The 2019 UK Weather-Dependent Renewables fleet:  costs and comparisons

The following table presents comparative cost data for Weather Dependent Renewables and conventional costs for Power generation.  The estimated comparative costs are derived from USA cost data provided in 2020 by the EIA (Energy Information Administration).  This data gives a reasonable estimate of comparative capital costs and an indication of longer-term costs over a service life extended to 60 years.  These cost comparisons do not account for any Government subsidies or tax benefits assigned to Renewables.

However, it is only when measured UK productivity / capacity values are combined with these initial costs that they then give an indication of the comparable costs of each unit of power, (Gigawatt), supplied to the Grid.

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By 2019 the UK had installed a fleet of about 35Gigawatts of Weather Dependent Renewables costing in capital terms about £62 billion and with a further estimated maintenance cost of about £260 billion for the future 60 years.  The 2019 power production contributed to the grid from these Renewable installations over the year amounted to about 7.3 Gigawatts.

The most cost-effective form of power generation is by CCGT Gas-firing at less than £1billion / Gigawatt.  Burning Gas also produces much less CO2 than other fossil fuels, (were that a concern).  For example, the USA has reduced its CO2 emissions by substituting Gas-firing for Coal for power generation by about 25% over the past 15 years.  Nuclear power with nil CO2 emissions is significantly more expensive to install and maintain long-term.

The table below shows that using Gas-firing instead of Renewables to contribute the same power input to the grid would have saved the UK about £55billion in capital costs and an estimated £230billion in long-term costs.  The savings would have been less but still substantial using Nuclear power.

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The excess costs are either picked up by Government, (the taxpayer ), or added to electricity bills.

Other additional CO2 and Cost implications of Weather Dependent Renewables

The comparative figures above are underestimates of the true costs of mandating Weather Dependent Renewables.  Those cost comparisons are only for the capital and running costs of the generation installations themselves and the actual electrical power generated accounting for the measured productivity capability of each generating technology.

There are also significant ancillary costs inevitably associated with Wind power and Solar Renewables resulting from:

  • their unreliability in terms of both power intermittency and power variability
  • the non-dispatchability of Renewables: the wind will not blow, the clouds will not clear away and the world will not stop rotating to order, whenever electrical power is needed
  • 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 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, ~1/9th of the output than in the summer periods of lower power demand

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  • the long transmission lines from remote, dispersed generators, incurs both power losses in transmission 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 and destructive engineering infrastructure is needed for access
  • the continuing costs of back-up generation, which is essential but is only used on occasions but which has to be wastefully running in spinning reserve and emitting CO2 nonetheless
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 technologies used in Weather Dependent Renewables are also highly dependent on large amounts of scarce minerals and materials with very extensive mining demands.
  • 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 and maintenance activities are entirely dependent on the use of substantial amounts of fossil fuels both as feedstocks for materials and as fuels.
  • 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.
  • even if the UK Renewables were wholly CO2 emissions free, their CO2 savings, (estimated at about 22million tonnes pa), are nonetheless outstripped by the instantaneous CO2 emissions release that arises from burning Biomass pellets at the Drax power station complex, (about 7% of UK power output), as policy declares burning Biomass to be CO2 neutral.

The productivity of Weather Dependent Renewables is crucial

The Productivity factor is the ratio of actual power output as compared to the Nameplate rating of a power generating technology.  Productivity figures compare the efficiency over the year of various electrical generation technologies.  The 2019 measured Productivity percentages of Weather Dependent Renewable technologies in the UK are shown below.  Ordinary Conventional generation technologies operate 24/7 and are reliably available to meet varying demand.

The diagram also shows the comparative size of the generation installations.  More than half of the UK generation fleet are now committed to Weather Dependent Renewables.  Less than half of the UK fleet of generators produce more than 3/4 of the UK’s power.

So, what do the productivity numbers mean?

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Think about electricity generation as an ordinary business, but with a work force with a very variable capabilities and performance.  However, the business provides an essential product, which has be of a consistent quality and which is vital to the livelihood of the Nation.

  • on average about half of the labour force only turn up on 1 day in 5: the day they choose to arrive is unpredictable.
  • quite often, even if they do turn up, the workers walk out when they feel like it in the middle of their shift.
  • but the unions insist that if they do turn up, they have to be employed, laying off the guys that do work full-time and cutting the pay of those full-time guys.
  • and worse than that, almost a fifth of the work force only turn up 1 day in 8.
  • and those ones usually arrive on days when they are not really needed but they still have to be paid in full.
  • anyway, those guys always go home by the evening, the time of peak work load, and they really don’t like working at all in the winter, when they might be helpful.
  • these workers get tired quickly and retire needing replacement a third of the way through a normal working lifetime.
  • the unions also insist that these guys are paid about 10 times as much as the ordinary productive workers. Quite often they are paid not to work at all.
  • when these guys do arrive, they cause difficulties with quality assurance, severe industrial disruption and they can, at a whim, suddenly close down production altogether.
  • if they do manage that, their action can result in major economic damage across the Nation.
  • when there is a real breakdown, these guys can’t even help to reinstate the service.

Power supply managers face major and growing problems, as a result of the Political decision to promote Weather Dependent Renewable Energy, choosing to collect dilute and irregularly intermittent energy from the environment.  These problems can only get worse as Government presses for more and more Weather Dependent Renewables to be imposed on the Power industry.  This Political action also intentionally puts full-time productive conventional installations out of business because they can no longer operate profitably.

But apart from their personal professional pride and their responsibility as managers to provide a good quality, consistent service, in the end any extra costs don’t really matter to the business, either the Government, (or rather the Taxpayer), picks up the tab or the extra costs are just passed on to the customers:  the customers don’t have any real choice because there is a monopoly for the supply of the product.

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 policy but without popular voter mandate throughout the Western world.