A question that gives pause: If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive?

By Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress.

Over the last year, the media have published story after story after story about the declining price of solar panels and wind turbines.

People who read these stories are understandably left with the impression that the more solar and wind energy we produce, the lower electricity prices will become.

And yet that’s not what’s happening. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Between 2009 and 2017, the price of solar panels per watt declined by 75 percent while the price of wind turbines per watt declined by 50 percent.

And yet — during the same period — the price of electricity in places that deployed significant quantities of renewables increased dramatically.

Electricity prices increased by:

What gives? If solar panels and wind turbines became so much cheaper, why did the price of electricity riseinstead of decline?


Electricity prices increased by 51 percent in Germany during its expansion of solar and wind energy.

One hypothesis might be that while electricity from solar and wind became cheaper, other energy sources like coal, nuclear, and natural gas became more expensive, eliminating any savings, and raising the overall price of electricity.

But, again, that’s not what happened.

The price of natural gas declined by 72 percent in the U.S. between 2009 and 2016 due to the fracking revolution. In Europe, natural gas prices dropped by a little less than half over the same period.

The price of nuclear and coal in those place during the same period was mostly flat.


Electricity prices increased 24 percent in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017.

Another hypothesis might be that the closure of nuclear plants resulted in higher energy prices.

Evidence for this hypothesis comes from the fact that nuclear energy leaders Illinois, France, Sweden and South Korea enjoy some of the cheapest electricity in the world.

Since 2010, California closed one nuclear plant (2,140 MW installed capacity) while Germany closed 5 nuclear plants and 4 other reactors at currently-operating plants (10,980 MW in total).

Electricity in Illinois is 42 percent cheaper than electricity in California while electricity in France is 45 percent cheaper than electricity in Germany.

But this hypothesis is undermined by the fact that the price of the main replacement fuels, natural gas and coal, remained low, despite increased demand for those two fuels in California and Germany.

That leaves us with solar and wind as the key suspects behind higher electricity prices. But why would cheapersolar panels and wind turbines make electricity moreexpensive?

The main reason appears to have been predicted by a young German economist in 2013.

In a paper for Energy Policy, Leon Hirth estimated that the economic value of wind and solar would decline significantly as they become a larger part of electricity supply.

The reason? Their fundamentally unreliable nature. Both solar and wind produce too much energy when societies don’t need it, and not enough when they do.

Solar and wind thus require that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment’s notice to start churning out electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.

And unreliability requires solar- and/or wind-heavy places like Germany, California and Denmark to payneighboring nations or states to take their solar and wind energy when they are producing too much of it.

Hirth predicted that the economic value of wind on the European grid would decline 40 percent once it becomes 30 percent of electricity while the value of solar would drop by 50 percent when it got to just 15 percent.


Hirth predicted that the economic value of wind would decline 40% once it reached 30% of electricity, and that the value of solar would drop by 50% when it reached 15% of electricity.

In 2017, the share of electricity coming from wind and solar was 53 percent in Denmark, 26 percent in Germany, and 23 percent in California. Denmark and Germany have the first and second most expensive electricity in Europe.

By reporting on the declining costs of solar panels and wind turbines but not on how they increase electricity prices, journalists are — intentionally or unintentionally — misleading policymakers and the public about those two technologies.

The Los Angeles Times last year reported that California’s electricity prices were rising, but failed to connect the price rise to renewables, provoking a sharp rebuttal from UC Berkeley economist James Bushnell.

“The story of how California’s electric system got to its current state is a long and gory one,” Bushnell wrote, but “the dominant policy driver in the electricity sector has unquestionably been a focus on developing renewable sources of electricity generation.”

Part of the problem is that many reporters don’t understand electricity. They think of electricity as a commodity when it is, in fact, a service — like eating at a restaurant.

The price we pay for the luxury of eating out isn’t just the cost of the ingredients most of which which, like solar panels and wind turbines, have declined for decades.

Rather, the price of services like eating out and electricity reflect the cost not only of a few ingredients but also their preparation and delivery.

This is a problem of bias, not just energy illiteracy. Normally skeptical journalists routinely give renewables a pass. The reason isn’t because they don’t know how to report critically on energy — they do regularly when it comes to non-renewable energy sources — but rather because they don’t want to.

That could — and should — change. Reporters have an obligation to report accurately and fairly on all issues they cover, especially ones as important as energy and the environment.

A good start would be for them to investigate why, if solar and wind are so cheap, they are making electricity so expensive.

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dodgy geezer
May 16, 2018 3:10 am

…The main reason appears to have been predicted by a young German economist in 2013….
Eleanor Denny was ther quite a bit earlier, whith her cost-benefit paper – https://erc.ucd.ie/files/theses/Eleanor%20Denny%20-%20A%20Cost-Benefit%20Analysis%20of%20Wind%20Power.pdf
That was 2007…..

Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 16, 2018 4:21 am

The excellent E-On Netz Wind Report 2005 (1) was published two years earlier. See Figure 7 re Substitution Capacity.
Cheap, abundant reliable energy is the lifeblood of society – it IS that simple, and driving up energy costs with intermittent and costly “green energy” schemes is proving to be a disaster, as we confidently predicted in our 2002 written debate for APEGA (2).
Sadly, green energy is not green and produces little useful energy – intermittency and the lack of practical energy storage are the fatal flaws.
Germany has calculated that it needs 95% spinning backup of conventional energy (e.g. natural gas turbines) to support their wind power schemes – it would make much more economic sense to just scrap the wind power and use the gas turbines.
Driving up energy costs just increases winter mortality, which especially targets the elderly and the poor. Early estimate are about 48,000 Excess Winter Deaths in the UK this year, half the annual average of the USA, which has FIVE times the population of the UK.
The bottom line is when politicians fool with energy policy, real people suffer and die. Most politicians are so scientifically illiterate they should not even opine on energy, let alone set policy.
Posterity will judge this green energy nonsense harshly, as the most costly and foolish scam in human history.
Quote from the above SEPP article – TWTW Oct 21, 2017:
“Number of the Week: 2.2 million workers needed to replace 52 thousand? One of the sillier essays in Politico stated: “And as jobs go, coal mining is now a tiny sliver of the U.S. economy, employing about 52,000 Americans last month, down 70 percent over three decades… By contrast, the solar and wind industries employed almost 10 times as many Americans last year, and they’re both enjoying explosive growth.”
If this essay is correct (it is not, and the definitions are vague), the energy industry that employed only 52,000 in mining produced 30% of the US Electricity in 2016, but wind and solar required 520,000 employees to produced 7% (6% wind and 1% solar). To generate the electricity produced by the coal industry, the wind and solar industries would need 2.2 million workers. Who can afford such inefficiency?”
My comment:
Wind power is intermittent and non-dispatchable and therefore should be valued much lower than the reliable, dispatchable power typically available from conventional electric power sources such as fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear.
In practice, one should assume the need for almost 100% conventional backup for wind power (in the absence of a hypothetical grid-scale “super-battery”, which does not exist in practical reality). When wind dies, typically on very hot or very cold days, the amount of wind power generated approaches zero.
Capacity Factor equals {total actual power output)/(total rated capacity assuming 100% utilization). The Capacity Factor of wind power in Germany equals about 28%*. However, Capacity Factor is not a true measure of actual usefulness of grid-connected wind power. The following paragraph explains why:
Current government regulations typically force wind power into the grid ahead of conventional power, and pay the wind power producer equal of greater sums for wind power versus conventional power, which artificially makes wind power appear more economic. This practice typically requires spinning backup of conventional power to be instantly available, since wind power fluctuates wildly, reportedly at the cube of the wind speed. The cost of this spinning backup is typically not deducted from the price paid to the wind power producer.
The true factor that reflects the intermittency of wind power Is the Substitution Capacity*, which is about 5% in Germany – a large grid with a large wind power component. Substitution Capacity is the amount of dispatchable (conventional) power you can permanently retire when you add more wind power to the grid. In Germany they have to add ~20 units of wind power to replace 1 unit of dispatchable power. This is extremely uneconomic.
I SUGGEST THAT THE SUBSTITUTION CAPACITY OF ~5% IS A REASONABLE FIRST APPROXIMATION FOR WHAT WIND POWER IS REALLY WORTH – that is 1/20th of the value of reliable, dispatchable power from conventional sources. Anything above that 5% requires spinning conventional backup, which makes the remaining wind power redundant and essentially worthless.
This is a before-coffee first-approximation of the subject. Improvements are welcomed, provided they are well-researched and logical.
Regards, Allan
1. “E.On Netz Wind Report 2005” at
PEGG, reprinted in edited form at their request by several other professional journals, THE GLOBE AND MAIL and LA PRESSE in translation, by Baliunas, Patterson and MacRae.

joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  Allan MacRae
May 16, 2018 5:36 am

I commented at skeptical science regarding the 20+ to 1 ratio of employees in renewables vs fossil fuel to produces the same amount of electricity and how inefficient it was. The skeptical science folks really dont like to deal with reality.

Reply to  Allan MacRae
May 16, 2018 9:50 am

Joe – The other part not identified is, those employed in the renewable’s field don’t earn as much as those employed in the fossil fuels. The economy of the renewable’s sector is looking for, doesn’t appear to be happening. If it is, it isn’t as efficient as it is for the fossil fuels.

Reply to  Allan MacRae
May 16, 2018 7:24 pm

The degree of substitution depends on the cost of storage. The lowest cost option, at present cost of battery storage, requires the wind Capacity Factor to drop to about 7% – depends on actual installation and wind pattern. That is about a quarter of the unconstrained CF. With lower cost storage like pumped hydro the optimum capacity factor will be a little higher, maybe 10%. That means the wind generators will be producing about 1/3rd of what they could so the actual price of generation is 3X the unconstrained LCOE and then the cost of storage doubles that. Hence the real cost is around 6X LCOE for pumped hydro or around 9X for battery at current price.
This link has some good work on the German grid:
Believe it or not solar plus battery is now the economic option for householders in South Australia. Grid prices now average AUD0.61/kWh in a typical South Australian house. In March, the hopeful citizens voted in a new State Government who’s main energy platform was to lobby the Australia network planners for a stronger tie to the grid in NSW. They are not content with forcing prices up in Victoria due to the 600MW interconnector. They are determined to inflict their INTERMITTENTCY DISEASE across the whole of Australia. The crazy fact is that a higher capacity interconnector is almost certain.

Reply to  Allan MacRae
May 17, 2018 1:27 pm

UNPRI/Principles for Responsible Investment
‘Sustainable Financial System, Principles, Impact’
Literature Review, June 2016, 34 pages
Re: Recommendations for Sustainability, Climate Change, Low Carbon Economy, etc.
Available on line by title.
Likely most of the public not aware of the role the UN plays in financing renewable energy projects.

Reply to  Allan MacRae
May 17, 2018 4:33 pm

‘Sustainable Financial System, Principles, Impact’, Supplementary Report, June 2016
Webpage has links to other Reports.
Online by title.

Reply to  Allan MacRae
May 18, 2018 7:44 pm

UN PRI / Principles for Responsible Investment
“Who has signed the Principles?”

Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 16, 2018 4:35 am

Firefox is blocking this link due to “insecure connection” — there apparently is an authentication problem.

Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 16, 2018 5:34 am

The issue has been well understood for a long time and is called “spinning reserve” (backup generation, ready to dispatch in an instant). To have a stable grid, there must be enough spinning reserve to cover any shortfall in supply instantly. The required amount of reserve depends directly on the reliability of the underlying generating assets. Nuclear, fossil and hydro generation are incredibly reliable, requiring very little reserve. Wind and solar, on the other hand, are very variable requiring proportionally large spinning reserve. All of this has been understood since the days of Edison and Westinghouse.
The point is that if you don’t include the cost of spinning reserve, you haven’t correctly estimated the cost of the system. As long as the percentage of renewables was small, the system’s existing reserve could handle shortfalls. But as the percentage of renewables increases, reserve can no longer be ignored. The cost of additional spinning reserve (directly attributable to the variability of renewables) must be included in the cost of renewables.

Reply to  Roger
May 16, 2018 7:32 am

Excellent description of the problem.
Way back in 1974 when salesmen were pushing Solar Hot Water Heaters, I was provided with an example of what would happen with full implementation of SHWH in Florida. –
If 100% of all hot water heating in FL switched over to SHWH, with an electric heating coil for backup then the electric utilities would still need to build, man, and operate the same number of power generating stations (coal, gas, Nuclear or oil) as they did before this was implemented. Assuming that 50% of the generated electricity had previously been needed just to heat hot water then these electric companies are nor only selling 1/2 as much electricity. That means that they still have the same expenses, operating costs, etc as they did before and the only reduction in costs would be the difference in fuel used for “Hot Standby – Spinning Reserve” They can not lay people off, they can not lock the doors and ignore the plants. They must be ready for State/ISO spinning reserve requirements and then the required Supplemental Reserves. That means that they are selling 1/2 the electricity and still spending at least 80 to 90 % of what they did before. Result – the cost of electricity delivered to your house will go up by 80 to 90 %. That means that you are now paying almost the same as you did before you spent $10,000 on that SHWH and that you are still paying of that loan and you will never reach the break-even point. Costs will be worse in northern states where there is less solar power and adopters of this mistake will lose even more money.
PV and Wind are doing the exact same thing. And batteries will just shift even more expenses to either the homeowner or the Utility that is forced to provide these millstones around our neck.

Reply to  Roger
May 16, 2018 8:49 am

In other words, renewables are not actually renewable, as they never become competitive, affordable, economic, nor produce the net profit margins needed to pay the costs of maintaining, fixing or replacing them.
So they will not be renewed without PERMANENT subsidies and permanently far higher electricity prices.
The solution to this absurd mess is to eliminate all grid renewables ASAP, and ban further grid connected renewables, and cut off all green or clean-energy projects, and all ‘transition’ subsidies.

Reply to  Roger
May 16, 2018 3:16 pm

Simply removing subsidies, including mandates to buy residential “renewable” generation, should be enough. Let the utilities buy the electricity for what it’s worth, when it’s worth it, or not buy at all if the backup required makes it uneconomic at any price.

NW sage
Reply to  Roger
May 16, 2018 6:57 pm

Agree Roger. If the capital cost of the WHOLE system, including nearly 100% capacity spinning reserve NON WIND/SOLAR, is not taken into account when the system is planned the true rates will very much underestimate what the consumer must be charged.

Reply to  Roger
May 16, 2018 7:22 pm

Energy News Network, May 14, 2018
Re: Renewable energy issues in Michigan.

Reply to  Roger
May 16, 2018 7:44 pm

Batteries don’t eliminate the need for fossil fuel back up power, they just give you more time to get it up and running.
So now instead of just paying for the fossil fuel plants you have to pay for:
Renewable power sources
The same number of fossil fuel plants as you would need if you hadn’t invested in renewable in the first place.

Reply to  Roger
May 17, 2018 6:40 pm

UNDP, Oct.2, 2009
UNDP & Michigan
’30 global leaders sign declaration before next climate agreement’
Included: Then Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan.

May 16, 2018 3:16 am

A simple illustration of the weakness of intermittent wind without backup.
Assume the grid is supplied on average with 1/3 wind, 2/3 coal/gas. When the wind doesn’t blow, coal/gas must be available to supply 100% of peak demand plus contingency. So the investment in wind generators cannot displace any investment in coal/gas. The only saving is in variable fuel and operating costs. Utilization of coal/gas units drops by 1/3. Australia has seen a doubling in wholesale prices with wind/solar now supplying 15% of demand on average, scheduled to rise to 23.5% by 2020. Hydro seems to be the only effective “battery” to supplement intermittent wind/solar.

Reply to  Robber
May 16, 2018 3:34 am

The cost of energy includes the amortised capital cost. When the forced use of renewables drops the use of coal/gas by 1/3, the capital component of the energy supplied by coal/gas is immediately increased by 50%. The more renewable energy is mandated, the more the coal/gas energy price per unit is pushed up.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
May 16, 2018 5:59 am

Not sure I understand this. You’re saying that the total amortized cost of coal/gas has to be accounted for regardless of the amount the facilities are being used – so the cost per Kwh increases when actual usage goes down.
Is that a fair allocation of costs for comparison purposes? Renewables “save” Kwh’s produced by coal and gas. So, if use of renewables reduced coal/gas use to 1 Kwr, you’d have to include the total amortized cost of the facilities in that 1 Kwh to compare cost of energy?

richard verney
Reply to  Mike Jonas
May 16, 2018 6:25 am

That is why in the UK, no provider is biding to supply gas powered generators despite the UK government putting these out to tender. Gas powered generators now require subsidies to make them economically viable!!
The issue is that a gas powered plant can only sell electricity for say 80% of the time. 20% of the time it is unable to sell electricity because this is being provided by wind or solar. But of course, a company makes its profit not on the first 80% of the goods that it sells, but rather on the last 5 to 20% of the goods it sells.
Given the mandate to take wind and solar in preference to gas, whenever wind and solar is generating, means that gas powered plants never reach market penetration whereby the plant becomes profitable.
This therefore means that in order to make a profit one has to assume that all the costs for 100% operation are factored into say just 75% of sales. This means that if the gas powered plant can sell energy for 80% of the time, it can make some profit on the sales between 75% and 80% capacity.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
May 16, 2018 7:22 am

scraft1, amortized costs are accounted for over time, since that’s how the loans are paid.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Mike Jonas
May 16, 2018 7:36 am

Looking at the power system as a whole, adding intermittent sources like wind or solar does not reduce capital investment or maintenance costs for reliable sources like gas, coal and nuclear. All comparisons of “levelized” costs ignore this. The total costs for intermittent sources (capital and maintenance) should be compared to the only savings they bring to the overall system: reduced fuel consumption.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
May 16, 2018 7:58 am

MarkW – so, from an accounting/profit perspective, amortization is a fixed amount per year that’s charged for the life of the loan.
Guess I’m thinking of both depreciation, where you expense a fixed portion of the asset in equal annual amounts, and amortization. So, if a gas generator sells 1Kwh per year, regardless of the reason, then just the charge for that year for deprec/amort would be accounted for, correct? That would result in a large loss for the year.
So, accounting 101, obviously, makes the gas generator unprofitable until it can sell enough Kwh to offset the yearly charge for dprec/amort – then it’s still unprofitable overall until it covers all other costs including gen & admin.
So, there’s no business case for building a gas plant that would only be used a fraction of the time. I assume the same cost analysis would have to used for a pumped storage dam – even though it’s assumed that it would be used just a fraction of the time. It, I would imagine, would be lumped into the cost for the whole system for accounting purposes, as would the cost of the added gas plant.

Reply to  scraft1
May 16, 2018 11:17 am


So, there’s no business case for building a gas plant that would only be used a fraction of the time. I assume the same cost analysis would have to used for a pumped storage dam – even though it’s assumed that it would be used just a fraction of the time.

Financial justification is very, very difficult. Assume a nuke plant “might” startup in 8 years, but has to be built with monies paid out in real time. But, you have to justify paying for the nuke plant (any plant actually) based on “better rate of return” than ALL competing projects and ALL competing investments.
So, in 8 years, the plant starts making money, but you have to pay 8 years of interest on all of the construction costs (each month’s payments for material and labor and energy and rental fees for cranes, etc.) + a “better” rate-of-return than the stock market or simple savings. If interest rates go up => Do all of the calc’s again. If construction takes longer => Do ALL of the calc’s again. And worry about ALL of the things you can’t control. More than anything else, it was the failure to make construction schedules (due, according to some observers, to terrible decisions by mismanagement) that almost doubled the new construction times of the 4x nuclear plants once planned for the US. Longer construction times and poor quality (greater uncertainty of successful completion and authorization) = Too expensive “money” for construction to succeed in eventually making a profit for the plant.
A new gas turbine can come on-line in 24-28 months and produce almost as much power as a mid-sized nuclear plant taking 10 years of construction interest and fees. Less cost, less risk, no uncertainty. Yes, greater fuel costs. But a quicker payback! A more certain payback with less guesses about what will happen in 15 years when the plant is just beginning to run.
Now, all of that “future” worth of money depends on future inflation guesses, future costs of the power, future labor costs, future material costs; but will be paid back based on future prices allowed” by the state and local governments for the power produced, minus the guesses on future fuel costs and future labor and security and maintenance costs also.
A different power plant faces the same choices: A hydro plant needs guesses on how much rain will fall over the 40 – 60 years of the dam or pumped storage. How much it can sell power over that 45 or 60 years when the lake is draining. Whether future enviro’s allow power to be generated at all – Could anybody in 1970 predict that some imported trash fish in the delta would suddenly force 1/3 of CA’s water to flushed down the drain in the middle of 2010’s drought?
The fact that power is produced in a pumped storage system only part of the time increases the complexity of the calculation, but it must be done. (If you can generate power only 1/2 of the time, then you must make enough power sales in that smaller time frame to pay for the costs of people and maintenance all the time, plus the time to buy power to pump the water half the time.) HOWEVER, that “pumped water” costs LOTS of money to pump uphill to provide the potential energy to be used when draining the pumped storage.
We “assume” cheaper power will be available at night from other sources to pump water uphill – but at what rates will it be available over a 60 year period? What if it isn’t available at all? If you assume solar can “be stored” then you need to be able to “get solar power” when you need to pump the water uphill. It can’t flow out and be pumped at the same time!
When will wind power be actually available? If the wind is out, you can’t pump uphill. If the wind is generating power, then it can only be used to pump water if water is available to be pumped and stored. You could easily get cases from wind and solar when (1) no wind is available to pump water uphill when the reservoir is empty, (2) or the reservoir is already empty and so cannot create power when needed or (3) the reservoir is already full and can’t receive any more water to make power later or (4) solar and wind and hydro is fully available, but only for a few hours. There is too much electric power available at the wrong time and it must be wasted as heat. (This has happened several times already in Europe.)

Reply to  Mike Jonas
May 16, 2018 8:06 am

California has hydro too, doesn’t it? This would make mandated renewables even less sensible, if hydro can supply peak power when it’s needed.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
May 16, 2018 7:46 pm

It wasn’t poor planning that caused the extra time to build the nuclear plants. It was the lawsuits and ever changing regulations.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Robber
May 16, 2018 7:35 am

Hydro is effective in this case if you are not the one that generates it. If you have hydro to cover all your electricity needs why would you need wind and solar? Hydro is useful to sell to other fools like Germany when the wind doesn’t blow in Germany. Their sugar daddy Sweden provides the excess hydro to Germany. The 4 provinces in Canada that have adequate hydro reserves also have the cheapest electricity prices and they realized that the green “revolution” was irrelevant to them.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
May 16, 2018 7:42 am

The same goes for nuclear. Once the major capital expense is made, nuclear power is relatively cheap to produce. The real argument is : Is the initial capital cost of nuclear cheaper in the long run than just building gas plants? Since the greenies hate both and not everybody has access to hydro, how do the greenies that live in cold climates without hydro or nuclear expect to heat their homes at prices that are not astronomical. In any case they will always need fossil fuel back up if they dont have nuclear or hydro. The greenies live in a world of OZ. Unfortunately the world doesnt have a Toto dog to pull back the curtain.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
May 18, 2018 5:14 am

You can’t bring cheap/clean hydro into an area if the BANANAs and NIMBYs prevent the power lines to bring it in to be built.

Ron Long
May 16, 2018 3:20 am

Thank you Michael for the interesting article. As a former uranium exploration company President, CEO, etc I reviewed energy policies and future capacity predictions. Nuclear has an ability to compete on a cost, quantity, and safety basis with any energy form. The problem with nuclear is that older plants are kept limping along and newer safety and production designs are not incorporated into new plants (no permits). Again, I encourage anyone on any side of the energy issue to go stand underneath a giant wind turbine, note the blade tip speed and the dead birds, and then wait beside one of the solar reflector canister energy units and watch the “streamers”, which are birds on fire from the heat. The irony here is that Environmentalists are so demanding on the wind/solar side but unwilling/unable to deal with the death and carnage on the same side. No other industry is permitted to kill wildlife in this manner.

Walter J Horsting
Reply to  Ron Long
May 16, 2018 4:31 am

Ron, check out Seaborg.co the Case for the Good Reactor https://spark.adobe.com/page/1nzbgqE9xtUZF/

Reply to  Ron Long
May 16, 2018 4:36 am

I’ve heard it takes up to 60 years to decommission one, is that true of the newer plants?

Reply to  zazove
May 16, 2018 4:53 am

People can say just about anything about nuclear plants, and somebody will repeat it endlessly if it serves their purpose.
Many dozens of US Navy nuclear plants have been decommissioned: It takes only 2-3 years to cut the sub in half and decontaminate the piping and plants. (Reactor is separated and buried, fuel is recycled.) Commercial plants are larger, but have only low-enriched fuel with cores that are easily taken apart for their refueling. So handling the core is routine – just like a regular refueling operation, but nothing is loaded back into the core. Decontamination is a little easier because the pipes are larger.
Commercial contamination levels are low outside of the core itself – I’ve stood underneath cores that remain loaded but shutdown for less than three years. Decay of the fuel poisons (daughter products in the core) begins immediately on shutdown, and continues predictably. Depending on what people want to claim: Perhaps the anti-nuclear crowd is claiming the 60 years are the multiple half-lives of these daughter products and activated material in stuck small crevices in the pipes, valves, and pumps (crud traps is the industry term) that carried coolant? The volume of these is very, very tiny – and of course, once any crud trap is located by surveys, it can be either cleaned or cut out and handled separately.
Shutdown and disposal fees are paid into an account during the life of the plant: Nuclear plants are one of the very, very few industries that pays in advance for their disposal costs. Low-level waste disposal (gloves, anti-C clothing, survey swipes and plastic wraps and rags and grinding debris and the like) do create a “volume” problem that is irritating, but that volume contains low-level waste that decays fairly quickly. Again – this low level waste decays to nothing in a few years, but you have to handle it for those years. This might be what the critics are promoting as a major problem.
Now, about those thousands of windmill towers and their hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete and steel …..

A C Osborn
Reply to  zazove
May 16, 2018 5:50 am

And Fibre Glass Blades.

Reply to  zazove
May 16, 2018 7:23 am

It isn’t true of older ones.

Ron Long
Reply to  zazove
May 16, 2018 8:18 am

Good data RAC. Most of the Anthony Watts readers don’t know what it is like to work with a personal dosimeter in their shirt-pocket. We monitored all workers, and some nearby neighbors, with such dosimeters and never exceeded 10% of allowable exposure. Bananas anyone?

Reply to  zazove
May 16, 2018 9:34 am

Some companies are electing to use SAFSTOR where the unit is left to decay for up to 60 years, reducing the decontamination costs. That time is not actually needed to do the work. It has the side effect of allowing the decommissioning fund to make more money, which you hope exceeds the rate of inflation. It also lets people develop and test out decommissioning technologies during the interim.

paul courtney
Reply to  zazove
May 16, 2018 12:54 pm

So, zazove, you presume the truth of what you “heard”, and move right onto the next subject? Thanks for demonstrating, once again, that the CAGW cult is held up by a mosh pit of useful idiots.

Reply to  Ron Long
May 16, 2018 8:10 am

Wildlife is a casualty of any method of power generation, isn’t it? Just as wildlife and the environment in general suffers when any serious development is undertaken. Bird deaths is a good emotional hook in the propaganda war of renewables vs. traditional power generation, but I don’t think it’s makes a serious argument against renewables.

paul courtney
Reply to  scraft1
May 16, 2018 1:03 pm

scraft: I might agree with you that it’s not a serious argument against renewables (there are other arguments against which are decisive re; grid level). Then it’s also not a serious argument against other energy forms, yet if oil gets on a bird, there are serious consequences. I think you are open to a serious discussion, unlike the silly Mr. Munro.

Rich Lambert
Reply to  scraft1
May 16, 2018 4:00 pm

Wildlife can be improved by traditional power generation through the creation of lakes and the recirculation of heated water. The impoundment of water provides habitat for fish and water foul, particularly in winter when much open water is covered by ice.

Reply to  scraft1
May 16, 2018 7:48 pm

What exactly are the wildlife impacts of fossil fuel generation?

Robert Munro
Reply to  Ron Long
May 16, 2018 8:32 am

While it is true that wind turbines kill some birds, it’s a pretty negligible amount compared to other things like cars, windows and cats.

Reply to  Robert Munro
May 16, 2018 11:21 am

But how many outdoor/feral cats are there in a given area vs. the number of windmills and solar power plants? My guess is that there are far more cats then there are windmills…… Let’s say you have 100 feral cats and 100 windmills (and maybe a few solar plants added into that same number) – in the course of a year, one to one comparison, which will kill more birds? And which types of birds are most often killed by each? Generally, cats kill songbirds, while windmills kill larger, slower flying birds (though solar plants kill smaller birds because they are more easily incinerated and they tend to fly lower than raptors). I’m not saying it is good or OK for cats to be able to kill lots of small birds, but I’d argue that there is far less ecological impact for a cat to kill 100 sparrows a year than for a windmill to kill ten bald eagles. Kind of like catching a sardine vs catching a blue shark. One is an apex predator that is uncommon and reproduces slowly; while the other is a numerous creature that is on the menu for many, many other species and is at the bottom of the food chain.

Reply to  Robert Munro
May 16, 2018 7:49 pm

House cats kill 3 trillion birds per year?
I call BS on that number.
All the other numbers are at least an order of magnitude or two, too high as well.

Reply to  Ron Long
May 16, 2018 9:00 am

I wonder if vegans would consider using power from such newable plants as using “animal products”?

Komrade Kuma
May 16, 2018 3:21 am

Imagine if you will you are driving from point A to point B in a car. It matters not whose car it is or whether it is petrol, diesel IC powered or a hybrid or all electric. T journey has some ups and downs and some points of manoevre such as intersections and other road users.
Now imagine the accelerator pedal is actuated not by your foot but by some device driven by some control system algorithm that is completely disconnected from your journey reality.
It would be an interesting journey to say the least and I imagine there might be a number of emergency stops, and other disruptive events.
God only knows how long it would take to get there and how much you would be up for in terms of recompense, fines, damage etc.
What sort of idiot would go on such a journey?

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Komrade Kuma
May 16, 2018 3:59 am

The same sort of idiot that believes human activities drive the Earth’s climate.

Reply to  AGW is not Science
May 16, 2018 10:23 pm

Drive the Earth’s climate? No. Can have an effect on the Earth’s climate? Definitely yes, that has been verified.
The problem is that any weather effects from human actions are VERY small in the real world since the vast bulk of the warming and cooling inputs are out of the control of humans.
90%+ of the warming inputs? That big ball of gas and heat in the sky called “The Sun!”

Reply to  AGW is not Science
May 18, 2018 6:54 pm

lerianis May 16, 2018 at 10:23 pm
>>>that has been verified.<<<
Has it?

Reply to  Komrade Kuma
May 16, 2018 9:41 am


Peter C
May 16, 2018 3:25 am

“Reporters have an obligation to report accurately and fairly on all issues they cover” Not any more. It should be obvious to anyone that the MSM is bought lock, stock and barrel by the Establishment, Deep State, Alt. State or whatever you want to call those with influence and power that actually run all Western countries today. And it is not restricted to climate change.

Jacob Frank
Reply to  Peter C
May 16, 2018 4:52 am


Barry Sheridan
Reply to  Peter C
May 16, 2018 7:19 am

Quite right Peter. The thing I wonder about is quite why someone who is probably quite bright sacrifices all credibilty for so little gain.

May 16, 2018 3:33 am

I have commented on this necessity to run backup plants at zero output to support wind and solar on a number of occasions to non-technical audiences. They totally fail to understand why! The electricity supply is a sensitive thing, it must have spare capacity at all times to sustain any load, and this is not trivial. The cost of this should bear entirely on the “renewables sector” as a direct cost of its operations, but this makes the whole thing look uneconomic and foolish so is never mentioned! It directly means running fossil fuel plants uneconomically on fractional loading in case of clouds or variable wind, as these could instantly black out large areas of the country (which takes days to put back together) due to insufficient power availability.

Reply to  davezawadi
May 16, 2018 3:39 am

this makes the whole thing look uneconomic and foolish“????? The whole thing IS uneconomic and foolish.

Reply to  davezawadi
May 16, 2018 5:26 am

But you CANNOT run commercial gas turbine, coal, or nuclear plants at zero power: Their control systems and pumps and steam systems CANNOT be run below 30-40 percent power because they are designed to regulate between 60% and 100% power. (The water pumps and steam control valves, for example, are sized to move 100% of the water and steam at design conditions of temperature and pressure. It is physically impossible to run at lower levels safely. The turbine vanes and blades of GT and ST plants foul up, overheat, and erode when run at conditions of low air flow and extreme water vapor concentrations. Startup vibrations and control “hunting” at low levels cause great damage even during the few minutes of stratup and shutdown.) It is a poor analogy, but imagine trying to run your car by riding the brakes while leaving the accelerator on the floor.
Car engines are designed to “idle” but even then are very fuel inefficient and contaminate the spark plugs, leave deposits in the exhausts and catalytic converter, and degrade oil lifetimes.
To repeat, operating at “idle” is physically impossible and breaks the plant equipment. Operating at 10% flow (up to about 60% power levels) violates pollution permit regulations and is allowed only during startup. Utility operators curse the problem, but solve it by shutting down their smallest plants two times a day as demand varies: Thus the remaining small and medium power plants (usually gas turbines) are only allowed to cycle between 60% and 100% demand.
Assume 16 plants (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, …) are running at 100%. Each is regulated down from 100% to 60% power as demand lowers. When any single plant (A) gets to 60% (or thereabouts) and is forecast to stay below 60% for a few hours, it is completely shutdown and cooled down. Its neighbors (B, C, D, E, F) immediately cycle back “up” towards their 100% load to make up the sudden difference caused by the loss of A, and all of the remaining plants are subsequently ramped down to 60% power if demand continues to drop.
When one or more of these remaining neighbors (B, C, D, E, F…) reach their 60% limit, one or more of the running neighbors (B and C for example) are dropped out completely. The remaining plants (D, E, F, G …) go back to 100% power to make up the second sudden loss of power. The cycle continues until only L, M, N are running at 100%.
Demand begins picking back up (or wind drops completely out as the storm front passes), or nightfall begins and people start using power at night to cook supper and turn on more lights. Plants G, H, I and K are restarted, but are loaded only to 60% load; plants L, M, N go down from 100% to 60 or 75%.
Restarting and heatup of a large steam turbine (coal or nuclear) takes 10-12 hours. Restart of a gas turbine takes longer than shutdown (if the turning gear has been left engaged to permit slow cooldown), but a single cycle GT can resume in 1/2 hour or so. Restart of a combined cycle is a bit longer, but more damaging to heatup and cooldown the thick metal and turbine casings.
The problem is further compounded because today’s most efficient gas turbine power plants MUST work together: Three 250 megawatt plants can only operate as a three-paired group. This means that you are not “shutting down” three separate 250 Megawatt units, but a single large 750 Megawatt unit. (Two gas turbines primary units and their combined cycle steam plant daughter unit. No GT heat = No steam pressure for the combined cycle daughter plant!)

Reply to  RACookPE1978
May 16, 2018 5:04 pm

As always, I appreciate learning from you.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
May 16, 2018 10:25 pm

Could we not design those things to be able to ramp down to a much lower load? Say 10 percent or even as low at 5 percent?
Yes, we could. We know how to do it as well.

Reply to  davezawadi
May 16, 2018 9:04 am

Sounds like South Australia, on a good day.

May 16, 2018 4:05 am

I used to think that solar and wind energy made sense, because anyone who has lived on a farm with a windmill that used to pump water to a livestock tank knows that it is a useful item. On an individual basis, it may work nicely, and even feed power back to the grid. But it isn’t reliable and never has been. Ditto solar power – it is useful on an individual basis, but only up to a point and beyond that, nothing.
Trying to make these into commercial utilities was and still is ridiculous. This is a fad that will pass and the idiots who push the fad will go on doing that until the lights go out for good.
Then it’s back to a world lit only by fire.

Reply to  Sara
May 16, 2018 4:28 am

Pumping water for livestock is one of the few things wind power is good for, because it can be done in instalments since water is easy and cheap to store.

joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  tty
May 16, 2018 5:51 am

Windmills on farm and ranches were also more common prior to 1950’s because the cost of the windmill was less than the cost of bringing electricity to the site. Windmills were a necessity through the middle of the 1900’s. As late as the late 1960’s we still had hand pumps for water at the lake house because the grid had just reached the area (north central minnesota 15 miles from nearest town)

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Sara
May 16, 2018 6:22 am

During my power loss after Irma I realized that I could use my inexpensive solar walkway lights to light my house in the evening. The lights lasted about 5-6 hours and I set them outside each morning to recharge. I am also putting together a battery bank attached to a solar panel that I can connect to my water pump if I lose power again this summer. Individual use of solar yes, mass grid use no.

Don B
May 16, 2018 4:08 am

“Who would have thought? Nations with more renewables have the most expensive electricity”
There are great graphs in this Jo Nova post.

May 16, 2018 4:11 am

in the UK the data is provided by the government, and clearly shows that the cost of renewables in terms of subsidies and the other market interventions is £100 per household plus a further 3200 per household that businesses have to pay (and pass on to customers where they can).
The “operating cost” of producing electricity is meaningless. Total cost is what has to be paid by the people who use electricity. I honestly think that many politicians and journalists simply don’t udnerstand that point rather than they are biased. They are ignorant.

paul bahlin
May 16, 2018 4:16 am

Here’s a thought I don’t have the chops to answer…..
Since every watt of energy harvested by solar ultimately ends up as heat, then it seems to me that the reduction of albedo due to a solar array, is a net heat gain to the planet. Isn’t that correct?

Reply to  paul bahlin
May 16, 2018 8:39 am

Solar energy captured could go right into a lightbulb which creates heat. It took in the heat in the first place. It wheels the heat to someplace else. But there is no combustion of coal with that new CO2. The heat from all combustion is only 1 or 2 percent of what matters.The alternative of light that has any heat from solar is combustion of fossil fuels which have their own new heat.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  paul bahlin
May 16, 2018 9:40 am

Any net gain in solar will just put more heat into the oceans which will cause more evaporation and thus more latent heat created. When that water vapour condenses some of the latent heat is released. The latent heat that is released must somehow be carried high enough in atmosphere to escape to space or else we would have had runaway global warming already. The rest of the latent heat that isnt released upon condensation is ultimately released if the water freezes on the surface. If the water doesnt freeze then the latent heat is locked up in the water molecule until the cycle of evaporation and condensation and freezing starts all over again. The only time that water doesnt have much heat in it, latent or otherwise,is when it is in a frozen state. It still has some though because it isnt at absolute 0 K. The real mystery in all this is does a reduction in albedo cause an increase to the radiation received by the soil/rock surface? Since that is 30% of the earths surface one would think that the earth’s surface would get too hot with a reduction of albedo. Since heated bodies radiate heat to the 4th power an increase in radiation to the surface will simply cause more IR to be radiated upward and since there is always more IR than can be absorbed by the miniscule amount of CO2, the extra IR escapes to space.The cause of all the confusion over CO2 absorption is that everyone is forgetting that the gaseous molecules CO2, O2 and N2 are always colliding with each other in pico second time frames in the troposphere. The result of these collisions keeps them at a certain temperature. The argument is does the absorption of IR by CO2 cause an additional increase in atmospheric temperature? I cannot see how runaway global warming can be possible since in the long past there was10 times as much CO2 as there is today and runaway global warming did not happen, The handful of radiative heat transfer PhDs in the world could answer this question but they are too cowardly to do so.

May 16, 2018 4:17 am

Residential solar photovoltaic systems cost around $3 per watt installed. Of that, the cost of the panels is around $1 per watt. In other words, even if the panels were free, the system would cost $2 per watt. link
The installed cost of a natural gas power plant is around $1 per watt. You then have to consider the cost of fuel.
No matter how cheap solar panels get, the installed cost will still be twice that of natural gas. With gas so cheap, solar can’t compete.

Reply to  commieBob
May 16, 2018 7:30 am

Wouldn’t surprise me if the maintenance costs for the natural gas power plant was lower as well.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  commieBob
May 16, 2018 9:46 am

Along with being cheaper the natural gas plant has to back up the solar anyway unless you want brownouts or blackouts. So why would solar be installed in the 1st place. It is all madness.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
May 16, 2018 7:51 pm

Given the fact that you need the spinning reserve to be “spinning” all the time, it’s doubtful whether wind and solar actually reduce fossil fuel usage by much at all.

May 16, 2018 4:18 am

I am unconvinced about the dangers of co2, but I think that nuclear is the energy source of the future. Nuclear cost the same as coal, and if we invest in developing it, we can bring that price down. France has already decarbonized their electricity production without it costing them anything. Actually they are enjoying the cheapest electricity prices in Europe and have the lowest associated deaths. That means that they have taken out an insurance against co2 as the climate drive free of charge, and further they can use it for heating and EVs. Even for a sceptic as me, I cant argue with that. It should be vision for the future and the solution to our energy woes that both alarmists and sceptics can buy into. The compromise we both can agree to.

May 16, 2018 4:29 am

Denmark and Germany have the first and second most expensive electricity in Europe

Is this a bit misleading ?
The wages of electricity workers and cost of living is a lot more in Germany than Bulgaria for instance.
When you look at the part of net income paid for electricity bills, or by purchasing power,
Germany and Denmark are average for Europe (2% or net income)

Reply to  Jeff
May 16, 2018 4:35 am

“Is this a bit misleading ?”
No. You might want to compare Denmark, Sweden and Norway, which are neighbouring countries with comparable purchasing powers and climate. Guess who has most wind and solar…

Reply to  tty
May 16, 2018 4:41 am

Well Bulgaria (3%) and Latvia are by far the most expensive.
How big are their renewable energy programs ?

Reply to  tty
May 16, 2018 5:21 am

EIA doesn’t cover Bulgaria and barely covers Latvia due to their insignificance as energy producers and consumers.
Latvia imports almost all of its energy and is a net importer of electricity.

Latvia, which regained its independence from Soviet Union in 1991 and joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, is not a notable energy producer or consumer. The country produced 30 trillion British thermal units (Btus) and consumed 163 trillion Btus of total energy in 2011, which places it in the bottom five among the EU countries on both measures.
A majority of Latvia’s energy consumed in 2013 was imported, and the country is nearly 100% dependent on Russia for its fossil fuel imports. Domestic energy production is limited to small amount of liquid fuels – about 1,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) from biofuels – and hydropower, wind, and biomass and waste produced for electricity generation.
The Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia indicated that the country imported over 5.0 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas and 3,900 bbl/d of petroleum products in 2013, while it consumed 4.3 bcf and 2,400 bbl/d. Exports and stock changes make up the differences between the country’s imports and consumption of these fuels.
Latvia generated 459 million kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity in 2013 according to the Central Statistical Bureau, with 49% coming from hydropower, another 49% from fossil fuel sources, and the remaining 2% from wind and biomass and waste, including the country’s sizeable peat resources. Latvia imported 417 million kWh and exported 304 million kWh of electricity, leaving about a net 572 million kWh for domestic consumption.

The average price of electricity in Latvia is €0.16/kWh, about half of the price in Germany.

Reply to  David Middleton
May 16, 2018 8:35 pm

David, these amounts do not agree with my experience in NSW at all.
I pay 30¢/kWh per day.
(26.0¢/kWh rate, 80.6¢ daily supply charge, 20kWh/day usage Australian average)
This is about the same as the UK and EU average.

Reply to  Jeff
May 17, 2018 12:47 am

It doesn’t “agree with my experience” in Dallas TX either. I pay about 11¢/kWh on average. That’s only 15¢/kWh in AUD. The chart says15.75¢/kWh.
Average values don’t often match each individual’s experience.

Reply to  Jeff
May 17, 2018 5:06 am

According to Canstar Blue, the cheapest NSW annual prices range from $2,398.52 to $3,113.28 depending on the retailer. Assuming a 20 kWh/d consumption, that works out to 33-43¢/kWh. However, those are the cheapest rates offered by each retailer.

Reply to  David Middleton
May 17, 2018 3:00 am

In NSW prices are fixed so everyone should be getting close to what I do.
Its a coincidence your TX rate was so close to the average US rate listed.
The US states sure do vary a lot from 8 to 32c/kWh.
But I have to admit the US rate is generally very low indeed.

Reply to  Jeff
May 17, 2018 5:02 am

The average rate for Texas is close to the US average. I probably could lower it a bit by shopping around. I actually know someone who switches providers at least once a year to get a lower introductory rate. The retail electricity market in Texas is very competitive. Which is funny, because they all get their electricity from the same sources.
Electricity rates in NSW vary widely, just as they do in Texas…

dodgy geezer
Reply to  Jeff
May 16, 2018 5:05 am

…Is this a bit misleading ?…
Almost every way of comparing costs between countries is misleading. At the limit, people of different cultures have differing priorities and lifestyles…
…Germany and Denmark are average for Europe (2% or net income)…
So…maybe everyone likes to spend 2% of their income on electricity? The question is how much they get for some kind of levelised price…..

Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 16, 2018 5:38 am

maybe everyone likes to spend 2% of their income on electricity?

I am curious what people paid for their electricity in the sixties, seventies , eighties etc.
I would not be surprised if it wasn’t much less than 2% of their income.
And considering that richer developed countries have more electrical appliances in their homes than ever before.

Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 16, 2018 6:06 am

comment image
It appears electricity cost more in the fifties and sixties (in NSW, Australia) than it does now.
Then from the eighties until mid 2000s it was cheaper.

Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 16, 2018 7:04 am

It looks more like someone scribbled a line on a graph that shows New South Wales’ electricity prices skyrocketing since about 2009.

Aug 4 2017
Australian households pay highest power prices in world
by Ben Potter Andrew Tillett
Australian residential customers are paying the highest electricity prices in the world – two to three times more than American households – but experts say they need more than information to navigate the thicket of discounts and offers.
South Australian households are paying the highest prices in the world at 47.13¢ per kilowatt hour, more than Germany, Denmark and Italy which heavily tax energy, after the huge increases on July 1, Carbon + Energy Markets’ MarkIntell data service says.
When the eastern states’ National Electricity Market was formed in the late 1990s, Australia had the lowest retail prices in the world along with the United States and Canada, CME director Bruce Mountain said.


Rod Everson
Reply to  Jeff
May 16, 2018 7:41 am

Jeff: “The wages of electricity workers and cost of living is a lot more in Germany than Bulgaria for instance.”
And what makes you think that the same politicians who managed to drive the price of electricity skyward aren’t also quite competent at driving the price of everything else skyward? California is a perfect example, as evidenced by their current intention to drive housing prices even higher by requiring solar panels on every new house.
Besides, look at the trends. Electricity costs have clearly risen in Germany relative to other countries since they went on a renewable binge.

May 16, 2018 4:42 am

Wind and solar only make sense where they make sense and then only as a minor component of the grid as a “cushion.”
Wind works OK in Texas because we have an abundant wind resource and lots of open flat land. It “enables” natural gas and coal-fired plants to operate at lower capacity, particularly during spring and fall. Despite leading the nation (and much of the world) in wind generation, our electricity prices are close to the US average (~$0.12/kWh).

Reply to  David Middleton
May 16, 2018 5:21 am

It also eases the planning of maintenence during spring/fall because demand is low and wind is high making it easier to shut down a plant.
I really hate articles like this that completely ignore ERCOT. The reality is that the high prices aren’t being driven by a particular technology but by inefficient markets and guaranteed returns. Remove those two things and then let the market go.

Reply to  chadb
May 16, 2018 12:55 pm

“Inefficient markets and guaranteed returns” describes California.
ERCOT does a good job. From what I recall, each operator informs ERCOT what they can deliver the next day. ERCOT then allocates accordingly. If a plant operator fails to deliver, they have to pay for the backup. The only negative thing is that the failure to deliver penalty doesn’t apply to wind operators.
If Texas did wind like Germany, Denmark, Australia, California and New England have done wind & solar, we’d have sky-high electricity rates as well.

May 16, 2018 5:49 am

In Germany the electricity pricing is high due to the EEG-payment, which covers all the subsidies to wind and solar. In 2018 the EEG is 6.71 euro cents per kilowatt hour (ct/kWh). This is what you pay on top of electricity itself and the transfer costs. So even if the transfer and electricity would be free, you still pay the EEG payment.

Reply to  MAK
May 16, 2018 12:38 pm

If the price includes the amount of the subsidy then it’s not really a subsidy, is it. A “subsidy” covers part of the cost of something to make the price more affordable to the consumer.

May 16, 2018 5:54 am

…because “cheap solar and wind” is just as big a lie as “CO2-induced climate destruction”.
Both are looking to survive through additional taxation.

May 16, 2018 5:54 am

So it seems wind/solar is like sh*t — a small amount could be useful as, say fertilizer, but as it piles higher and higher, it just turns everything to crap.

May 16, 2018 6:02 am

It should be obvious that as the percentage of unreliable power increases(most renewable)
there is a greater percentage of redundant, backup power generation capacity required. In essence,
except for some savings on fuel costs (often not much if spinning generators are required) ,
you are in the process of creating two complete power generation grids and are coming close to doubling the cost of power. This is not a particularly difficult concept to grasp, although the phony environmentalists and their lapdog journalists never mention it.

Tom Halla
May 16, 2018 6:07 am

Notably, Roger Sowell has not attempted to defend the economics of renewables in this thread.
If one has a power source that requires nearly complete backup, the substitution factor is going to dominate the costs.

May 16, 2018 6:14 am

Short answer: SUBSIDIES.
Longer Answer: Remove subsidies and the problem of electrical engineering science denial goes away without the easy money that fuels it. And CO2 can be reduced far faster and cheaper with nuclear replacing fossll, all that can meet demand after fossil is gone on the engineering facts of electrical energy supply.
Long Term Reality: The excessive cost of subsidised renewables today is just peanuts compared to what it must become if relied upon to contribute more of supply alongside nuclear and hydro when fossil has gone.
If the true cost of collecting weak and intermittent energy with so called renewable generation included the storage needed in stand alone operation to replace the intermittency cover that is currently provided by fossil at no charge, the cost escalates enormously, in CAPEX terms £50Billion per TWh of supply reserve if batteries. Batteries or pumped storage, the numbers are similarly huge. . Stick that on your bill. In fact removing fossil from the grid exposes renewables as wholly nonsensical as a means to meet demand on demand for most developed country’s grids, which they always were.
Renewable subsidies are a simple old fashioned snake oil cure to an imaginary problem that we have much better solutions to if real, unsubsidised.
Same old religious “bad things will happen if you don’t pay” and “you’ll never go heaven if you don’t believe” fraud. A climate change protection racket. Except in this case the planet will do what it was going to do anyway and nothing changes significantly in human lifetimes because of the scale of energy involved hence the natural periodicity of the systems involved, so no proof of the fraud is possible, or disproof, certainly in human lifetimes over which no significant change on global cliamte occurs.. Same con trick as everlasting life, and other deceits developed to control fearful primitive people who are unable to question them, and are suppressed by the priest’s inquisition if they can and do..
Renewable energy is substantively a simple legalised fraud designed to extract easy profits exploiting capable 24/7 fossil power on the grid to “reduce CO2”, that in fact switching to nuclear does much cheaper and faster, on time, all the time, The renewable grid delusion is exposed as wholly unsustainable without fossil to fill the gaps and provide most of the energy. IN fact renewables delay the inevitable building of nuclear power to replace fossil and so prolongs fossil use to enrich the renewable subsidy collectors, while making every measurement of energy policy expensively worse, in simple science fact.
Placing renewables on a heterogeneous grid delivers less and slower CO2 reduction more expensively than nuclear, is overpriced, and is ultimately unsustainable without its fossil host, as the energy available from its sources is woefully inadequate to meet most national grids demand, on demand.
And that’s only the basic physics facts.

May 16, 2018 6:23 am

In Germany many well know what has happened. To paraphrase IFO Prof. Sinn : “nach Gleichstrom, Wechselstrom; nach Wechselstrom Zappelstrom”. After Direct Current, Alternating Current, then Fidget Current.
Fidget current , misleadingly “unreliable”, is naturally not only from a much inferior energy density source – lukewarm air or pv light, but fidgeting drives the density even lower.
A common error is well known – installed capacity, but a major scientific blunder is to ignore energy density.
The fidgeting politicians try to muddle-through, “durchwurstel” , with Bismarck’s rejoinder to never ask what goes into the sausage grinder.
Of course a lot of seeming up-and-up new political faces rightly scoff at this, they walk straight into von Hayek’s Austrian School trap- you see from small isolated economic events, the common good springs spontaneously but unknowably how, forth.
After all the entire issue is economics. CA is in the thrall of Schumacher’s 1979’s “small is beautiful”, a communitarian fantasy of Mussolini who plagiarised London’s Fabian Round Table.
Asking how many dollars a KwH costs ist monetarism at its worst. Before the first high temp. fire no amount of shekels would buy a gram of iron, but would’nt you take a ton of cheap copper instead? 1 copper age shekel ist not the same as 1 iron-age shekel.

May 16, 2018 6:40 am

Has anyone checked the profit/dividend per kWh that owners of the electricity companies make? If a kWh costs 20c, what goes to shareholders/CEOs etc.,?

Reply to  Neillusion
May 16, 2018 7:14 am


Has anyone checked the profit/dividend per kWh that owners of the electricity companies make? If a kWh costs 20c, what goes to shareholders/CEOs etc.,?

Before tax profits (for almost all companies, including utilities – one of the most tightly regulated industries of all) can be as much as 6-7%. Most are lower, at 2-3%. Taxes take 50% of that, leaving 1-3% as “profit” which can go to the shareholders. Where it is taxed again as capital gains!
Now, classically, you’d (an investor or pension fund or manager or company owner or financial planer or existing stockholder) want a greater profit (return on investment money) than you can get by simple “savings account” investment. And, when interest rates were 6-7% many years ago, you’d look for much better returns than today tiny profits and huge taxes. But, with today’s fed loans at near-zero (going up as the Trump economy improves!) anything positive is “good” or “better than average”. Lousy returns on “real sales of goods and services” are GMAC (GM’s loan agency) is the biggest profit-maker of all of GM’s car-building groups.
So, look at 1% of the electric bill “might” go in total to investors or electric utility managers. In renewables, look at 30-60% net “profit” from various subsidies. Or more – If the renewable folds after paying its original taxpayer-subsided startup “owners”, it’s all profit for them!

Reply to  RACookPE1978
May 16, 2018 1:07 pm

interesting, thank you

May 16, 2018 7:00 am

Solar and wind are making huge strides in bringing down prices, and you need to factor in the almost zero co2 emissions costs that cannot be said for fossil fuels – these are an economic cost on the environment that needs to be factored in. Here is a very good example of why a country is choosing to build solar plants to solve its energy needs:
[???? .mod]

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 7:23 am

I am convinced solar can power the planet – by reading about a “160 megawatt” plant that can deliver near-rated maximum power only 6-8 hours per day (averaged over the year, “if” the heated metal storage systems at all). In a desert. Near the equator. With dry skies and low humidity. Wow. /sarcasm (Stored solar heat plants have not worked elsewhere – assuming this one will is political projection, not engineering physical probability.)
That’s so relevant for the rest of the world.
And from that CNN link:

Could it be that there are just too many humans on this earth? I am all for a worldwide 2 child limit. For those who think this is horrible…having government control your rights that way…I would say how silly are you? The good of all, the sustainability of the planet, easily outweighs selfish, mindless wants. I would support a law that people must be sterilized after having two children. A simple procedure and the world becomes a better place, ecosystems renew, conflicts decrease, wildlife habitats no longer destroyed…
This is a humane and intelligent solution to many of the calamities mankind has created for itself, and for which the earth and all living things have paid a very heavy price.

There you have it: Forced sterilization (and subsequent imprisonment and death if you do have more children?) is a “humane and intelligent solution” to a problem that does not exist, except in the minds of despots and hate-filled liberals.

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 7:49 am

Noor 1, the first section at the town of Ouarzazate, provides 160 megawatts (MW) of the ultimate 580MW capacity, helping Morocco to save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions per year.
“It is a very, very significant project in Africa,” said Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided $435m (£300m) of the $9bn project’s funding. “Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.”

$9,000,000,000 ÷ 580 MW = $15,517,241.38/MW = $15,517.24/kW
comment image
https://www.eia.gov/analysis/studies/powerplants/capitalcost/pdf/capcost_assumption.pdfcomment image

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 7:54 am

“…calamities mankind has created for itself …”
Good GOD! Do these eco-unstable idgiots hear themselves ? Mankind has SOLVED ALL the calamities of the world! Primarily through the delivery of cheap, affordable, energy for all. Energy which has allowed man to live … easily … in any climate on the planet. The only worldwide calamity I am aware of actually eminates from Morocco (and other Islamic States) … it is called radical Islamic Terrorism. Now THAT’s a human calamity!
Where do these writers get this nonsense? From Tom Steyer’s Twitter feed?

Reply to  kenji
May 16, 2018 11:49 am

Shut the f@@k up. Do ‘r categorise all Islamic states as radical you moron. Morocco’s culture is much older than America’s and the people very bright, cultured and forward looking. Stop spouting the Trump BS on Arab nations.
[???? .mod]

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 12:11 pm

Morocco’s culture is much older than America’s and the people very bright, cultured and forward looking.

Then again, they were smart enough to pay off Hillary’s family funds with many hundreds of millions of dollars – pay her off when the price was high (and going higher by the month in expectations of her upcoming presidency) – before she lost.
True, the Muslim culture is older than America. And most of it is still looking forward to advancing into the 8th century norms of morality and ethics.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
May 17, 2018 12:22 am

Stop banging on about Hillary like the blabbermouth Trump keeps on doing … she is long gone. It’s like me banging on about the crook Cheney. I suggest you visit Morocco (which I have done) rather than reading about it on Breitbart – it may change your attitude aboutvIslamic culture. Every Arab is not an ISIS terrorist – far from it, they are no different to you and me.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
May 17, 2018 12:23 am

Stop banging on about Hillary like the blabbermouth Trump keeps on doing … she is long gone. It’s like me banging on about the crook Cheney. I suggest you visit Morocco (which I have done) rather than reading about it on Breitbart – it may change your attitude about Islamic culture. Every Arab is not an ISIS terrorist – far from it, they are no different to you and me.

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 7:58 am

minus 100.

Reg Nelson
Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 12:23 pm

From the UK Foreign Travel Advice webpage: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Morocco. You should be vigilant at all times.”
link: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/morocco
From the Guardian:
Moroccan Isis terrorists ‘pose a threat on Europe’s doorstep
link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/20/spain-terror-attacks-isis-morocco

Reply to  Reg Nelson
May 17, 2018 12:26 am

I went to Agadir two years ago and it is totally normal. Morocco is a very civilised country. Go and visit it for yourself.

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 1:15 pm

Solar and wind is a sensible solution if your goal is to save the world from CO2. As stated above pretty authoritatively, renewables make no economic sense if they’re part of a large grid that has to deal with their basic unreliability. If wind power supplants diesel powered generators on an isolated island, then maybe it pays economically if the full cost is borne by the rate payers. Otherwise,no.
But those criticising the Ivanpah project because it happens to be in Morocco are showing their ignorance. Yes, Morocco is a Muslim country but it is a thoroughly moderate and pluralistic one ruled by a constitutional monarchy with its own elected Parliament. It has sizable Jewish and Christian minorities that are well-integrated into the population. It’s a very stable country where extremism has no foothold, thanks to a popular King who has taken an enlightened stance on all major economic and social issues. As a result, Morocco is a major tourist destination whose second leading source of income is tourism.

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 1:40 pm

I’ve travelled in the last 6 months to Morocco on business and I would view the alarmist U.K. advisory on Morocco as laughable. I felt safer in Morocco than in London itself (not itself a model of safety as to terrorism), and about as safe as I feel in any U.S. city. But of course one can be really stupid and go places where you’re asking for trouble. I’d bet you could go to Bhutan and find trouble if you tried hard enough.
We’re expending a good deal of energy on an OT subject but I know a fair amount about Morocco and I’m irritated by comments showing ignorance aggravated by serious prejudice.

Reply to  scraft1
May 17, 2018 12:28 am

Very good point; Trump is painting a very bigoted picture of the Arab world. Many Arabs detest the extremists just as much as non-Arabs do.

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 7:53 pm

There goes ivanski trying to change the subject again.

Reply to  MarkW
May 17, 2018 12:30 am

Wind is good. Solar is even better. And their time has come. That good enough for you Markski?

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 7:33 am

As the article demonstrates, even if wind and solar was free, it would still be more expensive.
More CO2 in the environment is a good thing. It should be subsidized, not taxed.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 10:00 am

Coal plants can be built with almost 0 pollution emissions. The emissions of CO2 from them is irrelevant as CO2 does not cause any significant warming. We need more CO2 NOT less. China in any case is being sensible. They are building 700 new coal plants around the world including China itself.cause they have lots of coal to sell.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
May 17, 2018 12:14 am

Sorry Alan unless you can provide supporting evidence this is a downright lie. China is closing more coal powered stations than opening. Also coal powered stations have failed to produce clean coal. It’s old, dirty technology that has had its day.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
May 20, 2018 6:48 am

“China is closing more coal powered stations than opening.”
China (and neutral expert bodies) projects that its CO2 emissions will more than double by 2030.
China has cut back on the number of coal plants it was planing to build, and some of the new ones it is building are replacements for obsolescent (and likely smaller) older plants. IIRC, those factors do not imply that China is moving away from coal.
Another point: China is gasifying coal in Inner Mongolia and closing coal plants near its big cities. But the gasification process creates more CO2 than just burning the coal.

Reply to  ivankinsman
May 16, 2018 10:07 am

Wind and solar wipe out huge areas of land and produce very little. Which cannot be said for fossil fuels.
Why is Bernie Madoff in jail and the wind scammer running free?

Reply to  Sheri
May 17, 2018 12:16 am

A complete load of B.S. Sheri. We all live wind and solar.

May 16, 2018 7:03 am

My analysis is that wind and solar, until battery technology improves drastically, only reduce the amount of fuel that we use. We still need all the infrastructure and more as we move to a decentralized electricity system, the price for those is still there. It can make sense in some places, but generally it’s a terrible choice, with only marginal improvement for large costs.

Reply to  Mydrrin
May 16, 2018 7:35 am

Because of the need for spinning reserve, the reduction in fossil fuel usage is a lot less than originally claimed.

Reply to  Mydrrin
May 16, 2018 7:48 am

Your analysis is wrong, if you think battery technology matters. It doesn’t. Or any kind of storage device.
A storage device is a part-time production device, that cannot produce without also being a part-time consuming device. Being a production device, it cannot be cheaper than a normal, real, production device, meaning, it doubles the cost at the very best. Considering incurred loss, and the consuming function, and the part-time activity, in real world it rather triples the cost, compared to a real production device… that you need anyhow.
All systems DO need storage to work, for balancing purpose. But as little as possible.

Reply to  paqyfelyc
May 21, 2018 7:03 am

To supply a like amount of power, the solar/wind generators would need to have two to three times the amount of power generation systems in order to charge the batteries. So if there were a nominal 500MW renewable generation facility and it was required to be able to provide that 500MW for 24 hours, it would need to have between 1000 and 1500MW of nominal generating capacity (notice I didn’t say max capacity), 500MW to provide present load and an additional 500 to 1000MW to charge the batteries that would take the load when the wind stops blowing or the sun sets. So a 500MW renewable energy plant (wind or solar) would actually need to install between 2 and 3 times the generating capacity to meet the 24 hour demand.
On the other hand a 500MW coal, natural gas, or nuclear plant could provide that power 24/7 without the need to overbuild by a factor of 2 or 3.
Then there’s the land area required to provide equivalent capacity, something most of the enamorati of renewables conveniently forget. As has been mentioned in other comments above, the energy density of renewables is very low compared to that of a coal, gas, or nuclear plant. Figure that for 500MW of generation I believe you’d need between 20 and 30 square miles for wind (this is from memory, so take that number with a large grain of salt). Solar would take about 1.6 square miles, assuming that entire area was solar panels. A conventional plant would require maybe 1 square mile (figuring safety setbacks and auxiliary buildings), with the actual plant only taking up 500,000 square feet (0.02 sq miles). (These are off the top of my head SWAGs as I didn’t have time to sit down and calculate the requirements:) Assuming an average of 90 sq ft of PV panel to produce ~1000w of power, 500MW of power would require 500,000 panels, which would mean about 45 million sq feet of PV, or ~1.6 square miles) Now multiply the area required by solar by a factor of 2 or 3. You are now up to between 3.2 and 4.8 square miles of area of PV panels required if you also want to charge batteries. The conventional plant is still using only 0.02 square miles. Wind is even worse because you can’t place wind turbines close to together.

Ill Tempered Klavier
Reply to  Mydrrin
May 16, 2018 8:52 pm

Douglas-Martin sunpower screens (made from dirt,dirt cheap, and 98% efficient. See “Let There Be Light” by Robert A.Heinlein.) we ain’t got.
Shipstones (another Heinlein pipedream, essentially a GI can for electricity, see his novel “Friday.”) we ain’t got.
Until we have a good approximation of both, the whole scheme makes almost as much sense as tits on a boar.

May 16, 2018 7:11 am

Not sure what the California subsidies are, but the price of electricity is usually substantially FIT subsidy as well as capital grants, so cheaper panels don’t reduce the subsidies paid to solar panel owners that are in poor people’s bills. Joined up thought seems hard for Californians, who are happy to pay for rich people’s cheap electricity and vote for the people who make them. Bad idea. It’s your money.

Reply to  brianrlcatt
May 16, 2018 7:46 am

Yep. I have the pleasure of PAYING $$$ for my wealthy neighbors virtue-signaling and uglification of their rooflines. And I will probably also PAY $$$ for their replacement panels in 10 years.

May 16, 2018 7:18 am

“Hirth predicted that the economic value of wind on the European grid would decline 40 percent once it becomes 30 percent of electricity while the value of solar would drop by 50 percent when it got to just 15 percent.”
Are those numbers reversed?

May 16, 2018 7:36 am

This story was already published, not that long ago. What happened?
Or was it not at WUWT?

Reply to  paqyfelyc
May 16, 2018 8:09 am

There it was
“Over the last year, the media have published story after story after story about the declining price of solar panels and wind turbines. People who read these stories are…”
Is there any difference, besides the title?

May 16, 2018 7:41 am

As one of those sad Californians forced to pay 5x the electric power rate increase of my fellow Americans … I have to tell you that MOST of that cost disparity is … political. Political, because the supermajority of leftist CA politicians have successfully DEMONIZED, ewwwww … consumption … of electricity. Just as the Left has successfully demonized the driving of automobiles, and disposable plastic shopping bags … and cigarettes … they have demonized, nay, made IMMORAL … the consumption of electricity. As a result, they are free to TAX energy use, SCOLD energy users, and allow the PUC to increase electricity costs across the State. Equipment cost and efficiencies of power generation don’t set energy costs … the PUC does. And in this current climate (pun intended) of energy use demonization … the PUC is free to PUNISH consumers … instead of PROTECT consumers as is their chartered mandate.
My personal energy provider here in N.CA is PG&E. My utility employs and deploys thousands of eco-foot soldiers to lecture consumers on how NOT to consume. A big chunk of my electricity rates PAYS to scold myself about how to put on an extra sweater, or add another layer of home insulation in my mild temperate climate to cut my energy use by 2%. Another big chunk of my PG&E invoice goes to PAY for my utility company’s incompetence in burning several people to death in San Bruno. Seems my utility … forgot … to tell State and local building officials where their high pressure underground gas lines are located, which allowed multiple structures to be literally built over their gas lines, if not simply within … burning distance. And in this day and age of GIS mapping … there is still no GIS overlay maps which illustrate (to the public) where these gas lines are located. So it is buyer beware of (burnable) real estate in CA. My PG&E bill has steadily increased (at 5x the national rate) to fund a never ending PR campaign on TV, radio, and internet telling me how “safe” and “inclusive”, and “green” PG&E is on my behalf. Why? It’s not as if I can “change” utility companies. PG&E is a monopolistic public utility.
My near-exponentially increasing PG&E rates pay for anything BUT the delivery of electricity and natural gas … but pay a HUGE $$ amount for virtue-signaling … to me. A cost that I resent paying to a de facto energy monopoly. A cost that has NOTHING to do with (what should be) the mission of delivering cheap, plentiful, energy to consumers.

Reply to  kenji
May 16, 2018 7:51 am

And to add injury to insult, your state has acquiesced to the demands of politically motivated environmentalists to shut down your two nuke plants: Diablo and SONGS. Leaving you with even less energy to fill your base load requirements and forcing your rates even higher.

May 16, 2018 7:42 am

“Between 2009 and 2017, the price of solar panels per watt declined by 75 percent while the price of wind turbines per watt declined by 50 percent.”
Cheaper components could have a bearing on increased costs. A friend had a solar power design/installation company and noticed the newer, cheaper imported panels were increasingly substandard. He had high-quality standards and was losing on quotes to those employing the cheaper, inferior components and so he left the industry.
If the rush to supply ever cheaper solar/wind technology components means more long-term replacement/servicing costs, maybe the providers would pass on these increases to consumers.

May 16, 2018 8:22 am

This is nothing new, it was obvious from the beginning that putting in solar and wind still needed baseload, which meant you were self-condemned to pay for two separate generating infrastructures and systems, not just the one. Plus the tax hit of subsidies cost, on top.
Renewables will never be renewable, nor cheap enough to not wreck economies, or be competitive against people smart enough to not use ‘renewables’ at all.
This was entirely forseeable over 25 years ago.
Only the renewables industry crooks refused to admit the conjob tat tbey were knowingly playing on everyone.

May 16, 2018 10:09 am

Media actually do a reasinable job on “green” issues?
Lol, good luck with that.
There is even less chance of journalists actually critically reviewing “big green” than for policy makers to do so.
And the chance of policy makers critically reviewing the scandalous issues of “big green” is almost 0%.

May 16, 2018 10:14 am

Congrats 350.org ……for nothing. And no thanks to utility regulators for dropping the ball again.

May 16, 2018 10:19 am

Rooftop solar amounts to populist energy policy pressure at any cost while wind power amounts to backroom lobbying effort. The corrupted deciders are the common denominators who will rake in more money after leaving office.

May 16, 2018 10:21 am

I believe it relevant (and am surprised it isn’t mentioned in the author bio or subsequent comments) that the author Michael Shellenberger is running for Governor of California. Based on this article I wish him success.

Harry Passfield
May 16, 2018 11:07 am

Good post to put before those who continue to argue that ‘wind is free’.

Reply to  Harry Passfield
May 18, 2018 11:26 am

A victorian who ran a shipping line in the days of Empire was asked why he was buying more expensive steam powered ships to replace his sailing clippers, that also required him to buy fuel to power them.. The answer was simple “only the wind is free”.
PS marine diesels are over 50% thermally efficient, because they are big, heavy and can rev slowly, so combustion is optimised. Made me realise modern smaller capacity car engines with high specific power output per Litre are not the most efficient, they have the best power to weight ratio that involves a loss of efficiency due to the high rotational speeds required to get the air through a smaller engine, and the limits that imposed by gas flow, And cars have to cope with a lot of stop and go that ships don’t, so weigh matters there as well. For ships, heavy makes you happy, as someone sang.

Reply to  brianrlcatt
May 18, 2018 12:37 pm

Well, more accurately: In train locomotives, “heavy” is “OK” simply because the locomotive needs a lot of weight to provide traction on the steel-steel low-friction, small area between wheel and track. In ships, “heavy” is “manageable” (if not liked) because today’s very large commercial ships are relatively slow-speed (15-18 knots nowadays) but good fuel economy is mandatory. In faster ships and in all aircraft and cars, “heavy” is very, very costly and any increase in weight is only reluctantly accepted. So today, spare tires are made smaller (donuts) or eliminated entirely; gas tanks are made smaller, car bodies are made smaller, metal is eliminated or thinned down to near-nothing…..

Reply to  RACookPE1978
May 22, 2018 6:14 am

Trains also don’t stop and start much, BUT they go up and down hills, so weight is a problem, although I am unsure what the % of engine to payload is. Ships generally don’t go uphill under their own steam. Or wind.

Mike Smith
May 16, 2018 11:09 am

This has been a bee in bonnet for a long time. All of the evidence suggests and modern electricity prices are broadly proportional to the deployment of renewables.
The intermittent output from wind and solar power plants is clearly part of the problem. Another is the large number of pings feeding at the public trough including politicians, businesses and activists.

May 16, 2018 12:31 pm

Anyone with solar panels or windmills, need to start paying royalties to government and dividends to the pension plans.

May 16, 2018 12:55 pm

“Electricity in Illinois is 42 percent cheaper than electricity in California ”
For now.
We will soon be at California levels when our nukes get decommissioned.

May 16, 2018 1:42 pm

Nobody here is asking what is the right price for electricity? Should it be as cheap as possible for domestic consumers?
I do not believe so due to what we know about human psychology. If electricity is too cheap people won’t bother turning things off. Electricity needs to be priced at a level that the ordinary person considers their usage and tries to minimise it. I do believe we all have a moral responsibility to not waste resources as the needs of future generations need to be considered by us. Sustainability is not just a nice idea but, I believe, a moral imperative on all of us. Our current consumerist disposable culture is utterly unsustainable.
What this has to do with the debate here is that renewables do make electricity prices higher. This isn’t a surprise to me as I am a power system engineer and understand the technology and the underlying economics. We know, not from computer models but real-world metered data, that modern wind turbines do indeed pay for themselves energy wise. The backup can be and is capex cheap open cycle distillate fired plant with high marginal running costs. Overall that portfolio is more expensive than a traditional grid but we Western nations can afford it and should so price electricity for the reasons above. However, imposing this model on poor developing nations is morally wrong unless we support it financially.

Reply to  JoeH
May 16, 2018 2:08 pm

I think no one is asking what the “right” price is because there’s no such thing. Your opinion that conserving electricity is a moral responsibility is, just that, an opinion. The idea that we’re going to run out of energy and we must conserve for future generations is rather silly when you consider the immeasurable reserves this earth contains. The idea that we won’t have some alternative fuel, once fossil fuels and fissionable materials are depleted, is untenable.
So, to the original point, electricity should be priced according to what the market bears without attempting to add some misguided morality to the equation.

Reply to  JoeH
May 16, 2018 7:59 pm

If we take JoeH’s thinking to it’s logical conclusion, we must never use anything, because our children might need it.
Of course our children can never use anything, because their children might need it.
And so on until the sun goes red giant and destroys the earth.
The logical thing to do is to use the resources we have to produce as much wealth as we can, so that we can pass that wealth on to our children, so that they can use resources we haven’t even thought of yet to create even more wealth to pass on to their children, and so on.
The idea that we must impoverish ourselves for our children’s benefit is the kind of nonsense that appeals to people who spend most of their time figuring out new ways to control what their neighbors are allowed to do.

Reply to  JoeH
May 17, 2018 4:32 am

The earth doesn’t have immeasurable reserves and we know that for certain already. In the area of fisheries, for example, we know beyond any reasonable doubt that we are over-fishing some species. It isn’t a localized problem but a global one as some predatory species such as various types of tuna etc are becoming harder to catch in the open oceans. Statistically we are certain it is due to reducing stock and it’s a global not local issue.
WRT energy I accept that the reserves aren’t nearly as obviously depleted and that the economics are complex in that as oil prices rise the available reserves rise due to extraction break even points. However we know they are not infinite and we shouldn’t act as if we thought they are.
I never said we had to live in caves freezing so that future generations can live well. I said we need to take them into account in our decision making which includes new sources of energy they may have that we don’t. If we can afford (and we in the West certainly can) to make our energy supplies more sustainable then we should. It is a moral imperative that we as democratic societies are free to choose.

Reply to  JoeH
May 17, 2018 5:28 pm

” … This isn’t a surprise to me as I am a power system engineer and understand the technology and the underlying economics. …”
You’re no such thing Joe, you’re just another fake wanna-be greenie, with a solar panel scavenged from the dump, calling yourself an industry “engineer”, talking the usual greenie drivel/theme.
And btw, how many times can you say, “…I believe…”, in one comment? And all that poo about ‘morality’, get off your high horse, you sound rediculous.

Reply to  JoeH
May 18, 2018 11:43 am

Agree about developed nations not being allowed energy sources that can get them developed, that the developed countries used to achieve that result. Particularly when these countries are where our manufacturing moves to so they need more energy to manufacture the stuff we used to.
BUT: We don’t have to impose renewables on anyone to get the best energy delivery on every measure of policy. Why is it wrong to use energy wastefully if it can be produced sustainably, at almost zero marginal cost, 24/7, once the CAPEX is amortised and there are no significant environmental impacts.. This is close to the case with thermal fission reactors and will be the case with fast fission reactors. No need for rationing or economy, nuclear binding energy allows an all yopu can eat approach. Even electric cars start to make sense, as does manufacturing synthetic hydrocarbons such as ethylene and petrol for a our legacy V8s and plastics factories. Making plastic from atmospheric CO2 and water will become carbon capture and storage ;-), all a good use of off peak nuclear generation surpluses once easily variable fossil is off the grid, cheaper to dump the surplus at tiny rates than cycle the nuclear power stations.
This is all guilt free, with no actual waste problem using modern P&T technologies available around the world outside the USA, and an end to the US nonsense of simply vitrefying most spent fuel and wasting the fertile actinide in it, etc. . Bonkers.

May 16, 2018 2:21 pm

They just need to move their wind and solar to where the wind and sun will be when people want power. No problem; the CAGW psychics KNOW what the weather is going to be, right?

May 16, 2018 2:52 pm

The cost of electricity is actually understated because tax payers are absorbing the failed business subsidy costs of “renewables ” that have flamed out . In addition base load gas plants that must be on hot standby operate less efficiently and the costs get passed on to consumers .
Government mandated “renewable ” energy such as bio gas is double the price of traditional natural gas
yet gets foisted onto consumers while blended into their bills .
Carbon taxes and other hidden taxers are often deceitfully buried in the cost of energy and in loon places like British Columbia add a third to the cost .

May 16, 2018 3:13 pm

Renewables are an egregious mistake responding to misinformed subsidy. It is not simply a matter of increased cost. The energy consumed to design, manufacture, install, maintain and administer renewables exceeds the energy they produce in their lifetime. Without the energy provided by other sources, renewables could not exist. They can only exist now because fossil fuels are still used to power industry, heat our homes, power nearly all vehicles, power farming, etc.

Tsk Tsk
May 16, 2018 4:33 pm

But, but I have it on good authority that wind saves natural gas with no downsides and nuclear plants near-SCRAM 30 times a day!!!

May 16, 2018 4:49 pm

The system interaction is too complex for Australian grid planners to comprehend. They cannot think beyond LCOE (Levelised Cost Of Electricity). It is the gold standard in judging relative merits of generating sources. With latest designs of wind generators achieving capacity factors of 45% the LCOE is down to around AUD60/MWh.
There is no way that modern coal plants can be built to produce at a cost that low. Hence the only consideration is for more wind power.
Australian eastern States now have 5200MW of grid scale wind generation and a similar amount of rooftop solar. This is in a system where average demand is 22GW. However the wind generation is concentrated in South Australia which has 1800MW of wind generation and 800MW of solar and average demand is 1200MW. It might be obvious to some that there will be times when the 2000MW of run-whenever-you-like generation can exceed the load. At those time the market regulator requires the wind generators to reduce output – so called CURTAILMENT.
These circumstances were not envisioned by the wind generator owners and they complain that profits are down due to CURTAILMENT. The wind proponents, the market regulator and the government cannot understand this. They just see that wind has the lowest LCOE so adding more wind MUST lower costs.
The price chart on this link shows just how dumb Australians are:
The prices shown are essentially the wholesale price. Retail prices are around 200% higher due to distribution and retail charges. South Australia is one of the places on earth where solar plus battery is economic with grid power. The chart gives an indication why. It is apparent that none of those who direct the development of the network have made the connection between rising prices and intermittent generation. They focus entirely on LCOE.

May 16, 2018 5:03 pm

This problem is well known in systems engineering. In simple terms, it is a local optimisation at the expense of the whole system.

Reply to  Hivemind
May 16, 2018 6:57 pm

This is obviously a lesson that the Australian grid planners missed. The top grid planner in Australia, Audrey Zibelman, may not have had systems engineering units in her law degree. Actually I do not think any of the AEMO executive team studied any form of engineering.
Despite blindingly obvious evidence, none of the grid planners in Australia have seen any connection between grid connected intermittents and power prices. But then they all believe in CO2 causes Global Warming/ClimateChange/Climate Disruption despite the evidence.

May 16, 2018 6:10 pm

Why Nations with more renewables have more expensive electricity.
Attempting to understand how electricity coming from the seemingly free wind and sun could lead to a tripling of electricity prices.
Germany — with peak electricity demand of about 83 GW — had rushed in recent years to build “renewable” capacity that had reached about 84 GW, theoretically enough to supply all the electricity they would ever need.  
But somehow, Germany still had retained fossil fuel generating capacity of about 108 GW, which is about the same fossil fuel capacity you would want to have to supply 83 GW of peak demand if you had no renewable capacity at all.  
Despite spending hundreds of billions of euros on the renewable capacity, they had not been able to get rid of any fossil fuel capacity at all!  
They still need all the fossil fuel capacity for backup when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.
Despite declining relative costs for wind and solar generators, the electricity they produce is still much more expensive than fossil-fueled and nuclear power.
Francis Menton Manhattan Contrarian

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
May 16, 2018 6:26 pm

The interesting bit of data missing here is the cost of electricity in Norway, which is acting as the battery for the rest of Europe. With nearly 100% hydro power, they have the ability to accept excess generation from Denmark, Germany and others, and then sell it back at a markup when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. Norway has other highly intermediate source-dependant countries over a barrel. Can anyone post a graph of their electricity prices?
Actually, according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia:

The annual electricity consumption was about 26-27 MWh per inhabitant during 2004-2009 when the European union (EU15) average in 2008 was 7.4 MWh. Norway’s consumption of electricity was over three times higher per person compared to the EU 15 average in 2008. The domestic electricity supply promotes use of electricity,[8] and it is the most common energy source for heating floors and hot water.

If Norway’s per-capita consumption was more than three times the EU average, it can only be because the cost is comparably lower. I found another link: which shows electricity price for Norway at roughly 0.23 Euro/kwH, which seems rather high to me considering the Georgia Power (US) maximum summer household rate is a little over $0.097 USD per kWh (Winter marginal rate over 1,000 kWh is $0.047). Pity the poor Europeans if they have it worse than Norway!

May 16, 2018 7:23 pm

Also not factored into all of the various explanations of the cost of your electricity is the fact the public utilities are a MASSIVE tax collection racket for the City, County, and State they do business in. Get on the internet and look at the annual report for your Electric Utility. Look for the entry on property taxes. Just like every other company the electric utility is taxed on every piece of property they own. That means every building, vehicle, power pole, each and every foot of wire, every transformer, even the line drop from the pole into your house and the meter that reads the amount of electricity you use. Worse yet, in some states you get socked with your state and city sales tax on your bill. As I have lived in seven different states over the years I have looked into how much this secret tax collection is and it averages from about 40% to over 55% (including the Sales Tax when applicable) of the total you pay for electricity. That “tax” collection continues as long as the power plant and the distribution system exists and the need remains regardless of how many people put solar panels on their house. Thus, this tax continues to get collected.

Doug Huffman
May 17, 2018 4:26 am

Ponzi scheme investments with no Return on Investment. Have you heard yet Ma and Pa Kettle bragging on the profit from their windmill? Alt-energy is a tout’s tool.

May 17, 2018 10:35 pm

The Renewables industry has deluded itself and its politcal supporters by not admitting to detrimental impact of the massive capacity and thus cost differentials between Weather Dependent Renewables performance and reliable fossil fuel or nuclear power generation. Even so these production and cost differentials do not account for the difficulties that arise from the unreliability of using Weather Dependent Renewables as a National power source.
An estimate of the cost differentials in capital and long-term costs is made below between traditional power generation and Weather Dependent Renewables for E Europe as a whole which shows the scale of the financial commitments already made to the use of Green energy.
In the words of the late Professor David Mackay “an appalling delusion”.

Reply to  edhoskins
May 18, 2018 5:05 pm

The edmh paper does not get to the crux of the costs apart from the last chart, which does not mean anything to proponents of weather dependent generation as it is a very complex analysis behind it.
At a capacity factor of 19% the wind generators will still look viable as their LCOE will be lower than new coal plants.
What needs to be demonstrated is that the capacity factors actually fall as the market share of the wind generators increases. Once the capacity exceeds the minimum system demand the wind generators potential output will, at times, exceed the load. That means they are system constrained – the new word in the wind industry is CURTAILMENT. In Australia the wind generators are already complaining about CURTAILMENT eroding profits. They have clearly not thought it through.
We still see system planners comparing LCOE of run-whenever-you-like generators with on-demand generation as if there is some relevance in the comparison. As soon as a wind generator promotor brings up LCOE I know then need to buy a clue because they have none,

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