Failure of UK renewable energy policy to minimise costs, deliver meaningful emissions cuts, and maintain security of supply.

A new report from the Global Warming Policy Foundation finds that consumers are paying far too much for the emissions reductions delivered by renewable energy. The report, linked here, by Dr Capell Aris, is the result of extensive energy system modelling, and reports the costs, greenhouse gas emissions and grid security delivered by the current grid and by a series of counterfactual energy systems. As Dr Aris explains:

“The dash for gas of the 1990s delivered lower carbon dioxide emissions and lower costs. If we had simply continued, we could now be enjoying electricity prices 30-40% lower than today, with similar carbon dioxide emissions, and vastly better grid security. Consumers are grossly overpaying for a very unreliable system.”

This counterintuitive result arises because of the effect of intermittent renewables on the grid. Renewables have forced gas-fired power stations to ramp their output up and down in order to balance the grid and prevent blackouts. In addition, nobody is investing in the most efficient modern gas-fired plant while renewables are subsidised. The result is that the gas-fired fleet is much less efficient than it should be.

And the situation is going to get worse. Dr Aris has examined National Grid’s plans for the future generation mix and says we should expect steep price rises to continue every year for the foreseeable future. However, he also finds that with a system based on gas and nuclear power, emissions reductions could continue out to 2030 while maintaining consumer power prices at their current level. This result holds even if the very high prices of the planned Hinkley C power station apply in practice.
As Dr Aris puts it:

The systems National Grid are looking at putting in place will deliver significant carbon emissions but will double electricity prices. A system based on gas and nuclear would deliver similar emissions cuts at around half the price. This shouldn’t, therefore, be a difficult decision.

https://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2019/01/Capell-Aris-UK-Electricity-System.pdf

 

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62 thoughts on “Failure of UK renewable energy policy to minimise costs, deliver meaningful emissions cuts, and maintain security of supply.

  1. The National Grid’s main intention is to supply virtue-signals to the CAGW Cabal and not to reduce costs or to provide reliable power. From their point of view there is no problem. Pensioners can freeze in the comfort of their own homes.

    • That’s because we don’t give our pensioners enough pension. It isn’t down to electricity companies green policies or some conspiracy

      • Sure it is. Simply take the money wasted subsidizing inefficient renewable power and share it with pensioners. Less expensive power AND happier pensioners. There, fixed it for ya.

      • You are so predictable, Griff. There are so many excellent examples of the failures of socialist states over the past 200 years, and yet you have learned nothing from them.

        How much money did the Jacobin’s calculate they could harvest from the Catholic church during the French Revolution? How many of them though, but wait, haven’t we just torn down the church as an economic entity? Sure, we can melt down gold candlesticks and sell precious jewels as a one time tax, but haven’t we just destroyed the value of precious jewels by marginalizing rich people and their ostentatious displays of wealth? Today’s modern Progressives sound exactly the same as those Jacobins when they claim that the wealthy and the rich, giant corporations can be taxed to pay for free stuff for everyone. No, they can’t. The act of destroying the freedom and capabilities of those people and corporations destroys their ability to generate wealth in the first place. Please think about why socialism as a state “solution” always fails. We cannot tax our way to prosperity. Every pound or dollar you pay those retirees either comes from a productive working person, or needs to be printed by fiat, wherein it becomes a tax on everyone by reducing the value of the currency itself. Griff, get this through your thick head. No one needs holes to be dug and then filled up again. No one will work if 100% of their labor is taxed away from them. In economic terms, generally speaking, inefficiency is BAD and efficiency is GOOD! Please pull your economic head out from the orifice in which it appears to be stuck.

      • No. Energy prices are high because the UK government is happy to pay over the odds for ‘renewable’ schemes which do not reduce CO2 emissions.

        I tried to explain to Suffolk County Council why the planning application for a OCGT generator should be turned down. They went for it anyway. So the money men — the men who actually are in charge — think it’s OK to build a gas-fired generator much less efficient than it need be to balance out the intermittent renewables for which they get huge subsidies. Damn the CO emissions, feel the subsidies…

        Richard Thompson says it best:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLceCzKvac8

        JF

      • Funny, they had enough money before you boffins started raising energy costs.
        PS: I love it the way leftists assume that the solution to any problem is to seize more money from those who work for a living in order to give it to those who vote for a living.

    • The National Grid’s profits are related to its investment, which are maximised with unrelable weather dependent renewables. It’s all about their preterits.

    • Yes, I was halfway between a laugh and a scream when I read that. People were trying to tell them they were wrong and why, but they refused to hear it. Now all of a sudden,” Oh surprise! we would have been better off if we didn’t build all those windmills”. Well Durrrr!

  2. With the UK about to leave the very Green EU, they the UK will certainly in the short term be worse off. So as only fairly well off countries can afford to cater to the Greens re. virtue signalling, the UK will be forced to cut subsidies and hopefully cease to compel the power stations to accept the intermittent power output from the renewables.

    Anyway the UK is a cloudy place so solar is near useless, and other than Scotland its not all that windy.

    MJE

  3. … the UK will certainly in the short term be worse off.

    I take note that the UK is forging free trade agreements. example

    When the UK joined the EU, it was seen as abandoning the Commonwealth. Properly done, the UK could achieve most of the economic benefits provided by the EU and still get rid of the undemocratic stupidity of the Eurocrats. It could be the best of both worlds.

  4. Could we somehow invent a process to convert human stupidity into energy? If so, our energy needs would be met well into the future.

  5. I presume this is about UK energy.

    The real question is whether they have shelved plans to close down the last nine remaining coal fired power stations. These are horrendously expensive because, as outlined above, they are not being allowed to generate 70% of the time. How can you run a company, that is not allowed to sell its products – by law – for 70% of the time?

    However, last winter the UK was wholly dependent upon these coal power station, which were working at 110% nominal capacity (pumping out 11 GW for three months). Had we not had these stations, the UK would have had rolling power cuts throughout the winter.

    As for renewables….

    There was almost no solar last winter (winter at 52 degrees N, snow on panels).

    Wind was consistently running at just 30% capacity, due to large anticyclones and ice on the blades. The latter was a real problem, with vibrations shutting down hundreds of windelecs. The solution was to use helicopters spraying antifreeze. A couple of problems with this:

    a. It was very expensive to use helicopters.
    b. It was not very environmental. Aircraft have to have special drainage and recycling of any de-ice fluids, while these helicopters were spraying it all over the countryside.

    R

    • I live in the south west of England where frosts are fairly rare and snowfall even rarer. On a mild winters day we can hope for up to 12 degrees centigrade, although that is often accompanied by wet weather.

      I am currently in Austria where readers will be aware there have been prodigious amounts of snow. Road, rail and air have been severely disrupted and today, with the temperature hovering around nought to one degree centigrade and a mix of snow and sleet, the pavements are so slushy we had to curtail our walk.

      These conditions causes great problems to the elderly living here, as not only is it slippery, but they are likely to find their way barred by mounds of snow where the plough drivers have left them and have to be very aware of the snow that falls in avalanches from the roofs.

      A warmer climate is generally to be preferred to a cold one, so hopefully the centuries long gradual judging up of temperatures will continue and there will be no return to the conditions during the intermittent little ice ages

      Incidentally, The ski resorts have had so much snow that ironically skiers have not been able to get there and many pistes are closed.

      Tonyb

  6. That statement is basically true of every country and why they are all failing at emission controls. The green one time pet Germany has succeeded in making it’s power the most expensive in the world.
    https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/electricity-rates-around-the-world.html
    Germany comes in 10th the top 9 places held by small island nations.

    Germany and Demark swing backwards and forwards beween the highest cost depending if you include taxes but they are the highest cost of all major countries.

    • And I rememebr wind proponents boasting about Denmark’s remarkable wind power – close to 50% as I recall, as “proof” that wind power is doable. Never mentioned Denmark’s excessive winds, or costs, though …..

    • Germany has recently cut the ‘green’ component in its electricity prices… most of the price is tax not associated with green issues or subsidy… its just tax

      • True, but only by ~0.1 cents/KWh. It still makes up almost a quarter of the electricity price. Getting rid of it alone would lower Germany’s electricity prices to about average for the Euro zone. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/what-german-households-pay-power

        There are also hidden costs caused by weather-dependent, intermittent power generation and the equivalent capacity backup fossil plants required for reliable grid operation, which is difficult to quantify, but clearly has a significant effect.

        Meanwhile, nuclear powered France enjoys 40% lower electricity prices and generates roughly 80% less CO2. It is immediately obvious which approach is working in reality and which is empty virtue signalling at the taxpayers’ expense.

  7. The UK has, I believe (not having the figures to hand), cut CO2 in 2017 by 43% on 1990 levels and now outputs CO2 at the level last seen in 1890. On track to do away with coal power by 2025 as planned.

    In short the UK has delivered substantial CO2 reduction (and no, it isn’t due to industry moving overseas).

    There have been no related powercuts, the economy has not collapsed…

    Natural gas prices are still the biggest (upwards) influence on UK electricity prices.

    • What % of that reduction is due to simply ignoring CO2 emitted by burning wood pellets (because they are considered renewable) in place of coal? Any future coal reduction will probably be replaced with wood pellets, which emit more CO2 than coal. So reduced CO2 due to less burning of coal is just a stupid accounting trick to make it look like progress is being made.

      • Burning wood pellets doesn’t add any additional CO2 to the atmosphere as it just removed that same CO2 from the atmosphere the last 100 years or so. It is CO2 neutral, except perhaps for some of the manufacturing and transport. Hopefully everybody here understands this basic fact.

        What part of wood pellets aren’t renewable? Let’s be honest here. Just because Drax is controversial because it subsidizes it’s operation in the UK, doesn’t mean that an entire new industry the last 15-20 years utilizing mostly scrap wood waste is somehow guilty for the ignorance of the UK to abandon coal that sits right under Drax. Yes, that is stupid, but no reason to slander an industry that creates brand new value out of waste wood that used to be burnt in giant bee hive burners. And where those wood pellets are burnt for electricity, it is reliable base load electricity, which is a lot more valuable than unreliable solar and wind.

        If we would have been co-firing base-load coal operations with 25%-30% wood pellets the last 15 years, perhaps we could have saved every thermal coal burning plant in the world, and saved ourselves the horrendous grief that unreliable wind and solar have done to the grid, let alone everyone’s wallet for the sky high price of electricity that solar and wind have caused. Let’s quit slandering the North American wood pellet industry because of the stupidity of the UK subsidizing Drax. Nobody criticizes the growing contribution of wood pellets in Japanese and Korean electrical plants…not even all the crazy enviro’s on the Left coast of North America where the wood pellets are produced.

        • I’m with you 100% that wood pellets for co-gen is a fantastic use of waste/marginal wood resources. Perhaps you don’t remember my prior cheerleading for it.

    • Try telling the truth for once in your miserable life.

      ‘environmental’ levies plus costs incurred bt the grid and by other operators as a result of imposing intermittent renewable energy have DOUBLED electricity prices.

    • The cuts in emissions the UK has achieved since 1990 are attributable, in descending order, to:
      (i) switching from coal to gas generation,
      (ii) a reduction in total electricity generation, and
      (iii) switching to generation from renewable sources.
      The cost of cutting emissions by the third method has gradually risen, and now stands at £350/tonne. Now that most coal generation has been displaced, the cost of emissions cuts will rise further.
      There have been no power cuts, but the value of loss of load probability (LOLP) is now rising worryingly.
      Rises in gas prices between have caused prices to rise, but the renewables are the greater culprit.
      If we’d gone gas (or rather continued our 1990 onwards dash-for-gas) we’d be £90 biillion better off, and have saved an additonal 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
      Read the paper.

    • No, like the USA it’s mainly due to a switch from coal to gas. Only our gas is relatively expensive, much of it being imported from Russia.

      The worrying thing is that Scotland now has very few reliable sources of backup power, most of the capacity being wind. This means that if we did go independent we would have to go cap in hand to England when the wind doesn’t blow. Much as Denmark has to go beg from Norway and Germany. A sad state of affairs for a country that has led the world in engineering innovation in the past.

    • Griff while the idiots currently running the UK are making energy expensive and unreliable the rate of increase in coal-based electricity from the good comrades in China and elsewhere is pushing carbon dioxide through the roof and rendering any reduction in the UK a complete waste of time. No cure for stupid.

  8. The Green Party has consistently undermined the use of Nuclear Power on the basis of “we don’t like it !”

    They are completely unable to calculate the energy used in erecting a wind turbine – cement is hugely expensive to produce and emits loads of pollutants. Steel for the tower is little better. Next take the copper required. A wind turbine spends over twenty years of a twentfive year life generating the energy it already consumed.

    Greens are unable to realise that wind turbines do not work when the load is maxiumum … but only IF and WHEN the wind blows moderately.

    The SNP in Scotland are similarly besotted.

    What we need is seven or eight large tidal barrages around the country – including Scotland – which would produce vast amounst of FREE power using the tide … which is wholly predictable whilst the moon remains as is !

    Will someone start educating the politicians, the masses, and the dozy civil servants.

    Imagine that devastating Canadian forests to make wood chips to power a large power station allows us to claim this is “renewable” energy. Totally and utterly unbelievable.

    And in Glasgow the City Council cannot even get their new wast disposal plant operational … so we just carry on burying rubbish …

    Enough.

    • “A wind turbine spends over twenty years of a twentfive year life generating the energy it already consumed.”

      And since few, if any, will actually LAST 25 years, …

      And since much of the power they do generate is generated when it is NOT NEEDED, …

      “What we need is seven or eight large tidal barrages around the country – including Scotland – which would produce vast amounts of FREE power using the tide … which is wholly predictable whilst the moon remains as is !”

      And how much do THOSE cost, in energy terms, to build, and how long will their components function submerged in SALT WATER for 100% of the time?! And what other “eco” damage will they cause that is “tolerable” where any other human endeavor is deemed “unacceptable? Color me skeptical of their utility…

    • Richard Townsend-Rose,

      “Imagine that devastating Canadian forests to make wood chips to power a large power station allows us to claim this is “renewable” energy. Totally and utterly unbelievable.”

      Yes, it is totally and utterly unbelievable because it is totally untrue. What part of renewable isn’t it? You think the trees don’t die and return the carbon as CO2 to the atmosphere? Wood Biomass is probably the only reliable baseload renewable energy product there is, unlike solar or wind.

      The vast majority of wood pellets in North America, but even more so in Canada, are made of pure wood waste that have absolutely no higher and better use for anything else. It all used to be burnt in giant 100 foot high beehive burners and was wasted. This new industry finalized 100% utilization of sawmill and primary wood product manufacturing waste. There is still a long way to recover all the wood waste that is presently burnt in the forest from the log harvesting phase, such as limbs and bark waste, and rotten trees that don’t make the grade at the landing. I have personally burnt enough wood waste in open air smouldering fires over 40 years to heat a small city for a winter. It is great we are going to finally utilize all this waste btu value as a wood pellet. Just imangine if more coal fired base load plants had implemented co-firing with a 30% mix of wood pellets, which comes close to the CO2 output of a NG facility when a wood pellet CO2 is properly accounted for re: CO2. It could have kept every coal base load electrical generating plant open until the end of its life expectancy, instead of closing them early. In Western North America, the vast majority of all wood pellets, if not 100%, is pure wood waste from logging and sawmilling operations.

      But even if I was a southern USA lumberman and wanted to sell my 15-20 year old southern pine plantation for making pellets, instead of pulp for paper, who are you to judge what I do with my unsubsidized efforts to grow a commercial forestry crop? I will sell my crop of trees to the highest price, whether that be lumber, pulp or pellets. There is totally false information being disseminated here at WUWT about the wood pellet industry because of Drax, and this is unacceptable. The North American pellet producers are not subsidized, but because Drax is subsidized in the UK, misinformed people make the error of assuming wood pellets are subsidized and evil too. Some people even believe that pristine hard wood Oak forests are hacked down for wood pellets alone, when the truth is that this is logging done for lumber and plywood, chipboard and pulp. The waste is used for pellets. Stop the misinformation and hatchet job on the North American wood pellet industry. Wood chip waste (bark, limbs, rot etc) and wood pellets make more of a contribution to ‘renewable’ energy in the world than unreliable solar and wind that have a 20%-30% capacity factor. And it does so with base load productivity without any ‘net’ CO2 emissions, because that same biomass was destined to rot or burn and release the same CO2 back to the atmosphere anyway, which is where is just came from within the last hundred years or less.

  9. Westminster parliament seems ready to reject the will of the people on leaving the EU just as they have ignored what people think about global warming or climate change in governing energy policy. The UK is not a democracy it is an elite who think that if the public do not agree with them they simply don’t understand the issue and they know best what should be done. We must stop blindly following these people when an election is called and vote for a change and get rid of those who think like they do.

  10. But how can this be? We have been told that weeenewables are now the cheapest source of energy so prices must be coming down errrr…….

  11. No. Energy prices are high because the UK government is happy to pay over the odds for ‘renewable’ schemes which do not reduce CO2 emissions.

    I tried to explain to Suffolk County Council why the planning application for a OCGT generator should be turned down. They went for it anyway. So the money men — the men who actually are in charge — think it’s OK to build a gas-fired generator much less efficient than it need be to balance out the intermittent renewables for which they get huge subsidies. Damn the CO emissions, feel the subsidies…

    Richard Thompson says it best:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLceCzKvac8

    JF

  12. The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is a lobby group in the United Kingdom whose stated aims are to challenge “extremely damaging and harmful policies” envisaged by governments to mitigate anthropogenic global warming.
    Dont always believe what you read !.

    As for Brexit and Climate Change these are the 2 most important Challenges of our time.

    Climate Change is the MOST important and will be the most economically challenging. Regardless of Brexit if we have severe disruption of our environment we will be in serious trouble !.
    Our politicians are ignoring us the public and their duty to our health and wellbeing.
    We are supposed to be a democratic country yet we have a FPTP voting system which gives us an elected dictatorship, combine that with a authoritarian government which has been systematically reducing your rights especially in regard to the justice system and we have the calamity and pathetic clowns we have now !. It is not that parliament needs to take control, it is US the public who need to assert ourselves, get in touch with your MP and COMPLAIN>COMPLAIN> COMPLAIN. They are taking all of us for fools.

    • ‘Climate Change is the MOST important and will be the most economically challenging. Regardless of Brexit if we have severe disruption of our environment we will be in serious trouble !.’

      That sounds like ‘do something immediately, it doesn’t matter what’

      which is why our generation system is now caught between being too expensive to contemplate any more renewables, is verging on being insecure, and has not achieved the emission cuts possible if we’d just taken some time to think and research our way forward.

  13. At least this time Griff is commenting on power policy in a country he lives in. Wonder what would happen on a windless dull day with shipping lanes to DRAX hijacked? By power from France?

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