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.
This post uses installation and generated power output data from the UK Renewable Energy Foundation 2019 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, (load factors), of the UK Renewable generation fleet since 2002, which achieves an overall productivity of no more than ~22%.
- 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 2019 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 name plate production, not accounting for the productivity of Weather Dependent Renewables.
- it provides a comprehensive, but uncosted, list of the other operational disadvantages of using Weather Dependent Renewables beyond its bare cost comparisons for the power produced.
- as of end 2019 it assesses the estimated overnight capital cost of the UK Weather Dependent Renewables fleet to be about 62£billion.
- the UK 2019 Weather Dependent Renewables fleet would incur an estimated long-term cost commitment of about 260£billion.
- the extreme costs of Solar Power in the UK when accounting for it’s low productivity.
- the high future cost commitments that are entailed in the mandating of Offshore power even when accounting for their productivity.
- it estimates the maximum CO2 emissions savings achieved by the 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 2019 growth of CO2 emissions from the developing world:
this averted value does not account for the CO2 emissions and energy requirements involved in sourcing, manufacture and installation of the physical elements of Weather Dependent Renewables.
- 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 at ~13 million tonnes that alone negates some 60% of the maximum possible 22 million tonnes of CO2 savings achieved by installing the UK fleet of Weather Dependent Renewables.
- the resulting in maximum CO2 savings from UK Green policies is thus only about 9 million tonnes.
- the extreme financial and Grid reliability damage that has arisen by the effective and politically pressurised elimination of Fracking technologies stopping access indigenous Natural Gas for electricity generation both in the UK and throughout Europe. These policies are only benefit 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 2019. 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 poor productivity Solar PV Power 2012-2016, mainly induced by the influence of Liberal Democrats in government during that period.
- Solar installations had virtually ceased in 2019.
- A remarkable reduction from the previously enthusiastically deployed Renewable installations by 2019.
- The gross variation of the annual commitments to Offshore wind power
- However recent announcements by the UK government that they intend 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 growth and massive further expenditures.
UK Renewable Energy productivity: 2019
The time series data from Renewable Energy Foundation enables the reporting of the annual productivity of Weather Dependent Renewables in the UK. Productivity, expressed as a percentage load factor, (actual power produced / nameplate value), is crucial to evaluating the true comparative value of the total power produced. The productivity progress since 2002 of Weather Dependent Renewables in the UK is shown below.
2019 was a poor year for UK Weather Dependent Renewables productivity. Overall, the UK Weather Dependent Renewables have generally exceeded ~20% productivity level. Onshore Wind power, substantially curtailed by 2019, has achieved productivity around ~23%. Offshore Wind power is much more variable but achieved a higher productivity figure of ~32% in 2019: productivity close to 40% is achieved in some years, but that level is not consistent. The productivity of Solar Power in the UK stays at or around ~10% level.
The effective cost of Weather Dependent Renewables
Only when the bare comparative capital installation and long-term costings estimated from the EIA data, (see below), are combined with the actual productivity of Weather Dependent Renewables can a real comparative costs of the actual amount of power being generated be assessed. The combination gives the comparative cost per Gigawatt of the actual power produced.
The average achieved Renewables productivity over the period since 2002 is shown below. These long-term productivity percentage averages are remarkably close to the 2019 annual productivity data.
Conventional generation technologies, Gas-firing and Nuclear are capable of continuous 24/7 operation for 90% of the time. Accordingly, these figures thus represent the true comparative cost of the actual power produced by Weather Dependent Renewables.
So 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 power output.
Cumulative expenditures by 2019 on UK Weather Dependent Renewables
The graphic below gives an idea of the level of the net cumulative annual initial capital expenditures to install the UK Wind Power and Solar technologies as at the end of 2019, using the US EIA comparative data as a basis. They take no account of any of the additional expenditures outlined below. This assessment of current capital costs, according to the model (later), amounts to about 62£billion.
The comparable capital costs for the same 7.3 Gigawatts of power production using Gas-firing would cost about 6.5£billion and about 40£billion for Nuclear power.
It is costly to maintain the current Renewables installations for the long-term. The comparable long-term commitment for the present fleet of Weather Dependent Renewables producing ~7.3 Gigawatts of power is ~260£billion. The same ~7.3 Gigawatts of power output would be produced long-term using Gas-firing for about 21£billion or about 98£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 CO2 emission reduction achieved by installing UK Weather Dependent Renewables
The purpose of installing Renewables is to reduce the CO2 emissions from UK power generation, in spite of the excessive costs and increased risks of failure that they incur.
The benefit of these expenditures on Weather Dependent Renewables is the replacement of about 23% of the UK 2019 power generating capability by “nominally” CO2 neutral technologies. Electrical power generation results in about 25% of the total CO2 emissions output from the UK, the 75% remainder being required for space heating, transport, industry, etc.
In 2019 the UK emitted ~387 million tonnes of CO2, ~1.1% of the Global CO2 emissions. So, at ~23% of ~25% of 387 million tonnes, the current Weather Dependent Renewable expenditures are being made to avert a possible maximum of ~22million tonnes of UK CO2 emissions.
This value of the averted CO2 emissions assumes that Weather Dependent Renewables are CO2 and energy neutral. It ignores all the CO2 emissions and energy costs of Weather Dependent Renewables manufacture, installation, maintenance, etc whether incurred in the UK or overseas.
Thus estimates at the absolute maximum ~22million tonnes of CO2 emissions averted from UK Weather Dependent Renewables are as follows:
- of the 2019 UK CO2 emissions 387 million tonnes ~5.6%
- of the 2019 European CO2 emissions 3,330 million tonnes ~0.6%
- of the 2019 Global CO2 emissions 34,164 million tonnes ~0.06 %
- of the 2019 CO2 emissions growth from developing world +504 million tonnes ~4.4%
But viewed in the round, UK Green CO2 reduction policies also include the massive use of overseas sourced Biomass, (nominally considered as CO2 neutral) at the Drax site in Yorkshire, generating ~7% of UK power. But the CO2 output from Biomass is about 3.5 times greater for the same power production as is emitted by Gas-firing.
The excess CO2 emissions over Gas-firing can be estimated at ~13 million tonnes that policy of using imported Biomass alone negates some 60% of the maximum possible 22 million tonnes of CO2 savings achieved by installing the UK fleet of Weather Dependent Renewables.
The resulting in maximum CO2 savings from UK Climate Change policies can only be a net amount about 9 million tonnes.
The question should be asked “does the capital commitment of ~62£billion and its probable future expenditures of ~260£billion to install extra generating capacity, (about ~54% of the current UK fleet), but only to replace unreliably ~23% of UK power output and to avert ~5.6% of UK CO2 emissions?
But when accounting for the extra CO2 emissions, (~3.5 times Gas-firing), arising from burning Biomass at Drax for ~7% of UK power, these CO2 emissions savings from UK Weather Dependent Renewables are obliterated.
So, does the whole exercise of installing Renewables and Biomass combustion to reduce UK CO2 emissions with nil net CO2 reduction effect make good economic sense?”
As the late Professor David Mackay said even in 2016 UK energy policy is an:
“appalling delusion” .
https://vimeo.com/163698553/10d1bbe16e minute 12 on
- These Renewable Energy Foundation data show how fundamentally unproductive Renewables are, just because they are Weather Dependent: on average they achieve no more than 22% productivity.
- 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
- Onshore Wind power has met with substantial opposition and is increasingly difficult to promote in the UK.
- 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 at least 3.2 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 more Renewables are mandated onto the system by politicians and as conventional 24/7 generation technologies are shut down and not replaced. This effect is already well in evidence in California 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 a truly costly alternative for electricity generation.
- The productivity deficiency of Weather Dependent Renewables is always ignored by their promoters, when asserting that they might reach cost parity with conventional Generation technologies.
- The maximum CO2 reduction achievable by the present fleet of Weather Dependent Renewables is estimated at about 22million tonnes per year: it is also estimated that the extra CO2 emissions arising from the major use of the overseas sourced Biomass at the Drax site amounts to ~13 million tonnes per year negating ~60% of the CO2 emissions saving that might have been achieved by Wind and Solar power.
- In addition to these bare costs there are a range of alternative disadvantages that render them truly unsuitable for providing power to a developed Nation, see below.
- 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 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 UK power distribution Grid as well as massively increasing costs to 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”.
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 throughout the Western world.
A Comparative Costing Model for Electricity Generation Technologies
The comparative costings are derived from US EIA data as updated in 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/GW assuming that the purchasing power of £1 is equivalent to ~US$1.20 in the table below:
The US EIA table above gives values for the overnight capital costs of each technology as well as variable costs, (including fuel), and estimated fixed maintenance costs. The above table condenses those total costs of each technology when maintained in operation for 60 years. It is expressed as £billion/Gigawatt installed. These values do not account for the productivity of each technology.
These base data avoid the distorting effects of Government fiscal and subsidy policies supporting Renewable Energy, whereby it might be claimed that Renewables approximate to cost parity. It is thus hoped that these results give a valid comparative analysis of the true cost effectiveness of Weather Dependent Renewables.
Recent 2020 EIA updates fully account for any cost reductions or underbids for Renewable technology, particularly those for Solar panels. The costs of the panels themselves may be reducing but this only affects about 1/4 of the installation costs, these are mainly made up of the other ancillary costs of a Solar installation, those costs remain largely immutable. There have been aggressive underbids for Offshore Wind which are not accounted for here.
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.
The ancillary Cost and CO2 emissions implications of Weather Dependent Renewables
The assembled comparative figures from the US EIA above are underestimates of the true costs of mandating Weather Dependent Renewables. The results shown above only account for the cost comparisons for capital and running costs for the electrical power generated by the installations themselves.
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 power is needed:
Weather Dependent Renewables do not run 24/7: they can 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. This situation has been seen recently in California when Solar power falls off in the evening, the time of peak demand, leading to rolling blackouts at times of peak demand. Even in Southern countries Winter Solar output is only ~1/9th of that in the Summer, the period 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 or 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.
If there has to be sufficient back-up capacity using mainly fossil fuels to support the grid when wind and solar are not available and it is costly to run continuously but intermittently. If the back-up comes to be needed, then there is very little point in doubling up the generation capacity, available 24/7, with comparatively non-productive Weather Dependent Renewables. They might substitute some CO2 emissions, even though they certainly emit substantial levels of CO2 for their manufacture, installation and maintenance.
The use of Biomass, (nominally considered to be CO2 neutral, for example at Drax Yorkshire, ~7% UK generation), produces ~3.5 times the CO2 emissions for the same power output as Gas-firing. So the mandating of Biomass and calling it Renewable is a self defeating policy.
- 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 can not provide inherent inertia in the grid to overcome short term sudden variability.
- Weather Dependent Renewables cannot enable a “Black Start”, when needed.
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 in excess of what was needed for their original manufacture and installation. They certainly do not provide the regular massive excess power sufficient to support the multiple power needs of a developed society. Having excess power over the economic threshold level enables civilisations to flourish, the more the better. Accordingly Renewables are mostly parasitic on the use of fossil fuels for their existence.