Comparative costing of power generation technologies: 2022

The comparative costings are derived from US  EIA data as updated in January 2022.  The EIA table is useful for comparative purposes.  The US EIA table quotes the overnight capital costs of each technology and the above table condenses the total costs of the technology when maintained in operation for 60 years expressed as $:€billion/Gigawatt.  A simple assumption is made the the purchasing power of the Euro is equivalent to the US$.

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These basic costings are intended to avoid any distortions induced by political interventions with:

  • subsidies
  • tax breaks
  • preferential tariffs
  • Renewable obligations
  • and Renewable Energy ancillary costs such as:
    • intermittency
    • non-dispatchablity
    • variability
  • etcetera.

40 years is used for these long-term comparisons as it should be less than the service life of current generation of Nuclear installations.

The US  EIA data is abbreviated into the table below.

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

A simple assumption is made the the purchasing power of the Euro is equivalent to the US$.  Equivalent costings in GBP £ can be priced at £1 is equivalent $:€ 1.20.

The above comparative data should realistically avoid the distorting effects of Government fiscal and subsidy policies supporting Weather-Dependent “Renewables” power generation.  These political interventions mean that it is unrealistically claimed that Renewables now reach cost parity with conventional generation technologies.

The promoters of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” always seem to conveniently forget the productivity differentials and comparative unreliability as opposed to conventional dispatchable power generation. The differentials without any productivity / capacity percentage considerations are shown below.

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The service life allocated for Weather-Dependent “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.

Recent 2020 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.

It is hoped therefore that these results give a valid comparative analysis of the true cost effectiveness of Weather-Dependent “Renewables”, but solely limited from the point of view of power generation.

The collection of “Renewable Energy” from the environment requires large scale engineering installation because both Wind power and Solar power are dilute, diffuse and variable.  Unlike real microprocessor technologies an assumption of “Moore’s Law” cannot be applied to these technologies.  As Solar energy is dilute and diffuse, installations have to be large scale, so the progressive miniaturisation of “Moores Law” is irrelevant to Solar PV technology.

Comparative costs of Weather Dependent Renewables accounting for productivity / capacity %

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Only when the costings estimated from the EIA data above are combined with the actual productivity of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” can a true comparative cost be revealed as shown below.

Thus these figures represent a closer annual comparative cost of the power produced by Weather-Dependent generator installations as modulated by their productivity / capacity percentage in any particular geographical context.  It is only by combining their capital and running costs with the productivity / capacity percentages can the true comparative cost of the power delivered be assessed.

The average achieved productivity / capacity percentage in  EU(27)+UK for the decade since 2011 are as follows:

  • Onshore wind   22.2%
  • Offshore Wind  34.1%
  • Solar PV 11.2%
  • All conventional generation and Biomass are counted at their maximum potential of 90%.

Note that:  No account is taken of any Renewables obligation interfering with the productivity of Conventional generators. 

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Further Cost and CO2 emissions implications 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 cost comparisons for capital and running costs of the generation installations themselves and the actual electrical power generated accounting for their measured productivity capability of each generating technology.

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

  • their unreliability in terms of both power intermittency and power variability.
  • 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 by Man-kind.

Weather-Dependent “Renewables” do not run 24/7:  they do not achieve 90% productivity. 

  • the poor timing of power generation by Renewables, it is often unlikely to be well 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, the periods of lower power demand.
  • the long transmission lines from remote, dispersed generators, incurs both power losses in transmission, further infrastructure  and increased maintenance costs.
  • requirement for the sterilisation of large land areas, especially when compared with conventional electricity generation, (Gas-firing and Nuclear).
  • much additional engineering infrastructure is needed for access.
  • the continuing costs of back-up generation, which is essential to maintain continuous power supplies, but which may only used on occasions and has to be wastefully running in spinning reserve and emitting 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 and it is costly to run continuously, then there is very little point in doubling up the generation capacity, available 24/7,  with comparatively non-productive Weather-Dependent “Renewables”, which might substitute some CO2 emissions but they certainly still emit some substantial levels of CO2 for their manufacture, installation and maintenance in any event. 

  • 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 makes any idea of long-term seasonal power storage even less feasible
  • unsynchronised generation with lack of inherent inertia essential to maintain grid frequency.
  • Weather-Dependent “Renewables” cannot provide a “black start” recovery from a major grid outage.

Importantly in addition these cost analyses do not account for:

  • 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.
  • 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 was committed for their original manufacture and installation.  They certainly do not provide the regular 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 assessed in the comparative Cost Model shown above.

Real reductions in Man-made CO2 emissions

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 Man-made solutions to CO2 emissions reduction are:

  • the use Nuclear energy as in France and / or
  • the use of Natural gas as in the USA and from earlier UK energy policies

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

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Accordingly this costing model has followed through on Professor Mackay’s back of the envelope calculations, showing that Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are plainly expensive.  The excess overspend instead of using Gas-firing of the current EU(28) generation fleet roughly amount to some 620€billion in capital costs and the long-term costs approach a 1,400€billion.Screenshot 2022-12-28 at 16.36.37See the recent Michael Moore documentary, now censored, where the inefficiencies and the commercial and supportive fiscal pressures driving Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are clearly exposed.


The Appalling Delusion

The late Professor Sir David Mackay (former chef scientific advisor of the 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”.

Using Weather Dependent Renewable Energy depends on capturing essentially 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 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“.