From the peak installation rate in 2010 the European commitment to Weather Dependent Renewables had fallen by more than half in 2018 but in 2019 there was a marked resurgence adding ~30 GW: this Renewables growth consisted largely of Solar generation capacity, (~19GW).
The following countries are the main Renewables protagonists in Europe. Together these countries represent more than 75% of European Weather Dependent Renewable installations, with by far the largest commitment has been made by Germany as a result of its longstanding “Energiewende” policy. In 2019 the proportions of the EU28 Renewables were as follows:
- Germany 34.2%
- The United Kingdom 10.9%
- France 8.4%.
- Italy 9.7%
- Spain 10.9%
This post uses data series since 2008 as they relate to about 80% of European Weather Dependent Renewable generation installations, those being:
- Wind power Onshore
- Wind Power Offshore
- On grid Solar PV power.
The EurObserv’ER organisation has published data annually since 2008 on all types of EU28 Renewable installations and their annual output. EurObserv’ER is backed by the EU and promotes the transition to Renewables. In addition, a further Solar promotional organisation Solar Power Europe has published up to date figures for recent Solar installations. Their recent data are included here.
The overall productivity of the top five EU countries with significant commitments to Renewables
The productivity of any power generation technology can be assessed as the ratio of the actual power produced divided by the nominal Name Plate rating of that technology as installed. Conventional power plants Gas-fired, Coal, Nuclear etc. have productivity ratios of ~90%: they’re only having to be out of commission for routine maintenance.
Weather Dependence means that those generation technologies are subject to significant variation in the input of power, accordingly they produce very significantly less power than indicated by their nominal Name Plate rating.
The average productivity / capacity figures, for the period 2008 – 2019 achieved by these five primary countries is shown below:
As can be seen above European Renewables report productivity / capacity factors of ~21% for Onshore Wind power, ~33% for Offshore Wind power and ~10 – 12% for Solar installations. In other words overall the maximum productivity that they can achieve is only about one fifth of their rated size.
It is also important to note that:
- these data count the full productivity over the year of Weather Dependent Renewables. The results are thus generous assessments of the value of the power produced by Renewables. They do not account for the timing of that power production and thus of the usefulness of the power Weather Dependent Renewables may produce at any one moment in time. Renewables can often produce when demand is low.
- in addition, these data sets do not account for the difficulty in coping with the wide variability and intermittency of the power output by Weather Dependent Renewables for a Nation’s supply Grid, which is obliged to provide fully dependable and consistent power. The government mandated insistence that power from Renewables in preference to “base load power”, whenever it may be available also means that those more valuable sources of consistent power generation may be chronically underused much of the time, as they are forced to continually compensate for the vagaries of weather incurred by the intermittency and variability of power production by Renewables.
The history of the combined productivity / capacity figures for the period 2008 – 2018 achieved by the five primary countries is shown below:
In general Renewables have shown increased productivity in 2019. Italy shows poor productivity performance mainly because it has committed to a large proportion of Solar power. Spain had maintained good very productivity until its installation in 2019 of a large amount of Solar power rather than relying much more on its Onshore wind.
Germany has a continuing poor performance because of it heavy insistence on Solar power in its cloudy northerly context.
The UK has had a reasonable performance, enhanced by its major use of Offshore wind power, nonetheless its productivity is offset by the large proportion of ineffective Solar power in the UK.
Progress of individual Nations
The following graphics for these five principal European countries show the progress each has made in Renewables installation since 2008 and the way in which until recently, the commitment to Weather Dependent Renewables has actually diminished over the past 10 years.
The following graphic shows the progressive percentage changes in Renewables installations and the average overall productivity factor that each country has achieved.
They show how Germany has maintained its major commitment to Renewables and how Italy and Spain have allowed their Renewable commitment to stagnate since 2011, whereas in the United Kingdom and France the growth of Renewable installations has continued.
The German proportion of Renewables shows a reduction because several other smaller Northern European Nations grew their installations of Solar power in 2019: these include the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Belgium all of whom have reported Solar productivity of less than 10%.
Overall new German Renewables installations are now running at about half of their peak level in 2011. The total installation is now rated at ~110GW with a combined output of ~20GW, with an overall productivity factor of ~20%.
Onshore wind installations now represent ~50% of German Renewables: their installation rate peaked in 2016 and has since fallen in 2019 to ~0.9GW per annum. The productivity / capacity factor for Onshore wind in Germany is comparatively low at ~18%. There is now substantial and growing local resistance to the future development of Onshore wind farms.
Offshore Wind power installations started more recently in 2014 and are now continuing at about half of their original peak rate: they now represent about 6% of installed German Renewables. Offshore Wind performance with an average productivity / capacity factor of ~27% and reached ~37% in 2019. It is certainly more productive than Onshore wind. However it wind is still inherently variable, dependent on weather conditions. In addition Offshore wind has to contend with the adverse marine environment, which increases costs significantly and reduces service life.
Germany is one of the cloudiest countries in Europe. Nonetheless Solar installations in Germany and represent ~41% of German Renewables, and currently achieve a good Solar productivity figure of ~11%. German Solar installations peaked quite early in 2011, and had fallen to a quarter of that peak by 2014. But Solar has seen a recent major resurgence installing about a further 4GW, overtaking the growth of both Onshore and Offshore wind in installations in 2019.
In 2008 the United Kingdom passed the Climate Change Act, committing the UK’s far reaching commitments to Renewable energy in law. As a result, by 2018 the UK had ~35.4GW of installed Weather Dependent Renewables amounting to ~11% of the EU fleet, second only to Germany. The UK installations produced ~8.8GW with an overall productivity / capacity factor of ~23%.
The average performance of Onshore wind power in the UK was reasonable but it performed better in 2019 with ~26% capacity. Nonetheless Onshore installations are continuing to grow.
The UK has become a world leader in Offshore wind power with total installation of ~10GW, a larger fleet even than Germany. UK Offshore wind has achieved a long-term average productivity / capacity of ~29% and in 2019 performance was good at ~36%. UK Offshore installations were about 1.9GW per annum in 2019 with a productivity of ~36%. Offshore wind faces significant obstacles of high costs of installation and maintenance and the adverse maritime environment limiting useful service life.
The UK had a massive flirtation with Solar power around 2013, this arose directly as a result of the influence as ministers in the Department of Energy and Climate Change by coalition Liberal Democrats, namely Chris Huhne and Ed Davey. As the UK has a cloudy northerly climate, this results in the worst productivity factor in Europe averaging only ~8%, probably the lowest Solar performance factor globally. It should be noted that Solar power is about 9 times less productive in the winter than at its summer peak.
The insistence on UK Solar was a political decision made against the strenuous opposition of the civil service experts in the Departments Energy and Climate Change. In spite of that advice this has resulted in Solar energy now amounting to 37% of the UK Weather Dependent Renewables. In 2019 commitment to Solar was reduced but was still ~15% of the installation of new UK Renewables.
At 4.44 tonnes / head in 2017, France had achieved the lowest CO2 emissions / head of any developed country, equaling to the average Global CO2 emissions/head for the whole ~7.5 billion Global population. This is as result of the long standing commitment in France to Nuclear power. This level of CO2 emissions is close the global average level The provision of relatively cheap CO2 free energy in France is one of the country’s major industrial achievements.
However recently, with the introduction of a growing commitment to Weather Dependent Renewables, the French CO2 emissions are now rising according to the 2019 figures released by BP.
French Nuclear generation produces significant excess power, (more than 7%), which is profitably exported to neighbouring countries, particularly to the United Kingdom and Germany.
The current policy in France is to reduce its >75% commitment to Nuclear energy for electricity generation down to 50% and to replace that generation with Renewables. Were CO2 emission a real concern, this policy, like Germany’s intention to eliminate all its Nuclear power by 2025, must be a retrograde step, when compared with an increasing reliance on fossil fuels needed to compensate for the intermittency and unreliability of Weather Dependent Renewables.
Nuclear power in France should still be regarded as one of the country’s most valuable industrial assets, notwithstanding its apparent advantages re CO2 emissions.
Compared to Spain, Italy another country with good Southerly exposure, made large scale early commitments to on-grid Solar power particularly in 2011 – 2013. But since then Solar installations have reduced to about 1/10th of their peak level.
Onshore wind power in Italy’s about 1/3 of the Italian Renewables commitment and it generates slightly less than half of Italy’s Weather Dependent Renewable output. Installations of Onshore wind are continuing, albeit slowly.
The total Renewables installation now amounts to about 28GW producing ~4.6GW.
Overall the Italian productivity factor at ~15% by Weather Dependent Renewables is low, primarily because of the large commitment to Solar energy as opposed to Wind power.
The Spanish were very early to commit to Renewables primarily with Onshore wind, however by 2013 all further installations had virtually ceased. The commitment of massive subsidies for Weather Dependent Renewables in Spain contributed to the parlous state of the Spanish economy.
In spite of being a southerly nation the use of Solar power in Spain had been minimal, this is mainly because subsidy support was withdrawn. This is in spite of the fact that Solar power in Spain apparently has achieved the highest Solar productivity factor in Europe at ~19%. In 2019 the subsidy support position appears to have changed and as a result Solar power in Spain has increased by 4.7 GW over the year. There was also an increase in Onshore wind power.
Overall Spain at a productivity / capacity factor of ~21% has been the most productive Renewables industry in Europe.
Effectiveness of Weather Dependent Renewables
- The European commitment to installation of Weather Dependent Renewables had reduced but in 2019 there was a very substantial increase in Renewables across Europe. Clearly the subsidy support environment for Renewables has changed over that year.
- There was a very substantial resurgence in Renewables investment in 2019. More than half of those commitments were to installation of on Grid Solar power. Apart from Spain where 4.7GW was committed all those Solar installations were in Northerly countries, notably Germany, Netherlands, France, Poland, Hungary and Belgium. All those Northerly countries all had a very poor Solar productivity in the region of 10% or lower.
- The fact that Solar power productivity is only ~10% must question how governments have been so self deceived as to sanction and give fiscal support to this massive increase in Solar installations.
- Renewables growth in Spain was substantial after a long hiatus since 2011
- All Italian investment in Renewables has virtually ceased since 2013.
- If CO2 emissions reduction was the objective, the decisions in Germany and more recently in France to reduce their commitments to Nuclear energy are emotional and entirely irrational.
- It is questionable whether Weather Dependent Renewables are:
- CO2 emissions neutral, in other words they create more CO2 emissions to be generated in their manufacture, installation, maintenance and demolition than they could ever save during their service life
- their EROI, Energy Return on Energy Invested, is marginal and insufficient to justify their use to provide sufficient excess power for any developed or developing Nation.
- Weather Dependent Renewables are comparatively un-economic in their use of materials
The Weather Dependent Renewables industry has deluded itself, its Green supporters, most Western politicians and the public at large by not admitting to detrimental impact of the massive productivity and thus cost differentials between Weather Dependent Renewables and reliable, 24/7, fossil fuel or Nuclear power generation with the capability of continuous production.
Even so the production and cost differentials discussed here do not account for the difficulties that arise from the inherent unreliability of using Weather Dependent Renewables as a reliable power source. Nor do they account for the environmental damage that Renewables cause in the landscape and to wildlife.
When assessing the cost comparisons with traditional forms of generation and asserting that Renewables are now competitive with traditional generation technologies, the Renewables industry seems to conveniently forget both the government mandates / subsidies they attract and the productivity / capacity factor differences with traditional generation. These mean that overall their Renewables only produce about ~20% of their Nameplate rating overall in Europe And of course Solar PV power only operates at ~10% of its Name Plate rating.
Because of the productivity limitations and with an assessment their true output performance Weather Dependent Renewables are intrinsically much more expensive than consistent and reliable electricity generation technologies: in particular the cheapest form, Gas-fired Generation.
The Countries such as the UK and Germany that make major commitments to Solar PV and Offshore Wind end up with the most expensive installations. But a recent paper
This paper shows that the UK policy change to promote Gas-firing over coal burning in the 1990s, the “Dash for Gas” was co-incidentally also an effective mechanism to reduce CO2 emissions and as well as being a very cost effective means of electricity generation. The continuation of that use of Gas-firing policy would have maintained lower CO2 emissions in the UK, though still dependent on use of a fossil fuel.
Professor Sir David Mackay
The late Prof David Mackay, (former chief scientific advisor of the Department of Energy and Climate Change), in a final interview before his untimely death in 2016 warned that the concept of powering a developed country such as the UK with Weather Dependent Renewable energy was:
“an appalling delusion”.
He eventually admitted that Weather Dependent Renewable Energy depends on capturing essentially dilute and very variable sources of power. So at the same time Weather Dependent Renewables are comparatively:
- capital cost expensive
- maintenance expensive, especially Offshore
- inevitably intermittent and thus unreliable.
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 that:
“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 devastating 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 reducing CO2 emissions, were it worthwhile, are somehow always rejected out of hand, probably because they do not accord with the tenets of the “Green” religion.
Comparative costing in Europe
This costing model has followed through on Professor Mackay’s back of the envelope calculations, showing that Weather Dependent Renewables are plainly expensive. A model giving a comparative assessment of the excess capital and long-term costs incurred to support Weather Dependent Renewables is provided at:
The overall scale of comparative costs results for the EU(28) in 2019 are shown below:
This indicates that the capital cost of the current fleet of EU(28) renewables is about 500€billion with long-term cost likely to be close to ~2000€ billion. The excess costs imposed on taxpayers and in utility bills in comparison with Gas-firing for equivalent power output is roughly ~€452 billion and ~€1800 billion in the long-term.
If the objectives of using Weather Dependent Renewables were not confused with possibly “saving the planet” from the output of the UK’s small level of CO2 emissions, (for electricity generation, ~25% of 1.1%, the UK 2018 portion of Man-made Global CO2 emissions), their actual cost, 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 annual UK / EU(28)CO2 emissions output will soon be far surpassed just by the annual growth of CO2 emissions in China and the Developing world.
It is essential to ask the question what is the actual value of these government mandated excess expenditures 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 it’s further enhancement of living standards over the coming decades.
Trying to reduce CO2 emissions 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 Context in 2020
In spite of all the noisy Climate Propaganda of the past 30 years, in Spring 2020 the world is faced with a different but very real economic emergency from the reactions to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
That Emergency, with the world facing the immediate death of many citizens as well as global economic breakdown, should put the futile, self-harming and costly Government mandated attempts to control future climate into stark perspective. This real Emergency clearly shows how irrelevant concerns over probably inconsequential “Climate Change” in a distant future truly are.