follows:

Screenshot 2021-08-06 at 18.26.10.png

Combining the actual Productivity / Capacity percentages with the bare capital and long-term costs give an entirely different picture of the comparative cost effectiveness Weather-Dependent Renewables of delivering each unit of power to the Grid.

Screenshot 2021-08-06 at 18.28.18.png

Wind energy barometer 2020

Photovoltaic barometer 2020

All conventional generation and Biomass are counted at their maximum potential power provision of 90%.  Note that, no account is taken of any Renewables Obligations interfering with the productivity of Conventional generators.

According to the EIA data, using natural gas is clearly shown to be the least cost means of power generation both in capital costs and in the long-term.  Gas-firing also emits substantially less CO2 for the power produced than any other fossil fuels, were that of concern.  This effect, with the transition from Coal power to cheaper Fracked Natural gas, has already reduced CO2 output in the USA by about 25% since 2000.

The following graphic shows the scale of the actual cost differentials with Gas-firing as simple multipliers using Productivity / Capacity  data from the EU(28) as presented by EurObser’ER as at the end of 2019.

Screenshot 2021-08-11 at 07.33.32.png

It shows, the power output from Onshore Wind power is roughly 7-8 times more costly than Gas-firing, whereas Offshore wind power is likely to be 15-22 times more costly than Gas-firing.  Remarkably Solar PV power because of very low productivity it achieves, is 10-15 times more costly than Gas-firing.

But, the figures above only show the overall annual productivity of Weather-Dependent Renewables:  the values shown above have smoothed out the seriously detrimental  shorter-term productivity lapses that often occur with the establishment of wide-spread anti-cyclonic weather conditions lasting periods of several days across whole continents.

Such, unreliability resulting in-long term outages, was exemplified by the static low wind weather patterns that occurred across Europe in the Summer of 2021.  The graphic below shows the Wind-power production from the 22.3 Gigawatts nameplate value of UK installed turbine fleet in April 2021, for the majority of the month productivity  / capacity percentage was less than 10% of the installed value.

Screenshot 2021-11-07 at 10.22.12.png

This cost analysis is limited in its scope.  It looks only at the costs of delivery of power to the Grid, but does not explore the full extent of additional ancillary costs that are noted below.

Other Cost implications and CO2 emissions penalties of Weather-Dependent Renewables

The comparative figures above are underestimates of the true costs of mandating Weather-Dependent Renewables.  The results above only account for the actual electrical power generated and delivered by each power technology.

The significant ancillary costs inevitably also associated with Wind and Solar PV Renewables result from:

  • their unreliability in terms of both power intermittency and power variability.
  • the non-dispatchablity of Weather-Dependent 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 by Man-kind.
  • Weather-Dependent Renewables do not run 24/7: they do not achieve 90% productivity.
  • generally, the poor timing of power generation by Weather-Dependent Renewables is not coordinated with demand:  for example Solar energy, as has been seen recently in California, power falls off in the evening, at times of peak demand, leading to rolling blackouts.  Winter Solar output is virtually absent even in Southern European countries, ~1/7th of the output than in the summer, which are the periods of lower power demand in Europe.
  • the long transmission lines from remote, small scale, dispersed small scale generators, incurs power losses in transmission, further engineering infrastructure and increased maintenance costs.
  • requirement for the sterilisation of large land areas, especially when compared with conventional electricity generation, (Coal, Gas-firing and Nuclear).
  • much additional engineering infrastructure is needed for dispersed access.
  • the continuing costs of back-up generation, which is essential if continuous power supplies are to be maintained, but which may only be used on occasions and has to be wastefully running in spinning reserve and continuing to emit some CO2 nonetheless.

It should be noted that if there has to be sufficient back-up capacity using fossil fuels to support the grid when Wind and Solar are not available.  As it is costly to run generators continuously, 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.

  • any consideration of electrical storage using batteries is discounted. The use of batteries would impose very significant additional costs and conversion energy losses, were long-term, (even for a few days), battery storage economically feasible.  This makes any idea of long-term seasonal power storage even less feasible.
  • Weather-Dependent Renewables can only provide unsynchronised power generation with lack of inherent inertia essential to maintain instantaneous grid frequency.
  • Weather-Dependent Renewables cannot provide a “black start” recovery from any major grid outage.

It should be noted that if there has to be sufficient back-up capacity using fossil fuels to support the grid when Wind and Solar are not available.  As it is costly to run generators continuously, 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.

Importantly in addition these cost analyses do not account for:

  • the inevitable environmental damage and wildlife destruction caused by the siting of Weather-Dependent Renewables, both Wind and Solar.
  • 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.
  • the technologies used in Weather-Dependent Renewables are also highly dependent on large amounts of scarce materials with very extensive mining demands.
  • the Energy Return on Energy Invested: Weather-Dependent Renewables may well produce only a minimal excess of Energy during their service life as had to be committed for their original manufacture and installation.  They certainly do not regularly provide the massive excess power sufficient to support the multiple needs of a developed society.  Accordingly, they are parasitic on the use of fossil fuels for their existence.

These supplementary costs are not considered at all in the comparative above Cost Model.

The Appalling Delusion

The late Professor Sir David Mackay, (former chef scientific advisor of the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change), in a final interview before his untimely death in 2016 said that the concept of powering a developed country with Weather-Dependent Renewable energy was:

“an appalling delusion”

Minute 13 onwards.

Weather-Dependent Renewable Energy depends on capturing dilute and very variable sources of power.  Weather-Dependent Renewables are thus both capital, land use and maintenance expensive and inevitably unreliable.  Weather-Dependent Renewables are universally more expensive than the conventional alternatives of Nuclear power or Gas-firing.

At the time Professor David Mackay also said:

“there’s so much delusion, it’s so dangerous for humanity that people allow themselves to have such delusions, that they are willing to not think carefully about the numbers, and the reality of the laws of physics and the reality of engineering….humanity does need to pay attention to arithmetic and the laws of physics.”

and later in the same interview he said:

“if it is possible to get through the winter in the UK with low CO2 Nuclear and possibly with Carbon Capture and Storage, there is no point in having any Wind or Solar power at all in the UK generation mix.  This is especially so for Solar energy:  the UK is one of the darkest nations on earth and produces about 1/7th of the power output in winter as in the summer.”

But it seems that having bought into the assumption that Catastrophic Man-made Global Warming as an immediate and existential National threat that Government elites, even when faced with these simple but devastatingly wasteful calculations assume a position of “wilful ignorance”, and a stance of “don’t confuse me with the facts, we are saving the world”.       minute 40 onwards

There is also an irrational determination in Government that the only solution to reducing CO2 emissions is the use of Weather-Dependent Renewables.  This is a fallacy:  the only proven solutions to Man-made CO2 emissions reduction are:

  • the use of Nuclear energy as in France and / or
  • the use of Natural gas as has been achieved in the USA and as in UK energy policies in the 1990s.

but these real solutions to the apparent problem of Man-made CO2 emissions are somehow always rejected out of hand:  they do not accord with the “Green” religion.

Accordingly, this costing model has followed through on Professor Mackay’s back of the envelope calculations, showing that Weather-Dependent Renewables are plainly expensive for the power they produce.  An estimate of the excess overspend instead of using Gas-firing of the current EU(28) 322Gigawatt Weather-Dependent Renewables generation fleet roughly amounts to some 450€billion in capital costs and the long-term costs approach a 1,800€billion.

The excess costs of Weather Dependent Renewable power generation in the EU(28): 2020

The recent Michael Moore documentary, now censored on Youtube, clearly exposes the inefficiencies and the commercial and supportive fiscal pressures driving Weather-Dependent Renewables.

An excellent way to undermine Western economies is to render their power generation unreliable and expensive.  That objective of Green thinking is progressively being achieved by government policies throughout the Western world, but without any popular mandate