This has provided a nameplate electrical generating capacity of about 216 Gigawatts, nominally about ~22% of the total European generation needs of about 1000 Gigawatts.
The actual measured output by 2014 from data supplied by the Renewables Industry has been 38 Gigawatts or 3.8% of Europe’s electricity requirement, at a capacity factor of ~18% overall.
However Renewable Energy production is dependent on the seasons, local weather conditions and the rotation of the earth, day and night.
So the Renewable Energy contribution to the electricity supply grid is inevitably erratic, intermittent and non-dispatchable. It is therefore much less useful than dispatchable sources of electricity, which can be engaged whenever necessary to match demand and maintain grid stability. That 3.8% Renewable Energy contribution to the grid is often not available when needed and obversely its mandatory use can cause major grid disruption if the Renewable Energy contribution is suddenly over abundant.
Accounting for capacity factors the capital cost of these Renewable Energy installations has been about €29billion / Gigawatt. That capital cost should be compared with conventional gas-fired electricity generation costing about €1billion / Gigawatt.
The whole 1000 Gigawatt fleet of European electricity generation installations could have been replaced with lower capital cost Gas-fired installations for the €1trillion of capital costs already expended on Renewable Energy in Europe.
In spite of their being virtually no costs for fuel, Renewable Energy installations can still cost up to 1.5 – 2.5 times as much to operate and maintain as conventional Gas Fired plant.
When the capacity percentages are taken into account, the capital costs can be 15 – 50 times greater than Gas Fired plant.
Recent publications with data up to the end of 2014 have been used here. These organisations are either neutral towards Renewable Energy (US EIA) or actively promote it (EurObservER).
- US EIA electricity_generation.pdf 2015 Table 1
These publications give an up to date indication of the current state of comparative data for the capital and running costs of different means of Energy generation, both Renewable and Fossil fuel based as well as Renewable Energy costs in Europe . These illustrated notes are derived from the combination of these two up to date data sources.
The US EIA data provides a useful yardstick for comparative costing and level of investment committed. The comparative measure of US$ / Megawatt hour is used. The US$ and the Euro are close to parity and used interchangeably here for cost estimation.
Major European installations
This note concentrates on the seven European Nations with significant commitments to Renewable Energy. They account for more than 80% of European renewable investment. Denmark is included in this analysis because of its preeminent position as a developer and supplier of Wind Power technology.
The following diagram shows the percentages of contribution for both solar and wind power in Europe. The preponderance of PV Solar power in Germany at 44% of the total european installation is very clear.
Comparable Electrical Generation effectiveness
The EurObservER data give the current base of Renewable Energy installations measured in Megawatts and annual output by country in Gigawatt hours and also the actual installed level by three types of generation:
- Onshore Wind Power
- Offshore Wind Power
- Grid connected Solar PV
The annual output in Gigawatt hours can be reduced to actual equivalent productive generation by dividing the output GWhr value by 8760, (365 * 24). This value is then used to assess capacity by comparing the actual generated output in Gigawatts with the nameplate value of the renewable installed generating sets.
The EurObservER data does not distinguish the output generated by Onshore and Offshore Wind Power but groups the outputs for both Wind Power types. In general one would expect Offshore Wind Power to be rather more productive than Onshore installations even though Offshore has more onerous operating and maintenance expenditures at in excess of 30% capacity for offshore installations as opposed to about 20% for onshore Wind Power installations.
As the current EurObservER data does not distinguish between the generated outputs of Onshore and Offshore Wind Power, an overall Wind Power capacity figure of about 21% results from their data.
The aggregate (Wind Power and PV Solar) productive capacities for the six European Nations are shown below and compared to conventional generating technologies.
The variations of efficiency between the seven European Nations shown above between arises as a result of:
- their level of commitment to Solar energy as opposed to Wind Power: Overall in Europe Wind Power has a capacity percentage of ~22% as opposed to Solar energy of only ~12%
- their latitude, Solar power being significantly less effective in Northern Europe.
Accordingly German Renewable installations perform at only ~13% overall. They are by far the least performant in Europe because of their heavy commitment to Solar Energy at Northern latitudes. Germany is followed by Italy with a more Southerly position but still with a heavy commitment to Solar Power.
Overall in Europe Renewable Energy is about 5 times less efficient (Energy Produced / Nameplate Capacity) than when fossil fuels are used, i.e. a capacity percentage of about 18% overall as opposed to some 85%.
The scale of Renewable installations and approximate capital costs
The EurObservER data from 2014 is charted below showing the nameplate installations of different forms of Renewable Energy
And the actual Electrical output generated according to the EurObservER data is shown below.
It is estimated that 1 Gigawatt of gas-fired generating capacity costs about €1000,000,000 and the proportional capital costs derived from the EIA data is used to estimate the approximate capital costs of the European Renewable installations. Accordingly the distribution of estimated capital investment totalling more than €1 trillion is shown below.
These prices are estimated using the EurObservER reported nameplate capacity combined with the EIA differential values for capital costs. No account is taken of the detrimental capacity factors applicable to Renewable Energy installations, i.e. operating at about 1/5 of rated nameplate capacity.
National commitments to Renewable Energy installations in Europe
The comparative commitments to Renewable Energy according to the data across Europe is shown as Megawatts installed / million head of population below.
Unsurprisingly Germany and Denmark are pre-eminent, whereas the UK and France have only achieved about a quarter of their levels of penetration. In France which already has the lowest CO2 emissions levels/head of population in the developed world (substantially less (~60%) than China) because of its commitment to Nuclear electrical generation, the installation of Renewable Energy (Wind Power and Solar) in France would seem to be particularly costly and pointless.
Scoring cost effectiveness in Operation
The US EIA data makes comparisons in terms of $ / Megawatt hour. These data have been combined with capacity data derived from the EurObservER reports, i.e. 21.8% for Wind Power overall and 12.1% for Solar Power.
For comparative purposes these $/MW hr values are normalised comparing them to the EIA Gas-Fired generation cost and the readjusted to account for the capacity factors recorded. A fuel cost for Gas firing is about 50% more than than that for Coal.
This results in normalised comparative scores for both the Capital cost and Operation and Maintenance costs. Using the EIA base data the Operation and Maintenance costs are marginally more for Onshore Wind and about double for both Offshore Wind and Solar Power. On the other hand the capital cost scores range from 14 times onshore wind to almost 50 times for Solar energy.
When the capital and running costs are combined on the EIA basis, Renewable Energy comparative cost scores are 4 times higher for onshore wind and up to 12 times greater for both Offshore wind and rather more for Solar Power. Coal and nuclear power are shown as the a useful comparison.
To date about € trillion, (€1000,000,000,000), has been spent on the installation of Renewable Energy technologies for electricity generation in Europe.
By Government and EU diktat, this expenditure has been extracted by extra charges imposed on utility bills throughout Europe. Viewed as taxation this is very regressive form: it imposes more burdens on poorer people whilst leaving wealthier people who are able to pay less affected. It is also invisible in Government accounts as a tax income at all, as it is an industry price imposition on consumers.
These regressive “Green taxes” have already lead to significant fuel poverty throughout Europe.
Increased energy costs are also impacting on European industries with many major corporations seeking more congenial manufacturing locations outside Europe to the detriment of the European economies.
As a means of producing useful electrical power Renewable Energy is proven here to be very expensive, not only because its poor ~20% capacity factor but also because it is much less useful to the electrical grid because of its non-dispatchbliliy and inevitable intermittancy.
It is also questionable whether these Renewable Energy industries, when viewed “from cradle to grave”, including manufacturing, site works, installation, connection and demolition costs, does in fact reduce CO2 emissions to any significant extent overall. The CO2 saved may never exceed the CO2 emissions generated to erect the total installation. At t a maximum the use of Renewable Wins and Solar technologies only amounts to about a 4% saving in CO2 emissions in comparison to using Gas-fired power generation,
The USA has made significant CO2 emissions reductions over the past few decades by replacing Coal Fired generation with Gas Fired electricity generation with the feedstock provided by the fracking revolution. It is estimated that using natural gas for electricity generation as opposed coal burning saves about 30% of CO2 emissions. This outcome of this effect has been assessed to have been more effective means of CO2 emissions reduction than all actions worldwide arising from the Kyoto protocol.
The Renewable Energy industry could not exist without the Government mandated subsidies and preferential tariffs on which it depends.
Without Government subsidies and consumption mandates the Renewable Energy industry is not a viable business proposition.
Viewed from the point of view of the viability of a nation’s electrical supply grid, Renewable Energy would never be part of the generating mix without its Government mandate, Government subsidies and Government interference.