Renewable Energy cost and performance in Europe 2016

Comparative cost estimates and effectiveness of Renewable Energy in Europe

This article combines the installation reports for European Weather Dependent Renewable Energy published by EurObervER for 2016 with updated USA  Energy Information Administration (US EIA) data for comparative costing of differing forms of electrical generation.

It eliminates the distortions to the market made by Government interventions in the Electricity generation sector to support Weather Dependent Renewables and makes direct comparisons of capital and long-term costs involved in Renewables in across Europe.

Using this data as its foundation it makes direct comparisons between the capital costs and longterm costs of Renewable Generation with Gas-fired Onshore and Offshore Wind and on grid Solar Photovoltaics.  The outcome of these comparisons for the whole of the European Union, EU(28) is shown below.

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 10.16.33

Note that these comparisons do not account for the inevitable intermittency, non-dispatchability and unreliability inherent in the performance of Weather Dependent Renewables.

They do however account for the inevitably low Capacity percentages / Load Factors, (actual output achieved compared to the optimum nameplate capacity), characteristic of  Weather Dependent Renewables.

This analysis exclusively uses data published by the European Renewables industry describing to their progress with installations to date, as of the end of 2016.

US Energy Information Administration costings

The US Energy Information Administration (US EIA) have recently published comprehensive and amended comparative costing data for different electrical generation technologies in the USA.  These costings are substantially lower than their previous estimates for Weather Dependent Renewable Energy.

These costings do not include the effects of subsidies and other Government market interventions and therefore provide reasonably direct comparisons of realistic costs of power generation for differing types of generation.

The US EIA publishes these indicative costs as Overnight Capital Costs in 2016 and running costs at:

Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 18.32.02.png

These costs show significantly lower costs for Renewable Energy than published in earlier years.  Using the following assumptions:

  • the US EIA levellised 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:

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 17.31.57.png

Current European Weather Dependent Renewable installations.

The above US EIA costings can be merged with the EurObserv’ER 2016 from the following data sources for the whole EU (28):



The level of Renewable installations for all 28 European nations is shown below.

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 10.38.41.png

In this article further consideration addresses only to the 7 major EU nations substantially involved with Renewable installations.

The performance of these EU(7) nations contrasting their achieved electricity generation compared to the nameplate capacity of their installations can be seen in the graphic below.Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.46.59.png

More details about the crucial question of capacities / load factors are provided at:

The achieved load factors and European Wind power and Solar photovoltaics are shown below.

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.30.01.pngThese Weather Dependent Renewable energy load factors should be compared with the load factors normally achievable by conventional electricity generation.Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.31.52.png


Comparative costings from the EurObervER data and merged with US  EIA costings

Combining this installation dataset with the estimated capital expenditures of current Renewable installations throughout Europe amounting to about €0.55 trillion.  This capital investment provides about 4.5% of Europe’s ~1000GW generation requirement, the expenditures are distributed as follows:

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 12.15.14.png

However his current level of Weather Dependent Renewable installations in Europe if maintained continuously, implies a future long term, (60 year), commitment to an estimated expenditure of some €2.3 trillion.  The installations for that sum would still only provide about ~4.5% of Europe’s generation requirement distributed as follows:

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 12.15.30.png


The current commitments to Weather Dependent Renewables

The following graphics relate the present Weather Dependent Renewable Energy commitment to European populations.

The level of Weather Dependent Renewable commitment as nameplate installation  / million head of population is shown below:

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.46.13.png

The resulting overnight capital cost commitment per head of population for Weather Dependent Renewables are thus as follows:

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.46.39.png

The long term cost commitment per head of population for the current level of Weather Dependent Renewable installations is as follows:

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.46.27.png

These expenditures provide about 45GW of generation output amounting to about 4.5% of the total European electricity generation requirement.

This would imply that the contribution / head of installing  1000GW of Renewable energy would be of the order of €100,000 per head for each member of European population., and that would still only provide at load factor of about 18%.


Re-equiping Europe (28) with Weather Dependent Renewables

The total Electricity requirement in Europe (28) is about 1000GW.  The nameplate capacity of the current Renewables installations is about 250GW but that only achieves an electrical output of only about 45GW.  Using these comparative figure to provide the full required nameplate capacity of 1000GW at the average European load factor of 18% with Weather Dependent Renewables would imply:

  • overnight capital costs ~12€ trillion
  • 60 year running costs ~ 51€ trillion

Note for comparison that the current GDP for the whole of Europe is ~16€ trillion.

But even so these comparative expenditures do not account for the inevitable intermittency, non-dispatchability and unreliability of Weather Dependent Renewables.



The aggregate comparative costs of current Weather dependent installations in Europe are summarised here.

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 16.23.53.pngA realistic estimate of Gas Fired generation costs is ~$/€1,100,000,000/GW.  This value can be used for comparative valuations of the other generation technologies.  It is also important to note that the time taken to install a gas fired installation is only about 2 years from inception to production.

When compared to using Gas-Firing the following table shows the effective comparisons:

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 10.16.33.png

The full electricity generation requirement of Europe is about 1000 Gigawatts, this could be reinstalled with Gas-fired electricity generation using local Fracked Gas for a total sum of about ~€1 trillion with roughly ~ €4.5 trillion in 60 year long-term costs.

The overnight capital cost of the current Weather Dependent Renewables is ~€0.5 trillion and this investment produces about 4.5% of the European electricity requirement from about 250GW of installed Renewable nameplate capacity.

Note that none of these comparisons account for the inevitable intermittency, non-dispatchability and unreliability inherent in the performance of Weather Dependent Renewables.

If the objectives of using Renewables were not confused with possibly “saving the planet” from the output of Man-made CO2, the actual cost in-effectiveness and inherent unreliability of Weather Dependent Renewables would have always ruled them out of any consideration as the means of electricity generation for any developed economy requiring available power 24/7.  

According to these estimates Weather Dependent Renewables cost something in the region  of 11 times more in both capital costs and long term running costs, accounting for their load factors / capacity percentages but not allowing for their unreliable intermittant performance and non-dispatchabilty.  

This alone should bring into question their engineering viability as a replacement for conventional fossil fuel or nuclear based generation technologies.

Thus truly

“An Appalling Delusion”

as the late Professor David Mackay confirmed in his final interview: minute 13 onwards.



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