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 policies throughout the Western world, but without any popular mandate.
The output figures used here are from Gridwatch as megawatts recorded hourly. These are totalled up to give the equivalent power yearly output for each generation technology in Gigawatts.
All conventional dispatchable power technologies can produce at a capacity percentage in the region of 90%, just accounting for routine maintenance. Indeed they would consistently achieve that high level of productivity, were it not for the political imposition of Weather-Dependent Renewables. The UK installed fleet of about 28GW of Gas-fired generation, which at 90% productivity could be producing ~25GW. But the actual productivity / capacity percentage of gas-fired generation in the UK is limited, by Climate Change policy, to less than 40%, and so over the year it is limited to only produce at a rate of ~11GW over the year.
The “Renewables Obligation” means that when any Renewable generation is available, it, by policy, displaces conventional dispatchable CO2 emitting power sources. Dispatchable generation mainly Gas-firing is thus forced to run inefficiently, becomes unprofitable and progressively less viable, as an intentional consequence of Government policy. In other words, this policy may reduce some CO2 emissions but at the same time it eliminates base-load power and thus destabilises and makes the UK power supply grid ever more fragile.
It is clear from the diagram above the present UK Gas-fired generation installations could fully supply the UK overall power demand and meet maximum demand were they running at full productivity / capacity percentage, and any contribution from installed Weather-Dependent Wind or Solar power would be superfluous. An estimate of the costs of the UK Weather Dependent Renewables fleet is about £80 £billion, as opposed to about £8 billion for Gas-firing for the same power output provision.
Whereas a safe / sane operating margin for a Grid should be about 20% of indigenous dispatchable power, the UK margin fell to close to nil in 2017. Power supplies in the UK are thus at ever increasing risk.
It should also be noted that the UK has, by policy, surrendered a significant part of its power generation overseas to supplies from Europe, mainly Nuclear generation from France. In the light of recent post-Brexit French threat to cut off power supplies to the British Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands in the negotiation of a fishing dispute the UK dependence on any overseas generation has itself become a significant risk and should be regarded as an existential National emergency.
The chart below shows the progress that has been made in installing Weather Dependent Renewables in the UK to reach the status shown above according two the Renewable Energy foundation data.This post uses installation and generated power output data from the UK Renewable Energy Foundation 2020 to track the progress of the UK Weather-Dependent Renewables, (Wind and Solar), fleet of generators since 2002. The use of that data to results in the following:
- an assessment of the Productivity / Capacity percentage, of the UK Renewable generation fleet since 2002 has achieved an overall productivity of ~22%. That productivity percentage may vary marginally on an annual basis as a result of Weather conditions.
- in combination with summary comparative cost data from the US Energy Information Administration, (EIA), on different power generation technologies, (capital and long-term), it compares the bare capital costs and long-term probable future monetary commitments that are incurred by the 2020 UK fleet of Weather-Dependent Renewables.
- overall combined Weather-Dependent Renewables are roughly 10 times the cost of using Gas-firing and about 1.5 times the capital cost and 2.5 times the long-term cost of Nuclear power for same nominal electrical power production.
- as of end 2020 it assesses the estimated capital cost of the UK Weather-Dependent Renewables fleet to be about £80billion.
- the present UK 2020 Weather-Dependent Renewables fleet would incur an estimated long-term cost commitment of about £210billion, over 40 years.
- the extreme costs of Solar Power in the UK, when accounting for it’s low productivity / capacity percentage.
- the high future cost commitments that are entailed in the mandating of Offshore power even when accounting for their better productivity / capacity percentage.
- in addition, Weather-Dependent Renewable generation technologies do not provide inertia in the power supply Grid. Inertia is crucial in ensuring immediate resilience to maintain Grid frequency in any emergency. As they are unpredictable and variable Renewable technologies are cannot support the Grid in recovery after the Grid disaster of a “Black Start”.
- it estimates the maximum CO2 emissions savings achieved by the present UK Renewables fleet to be ~22 million tonnes. This amounts to less than 6% of UK CO2 emissions, about 0.06% of 2019 Global CO2 emissions and about 4% of the 2020 growth of CO2 emissions from the developing world:
but, this value of averted emissions does not account for the CO2 emissions and energy requirements involved in sourcing, manufacture and installation of the physical elements of Weather-Dependent Renewable generators.
- the additional CO2 emissions over Gas-firing for the same power output resulting from the use of overseas sourced Biomass, (nominally Carbon neutral, by policy), at the UK Drax power stations can be estimated to exceed at the maximum potential of 22 million tonnes of CO2 savings achieved by installing the entire UK fleet of Weather-Dependent Renewables.
- extreme financial damage and loss of Grid reliability that is arising by the effective and politically pressurised elimination of UK and European Fracking technologies. These have stopped access to indigenous Natural Gas for electricity generation both in the UK and throughout Europe. These policies are only to the benefit of the sales of Russian controlled gas exports.
The progress of UK Weather Dependent Renewables since 2002
The Renewable Energy Foundation reports on Weather-Dependent Renewables and Green energy in the UK. It provides annual installation and output data from 2002 up to the end of 2020. 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 three graphs above show the progress of Renewable installations in the UK since 2002 noting:
- a massive commitment to very poor productivity Solar PV Power 2012-2016, mainly induced by the influence of Liberal Democrats in government during that period.
- Solar PV installations had virtually ceased in 2019.
- Onshore Wind power installations were radically reduced in 2020
- according to the Renewable Energy Foundation data, output from Offshore Wind farms overtook the output of UK Onshore Wind in 2020 at a productivity of ~40%.
- however in 2021 there were long periods of Wind Drought which brought into question the efficacy of relying on Wind power.
- a remarkable reduction from the previously enthusiastically deployed Weather-Dependent Renewable installations by 2020.
- the gross variation of the annual commitments to Offshore wind power
- however recent announcements by the UK government that the government intends the UK is to become “the Saudi of Wind power”, particularly by increasing Offshore Wind installations, would seem to presage an escalation of UK Renewables and further massive growth of capital and long-term expenditures. It should be noted that in 2020 Offshore wind power output overtook the production of Onshore wind and in fact Offshore wind achieved its highest annual productivity
UK Renewable Energy productivity: 2020
The time series data from Renewable Energy Foundation enables the reporting of the annual productivity of Weather-Dependent Renewables in the UK. Productivity / Capacity, expressed as a percentage load factor, (actual power produced / nameplate value), is crucial to evaluating the true comparative value of the total power produced.
In the simplest terms the country has to pay for the full Name plate price of Weather-Dependent Renewable installations but they only produces a much smaller percentage of their installed Name plate value, and that power production is not dispatchable and cannot be called upon when required by the the electricity supply system. On the other hand a Gas-fired plant can be called upon to provide power 90% of the time.
The productivity progress since 2002 of Weather Dependent Renewables in the UK is shown below.
According to the update information from the Renewable Energy Foundation, 2020 was a good year for the productivity of UK Weather-Dependent Renewables. Overall, the UK Weather-Dependent Renewables have generally exceeded ~25% productivity level, a quarter of its nominal nameplate value. Onshore Wind power, with installations substantially curtailed by 2020, has achieved productivity around ~26%. Offshore Wind power is much more variable but apparently rose to the high productivity figure of ~41% in 2020. The productivity of Solar Power in the UK is consistently low and stays at or around ~10% level.
Expenditures by 2020 on UK Weather Dependent Renewables
The graphic below gives an idea of the level of the net annual capital expenditures to install the UK Wind Power and Solar technologies as at the end of 2020, using the US EIA comparative data as a basis. They take no account of any of the ancillary expenditures outlined below. The US EIA data on comparative costs of all common Generation technologies is covered in the post below.
The estimated annual expenditures on UK Weather-Dependent Renewables according to the 2020 US EIA estimated costings are as follows:
This assessment of current capital costs, according to the model, referenced above, amounts to about 80£billion.
The comparable capital costs for the same 9.1 Gigawatts of power production using Gas-firing would cost about 7.3£billion and about 45£billion for Nuclear power generation.
It is costly to maintain the current Renewables installations for the long-term. An estimate of the comparable long-term commitment for the present fleet of Weather-Dependent Renewables producing ~9.1 Gigawatts of power is ~275£billion. The same ~9.1 Gigawatts of power output would be produced long-term using Gas-firing for about 25£billion or for about 110£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 and 2016-17. The excessive forward commitments made for Offshore Wind can be seen particularly in in 2010-11 and 2016-17.
The table below shows that the estimated excess costs of the current fleet of 36 Gigawatts of installed UK Weather Dependent Renewables could have been substituted by Gas-fired generation for about 70£billion less in capital costs and about 190£billion less in 40 year long-term costs. Nuclear generation would have been about 30£bn cheaper in capital costs and about 120£bn cheaper in the 40 year longterm.
Note: these capital and long-term cost estimates do not account for any ancillary costs associated with UK Weather Dependent Renewables. A comparative cost model for generation technologies is included in the following post.
- these Renewable Energy Foundation data show how fundamentally unproductive Weather-Dependent Renewables in the UK are, just because they are inherently Weather-Dependent: on average over the years since they achieved no more than 22% productivity / capacity percentage since 2002.
- up until 2019 there was a remarkable fall off of UK Weather-Dependent Renewable installations
- Solar power development in the UK had been all but terminated by 2019
- Onshore Wind power is meeting with substantial local opposition and it is now increasingly difficult to promote in the UK on local environmental grounds.
- 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 seem to presage an escalation of growth particularly of Offshore wind power with its excessive concomitant costs.
- the use of Weather-Dependent Renewables will inevitably involve very substantial forward costs for their ongoing Operation and Maintenance. These costs amount to about 3 times in addition to their original capital expenditure.
- when combined with the actual recorded productivity Offshore wind power is the most expensive means of producing electrical power: ~17.9 times more than Gas-firing long-term and ~3.9 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:
- as more unreliable Renewables are mandated onto the system by politicians
- conventional 24/7 generation technologies are shut down and not replaced. This effect is already well in evidence in Germany, California, Texas and South Australia, with continuing rolling power outages.
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. Then it can be seen that Weather-Dependent Renewables represent an excessively costly alternative for power generation.
- the productivity deficiency of Weather-Dependent Renewables, as well as the subsidy and policy advantages they have been awarded are always ignored by their promoters, when they assert that they could reach cost parity with conventional Generation technologies.
- the maximum CO2 reduction achievable by the present fleet of Weather-Dependent Renewables can be estimated at about 22million tonnes per year: it can be estimated that the extra CO2 emissions arising from the major use of the overseas sourced Biomass at the Drax site effectively eliminates all the CO2 emissions savings that might have been achieved by Weather Dependent Wind and Solar power.
- in addition to these bare costs there are a range of major disadvantages that render them truly unsuitable for providing 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 only minimal.
- the UK has already installed Weather-Dependent Renewables with a nominal nameplate capacity sufficient to power the Nation. But even so their power output at ~22% of that value can never satisfy that demand, especially as their unreliable intermittency cannot be depended upon.
The failure of UK energy policy, closing base load 24/7 power producers and mandating added Weather-Dependent Renewables will give rise to a catastrophic failure of the increasingly fragile UK power distribution Grid, as well as massively increasing costs to UK 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”.