Renewable Energy Poses Security Risk, New Paper Warns

Sign_of_RiskLondon, 2 June: A new paper published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation warns that intermittent wind and solar energy pose a serious energy security risk and threaten to undermine the reliability of UK electricity generation.

Many people – including ministers, officials and journalists – believe that renewable energy enhances Britain’s energy security by reducing the dependency on fossil fuel imports. The ongoing crisis over the Ukraine and Crimea between Russia and the West has given much attention to this argument. 

Written by Philipp Mueller, the paper (UK Energy Security: Myth and Reality) concludes that domestic and global fossil fuel reserves are growing in abundance while open energy markets, despite the conflict in the Ukraine, are enhancing Britain’s energy security significantly.

In contrast, the ability of the grid to absorb intermittent renewable energy becomes increasingly more hazardous with scale.

Germany provides a warning example of its growing green energy insecurity. Last December, both wind and solar power came to an almost complete halt for more than a week. More than 23,000 wind turbines stood still while one million photovoltaic systems failed to generate energy due to a lack of sunshine. For a whole week, conventional power plants had to provide almost all of Germany’s electricity supply.

Germans woke up to the fact that it was the complete failure of renewable energy to deliver that undermined the stability and security of Germany’s electricity system.

“Open energy markets are a much better way to ensure energy security than intermittent generation systems like wind and solar. It would be a huge risk in itself for Britain to go down the same route as Germany and destabilise what is still a reliable UK electricity grid,” said Philipp Mueller.

Full paper (PDF)

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June 2, 2014 6:20 am

“Alternative” energy with current technology is at best a supplementary form of production with enormously increased cost and neutral at best environmental value.

Alan Robertson
June 2, 2014 6:21 am

“There is timing in everything. There is even timing in the void.”: Miayamoto Musashi- The Book of Five Rings

Alan Robertson
June 2, 2014 6:23 am

Typing error- Miyamoto Musashi 宮本 武蔵

June 2, 2014 6:40 am

This unreliability of renewables is also a negative economic side effect. This becomes more and more a factor as the percentage of wind and solar increases (hydro is a renewable but is only unreliable in the long term sense – a long spell of dry weather). It’s pretty easy to understand why
unreliable power sources have a negative cost effect – they have to have backup power generation facilities, and they cost money – about as much as plants that are operational every day, except for the fuel costs. But fuel costs in these days of cheap gas, are a small portion of the total cost of maintaining a backup power plant. Many of the costs are unaffected by whether the plant produces power or not. THAT is why renewable power costs more than simply the cost of building and operating the renewable facilities. A recent study by the American Traditions Institute that took all factors into account estimated that onshore wind power costs 19.8 cents per kWhr.
The wind lobby will tell you wind is cost competitive, in areas with large wind resources.
Some renewable enthusiasts assume that the presence of storage eliminates the unreliablity part of renewables. But take a look at Germany’s experience recently – it would be impossible to afford enough electrical storage to make up for the missing renewable power. And, if all power were renewable, and such an event happened, and such storage did somehow exist, how would one rebuild that backup storage capacity and at the same time provide power once the renewables were back in action? The only way would be for there to exist much more renewable capacity than would normally be needed, which would mean underproduction and increased costs.
Wind turbines require enormous amounts of land, since a turbine cannot be located close to another turbine. I’m trying to remember the numbers – they were astounding -something like
300,000 acres plus to provide the same gross power as a single nucler power plant. There are other, darker issues – bird (an especially bat) killings, and the fear that our Whooping Crane population is being exterminated. Theproposed solution? Slow down the turbine blades and stop them completely during some parts of the day. In other words, make the power produced by a turbne cost a lot more. Some solution.

June 2, 2014 6:56 am

No, best of breed solar pv in utility scale operations does make sense and if you are not in tune with tech developments in the case of grid battery roll out to market then that’s your problem. The mistakes in renewables largely comes from studies like these that are backward looking. View them as investment bankers do and not the wasteland of govt policy mistakes. And don’t look to the UK, Germany, or Aussies for guidance. Any country that ditches low cost solar pv while preserving high cost variants like rooftop and CSP don’t deserve policy respect.

Mary Kay Barton
June 2, 2014 7:10 am

cnxtim – “Alternative” energy is not even close to being “neutral” re: “environmental value” – not when you consider the massive Habitat Fragmentation that the sprawling footprints of industrial wind factories create – which adds to the awful bird and bat deaths being caused by these giant “Cuisinarts of the sky” (as a Sierra official dubbed them in a moment of candor).
Not to mention the negative health effects and property value devaluation occurring everyplace where countrysides are being industrialized by these antiquated taxpayer / ratepayer money-leeching machines.
Then there’s the pesky fact that these 400 – 600+ foot-tall towers are also killing people who can’t see them when flying small aircraft during foggy situations:
Hardly what anyone should call environmentally benign, or “neutral” in its effects.

June 2, 2014 7:37 am

Renewable energy will pose a risk to energy supplies? I see they are coming late to the party again. I wrote exactly this in a polemic that was printed back in 2004, and which was re-published on WUWT in 2009.
Renewable Energy, Our Downfall….–-our-downfall

June 2, 2014 7:50 am

“Open energy markets?”Like the subsidised new build nuclear that Lord Lawsons Government signed up to. Is this article supposed to be ironic?

June 2, 2014 7:59 am

Resourceguy, detailed example with ROI spreadsheet?
Mary K Thanks for the arguments.

June 2, 2014 8:01 am

Resourceguy says:
June 2, 2014 at 6:56 am
If you understand what Germany (among others) is doing wrong with its renewable energy program that is falling apart around them, then maybe you should go to Germany and straighten them out since you appear to have expertise on the subject. You might want to talk to their vice chancellor since he stated in a speech a while back that the country’s renewables program was close to failure.
Germany has invested a massive sum of euros in their energiewende. If all that money isn’t going to be for not, they definitely need you to save it. /sarc

June 2, 2014 8:16 am

re your post at June 2, 2014 at 6:56 am.
Your analysis omits the important fact that many people want to switch their lights on – not off – when the Sun goes down.

June 2, 2014 8:38 am

Dan: Lord Lawson is not a member of the Government. But of course, the new nuclear, being baseload, will enhance security of supply, unlike intermittent wind and solar.

Coach Springer
June 2, 2014 8:58 am

As an all of the above guy like a politician of note falsely claims to be, wouldn’t fracking, exploration and mining be a really good way to enhance energy security? (Rhetorical question to my mind anyway.)

D.J. Hawkins
June 2, 2014 9:55 am

@Resourceguy says:
June 2, 2014 at 6:56 am
Your post is long on rhetoric and short on specifics. Would you care to up your game in that regard?

Berényi Péter
June 2, 2014 10:02 am

A new paper published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation warns that intermittent wind and solar energy pose a serious energy security risk and threaten to undermine the reliability of UK electricity generation.

It was Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, UK, who announced 3 years ago that his objective is to transform the system into a “smart” one, where UK families are supposed to use power when it’s available, not when it is needed. They don’t even try to hide the subversion, it runs its due course in plain sight.

Max Erwengh
June 2, 2014 1:29 pm

“Germans woke up to the fact that it was the complete failure of renewable energy to deliver that undermined the stability and security of Germany’s electricity system.”
That’s actually not really true. In fact, the media corverage of this situation was quite poor (just read about it in one newspaper) and there’s still a great believe in the “Energiewende”, and, that somehow it is possible generating electricity 100% from renewables. Ofc nobody knows how 🙂

June 2, 2014 2:13 pm

The resource guy mentions a battery. Is there a successful large scale battery anywhere?

June 2, 2014 4:32 pm

Resourceguy says:
June 2, 2014 at 6:56 am

The best part about solar is the power it produces at night.

June 2, 2014 4:36 pm

Germany’s renewables has an astounding effect on their economy:

June 2, 2014 4:42 pm
June 2, 2014 4:48 pm

Resourceguy says:
June 2, 2014 at 6:56 am
No, best of breed solar pv in utility scale operations does make sense …
What exactly do you mean by “best of breed pv”?
I hope it doesn’t involve extremely rare materials (= VERY expensive) to construct

george e. smith
June 2, 2014 6:44 pm

“””””…..Alan Robertson says:
June 2, 2014 at 6:23 am
Typing error- Miyamoto Musashi 宮本 武蔵…..”””””
Musashi, was the name of the sister ship of the Yamato.
A now sadly departed acquaintance of mine, took part, in the Second Battle of the Philippine sea; AKA, Leyte Gulf.
Shortly after he and his two buddies put their torpedoes simultaneously into the side of a Japanese heavy cruiser (which sank), the Musashi fired an 18 inch gun at their 15 plane (Grumman Avengers) flight while they were gathering at 1500 feet to return to their carriers (Wasp in his case).
The shell had their exact altitude, and flew by right in front of them, like a VW beetle. The time delay fuze, went off a couple hundred feet to the side. Some planes were flipped, but all survived.
Musashi, was later sunk, without accomplishing anything. (Nor did Yamato).
I did a short calculation to convince myself, that battle wagon, could have taken them out, even if they had been at 15,000 feet. Proximity fuze, would have got them all.
He had a 3 x 4 foot hole in his wing, from a 40 mm AA he took, while on the torpedo run at 280 feet, and 280 knots. Evidently didn’t hit anything important.
I believe those were the biggest Naval guns, ever fired. Bismarck only had 15 inch guns; but deadly fire control, as HMS Hood found out, too late.

June 2, 2014 6:54 pm

Solar thermal has had its funding costs cut, and yet I thought that could be the answer to our problems in the future. But the last heard was they were trying to involve methane in production at night. But the argument I have with solar panels is, how reliable are they without grid back up.Does this add cost to electricity to other users. My girlfriend went ahead cost her $5,000 and got some $5000 subsidy so she said, and all it does is supply the lights? It must also supply power to appliances surely. She said it didn’t heat her water. What a con. And I think they look ugly anyway especially on heritage homes like hers. As far as wind is concerned one farm has halted in New England, I mean to say, we are high up, the winds and temps got hot and cold to freezing sometimes, but the farmers who allow them to rent their land get $15,000 a year rent for just one turbine. That to me offsets their benefit as far as lowering electricity costs.

Half Tide Rock
June 2, 2014 7:58 pm

Piss poor national energy policies result in a commodity price penalty.The frequency and range of the price swings quantifies the consumers analysis on how deficient the perceived future supply is and the significance of the commodity to the consumers.
People who perceive a risk in the future supply are willing to pay a premium to ensure the supply.
People who perceive a risk in the supply build up a reserve if possible. These individuals are called hoarders by the authors of the failed policies and are attacked, blamed and offered up as examples to divert attention from the insufficiencies and cower the consumers into compliance. Germany publicly shot the food hoarders.
It s interesting that the largest energy hoarder is the Department of Energy, the very author of the failed policy. Ignore the person behind the curtain!

June 2, 2014 8:02 pm

Goerge E. Smith.
An ironic but very real factor: That 18 inch shell would have been much more effective as thin-walled shrapnel-type high-explosive shell than a typical battleship armor-piercing shell. A HE shell carries far more explosive and its thinner casing produces much more smaller pieces that can shred an airplane’s sheet metal far more effectively. But, such a thin-walled shell literally “bounces” off of the intended target’s – an opposing battleships’ armor. And, in fact, that is an third advantage of a rocket/missile in AA fire.
Continuous control and slow acceleration allow correcting fire after releasing the missile to be built.
Those airfoils and internal guidance required for basic flight allow the missile to be constantly itself controlled. A spinning shell only controlled by gravity and the Coriolis force and winds and air friction and drag? It goes where it was aimed before it was fired. Regardless of where the target is going now.
Thin lightweight missiles allow more explosive per rocket than shells – which have to withstand the explosive sudden impact of the gunpowder.

June 2, 2014 11:50 pm

Way back the politicians were told that the way the subsidies were paid favoured unreliable energy replacement methods. They were told to pay the subsidies on the basis of a contractual energy delivery quota with payments based on load but with heavy fines for non delivery of the quoted supply.
This only made renewable energy which was reliable a financially stable investment. river based hydro and tidal would have seen far greater investment and wind near zero given its dead spots when we in the UK have a low pressure zone centred on us giving cold and foggy weather. As for solar farms in the UK they are a joke. A 45KW installation produced 800W at the particular point when UK demand was highest from the reading displayed on the site.

Dr. Strangelove
June 3, 2014 12:01 am

Solar energy is not ideal in UK. At 55 degrees latitude, solar insolation drops to below 200 W/m^2 on winter and autumn. Solar is ideal in tropical countries near the equator where insolation is 400 W/m^2 on average year round.

June 3, 2014 3:41 am

John says: June 2, 2014 at 2:13 pm
The resource guy mentions a battery. Is there a successful large scale battery anywhere?
The best ‘batteries’ are pumped storage systems, like Dinorwig, which is one of the largest in the world. This provides 1.45 gw for 5 hours, or around 7 gwh, and can be on-line in 75 seconds from startup:
Its a great battery. However……
We would need about 50 Dinorwigs to run the UK for just 5 hours (more, if you want electric vehicles too). Or 250 Dinorwigs for a day. Or if the wind was slack for two weeks, as it often is, we would need the equivalent output of 3,300 Dinorwigs.
Some problems with that…….
Dinorwig was the most expensive power station ever. Because of the Greenies they had to put it inside a mountain, at enormous cost. The UK does not have enough mountains. And wherever you found a location, the Greenies would always find a lesser-spotted ridge-back slug living there, that was on the endangered species list.
In other words, there is no battery that is ever going to bridge the energy gap that renewables will deliver. Unless you want to build a lead-acid battery the size of Coventry. Any offers?

rod leman
June 8, 2014 8:29 am

Battery storage and solar panel costs are falling fast. Expected to be cheaper than coal-fired generation within a few years. China is investing heavily.

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