These straightforward calculations are intended to answer the simple question:
“roughly how much would it cost to generate the same amount of power as is produced by the present fleet of EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables, using conventional generation technologies, (Nuclear or Gas-firing) ? and how do those figures compare ?”.
Accordingly the post begins to quantify the scale of the fiscal waste and the burdens on utility bills attributable to the use of EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables as installed at the end of 2019. It combines the comparative costs of generation technologies, published by the US Energy Information Administration in 2020 with information on the Nameplate rating of installed EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewable installations and their actual productive power output as of 2019. This data on Renewables performance at end 2019 is accessed from EurObserv’ER.
According to this costing model, the approximate EU(28):
- capital cost commitment to the current EU Renewables installed is ~520 €billion: of which the excess costs over Gas-firing is ~450 €billion and ~85 €billion over the costs of Nuclear for the equivalent power output.
- long-term cost commitment of the current EU(28) Renewables generation of ~65Gigawatts installed is ~2,000 €billion: of which the excess costs over Gas-firing is ~1,800 €billion and ~980 €billion over the costs of Nuclear power providing equivalent power output.
As can be seen later, these estimates show that using Weather Dependent Renewables in the EU(28) costs 7 – 9 times as much as using Natural Gas for electricity generation and about 1.2 – 2 times as much as Nuclear power.
The CO2 savings from by Weather Dependent Renewables
The benefit of these expenditures on Weather Dependent Renewables is the replacement of about 10% of European power output by “nominally” CO2 neutral technologies. Electrical power generation is about 1/4 of the total CO2 emissions output from Europe.
In 2019 Europe emitted ~3,330 million tonnes of CO2, ~9.7% of Global CO2 emissions. Accordingly at ~10% of ~25% of 3,330 million tonnes, the current Renewable expenditures are being made to avert an absolute maximum of ~83 million tonnes of CO2 emissions averted across Europe. This maximum value ignores all the CO2 and energy costs of Renewables manufacture, installation, etc. The maximum averted emissions from European Weather Dependent Renewables are as follows:
- of the 2019 European CO2 emissions 3,330 million tonnes ~2.5%
- of the 2019 Global CO2 emissions 34,164 million tonnes ~0.24 %
- of the 2019 CO2 emissions growth from developing world 504 million tonnes ~16%
So the question should be asked “does the capital commitment of ~1/2 trillion€ and the probable future expenditures of ~2 trillion€ to unreliably replace ~10% of European power output and to avert ~2.5% of European CO2 emissions make economic good sense ?”
The impact of the poor EU(28) productivity of Weather Dependent Renewables is shown in these two pie charts:
The EU(28) installed Weather Dependent Renewables amount to ~344GW of Nameplate capacity but produced the equivalent of 65GW over the last year, a productivity level of ~19% overall.
Comparative Costings for Renewable Generation technologies in EU(28)
The table above gave a capital valuation of the current 2020 EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables fleet at ~500 €billion with probable ongoing costs of ~2,000 €billion. Overall in EU(28) this Renewables investment accounts for ~35% of the nameplate generation capacity but only provides ~10% of the actual power contribution. This is approximately twice the cost of providing the same power output with Nuclear power stations and more than 11 times the cost of using Gas-firing for equivalent power generation.
The three tables above show how the different Renewable technologies contribute to the Government mandated excess costs overall in Europe.
Onshore Wind power is the most cost effective Weather Dependent Renewable technology. In general it is just 10% cheaper than Nuclear power in capital spend and is only about 1.4 times more expensive in the long-term. However this cost differential does not account for the problem of Weather Dependent Renewables non-dipatachability, intermittency, etcetera (see above). Onshore wind power is only about ~6 times more costly in capital and long-term spend than Gas-firing.
Offshore wind power is the least cost-effective being some 2 – 3 times more costly than Nuclear but in the region of 11 – 15 times more costly than Gas-firing.
Solar PV is slightly more cost effective than Offshore wind power being 1.6 – 2.6 times more costly than Nuclear to install and 10 – 12 times more costly than Gas-firing in the long-term.
Offshore wind and Solar PV together are responsible for more than 60% of the excess costs of the EU(28) Renewables fleet even though they are responsible for only ~37% of the Renewable power output produced.
These significant excess costs represent the wastage imposed on the European population both via the direct taxation of supporting subsidies to Renewables and also increased utility bills Europe-wide by the Government mandates that impose Renewables on European electricity generation. That wastage amounts to a very regressive tax burden imposed on the poorest in European society. It is leading to ever increasing Europe-wide “Energy Poverty”.
Participation and Costs to Individual European Nations
The primary Nations involved with Weather Dependent Renewables in the EU(28) and their local commitments amounting in total to ~344GW installed are shown graphically below. These results are based on up to date EurObserve’ER information and 2020 comparative cost information from US EIA.
The name plate value of the 2020 EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewable installations reported by EurObserv’ER is shown below:
Accordingly Germany as a result of its long-term “die Energiewende”policy has about about 3 times the commitment to Weather Dependent Renewables of other European Nations. The comparative take-up of EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables by individual Nations in 2020 as measured by Gigawatts of nameplate capacity per million head of population is shown below.
National Cost Comparisons
The National contributions to the ~500 bn€+ capital investment in Weather Dependent Renewables is shown below:
The National contributions to the likely ~2,000 billion€+ long-term expenditure on EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables is shown below:
A more detailed assessment of UK Weather Dependent Renewables is shown here.
Comparisons to Gas-firing
At ~1.1bn€ / Gigawatt in capital costs and ~3.5bn€ / Gigawatt for the 60 year long-term, the use of natural gas is the most cost effective and efficient means of power generation currently available. In comparison with Gas-firing the additional capital costs that are incurred by each Renewable technology in the principle European countries committing to Renewables. It should be noted that Gas-firing produces ~1/2 the CO2 emissions of Coal-firing and ~1/3 the CO2 emissions of Biomass
These excess costs calculations indicate of the scale additional costs that burden the economies of individual European Nations according to the US EIA 2020 data and recorded Weather Dependent Renewable productivity figures shown above, these total ~450 bn€ in capital costs.
The long-term excess costs in comparison to the use of Gas-firing amount to ~1,800bn€ distributed as shown below.
Comparisons to Nuclear power
At ~6.7bn€ / Gigawatt in capital costs and ~16.1bn€ / Gigawatt for the 60 year long-term, Nuclear power is an effective and efficient means of consistent power generation with nil CO2 emissions and low land take. In capital cost terms Onshore wind power can be nominally cost competitive, however that comparison is just for total power output which does account the intermittent and variable performance of Renewable Wind power, which make real difficulties for Grid reliability.
These excess costs calculations indicate of the scale additional costs that burden the economies of individual European Nations according to the US EIA 2020 data and recorded Weather Dependent Renewable productivity figures shown above, these total ~85 bn€ in capital costs. However Offshore Wind power and Solar voltaics impose significant capital cost burdens when compared with Nuclear power.
The long-term excess costs in comparison to the use of Nuclear power amount to ~980 bn€ distributed as shown below.
These straightforward calculations show the scale of immediate and long-term costs associated with Weather Dependent Renewables across the EU(28) as installed in 2019. They amount to capital costs in excess of 500 billion€ and a sum exceeding 2,000 billion€. were they to be maintained for the long-term. This commitment contributes ~10% of the EU(28) power production.
The capital costs of replacing the full 65GW of European Renewable generation output with reliable, dispatchable Gas-fired generation would be ~70 billion€ and the whole 600GW European Generation capability could be replaced by Gas-firing for ~660 billion€. CO2 emissions from Gas-firing are 1/2 those from coal-firing and about 1/3 of those from the burning of Biomass. Gas-firing replacing Coal has reduced USA CO2 emissions by ~25% over the last 10 years
The benefit of these expenditures on Weather Dependent Renewables is the unreliable replacement of about 10% of European power output capacity by “nominally but questionably” CO2 neutral technologies. Electrical power generation results in about 1/4 of the total CO2 emissions output from Europe.
In 2019 Europe emitted ~3,330 million tonnes of CO2, ~9.7% of the Global CO2 emissions. Accordingly at ~10% of ~25% of 3,330 million tonnes, the current Renewable expenditures are being made to avert an absolute maximum of ~83 million tonnes of CO2 emissions averted across Europe. This maximum value ignores all the CO2 and energy costs of Renewables manufacture, installation, etc. So the maximum averted emissions from European Weather Dependent Renewables are as follows:
- of the 2019 European CO2 emissions 3,330 million tonnes ~2.5%
- of the 2019 Global CO2 emissions 34,164 million tonnes ~0.24 %
- of the 2019 CO2 emissions growth from developing world 504 million tonnes ~16%
So the question should be asked “does the capital commitment of ~1/2 trillion€ and the probable future expenditures of ~2 trillion€ to unreliably replace ~10% of European power output and to avert at an absolute maximum ~2.5% of European CO2 emissions make good economic sense ?”
If the objectives of using Weather Dependent Renewables were not confused with possibly “ineffectually saving the planet” from the output of the diminishing EU(28) proportion of CO2 emissions, their actual cost, their productive in-effectiveness and their inherent unreliability, Weather Dependent Renewables would have always been ruled them out of any engineering consideration as means of National scale electricity generation.
The whole annual EU(28) CO2 emissions output will eventually be far surpassed just by the annual growth of CO2 emissions across China and the Developing world.
It is essential to ask the question what is the actual value of these EU and government mandated excess expenditures in the Western world to the improvement of the Global environment and for the value of perhaps preventing undetectable temperature increases by the end of the century, especially in a context where the Developing world will be increasing its CO2 emissions to attain further enhancement of it’s living standards over the coming decades.
Trying to reduce CO2 emissions, in the Western world alone, as a means to control a “warming” climate seems even less relevant when the long-term global temperature trend has been downwards for last 3 millennia, as the coming end of our current warm and benign Holocene interglacial epoch approaches.
The whole Weather Dependent Renewable commitment in the EU(28) is an exercise is attempting to control Global temperature by the reduction of Man-made CO2 emissions in a major sector of the Western world. These simple calculations show just how costly effecting even a marginal reduction of Man-made CO2 is.
However, as opposed to being a dangerous pollutant, by every measure, more atmospheric CO2 is benefitting life on earth by substantially increasing plant growth through fertilisation and increasing drought tolerance. Any fraction of the minor warming we have experienced since the little ice age that is due to Man-made CO2 has also clearly been a direct benefit to agriculture and human comfort.
A Comparative Costing Model for Electricity Generation Technologies
The comparative costings are derived from US EIA data updated in January 2020.
The values used in this 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. These costs are summarised and translated into €billion/Gigawatt in the table below.
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. 60 years is chosen for these comparisons as it should be close the service life of current generation of Nuclear installations.The above comparative data should realistically avoid the distorting effects of Government fiscal and subsidy policies supporting Weather Dependent Renewable Energy, whereby it might be claimed that Renewables can reach cost parity with conventional generation technologies. The promoters of Weather Dependent Renewables always seem to conveniently forget the productivity differentials with conventional dispatchable power generation, which should be accounted for when assessing cost effectiveness.The service life allocated for 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. It should be noted that unlike real microprocessor technologies “Moore’s Law” cannot be applied to Solar Panels. As the Solar energy they collect is dilute and diffuse, in order to be effective they have to be of large scale, so the progressive miniaturisation of “Moores Law” is irrelevant to Solar PV technology.
The true Comparative costs of Weather Dependent Renewables
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 assessed as below. Thus these figures represent the true comparative cost of the power produced by Weather Dependent Renewables installations.
Thus these figures represent the bare comparative cost of the power produced by Weather Dependent Renewables installations.
Additional CO2 and Cost implications of Weather Dependent Renewables
In addition the comparative figures above are underestimates of the true costs of mandating Weather Dependent Renewables. These 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 the measured productivity capability of each generating technology.
In addition the costs projected here ignore all the 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-dispatchablity of Renewables: the wind will not blow, the clouds will not clear away and the world will not stop rotating to order, whenever electricity 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
- 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 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 but emitting 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
- unsynchronised generation with lack of inherent inertia 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 Energy Return on Energy Invested: Weather Dependent Renewables may well produce only a minimal excess of Energy during their service life as was needed 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.
The Context in 2020
In spite of all the noisy Climate Propaganda of the past 30 years, in Spring 2020 the world was faced with a different but very real economic emergency arising from the political reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That emergency, with the world facing global economic breakdown as well as the immediate loss of many elder citizens, should put the futile, self-harming and costly Government mandated attempts to control future climate into stark perspective. This real pandemic emergency and the self-harming reactions to it clearly shows how irrelevant concerns over probably inconsequential “Climate Change” in a distant future truly are.
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 such as the UK with Weather Dependent Renewable energy was:
“an appalling delusion”.
Weather Dependent Renewable Energy depends on capturing essentially dilute and very variable sources of power. Weather Dependent Renewables are thus both capital 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 he 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 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 1/9th 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 is an immediate and existential threat that Government elites 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“.
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 solutions to CO2 emissions reduction are
- the use Nuclear energy as in France and / or
- the use of Natural gas as in the USA,
but these real solutions to the potential non problem of Man-made CO2 emissions are somehow always rejected out of hand: they do not accord with the “Green” religion.
Accordingly this costing model has followed through on Professor Mackay’s back of the envelope calculations, in the UK, showing that Weather Dependent Renewables are plainly expensive. The excess overspend instead of using Gas-firing of the current UK generation fleet roughly amount to some 55£billion in capital costs and the long-term costs approach a further 240£billion.
See the recent Michael Moore documentary where the inefficiencies and the commercial and supportive fiscal pressures driving Weather Dependent Renewables are exposed.