An excellent way to undermine Western economies has been to render their electricity power generation unreliable and expensive. That objective of Green thinking is being achieved by self-harming Government policy but without popular mandate throughout the Western world.
This post outlines the effectiveness and costs of progress made in the United Kingdom’s transition to “Renewables” by 2022. Only Germany has made more strenuous efforts in implementing its “Renewable” transition, its “die Energiewende” policy.
This post uses installation and generated power output data from the UK Renewable Energy Foundation, 2002-2022, to track the progress of the UK Weather-Dependent “Renewables”, (Wind and Solar).
The use of that data to results in the following:
- the average Productivity – Capacity% (load factors), of the UK “Renewable” generation fleet since 2002 was never much more than ~20%.
- using comparative cost data for different power generation technologies from the US Energy Information Administration, (US EIA), gives an indication of the bare capital costs and long-term probable costs that will be incurred by UK fleet of Weather-Dependent “Renewables”from 2022: these comparative values are shown in US$.
- using Gas-firing, (even at several times the USA fuel price), Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are ~13+ times the capital cost and ~9 times the long-term costs for each unit of power delivered to the Grid.
- compared to Nuclear power combined UK Weather-Dependent “Renewables”is ~2-3 times than the capital cost and ~3 times the long-term cost for same unit of power delivered to the Grid.
- the UK 2022 Weather-Dependent “Renewables” fleet had an estimated overnight capital cost of ~115 $billion.
- the UK 2022 Weather-Dependent “Renewables” fleet will incur an estimated long-term cost commitment of ~306 $billion.
- there are high future cost commitments resulting from the mandating of Offshore power generation, they mainly arise from the adverse environment for mechanical installations at sea.
- Offshore power generation provides rather higher productivity, but it is still variable, unreliable and intermittent.
- Solar PV Power in the UK is expensive as a result of it’s low productivity, (~10%).
- these cost analyses take no account of the intermittency and gross variability of Weather-Dependent “Renewables”, for example as outlined in the poor “Renewables” productivity year 2021.
- this post provides a comprehensive note of the other operational disadvantages of using Weather-Dependent “Renewables”, such costs implications are beyond the bare cost comparisons provided here for the units of power produced and delivered to the Grid.
- it estimates the maximum CO2 emissions savings achieved by the UK fleet of “Renewables” fleet to be ~20 million tonnes. This amounts to less than 6% of UK CO2 emissions, about 0.057% of 2021 Global CO2 emissions and about 1.7% of the 2021 growth of CO2 emissions from the developing world in 2021, (post Covid):
These averted CO2 emissions values do not account for the CO2 emissions and energy requirements involved in sourcing, manufacture and installation of Weather-Dependent “Renewables”.
The additional CO2 emissions that result from the use of overseas sourced Biomass, (nominally Carbon neutral, by policy but in fact emitting ~3.5 times more CO2 than Gas-firing), at the UK Drax power stations can be estimated at ~13 million tonnes, the resulting CO2 emissions alone obliterates all the CO2 savings that may have been achieved by installing the UK fleet of Wind and Solar power.
- the resulting in maximum CO2 savings from UK Green policies is thus negative.
- the extreme financial damage that has arisen by the effective and politically pressurised elimination of Fracking technologies stopping access indigenous Natural Gas for electricity generation both in the UK and also throughout Europe. The beneficiaries of this damage can only have been Russia in supporting its European market for Natural Gas and China in their close to monopoly supply of Weather-Dependent “Renewable” technologies.
The progress of UK Weather-Dependent “Renewables” installations since 2002
The Renewable Energy Foundation reports annually on Weather-Dependent “Renewables” and Green energy in the UK. It provides annual installation and output data from 2002 up to the end of 2021. The time series Renewable Energy Foundation data of installations and power output is shown above. And the growth in installations achieved for each technology year by year. The progress of Weather-Dependent power produced compared to their installed installations is shown below.
The two graphs above show the progress of Renewable installations in the UK since 2002 noting:
- A massive commitment to poor productivity Solar PV Power 2012-2016, mainly induced by the influence of Liberal Democrats in the UK government during that period.
- Solar installations had virtually ceased by 2020.
- A remarkable reduction from the previously enthusiastically deployed “Renewable” installations by 2019.
- The major variation of the annual commitments to Offshore wind power
- However recent announcements by the UK government that by policy it intends to become “the Saudi of Wind power”, particularly by increasing Offshore Wind installations, would seem to presage an escalation of UK “Renewables” growth and massive further capital expenditures and heavy future support commitments.
UK “Renewable” Energy productivity: 2002-2022
The time series data from Renewable Energy Foundation enables the reporting of the annual productivity of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” in the UK. Productivity, expressed as a percentage load factor, (actual power produced / nominal nameplate value), is crucial to evaluating the true comparative value of the total power produced and delivered to the Grid over the year.
Shown below is the annual productivity of Weather-Dependent “Renewables”. The productivity progress since 2002 of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” in the UK is shown below. Recent years have yielded relatively poor productivity – capacity percentages.
2019, 2021 and 2022 were a poor years for the productivity of UK Weather-Dependent “Renewables”. Overall, the UK Weather-Dependent “Renewables” have generally just exceeded ~20% combined productivity – capacity % level:
- Onshore Wind power, substantially curtailed by 2021, has achieved productivity around ~23%.
- Offshore Wind power is much more variable but achieved a higher productivity figure of ~41% in 2020: productivity close to 40% is achieved in some years, but that achievement is not consistent year by year.
- the overall annual productivity of UK Solar Power stays at the ~10% level, producing about 8 times as much power in the summer months than in winter, the times of greater demand.
However the annual productivity values shown above in no way represent the actual variability of Wind and Solar power. The year-long hourly generation values shown below pose a massive Grid management problem from:
- potentially massive hourly fluctuations
- extended periods of low power output when anti-cyclonic weather patterns become widely established across Europe, particularly at times of high demand in the Winter
The hourly UK performance during a nine day anticyclonic event at the end of March 2022 can be seem below. This shows how crucial it is to have dispatchable backup generation to cover long periods of poor wind power performance.
Expenditures on UK Weather-Dependent “Renewables” by 2022
The graphic below gives an idea of the level of the net cumulative annual initial capital expenditures to install the UK Wind Power and Solar technologies as at the end of 2019, using the US EIA comparative data as a basis. They take no account of any of the additional expenditures outlined below. This assessment of current capital costs, according to the model (later), amounts to about 62£billion.
The comparable capital costs for the same 7.3 Gigawatts of power production using Gas-firing would cost about 6.5£billion and about 40£billion for Nuclear power.
It is costly to maintain the current “Renewables” installations for the long-term. The comparable long-term commitment for the present fleet of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” producing ~8.5 Gigawatts of power is ~250£billion. The same ~8.5 Gigawatts of power output would be produced long-term using Gas-firing for about 21 £billion or about 98 £billion for Nuclear installations.
The annual commitments already made to long-term costs for Renewables is shown below, noting the massive future commitments largely for Offshore power in 2010-11, 2016-17 and 2020-21.The excessive forward commitments made for Offshore Wind can be seen particularly in in 2010-11 and 2016-17.
The CO2 emission reductions achieved by installing UK Weather-Dependent “Renewables”
The purpose of installing “Renewables” is to reduce the CO2 emissions from UK power generation, This policy is being pursued in spite of the high costs and increased risks of Grid failure that they incur. The benefit of these expenditures on Weather-Dependent “Renewables” is the replacement of about 23% of the UK 2021 power generating capability by “nominally” CO2 neutral technologies. Electrical power generation results in about 25% of the total CO2 emissions output from the UK, the 75% remainder being required for space heating, transport, industry, etc.
In 2022 the UK emitted ~338 million tonnes of CO2, ~1.0% of the Global CO2 emissions. So, at ~23% of ~25% of 338 million tonnes, the current Weather-Dependent “Renewable” expenditures are being made to avert a possible maximum of ~20 million tonnes of UK CO2 emissions.
This value of the averted CO2 emissions assumes that Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are CO2 and energy neutral. It ignores all the CO2 emissions and energy costs of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” manufacture, installation, maintenance, etc whether incurred in the UK or overseas.
Thus estimates at the absolute maximum ~20 million tonnes of CO2 emissions averted from UK Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are as follows:
- of the 2021 UK CO2 emissions 338 million tonnes ~5.92%
- of the 2021 European CO2 emissions 3,794 million tonnes ~0.53%
- of the 2021 Global CO2 emissions 33,884 million tonnes ~0.059 %
- of the 2021 CO2 emissions growth from developing world ~1167 million tonnes ~1.7% post Covid recovery
But viewed in the round, UK Green CO2 reduction policies also include the massive use of overseas sourced Biomass, (nominally considered as CO2 neutral), at the Drax site in Yorkshire, generating ~7% of UK power. The CO2 output from Biomass is about 3.5 times greater for the same power production as is emitted by Gas-firing.
The resulting maximum CO2 savings from UK Climate Change policies including the use of Biomass at Drax can only be a net amount ~3 million tonnes.
The question should be asked “does the capital commitment of ~100+ $billion and its probable future expenditures of ~250 $billion to support the current level of “Renewable” generating capacity, (about ~54% of the current power generation fleet UK fleet), but only able to unreliably and intermittently replace ~20% of UK power output at ~20% productivity and to avert ~5.6% of UK CO2 emissions?
So, when accounting for the extra CO2 emissions from burning Biomass at Drax, (~3.5 times Gas-firing), arising for ~7% of UK power, these CO2 emissions savings by UK Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are wholly obliterated.
So, does the whole exercise of installing “Renewables” and Biomass combustion to reduce UK CO2 emissions with nil net CO2 reduction effect make good economic sense?”
As the late Professor David Mackay said even in 2016 UK energy policy is an:
“appalling delusion” .
https://vimeo.com/163698553/10d1bbe16e minute 12 on
- These Renewable Energy Foundation data show how fundamentally unproductive “Renewables” are, simply because they are Weather-Dependent, collecting from essentially dilute Energy sources: overall they achieve little more than ~20% productivity.
- Up until 2019 there was a remarkable fall off of UK Weather-Dependent “Renewable” installations.
- Solar power development in the UK had all but been terminated by 2019 but it is again resurgent.
- Onshore Wind power has met with substantial local opposition and is increasingly difficult to promote against that local opposition in the UK.
- Recent announcements by the UK government that they intend the UK to become “the Saudi of Wind power”, particularly by increasing Offshore Wind installations, would presages an escalation of growth particularly of Offshore wind power with its ongoing, excessive concomitant costs.
- The use of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” will inevitably involve very substantial forward costs for their ongoing Operation and Maintenance. These costs over 40 years amount to at least 2.5 times of their original capital expenditures.
- When combined with the actual recorded productivity Offshore wind power is the most expensive means of producing electrical power: ~15 times more than Gas-firing long-term and ~3 times the cost of Nuclear power in the long-term.
- The reliability of the electrical grid is already questionable: it will become increasingly fragile:
- as Conventional 24/7 generation technologies are shut down and not replaced. This effect is already well in evidence in California and South Australia, with continuing rolling power outages.
- as more Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are mandated onto the system by politicians.
And it is already happening in the UK: the “trip” of an Offshore wind farm on a breezy summer afternoon contributed to the major UK power outage of 9/8/2019. As UK Renewable penetration increases similar power outages will be all the more severe and probably longer lasting one calm, foggy winter week sometime soon. In early November 2020 the UK Grid was close to failure when an anticyclone established itself across the whole of Northern Europe.
- It is only when the costs of generation are combined with the reported productivity they achieve that a true cost comparison can be made between different Generation technologies for the delivery of each unity of [power to the Grid.
- Then it can be seen that Weather-Dependent “Renewables” are a truly costly alternative for electricity power generation.
- The deficiency in productivity of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” is always ignored by their promoters, when asserting that they might reach or exceed cost parity with conventional Generation technologies, running 24/7.
- The maximum CO2 reduction achievable by the present fleet of Weather-Dependent “Renewables” can be estimated at about 20 million tonnes per year: it is also estimated that the extra CO2 emissions arising from the major use of the overseas sourced Biomass at the Drax site negates any of the CO2 emissions saving that might have been achieved by Wind and Solar power.
- In addition to these bare costs there are a range of additional disadvantages that render them truly unsuitable for providing consistent power to a developed Nation.
- Even when only counting the bare costs of power generation according to these simple calculations Weather-Dependent “Renewables” can never be represented as reaching cost parity with conventional generation technologies and their eventual CO2 emissions savings are ever going to be only minimal.
The failure of UK energy policy, closing and celebrating the demolition of base load 24/7 power producers and mandating added Weather-Dependent “Renewables” will give rise to a catastrophic failure of the UK power distribution Grid as well as massively increasing costs to consumers and Tax payers.
This failure will occur in spite of the herculean and increasingly stressful efforts of Grid managers to “keep the lights on”.
An excellent way to undermine Western economies has been to render their power generation unreliable and expensive. That objective of Green thinking is progressively being achieved by government policy throughout the Western world with minimal savings of CO2 emissions.
Supporting cost data