This post is concerned with the two main forms of Weather Dependent Renewable Energy, Wind Power, (Onshore and Offshore) and Photovoltaic solar power. In the UK this amounts to ~75% of all Renewable Energy installations.
The other Renewable Energy inputs are traditional Hydro power ~8% and the remainder are other sources such as biomass, waste and landfill gas amounting to ~17%: they are not considered here.
Summarised estimates of initial overnight capital costs and 60 year lifetime costs of Weather Dependent Renewables in Europe are set out below.
This post combines published data on the 2016 level of installation of Weather Dependent Renewables in Europe with comparative generation cost data from the US Energy Information Administration, US EIA: see later for full data.
This post assesses the costs commitments made to introduce Weather Dependent Renewable Energy in Europe. The expenditures that result are very significant. The populace of Europe were never consulted as to whether they wished to commit such vast sums to the Green cause of controlling CO2 as a greenhouse gas in a probably futile attempt to limit further temperature rise due to greenhouse warming.
- The installation of the Weather Dependent Renewables fleet in Europe, as of 2016, has already lead to a forward 60 year lifetime financial commitment amounting to roughly $:€2.1trillion: this approximates to the annual GDP of the United Kingdom.
- Electricity generation using Gas-fired installations is significantly cheaper than Weather Dependent Renewables in terms of both in the Capital cost of initial installation and later Operation and Maintenance costs, when accounting for the current costs of fuel.
- The $:€0.55 trillion capital costs already spent on Weather Dependent Renewables in Europe to date would have been sufficient to substantially re-equip the 1,000 Gigawatt European electricity generating fleet with Gas-fired power stations. These would be capable of producing electricity for the grid consistently, as and when needed, at ~90% capacity / load factor.
- The European Weather Dependent Renewable fleet with a nominal nameplate output of ~253 Gigawatts contributes the equivalent of ~46 Gigawatts to the European Grid: giving a capacity percentage at about ~18% overall.
- Comparative costs when accounting for capacity / load factors:
- 60 year life-time costs of Onshore wind power are about 7 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation.
- 60 year life-time costs of Offshore wind power is ~ 17 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation.
- 60 year life-time costs of Solar PV power is ~ 15 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation.
- During the 60 year life-time conventional Gas-fired generators have a full-time productive capacity of about ~90%, whereas the combined capacity figures for Weather Dependent Renewable Energy of only about 18% is achieved across all European weather dependent Renewable installations.
These notes make estimates of:
- a presentation of the current state of installations and 2016 performance of Weather Dependent Renewables in the EU(28)
- the likely capital expenditure to reinstate the current state of generation installations
- the estimated further costs over the coming 60 years to maintain the current levels of Weather Dependent Renewable installations
- the running costs including fuel costs, if applicable, over the forward 60 year time period
- the likely combined expenditures for 60 years overall
- the ratios of Weather Dependent Renewable financial performances compared to conventional Gas-fired electricity generation.
Note that these straightforward calaculations compare estimates of cost as if the total European generation fleet was reproduced as of now. No account is taken of any past investments in generating installations.
This post only gives indicative estimates and orders of magnitude of the differentials in financial performance of Weather Dependent Renewables and shows whatever data inputs are assumed that they are generally bound to be very significantly more costly than any fossil fuel based generation. Comparative ratios are provided to show the effectiveness of comparatively low carbon Gas-fired generation.
In addition these estimates point out that the cost of providing the essential equivalent fossil fuel backup generation, because of the inherent intermittency and variability of weather dependent renewables, is minor in comparison.
But of course if full fossil fuel back-up has to be provided to maintain grid viability, the entire need for the Weather Dependent Renewables is obviated. see David Mackay 2016.
The present installation status of Weather Wependent Renewables in the EU(28) 2016
The EurOberv’ER organisation publishes reports on Renewable energy installations throughout Europe annually. This post and its illustrations collate that installation and performance data as the basis for an assessment of the original investment costs and the likely forward 60 year commitment arising for the current level of installations across Europe.
The graphic shows the extent of Weather Dependent Renewables as installed in the EU(28) countries by 2016 as follows:
- Germany has by far the largest commiment to Weather Dependent Renewables.
- Germany has a disproportionate committment to Solar PV power.
- The UK has made a larger proportional commitment to Offshore wind power than elsewhere.
- The Italian commitment to Solar power is compared with Spain with a preponderance of Onshore wind power.
- France has about a fifth of the Renewable installation of Germany but because of its long term commitment to Nuclear power for electricity generation, it has much lower CO2 emissions / head than any other developed country.
- French CO2 emissions / head now equal the global average including the whole underdeveloped world. Any Renewable Energy efforts in France would therefore seem to be redundant, when the country is already achieving so much in terms of CO2 reduction anyway. See:
Seven European Nations considered
For convenience only the seven European nations, most heavily committed to Weather Dependent Renewables is used in further analyses. The remaining 21 Nations only account for the remaining ~19% of all European installed Renewables.
The actual generative performance of the limited subset of Weather Dependent Renewables is shown below. Unfortunately the EurObser’ER data does not distinguish between the production performance of Onshore and Offshore wind power, but estimates are made here according to the level of Offshore output reported in the UK.
The capacity performance of the types of Weather Dependent Renewables can be seen below. Comparatively Solar energy is about a half as performant as wind power and is highly dependent on the latitude of a particular country. Clearly increasing Offshore wind power improves the Renewable capacity / load factor results in any particular country.But the clear contrast between the achieved overall combined capacity performance of Weather Dependent Renewables and conventional power generation can be seen below.
Capital and long-term expenditures on European Renewables: $:€ billion
The following graphics show the estimated installation capital costs and the forward 60 year life-time future expenditures in Europe (28), as if installations were made simultaneously and continually renewed long-term to maintain the an equal commitment to Renewables as is already established in 2016.
Note that the currency denomination os “$:€” is used throughtout estimating that the purdcgasing power of the US$ and Euro are roughly equivalent for this analysis.
As of 2016 in total Europe (28) according to these simple estimates had already made a 60 year commitment to Weather Dependent Renewable Energy technology amounting to approximately 2.1 trillion €uros: €2,100,000,000,000,000.
Germany has opted for the extensive use Solar PV, the overall performance of Renewable investment in Germany is, at ~15% capacity load / factor. Germany is the least performant of any European country. This poor performance is hardly surprising. Germany is one of the most consistently cloudy nations in Europe, and can also be prone to long anticyclonic episodes with low windspeeds.
National commitments to Weather Dependent Renewables
The following charts present various measures of the commitment to weather dependent Renewables by nation.
Comparisons with Gas-fired generation: EU(28), Germany, United Kingdom
The following tables show the comparisons with Gas-fired power generation for the alternate generating technologies.
Weather dependent Renewables always remain substantially more costly, as a means of electricity generation, as opposed to Gas-fired generation by at least an order of magnitude.
All these comparative values between Renewables and Gas-fired generation, only account for their gross generating capacity. They still entirely ignore the vagaries of intermittency and non-dispatchablility that are inevitably associated with Weather Dependent Renewable technologies.
The Renewable Energy industry could not exist without the Government mandated subsidies and preferential tariffs.
Therefore the Weather Ddependent Renewables industry is not a truly viable business.
Without its Government mandate, support and subsidies Weather Dependent Renewable Energy would never be a chosen as a rational part of the generating mix, when viewed from the needs for the engineering viability of a nation’s electrical supply grid.
The failure of Weather Dependent Renewables in Germany is now understood. Far from being a beacon excellence, “die Energiwende” in Germany now being seen as a massive and very costly Green policy failure. This failure is hugely damaging to Germany’s industrial prowess and has not even managed to reduce Germany’s CO2 emissions output over the past 9 years.
However Germany in spite of its Green pressure groups is reacting to the problem positively by rapidly building a new fleet of coal and lignite fired power stations, (without Carbon Capture and Storage, CCS).
Whereas the UK, in response to EU directives and the strictures of its own 2008 Climate Change Act, has closed almost all of it coal-fired capacity but failed to replace it with generationg capacity capable of providing back up for Renewables when the weather fails them. To compare the actual generation performance and approaches to decarbonisation see:
- By 2016 the countries of the European Union had made a current and future financial commitment of some $:€2.1trillion to Weather Dependent Renewable Energy technologies. Those future financial commitments will increase as further Renewable installations are made in future.
- $:€2.1 trillion is more than the annual GDP of the United Kingdom
- More than 1/3 of the financial commitment to weather dependent Renewables in Europe so far has been made in Germany.
- The $:€ 0.54 trillion initial capital costs already spent on Renewables in Europe for about 4.5% of its generating needs would have been sufficient to substantially re-equip a large part of the ~1,000 Gigawatt European electricity generating fleet with Gas-fired power stations. They would be capable of producing continuous power effectively at ~87% capacity / load factor.
- Electricity generation by using gas-fired installations is significantly cheaper than Weather Dependent Renewables in terms of both installation capital cost and Operation and Maintenance costs, even when accounting for the cost of fuel.
- The European Weather Dependent Renewables fleet with a nominal nameplate output of ~254 Gigawatts only contributes ~46 Gigawatts to the European Grid, a capacity percentage at about 18% in 2016.
- Accounting for intermittency and non-dispatchability:
- 60 year life-time costs of Onshore wind power is about 7 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation.
- 60 year life-time costs of Offshore wind power is about 18 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation
- 60 year life-time costs of Solar power is about 15 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation.
- CO2 emissions from Germany are now increasing, so their vast investment in Weather Depenedent Renewable technologies to control man-made CO2 emissions has manifestly failed.
- Gas-fired electricity generation significantly reduces CO2 emissions, when compared with other fossil fuels such as Coal and Lignite: this is in spite of the fact it does burn a “fossil fuel”.
- This effect is already seen in the USA where significant CO2 emissions reductions are being achieved by the rapid transition from Coal to Natural gas for electricity generation. This effect arises from the fact that coal contains a 6-10 times higher proportion of carbon atoms as natural gas and thus for equivalent thermal outputs those fossil fuels produce proportionally much more CO2 when oxidised.
- Assuming that CO2 reuction is a sensible goal at all, some part of the $:€2.1 trillion financial commitment made in support of Renewables could have been usefully invested for further research into low CO2 alternates such as:
- small scale reproducible standardised Nuclear generation technologies
- the establishment of Thorium based reactor technology
- fusion power.
- Weather Dependent Renewable technologies should be examined critically from “cradle to grave” to assess the effectiveness of the technology in actually reducing man-made CO2 emissions at all. It is likely that actual CO2 reduction arising from their use is very marginal, when basic materials cement and steel, manufacturing, installation processes, grid connection and demolition are fully accounted for.
- At the same time all other non-European nations are continuing to emit very large and growing amounts of CO2 such that now Europe as a whole only accounts for ~10% of worldwide CO2 emissions with:
- Germany ~2.3%
- UK ~1.2%
- France ~0.9%
So any attempts to reduce European CO2 emissions can only ever have miniscule effects on Global temperature, if at all.
- This is emphasised by the fact that in 2016 Chinese CO2 emissions (at 8.24 tonnes/head) have now exceeded the overall European CO2 emissions level average by ~12%
- France in particular with CO2 emissions (at 4.5 tonnes/head) by employing Nuclear power for electricity generation, has an overall CO2 emissions output 40% lower than China.
- The French CO2 emissions level (at 4.5 tonnes/head) now equals the global average. That global average includes India and the whole of the rest of the underdeveloped world.
If as many assert, that
- man-made CO2 is not pollutant,
- is not the cause of catastrophic and dangerous Global Warming leading to “Climate Change”
- is a positive benefit to plant life and thus the whole biosphere.
then the investment of some €2.1 trillion already committed to Weather Dependent Renewables in Europe is entirely wasted.
This waste has arisen from the adherence to an erroneous Green philosophy, as determined by the European Union and subsequently supported to various extents by the governments of other European countries, and most particularly in the UK with the 2008 Climate Change Act.
Calculating the comparative costs of generation technolgies US EIA 2016
These costs show significantly lower costs for Renewable Energy than published in earlier years. Using the following assumptions:
- the US EIA levelised cost data is adjusted for current gas prices in 2016
- that the US$ and the Euro (€) provide roughly equivalent value in their respective continents.
- as far as comparisons are concerned fossil fuel costs are expected to remain low and competitive for the foreseeable future, as the use of fracking technologies spread globally.
- the assumption that the capital cost of a 1GW gas fired plant running with ~87% capacity / load factor is about €1.1 billion, €1,100,000,000 / Gigawatt.
- that all market distorting mechanisms instituted by Governments are eliminated and the simple raw cost data is used for comparative purposes.
- The US EIA figures show a significant reduction in the costs of Weather Dependent Reanables from their previous ananlysis in 2013.
When any subsidies and support mechanisms for Renewables are eliminated, the capital and longterm costs of Weather Dependent Renewables still substantially exceed the costs of conventional Gas-firing for electricity generation.
The resulting comparative values expressed as $ – € / Gigawatt are shown below:
A 60 year life-time is used as being the approximate in service life for the alternate generation technologies Nuclear and Coal-fired power generation. The following table sets out modelling parameters used to achieve the following sets of results. These parameter values may be generous to Renewable Energy performance. They can be adjusted and the spread sheet can be made available to analyse other parameter values.
- The lifetime capital costs assume that the Renewable installations will be replaced whenever they become obsolete over the full 60 year lifetime.
- The likely cost of Operation and Maintenance are calculated as percentages of the original capital installation costs, thus the higher percentage O + M costs used for Gas-fired generation.
- The scale of expenditures involved are inevitably large and expressed here in $:€ billion, $:€’000,000,000. By way of comparison the capital cost of 1 Gigawatt of Gas-fired power installation is about 1€ bn, €1,000,000,000 to install.
- The capacity factors for Onshore and Offshore wind generation are based on the 10 years of capacity information measured from UK data from the Renewable Energy Foundation.
The US$ is used by the US EIA data on comparative costs, (overnight capital costs). It is simply assumed that the Euro and the US $ provide roughly equivalent purchasing value on their respective continents.
This is as a result of the fracking revolution in the USA. As fracking is going to be increasingly employed worldwide, except in Europe, where a “Green Philosophy” survives to block this useful and large scale energy source, it seems that international gas prices, whether imported or not, are likely to remain reasonably low for the foreseeable future.
Nonetheless large scale fracked gas exports from the USA into Europe are now ongoing.