Excess costs of UK Weather Dependent Renewable Energy: 2020

Reposted from edmhdotme

Summary

These straightforward calculations are intended to answer the simple question:

“roughly how much would it cost to generate the same amount of power as is produced by the present fleet of UK Weather Dependent Renewables, using conventional generation technologies, (Nuclear or Gas-firing) ? and how do those figures compare ?”.

Accordingly the post quantifies the scale of the fiscal waste and the burdens on utility bills attributable to the use of UK Weather Dependent Renewables as in 2019.  The approximate long-term cost commitment is ~250 £billion according to these calculations.  The present long-term cost estimate for the UK Weather Dependent Renewables fleet amounts to about twice the annual, cost of the NHS or about 11% of annual UK GDP.  As can be seen later these estimates show that using Weather Dependent Renewables costs about 12 times as much as using Natural Gas and about 3 times as much as Nuclear power.

An Appalling Delusion

The late Professor Sir David Mackay (former chef scientific advisor of the Department of Energy and Climate Change) in a final interview before his untimely death in 2016 said that the concept of powering a developed country such as the UK with Weather Dependent Renewable energy was:

“an appalling delusion”.

Weather Dependent Renewable Energy depends on capturing essentially dilute and very variable sources of power.  Weather Dependent Renewables are thus both capital and maintenance expensive and inevitably unreliable.

Weather Dependent Renewables are universally more expensive than the conventional alternatives of Nuclear power or Gas-firing.

At the time he also said:

“there’s so much delusion, it’s so dangerous for humanity that people allow themselves to have such delusions, that they are willing to not think carefully about the numbers, and the reality of the laws of physics and the reality of engineering….humanity does need to pay attention to arithmetic and the laws of physics.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/03/idea-of-renewables-powering-uk-is-an-appalling-delusion-david-mackay

and later in the same interview he said that:

“if it is possible to get through the winter with low CO2 Nuclear and possibly with Carbon Capture and Storage there is no point in having any Wind or Solar power in the UK generation mix”

But it seems that having bought into the assumption that Catastrophic Man-made Global Warming is an immediate and existential threat that Government elites when faced with these simple but devastatingly wasteful calculations assume a position of “wilful ignorance”, and a stance of “don’t confuse me with the facts, we are saving the world“.

https://www.spiked-online.com/podcast-episode/we-need-a-democratic-revolt-against-the-climate-extremists/        minute 40 onwards

There is also an irrational determination in Government that the only solution to reducing CO2 emissions is the use of Weather Dependent Renewables.

This is a fallacy:  the only proven solutions to CO2 emissions reduction are the use Nuclear energy as in France and / or the use of Natural gas as in the USA, but these real solutions are somehow always rejected out of hand:  they do not accord with the “Green” religion.

Accordingly this costing model has followed through on Professor Mackay’s back of the envelope calculations, in the UK, showing that Weather Dependent Renewables are plainly expensive.  The excess overspend instead of using Gas-firing of the current UK generation fleet roughly amount to some 55£billion in capital costs and the long-term costs approach a further 240£billion.

Cost comparisons

Screenshot 2020-04-13 at 16.08.30.png

In 2019 UK Weather dependent renewables generated a total of some 7.3 Gigawatts of power from an installed fleet with an installed Name Plate value of ~35 Gigawatts, thus achieving an overall productivity factor for Weather Dependent Renewables of ~20.9%.  The graphic below shows the effect of combining the capital and long-term costs of the various generation technologies with their productivity factors as achieved in the UK in 2019.  The model of comparative costs uses data from the US  Energy Information Administration, (EIA), updated 2020 and translated to GB Pounds, see later.

Productivity / Capacity percentage is the performance measure for generation technologies, it consists of the actual Power output / Name Plate power rating.

The most useful comparison is to assess the costs in £Billion/Gigawatt of power produced accounting for Productivity, the comparison as shown below:

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 11.27.14.png

All traditional dispatchable power generation technologies are all capable of Productivity of up to 90%, only having to be curtailed by routine maintenance, whereas Weather Dependent Renewables when in combination over the year only return ~21% of their Name Plate rating.  The resulting comparative costs of Weather Dependent Renewables are shown below.

Screenshot 2020-04-15 at 07.11.42.png

According to these estimates overall the 2019 UK installed Weather Dependent Renewables fleet cost ~62£billion in overnight capital costs or ~8.5£billion/Gigawatt generated with a future commitment of some ~260£billion or ~35£billion/Gigawatt produced long-term.  Conventional power generation, (Nuclear and Gas-firing) is more than competitive with Renewable costs with capital costs of ~5.5£billion/Gigawatt for Nuclear or less than 1£billion/Gigawatt for Gas-firing, as above.

Because of the comparative costs and productivity factors Offshore wind is certainly the most expensive to install at ~33£Billion to date and likely further ongoing costs of ~150£billion or ~52£billion/Gigawatt produced.

Current Solar PV cost ~13£billion to install and a further future costs of about 54£billion or ~42£billion/Gigawatt produced.  UK on grid solar installations virtually ceased in 2019.

The installed UK Weather Dependent Renewables fleet of ~35Gigawatts, were it fully productive, would have often matched UK demand, however the limited average Renewables productivity factor of ~20% means that the Renewables fleet only managed to unreliably generate about a fifth of that UK requirement, and that output was often uncoordinated with demand.

https://www.ref.org.uk/energy-data

This post shows clearly the likely cost differentials and overspend over effective traditional Electricity generation technologies, (Gas-firing and Nuclear), that Weather Dependent Renewables are bound to incur.

These calculations clearly contradict the popular assertion that Weather Dependent Renewables are now price competitive with conventional power generation, Gas-firing and even Nuclear power.  Those assertions ignore:

  • all government subsidies and other fiscal support
  • the productivity of Renewables when compared to traditional generation technologies. 

The Costs of “Green Virtue Signalling”

The real costs of supporting political “Green Virtue Signalling” and the Government’s acceptance of the urgency of  the “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming” hypothesis is exposed here.

At the same time, it must be realised that these substantial excess costs can only ever contribute to a reduction of about a quarter of the UK’s 1.1% of 2018 Global CO2 emissions resulting from electricity generation.  In other words the temperature effect of these self-harming measures by the UK on Global temperature would eventually be undetectable.

These estimates count the full output productivity of Weather Dependent Renewable generation technologies.  They are thus generous assessments of the true value of the power produced by Weather Dependent Renewables.  They do not account for the timing and thus of the usefulness of the power those Renewables may produce at any one moment in time.  In addition these data do not account for the difficulty in coping with the wide variability and intermittency of the power output by Weather Dependent Renewables within a Nation’s supply Grid, which is tasked to provide dependable and consistent power for that Nation.

This post gives indicative, (back of the envelope, expressed in £billions), estimates of the net capital and net 60 year long-term costs of Weather Dependent Renewables as compared to the use of Gas-firing and Nuclear for electricity generation in the UK.  The calculations are reasonable estimates but should be in the right ball park and not over exaggerated.

They are in line with the sort of “back of the envelope” calculations that could have been carried out by the late Professor Sir David Mackay.  These net calculations are free of the market distortions arising from the political support interventions that have had to have been made to support Renewables.  They are based on the 2020 cost figures produced by the US Energy Information Association, (EIA) and Data from the Renewable Energy Foundation in the UK.  They do account for a recent reduction in the likely costs of Solar PV power generation.

The introductory table above shows that the indicative overnight capital costs of the current UK Renewable fleet is ~62£billion and the anticipated further long-term costs would be ~260£billion, were those currently installed Renewables to be maintained for the 60 year long-term, a similar service life to Nuclear power Generation.

They give an idea of the present scale of the bare costs for “Green virtue signalling”, responding to the Green agenda in the UK.  The equivalent costs using Gas-firing to provide the same level of consistent power generation would be ~7£billion in capital costs and a further ~21£billion long-term.

At 0.34 Gigatonnes in 2018, the UK produced ~1.1% of the Global CO2 emissions and power generation could only have accounted for less than one quarter of those CO2 emissions, transport and space heating, etc. accounting for the remaining CO2 emissions.

So making costly and self-harming modifications UK electrical  generation technologies can only have a marginal and minor impact on a very small proportion of current UK and Global CO2 emissions.  That impact is even less if one looks into the CO2 emission and energy requirements of Renewable technologies and from their use of fossil fuels essential for their manufacture, installation and on to their eventual demolition.

Whenever announcements are made about Weather Dependent Renewable Energy installations, they are reported as the full Name Plate rating, (in other words the maximum potential power output the installation can produce under ideal Weather conditions), and often disingenuously as the number of homes that could be supplied at their full level of power output.

The question of Productivity or Load Factors is never fully explained, so such announcements are deliberately deceptive, as the average Renewable productivity only amounts to about 20% of its full Name Plate rating.  So such promotional Renewable Energy announcements thus illogically assume that the wind blows all the time at productive speeds and that the sun shines overhead 24 hours/day and the seasons never change from a clear day in summer.

The Renewable Energy Foundation time series data for the UK 2002 – 2019

The Renewable Energy Foundation reports on Weather Dependent Renewables and Green energy in the UK.  It has provided the most up to date information available at the end of 2019.

https://ref.org.uk/energy-data

Its time series data on UK Renewable Installations runs from 2002 up to date.  This includes the Nameplate rating of installations and the annual Gigawatt Hour electrical output over the year for each generation technology.  Graphic representations of those data as time series presentations show the progress of UK Weather Dependent Renewables.

According the Renewable Energy Foundation data, 2019 was a poorer year than previously for UK Weather Dependent Renewables productivity.

Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 15.30.56.png

Productivity expressed as a percentage load factor, (actual power produced / nameplate value), is crucial to evaluating the true comparative value of the power produced.  The progress since 2002 of installation and production of Weather Dependent Renewables in the UK is shown below.

Screenshot 2020-03-18 at 17.46.43.png

The history of Productivity figures that have been achieved in the UK are shown below.

Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 15.45.57.png

Overall, the UK Weather Dependent Renewables performance has generally just exceeded ~20% productivity level, but provided a poorer performance in 2019.  Onshore Wind power, now substantially curtailed in the UK, has achieved productivity around ~23%.  Offshore Wind power has been more variable but achieved a productivity figure of ~32% in 2019.  The productivity of Solar Power in the UK is consistently at or below ~10% productivity level.

But of course the “trip” of an Offshore wind farm on a breezy summer afternoon contributed to the major UK power outage of 9/8/2019.  An outage like that will be all the more severe and probably longer lasting one still foggy winter evening soon. Weather Dependent Renewables can not provide inherent inertia in the grid to overcome short term sudden variability nor to enable a “Black Start”, if needed.

The two graphs below show the progress of Renewable installations in the UK since 2002 noting:

  • the gross over commitment to Solar PV Power 2013-2016
  • a remarkable further cut back from the previous enthusiastic Renewables installations occurred in 2019, as it seems to be coming to be realised that they do not provide a truly viable answer to maintaining a consistent power supply.
https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/the-decline-of-weather-dependent-renewables-in-europe-2008-2018/
Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 15.33.09.png
  • the very large future cost commitments made in 2010 and 2017 particularly for Offshore Wind power.  In 2017 this alone amounted a future cost of some 150£billion.  Those future costs will be incurred just from the current UK Renewables installations.  As pressure grows for further generation by nominally Renewables those future costs are bound to escalate.
Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 15.34.23.png

Comparative Generation Costings

The table above gave a capital valuation of the current 2020 UK Weather Dependent Renewables fleet at ~62£billion with probable ongoing costs of ~260£billion.  This is approximately twice the cost of providing the same power output with Nuclear power stations and more than 11 times the cost of using Gas-firing for equivalent power generation.

The excess capital expenditures of Renewables range from ~21£billion to ~55£billion.  The long-term excess expenditures range from 160£billion to 236£billion depending on the substituted Nuclear or Gas-fired technology respectively.

These significant excess costs represent the wastage imposed on the UK population both via direct taxation supporting subsidies to Weather Dependent Renewables and added to UK utility bills by the Government mandates imposing Renewables on the UK electricity generation.  That wastage amounts to a very regressive tax burden imposed on the poorest in UK society.  It leading to ever increasing “Energy Poverty”.

The following three tables show how differing existing Renewable technologies contribute to the Government mandated excess costs.

Onshore Wind power is the most competitive achieving close to cost parity with Nuclear power in capital spend but only being about 1.3 times as expensive long-term.  Onshore wind power is only about 5 – 6 times more costly than Gas-firing.

Offshore wind power is the least cost-effective being ~2.6 – 4.4 times more costly than Nuclear but in the region of 13 – 18 times more costly than Gas-firing.

Solar PV is more cost effective than Offshore being 2-3 times more costly than Nuclear to install and 12 – 14 times more costly than Gas-firing.

They together are responsible for more than 75% of the excess costs of the UK Renewables fleet even though they are responsible for only ~55% of the Renewable power output produced.  Together wastage in the capital cost from Offshore wind and Solar power amounts to some 42£billion with a long-term anticipated cost of ~200billion.

Screenshot 2020-04-15 at 07.14.19.png

The Comparative Cost Model for Electricity Generation Technologies

The comparative costings are derived from US  EIA data updated in 2020.

Screenshot 2020-03-18 at 17.36.45.png

The values used in this model ignore the “EIA Technological optimism factor” above, which would adversely affect the comparative costs of Offshore wind, (by about 9£billion/Gigawatt: long-term) and to a much less extent Nuclear power.  These costs are summarised and translated into £billion in the table below, £1 ≅ US$1.2:

Screenshot 2020-03-19 at 07.22.54.png

The US EIA table quotes the overnight capital costs of each technology and the above table condenses the total costs of the technology when maintained in operation for 60 years expressed as £billion/Gigawatt.  These basic data should realistically avoid the distorting effects of Government fiscal and subsidy policies supporting Renewable Energy, whereby it can be claimed that Renewables approximate to cost parity.  It is hoped therefore that these results give a valid comparative analysis of the true cost effectiveness of Weather Dependent Renewables.   These recent 2020 EIA updates fully account for any recent cost reductions or underbids for Renewable technology, particularly those for Solar panels.

The table above assumes that the purchasing power of £1 is equivalent to ~US$1.20.  The service life allocated for Renewables used above may well be generous, particularly for Offshore Wind and Solar Photovoltaics.  The production capability of all Renewable technologies have been shown to progressively deteriorate significantly over their service life.

Note that in addition that these comparative figures are underestimates of the true costs of using Weather Dependent Renewables.  The results above only account for the cost comparisons for the actual electrical power generated accounting for the measured productivity capability of each generating technology.

The costs projected here ignore the ancillary costs inevitably associated with Wind power and Solar Renewables resulting from:

  • unreliability in terms of both intermittency and variability
  • poor timing of power generation, often unlikely to be coordinated with demand
  • long transmission lines incurring costly power losses and increased maintenance
  • additional infrastructure necessary for access
  • the costs of back up generation only used on occasions but wastefully running in spinning reserve nonetheless
  • any consideration of electrical storage using batteries, which would impose very significant additional costs, were long term, (several days), battery storage even economically feasible
  • unsynchronised generation with lack of inherent inertia.
  • inability to recover from a “black start”, when essential after failure.

In addition these cost analyses do not account for:

  • The “Carbon footprint” of Renewable technologies: they may never save as much CO2 during their service life as they are likely to require for their manufacture, installation and eventual demolition.  When viewed in the round, all these activities are entirely dependent on the use of substantial amounts of fossil fuels as feedstocks or fuels.
Screenshot 2020-02-21 at 10.53.48.png
  • The Energy Return on Energy Invested, Renewables may well not produce as much Energy during their service life as was needed for their original manufacture and installation.  They certainly do not provide the regular excess power sufficient to support the multiple needs of a developed society.

Renewables K.O.-ed by EROI?

Conclusion

If the objectives of using Weather Dependent Renewables were not confused with possibly “saving the planet” from the output of the UK’s small level of CO2 emissions, (for electricity generation, ~25% of 1.1%, the UK 2018 portion of Man-made Global CO2 emissions), their actual cost, in-effectiveness and their inherent unreliability, Weather Dependent Renewables would have always been ruled them out of any engineering consideration as means of National scale electricity generation.  

The annual UK CO2 emissions output is well surpassed just by the annual growth of CO2 emissions in China and the Developing world.

It is essential to ask the question what is the actual value of these government mandated excess expenditures to the improvement of the environment and for the possibility of perhaps preventing undetectable temperature increases by the end of the century, especially in a context where the Developing world will be increasing its CO2 emissions to attain it’s further enhancement of living standards over the coming decades.  

Reducing CO2 emissions as a means to control a “warming” climate seems even less relevant when the long-term global temperature trend has been downwards for last 3 millennia, as the coming end of our current warm and benign Holocene interglacial epoch approaches.

The context in Spring 2020

In spite of all the noisy Climate Propaganda of the past 30 years, in Spring 2020 the world is faced with a different but VERY REAL economic emergency from the COVID-19 virus pandemic.  That Emergency, with the world facing the immediate death of many citizens as well as global economic breakdown, should put the costly Government mandated attempts to control the future climate into stark perspective and show how irrelevant concerns over “Climate Change” truly are, when compared to the economic effects of this pandemic.

60 thoughts on “Excess costs of UK Weather Dependent Renewable Energy: 2020

  1. Wow an order of magnitude more expensive (factor of 10). The UK must be a very rich country.

    • But it’s free money, what’s the problem? Your typical taxpayer still has a few coin in their back pocket, and the printing presses still work, don’t they?

    • Ontario is one of the provinces which signed an agreement to develop Small Modular Reactors (SMR). Canada has a well developed nuclear industry and there are tremendous benefits to using that to reduce CO2 (if you really have to). link It sounds to me that there is momentum in that direction.

    • And we the Tax Payers are having to pay them while they are not producing.
      Paid if they do and paid if they don’t
      What a wonderful investment they are, for everybody but the tax payers.

      Those £Billions would have bought a lot of PPE, drugs and ventilators.

  2. Why solar is even considered in the UK or similar environs is beyond me. The only place where it would even make sense would be in very remote areas where costs of other sources are very high. And even then it provides electricity only a few hours per day on average.

    Clouds and [extremely] low Sun angles most of the year should preclude it from the list. The fact it only produced 1.28GW out of 12.13GW installed says it all.

    • The reason we have solar in the UK is to provide the “new green jobs”. Somebody has to keep them clean as the efficiency plummets with even just a thin layer of dust. At this time of year with all the pollen around the panels have to be cleaned at least twice a day, then in winter there is the frost that will have to be scraped off every morning, and bird sh!t all year round. Of course this all costs a fortune but that just gets passed onto the consumer. So, that’s alright then.

      • RHS,

        realistically how many householders will clean their panels at all. Solar farms may do, I don’t know?

    • The UK capacity factor for PV is roughly 2/3rds of what PVs produce in California. California’s 15% is not great, but it is better than Northern Europe.

    • Resource guy

      Ed is referencing the UK situation. Your link is hardly unbiased as the co concerned supply solar.

      Here in the southwest we live in just about the sunniest part of the UK. We get around 1800 hours per year of sun. By far the greatest demand for energy is in winter when sun is in very short supply and wind also often fails as a high pressure moves in to keep our weather cloudy cool and windless. This happened for some 12 days in february.

      Obviously there is no solar at night and nights are long. TacitUs the roman historian described us as a misty moist and sunless isle 2000 years ago and nothing much has changed.

      If solar is to come of age in countries other than with perpetual sun, then extremely high capacity batteries need to be developed, capable of storing a weeks worth of renewable energy.

      I can’t conceive of the size and cost or when this will happen, but in the meantime each country should use whatever renewable horses for courses suits them best, and in the UK solar is a laughably bad solution to the needs of a large 24/7 society

      Tonyb

      • Okay, fair enough. But in the real world solar PV prices will continue to fall with Chinese mega players adding huge mfg capacity (again) and First Solar keeping up with tech and similar volume increase while the high cost players fall away or use lobbying and protectionism to stay around longer than they should (think chlorinated chicken claims). In this real world view, the only question is which countries dither and pay 2x more or 3x more in the case of rooftop and small scale PV and wind. My guess is Canada will continue with its local content rules to keep the best of breed solar players out and the UK does something similar mixed with over-priced offshore wind and over-promised nuclear. But hey, next to overpriced Europe it may not matter much. Inefficient markets are quite common and there are plenty of promoters, lobbyists, and political agendas out there to keep it that way.

        • The lowering cost of solar panels is a moot point as Weather Dependent Renewables (love and have to use this term more often) are intermittent, unreliable, non-dispatchable, short-lived and bird-munching monstrosities.

          How many times does it have to be pointed out that our modern society cannot operate without reliable supply?

          How many times does it have to be pointed out that the parts of the world without reliable supplies cannot drag themselves out of poverty without it? But that”s not you, is it?

          A blinkered approach to this issue does no-one any favours plus there is still no PROOF that CO2 causes climate change.

        • Almost all utility/grid operators in Canada have had subsidies in place to promote solar. That seems to be ending as governments drown in red ink and the real cost of solar shows itself. Most talk now is gas fired plants (3 installed in my area in 5 years) and investigation of small nuclear reactors going forward. It took very little time to saturate our grids with virtue signalling solar and wind. There just isn’t any room for more at any kind of effective cost and productivity.
          Good riddance. The product of a demented conspiracy against fossil fuels and Capitalism by people who can’t count and never produced anything.
          Meanwhile, coal that can be burned cleanly and cost efficiently is being left in theground.

  3. Wow! Pay ten times more for a crap sandwich and actually eat the dang thing? Chop up and burn up our flying friends in the process? And this is some kind of “virtue signaling”? I cannot imagine how history will look back at this sorry time. Go Nuclear! Use carbon energy for vehicles, flying and rolling. Wow!

    • Go Nuclear! We did. The first commercial nuclear power station on the planet was opened by the Queen at Calder Hall on 17th October 1956. Being British, we then did what we do best – built a whole fleet of nuclear reactors, all different from each other with different sized fuel rods, different mixes of fuel, some with steel pressure vessels, others out of concrete…. One of the most bonkers was Berkeley, where all the turbines and gensets were outside in the rain. Then we let the French run them all (which, if I’m honest, they did better)

      We still get ~20% of our electricity from nuclear, but not for long. Most will have shut by 2024.

  4. Its ok now, plenty of unemployed to be put to work mining coal, drilling gas wells and building gas pipelines! Problems solved. And once they have these issues settled lots of people to shift over to tearing out windmills and solar panels. Win/win/win!

  5. “Those assertions ignore: all government subsidies and other fiscal support; the productivity of Renewables when compared to traditional generation technologies.”

    An additional enormous cost that is not accounted for is the cost for keeping duplicate generating capacity idle waiting for the the sun to set and the winds to die down. The additional capacity has a capital cost and maintenance costs. And those costs have to be amortized whether (or should I say weather?) or not the back-up generators produce revenue.

    Another ignored cost is the amount of conventional power that must be kept online 24/7 to keep the grid from collapsing when weather dependent renewable suffer from unscheduled interruptions like weather.

    • “An additional enormous cost that is not accounted for is the cost for keeping duplicate generating capacity idle waiting for the the sun to set and the winds to die down. The additional capacity has a capital cost and maintenance costs. And those costs have to be amortized whether (or should I say weather?) or not the back-up generators produce revenue.”

      Excellent point. This cost has to be added into the mix. Using weather-related renewables (I would have to quibble with the term renewable) means you have to have double the generating capacity that would be needed if you only used gas-fired or nuclear powerplants to supply your needs.

      You can’t have weather-related power generation without also having conventional power generation to back it up. If the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, then you need to be able to supply 100 percent of your needs with conventional generation.

      Weather-related power generation is an unnecessary drag on a nation’s economy. Not to mention the environmental damage (and costs) associated with windmills and solar.

      As Professor Sir David Mackay said, Weather-related power generation is:

      “an appalling delusion”.

      • This is the factor that typically doubles the stated cost of all intermittent energy sources. An easy and disgusting lie perpetrated on a public that foolishly expects its elected leaders to act in the best interest of all.

  6. Even if Ruinables had 100% capacity/nameplate production, and was unsubsidized, would it still be worth the millions of Ha of land required for a gazillion windmills and solar panels, and their relatively short life span of 20-25 years at best? I don’t think so, especially given it is still junk asynchronous electricity…not base load spinning reserve.

    At least some biomass is base load spinning reserve. If I had to choose between the two, I think it would be much better to support course woody debris biomass over wind and solar, if only for that reason alone. Gasification of biomass is now being explored in more commercial depth, which would make it much more efficient being able to burn it with natural gas in CCGT turbine at a much higher efficiency (55%-60%) than older pure steam efficiencies at 25%-30% efficiencies. This is a new emerging field. One such plan is to convert a present older 68 MW waste wood fired steam facility to wood gasification, representing a large increase in the efficient use of all the millions of tons of waste bark and sawdust in BC, utilizing a gas turbine in the first phase and then the residue as steam. Planer shavings are sold to the pellet market, and is also unsubsidized, at least at the production end. It will cost something to gasify waste wood, but if the net return is much higher, then it makes perfect sense to gasify and plan to use in existing CCGT turbine technology for ever.

    https://www.wltribune.com/news/renewable-natural-gas-project-proposed-for-williams-lake/

    I know many here are ideologically anti biomass too and everyone is entitled to an opinion in our free world, but at least a lot of woody debris waste is really the only true renewable, and in that sense, much of it comes from the wood waste supply of industrial forestry. Or from purpose grown pulp on agro-forestry operations that have many private land owners growing some sort of purpose grown pulp tree crop in rotations as short as 10 years, such as the Christmas tree market. That grade of wood biomass is the lowest on the totem pole of making anything useful, so whether it is used to make toilet paper or pulp and paper, or burned to make electricity, it shouldn’t matter and let the feee market make that determination. Ensure it isn’t subsidized. Don’t use Drax as your only example of perverted use of biomass when you sit atop a coal mine.

    In the Pacific North West of NA, there are many Gigawatts of installed electrical capacity with pure wood waste with the same uptime reliability of coal or NG, and synchronous base load spinning reserve. I am of course biased in this regard, growing millions of trees on my private properties mostly for veneer/lumber, so I confess already my bias to course woody debris from commercial forestry being used commercially instead of just burning it in giant bee hive burners, just to dispose of it as we did in the past for a very long time. Make something useful out of it, and we finally are and even planning to make it more efficient. I don’t know how anyone could make a valid argument against this since it is mostly waste, (old creosote rail ties included) and it is a larger producer of net electricity as per installed capacity globally than all the wind and solar combined.

    • @ Earthling2

      In the Pacific North West of NA, there are many Gigawatts of installed electrical capacity with pure wood waste with the same uptime reliability of coal or NG, and synchronous base load spinning reserve.

      Yup, but that is in the Pacific North West (Oregon, Washington & BC) where timbering, logging & lumbering (saw mills) are still a major business.

      If the sawmills didn’t burn the residue from their lumber production ….. they would have to pay to get rid of it.

      There is several small timbering, logging and/or saw mill operations in the central and eastern US but they don’t produce enough wood waste for “saleable” electrical generation.

      There is an Oriented Strand Board plant here in central WV and “waste wood” (limbs, logs) were being trucked in from 150 miles around.

    • Biomass for electricity generation accounts for only 2.2% of Washington State’s power, and it is currently falling. In Oregon, 36 facilities (the largest being only 51 MW) account for a measly 331 MW of capacity, less than a smallish conventional power plant. When I worked for Duke Energy in the 90s, I helped evaluate alternate energy facilities to add to the portfolio of generating assets. Duke was doing this just to help satisfy mandated renewable portfolio standards. In the end, the facilities were considered a no-go. The best unit was in Redding, California, about a 60 MW Station. Aside from serious problems with air pollution controls from the variable fuel quality, the biggest problem was “feeding the beast.” The unit consumed over 100,000 tons of fuel per year, and fuel buyers had to reach out to beyond a 100 mile radius to obtain fuels, that ranged from sawdust to peach pits and pistachio shells. It was not economically viable.

      Do the math, whether biofuel crops or wood waste. There just isn’t enough biomass production to provide more than a tiny percentage of the energy demands of a modern society. It suffers from much the same problems as wind and solar, being a highly dispersed energy source and very inefficient in the conversion of solar energy to usable energy.

      • Wood waste is indeed a small component of the entire portfolio on electricity production, and a further reason why it should be allowed access to the grid as a dependable, firm and spinning reserve electricity production, which is a much better product than wind and solar. It gets rid of an industrial waste problem for modern lumbering and saw milling. Gasifying it may make more commercial sense with higher efficiencies. But no one is advocating for this to replace our energy mix, because it can’t, but it is a legitimate source of electricity that should be encouraged where it is available.

        The forest industry in WA and OR has radically declined the last 10-15 years in part to the Spotted Owl issue, which has led to a reduction in available bark and sawdust. BC is also in major decline with cutting green timber for political and allowable cut issues, but there is still huge supply of beetle kill pine that can be harvested and re-planted to growing a new forest providing a source of dead fibre that is useless now for making lumber. May as well pelletize it and make something out of it and get a new crop growing.

        Second big reason is that electricity production is minimal because there is a better return pelletizing it and shipping it to Asia for contributing it to to the coal fleet, grinding/pulverizing adding a 10%-15% mixture to coal with a near btu value as lignite coal. It provides legitimate product to burn/mix with coal, reducing coal imports and Asian thermal plants in Japan, Korea, China justify maintaining coal plants because they do make good utilization of wood waste from NA. At the end of the day, it is a small component of the energy mix but an important one to allow another major industry, forestry to thrive and survive.

        Bio energy from wood waste gets tarred and feathered the same as ethanol, and the two are different products. It also is a net gain between 4%-6% net conversion of photosynthesis over a vast area while providing tree cover for environmental benefits to humans and wild life. Forestry should be allowed to contribute what it can, especially wood waste to the energy mix and encouraged to do so. If Oz had just done the same as some Asian thermal plants are doing and ground up some wood pellet to add to their coal, they wouldn’t have had to dynamite much of their perfectly good coal fleet. It is as cheap to float thousands of tons of wood pellets as it is coal around the world. Sure it all uses carbon/CO2, but that is life and just part of the terrestrial/fossil carbon cycle.

        • I am not at all opposed to waste to energy facilities where they are economically viable. However, my main concern is the way these facilities (landfill gas; farm waste digestors; municipal solid waste incinerators; wood waste; etc.) are glamorized to the public who have no concept of the resource limitations. These can be feasible and even profitable ventures, but fully exploited they would fill only a small niche in the overall energy portfolio. I work in higher education and have to quietly watch while communications offices promote the various professors’ research into these technologies as if they are the keys to unlocking vast supplies of untapped energy that can meet our every need. Armed with that misinformation, it would be easy for a lay person to conclude that, hey, even if climate change is not a problem, wouldn’t it be better to be “green” (aargh, I’ve about had it with that word).

      • the biggest problem was “feeding the beast.”

        I shudda thought of that definition. 😊

    • Earthling 2,
      You sound very knowledgeable about burning wood or, as you call it “waste”. This is the first I’ve heard of burning waste and, I must say, I’m very confused as it doesn’t seem to jive with other things I’ve read, posted below. Also, if the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions, how in the world is burning any kind of wood
      consistent with that?
      I’d appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

      Anthony Watts
      The Obvious Biomass Emissions Error
      February 7, 2019
      http://bit.ly/2YXSJre

      Wood/pellets burning much worse than thought. New study says, even worse than burning coal.
      https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aaa512/pdf …

      Europe is burning our forests for “renewable” energy. Wait, what? https://grist.org/climate-energy/europe-is-burning-our-forests-for-renewable-energy-wait-what/

      European industry and power stations have already turned to burning millions of imported tonnes of American wood pellets in a desperate bid to keep costs down. And that, as has been reported, is to the detriment of fine forests in the US and a resultant impact on CO2 levels.
      http://www.thecommentator.com/article/3827/the_great_renewables_scam_unravels

      Logging Threatens One of Europe’s Last Virgin Forests
      http://bit.ly/31rpWZo
      …Meanwhile, activist Alexander von Bismarck says he simply cannot get it into his head that one of the last European virgin forests is being illegally cut down so it can be sold to heat homes in Austria.

      EU must not burn the world’s forests for ‘renewable’ energy
      http://bit.ly/2KpZkCx
      A flaw in Europe’s clean energy plan allows fuel from felled trees to qualify as renewable energy when in fact this would accelerate climate change and devastate forests.

      • The first duty of skepticism is to be a skeptic of your own skepticism. Surely you are familiar with the vast forest industry and the wood waste it generates that is being put to good use as I have previously explained. Many of your arguments you make are we what we have to deal with the likes of Greenpeace, but not even them or the worst of the worst green ideologues argue against using legitimate wood waste. That was the primary point of my argument within this niche part of biomass that makes up about 9%-10% of the global energy markets. Some is very bad, granted, such as the conversion of prime jungle habitat to palm plantations. But it is obvious I am not advocating that…only using what wood waste we do generate yearly which is very, very large. Or growing purpose grown pulp for toilet paper, cardboard, or wood pellets. It isn’t subsidized at the production end, and blaming us for feeding the beast at Drax is a non argument to me. I am not forcing Drax to buy and subsidize my pellets, and they don’t subsidize me.

        What would you have us do with the millions of creosote rail road ties that need disposing of that have accumulated over the years? Burning them at a very temperature producing electricity gets rid of that toxin in the creosote. Just one example. Another example is the millions of tons of bark, sawdust and planer shavings from saw milling amongst other supplies of wood waste that need to be disposed of, from both North American sources and Scandinavian and other forestry operations around the world. Spinning reserve firm electricity from this is much better than the asynchronous junk electricity from solar and wind. Or mixing in pellet wood ground up with the coal to fire a coal generating plant. This wood was going to decompose to methane and CO2 anyway…why not get something useful out of it? All of the west coast pellet operations use pure wood waste, or now the bug pine that is a fire hazard that gets replanted to a new forest.

        I suggest you look at the https://www.pellet.org/ website to get a better understanding of what I am talking about. A lot of people like me own and manage forest land and work in this industry, and I understand there is competition from other sources to put us out of business, just like the nat gas guys pushed real hard to get rid (prematurely) of the coal fleet, just for market share. I don’t know what camp you come from, but your arguments are a straight up hit job on an honest and legitimate industry that is a fraction of the total energy supply. Or it may be that you are a European green ideologue just straight up opposed to forestry in general, and if that is the case, then there is no point in in any further discussion. Forestry is one of the true renewable resources we have..always has been and always will be. It has been abused over the years by different interests, but the forest always grows back, given half a chance.

    • Earthling2 “Gasification of biomass is now being explored in more commercial depth, which would make it much more efficient being able to burn it with natural gas in CCGT turbine at a much higher efficiency (55%-60%) than older pure steam efficiencies at 25%-30% efficiencies. ”
      I think you’re onto something here. Perhaps this could be extended to include rubbish incineration and also coal (perhaps powdered or pelletised.) Indeed it might make sense to have a large facility running on multiple fuels so they always had something to burn.

  7. In examining the “Materials throughput by type of energy source” bar graph I mentally converted it to a ‘per 60 years of operation’ variation. I saw the long life hydroelectric generation materials throughput drop well below that of photo-voltaic and wind.

    An excellent and balanced presentation to the highest standards of WUWT.
    I particularly enjoyed the lack of ad hominem names which I regret many of us use. I prefer the use of neutral language and to let the facts speak. I teach legal advocacy and often tell students. “Stick just to the facts and let the facts speak for you.”

  8. The people who pay relatively most for energy are the old, the poor and the sick. Money is added to their bills by the power company and then transferred directly to the wallets of the rich, the powerful and the landed. When I was a councillor I had people in my division to whom £5 a week would have mattered, really mattered. Instead it’s given to those who are already among the most advantaged on the planet.

    Renewable energy as presently constituted in the UK is not just stupid, it’s immoral.

    JF

    • +1, Julian Flood.

      Moreover, whether the “renewables” sc@mmers get their government-mandated ROI from poor people (like I) or rich people, stealing** is wrong.

      **That they fund their schemes under the color of law makes it no less stealing — for it is based on fr@ud.

      Yes. FR@UD.

      [For U.S. — but, I assume the case could be made in the U.K. just as easily]

      Nine elements of common law fr@ud (in the U.S.):

      (1) Representation of an existing fact;

      [Data proves that human CO2 emissions cause significant shifts in the climate zones of the earth.]

      (2) Materialityof the representation;

      [Millions of taxpayer and ratepayer funds confiscated based on the representation.]

      (3) Falsity of the representation;

      [There is no data (only proven-unskilled model output) proving the representation.]

      (4) The speaker’s knowledge of its falsity;

      [While many people are duped into sincerely believing the misrepresentation, the “renewables” promoters, i.e., those responsible for ascertaining its truth, know it is false or, at best, assert it with reckless indifference as to its truth or falsity (i.e., they know that they do not know it is true).]

      (5) The speaker’s intent that it be acted upon by the plaintiff;

      [Funding requests = clear evidence of this.]

      (6) Plaintiff’s ignorance of the falsity;

      [Here, we will need to find a duped plaintiff — this is easily done, for there are many injured taxpayers and rate payers and or elected official (relying on the fr@udster’s misrepresentations in testimony to Congress to allocate the funds) plaintiffs out there who were fooled — those of us who know it is false could not be a plaintiff (or, at least, not a strategically good one).]

      (7) Plaintiff’s reliance on the truth of the representation;

      [To wit: MILLIONS in public funds (and rate surcharges) handed over.]

      (8) Plaintiff’s right to rely upon it; and

      [Reasonable to rely on the fr@udster’s “expert scientists” who l!ed for them about human CO2]

      (9) Resulting damage.

      [MILLIONS of taxpayers’ and rate payers’ money bilked (just that is enough of an “injury,” for one has a right to keep one’s money — The End.) — Additional injury, however, can be shown in diversion of public funds away from essential things like roads and medicine and in lives lost (if causation can be proven, and I think it can be) due to cold or heat due to inability to afford renewable-caused too-expensive energy.]

      (Source: Washington Pattern Jury Instructions–Civil, 6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 160.01 (7th ed.), Washington Practice Series TM, Washington Pattern Jury Instructions–Civil, July 2019 Update)

      [Edits in brackets: mine]

        • Well, how kind of you, Sommer. 🙂

          And thank YOU, for posting that excellent article today at 10:25AM. I agree!

          The market value of all wind was about $2 million over the first 9 days of April, while the cost was about $32 million.

          Grid-level wind and solar are NEGATIVE ROI (and NEGATIVE EROEI). Always. It is inherent in the current state of their technology.

          And no amount of wishful-thinking, forced, “investing” in them will change the technology. Nor is it needed. Free market capitalism** will invent any possible tech advances. Happens every time.

  9. There is a far simpler and more effective way of doing this calculation.

    The table shows a breakdown of some of the main electricity generation sources in the United States of America (US) for the years 2008 and 2018.[1]
    As it clearly shows, there was a major reduction in coal generation and a near equivalent increase in natural gas generation. Conventional hydroelectricity had a significant increase, while other renewables excluding hydroelectricity made little impact. The US authorities estimate that in the period 2008 to 2018 this change over to natural gas generation on its own has resulted in 379 million tonnes of CO2 savings.[2] Note: Hydro in the US does show annual fluctuations in the range above, with 2008 being characteristic of poor yield and 2018 a high yield, the climatic shift of the El Nino cycle affecting in particular the Western regions.

    Figure – Reduction in US greenhouse gas emissions from their electricity sector for period 2008-2017[5]

    This figure shows how greenhouse gases from electricity generation in the US are reducing rapidly in the period 2008 to 2017, from 2,359 to 1,732 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is a 27% reduction. If we consider the EU in the period 2008 to 2018, i.e. a year longer, the reduction in CO2 emissions from the same electricity sector was 28% (see Eurostat data: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/energy/data/database )

    Eurostat figures also demonstrate how for the EU-28 electricity prices for domestic consumers rose from 16.2 (Euro) cent per kWh in 2008 to 20.8 cent per kWh.[3] While in the same period in the US, the price rise was from 11.26 (Dollar) cent per kWh to 12.87 cent per kWh.[4] A rise of 28% in the EU versus a rise of 14% in the US. Note: With a trading price in 2020 of $1 being over €0.90, one can quickly see that the average price the US domestic consumer is paying for electricity is currently 56% of that in EU-28.

    What this demonstrates, is that there was right from the very inception phase of the EU Renewable Energy Road Map a self-evidently more suitable approach available to achieve such carbon emissions. Instead, of what actually happened, the burdening of the European citizen and environment with major costs and negative impacts, for zero net gain.

    [1] For full details see: https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_03_02_a.html

    [2] See for example Figure 9: https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/

    [3] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Electricity_price_statistics#Electricity_prices_for_non-household_consumers

    [4] https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_02_04.html

    [5] https://cfpub.epa.gov/ghgdata/inventoryexplorer/#electricitygeneration/allgas/source/all

  10. I’m not quite clear on the figures. In the first table ‘UK 2019 Weather Dependent Renewables as Installed’, in the 2019 Output column all the outputs are measured in Gigawatts. Watts & Gigawatts are a measure of power or rate of generating energy & as such are instantaneous values. When measuring the output of a generating system over a sustained period like a year as here, surely the figure of interest is the QUANTITY of energy produced which is measured in Watt hours or Gigawatt hours & not the power output. I can only make sense of the table if I assume that the figures in the 2019 Output column are the rates of generation of electricity averaged over the whole year, that is, the total energy output over the year in Gigawatt hrs divided by the number of hours in a year.
    Interesting article though. Here in the UK we have some of the most expensive electricity in Europe & more & more people going into ‘fuel poverty’.

    • Thanks MB Pinder. I stopped reading when the energy output was given in GW. As you suggest maybe the energy output was averaged over the whole year to give the figure. If the calculation was made to make things ‘easier to understand’ then count me out.
      Thus the provenance of the data is compromised. It looks spiffy and professional but maybe its been made ‘easier to understand’ . Otherwise called ‘adjusted’?

      • EurObservER publishes the installed size of generation installations in Megawatts and the annual output of each technology is given in Gigawatt hours. To give viable comparisons of each technology these are converted to Gigawatts and the Gigawatt hours are multiplied by 1000 and then divided by 8760, the number of hours in a year. This gives comparable Gigawatt values that provide the Productivity ratios for each technology.

        In the UK in 2019 the resulting Productivity ratios were: Onshore wind ~20% , Offshore wind ~35% and Solar ~11%.

        I am sorry if you found this error so disturbing that you could not read on.

  11. A few years ago the AESO (Alberta electrical system operator) published stars that showed ~1/3 availability for wind and 1/5 for solar. So the nameplate vs produced is everything especially when the ruinable promoters spew about how it’s cheaper per MW than gas or coal fired power. Of course you need to build 3x wind and 5x solar to get the same MW as gas, plus spread it out widely to even get those reduced factors which means a lot more transmission, endless costs

    We have quite a few wind turbines in AB, to replace our coal we would need another 7500 of them, s as Nd build a similar amount of gas anyway
    So let’s just build the gas fired and skip the middle man which saves lots of money for ventilators that we don’t seem to need either

    • Maybe the Peace River Site E (would be that it?) should be built in northern Alberta? Site D…now abandoned was just before the Alberta border and will now never be built. Site C (1104 MW) half built..getting expensive by Gov’t ownership/build with unlimited Crown Corp debt/union now at $12 Billion.

      https://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/regional-news/alberta-peace/company-upgrades-proposal-for-fourth-dam-on-peace-river-1.2368000

      The Amisk Hydroelectric Project is a dam on the Peace River in Alberta. The company seeking to build the 300-plus megawatt project near Dunvegan, Alta. says its dam has little in common with Site C, the 1,100-megawatt BC Hydro facility under construction up-river near Fort St. John.

      Private company wants to invest and build 300 MW with a high capacity factor. Good idea? Maybe it’s been cancelled…just wondered if you heard anymore on this?

      • Wow, $12B for 1.1GW? That should buy you 2.2GW of nuclear power these days.
        It is time to stop electing lawyers as politicians and change to engineers!

  12. UK residents have no say over the increased use of wind turbines and sun for electricity generation, and no criticism of the policy is allowed by the media. TV politics in the UK is just The Guardian on air.

  13. Thank you for this study.
    I cannot understand why there are not more, like done for other countries.
    Perhaps I can. In my Australia, studies are ignored or suppressed if they do not embrace some government restrictions, a bad one being that the study has to include a national CO2 reduction scenario like Paris.
    Will there soon be a next step study, the analysis of major cost:benefits from removal of Renewables and replacement with fossil plus nuclear?
    If you merely show costly figures like you have, others will tritely say their own numbers are more credible. If you do a dismantle analysis, you might find the others have no figures of their own.
    Geoff S

  14. “. . . Renewables fleet only managed to unreliably generate about a fifth of that UK requirement, and that output was often uncoordinated with demand.”
    I strongly disagree with this statement.
    If you graph the output of wind power against demand, there is NO correlation between demand and windpower generation.
    If you graph solar output vs demand, there is a definite NEGATIVE correlation between output and demand.
    That is explained by the fact that solar peaks in the sunny months, but power consumption falls off.

  15. I did not see any mention in these cost calculations of negative economic consequences to the gas turbine operators. Those operators are forced to be ready to ramp up and ramp down production of very short notice. This, I am told, can greatly degrade efficiency and can put increased wear and tear on the machinery.
    Keep in mind that the UK produces about 2% of the industrial output of CO2. All these efforts are too small to even measure on a global scale.

    • Yes it’s clear that EDF had a lot more “unplanned” unavailability of gaz production units since a few decades, at the same time wind “capacity” was greatly expended.

  16. How can anyone with half a brain think that intermttent wind and solar can power a modern day society such as the UK?

    Why do powers that be use capacity as a measurement, it is nonsence. Average UK, mean wind speed days, when turbines can produce elecetricty, over the last 21 years shows just 32.6% above the 10 mph (cut in speed). No matter if capacity is 100 times, it will still only be possible to produce electricity on 32.6% of days.

    As for solar in the UK, over the last 21 years the average sunshine is 4hours per day. For more info;

    https://www.weather-research.com/articles/the-facts-behind-wind-and-solar-energy-in-the-uk

  17. For the UK, 250 billion pounds (actually nearer 9 per cent than 11 per cent of GDP) is a snip if the figure refers to the cumuative cost with amortised capital!

    In Australia, the combined expenditure this year in subsidies and regulatory costs (the carbon price for mandated renewables) is over $4 billion (plus several million dollars in State Government disbursements). The effect of these measures has raised the annual wholesale electricity cost by $13 billion. Hence, over a ten year period, just to achieve the current trends (likely to take us to one third renewables by 2030), means $170 billion or about 9 per cent of GDP. The annual impost, at a little under one per cent of GDP, is a massive impost.

  18. If widespread solar power is too expensive and too unreliable here in Australia (which it is), then it is a niche option anywhere, at best. As for wind, well, Wellington NZ gets plenty of that but one would probably need to bulldoze the whole city in order to clear the area required to produce the power and the batteries to store it for the city that would no longer be there…

    I’ll stick to heating my house with my niche of firewood. Cutting it is a chore, even to one with professional expertise therein, but it won’t become uneconomic as long as we leave our abundant coal reserves sitting idle to appease the great Goddess, Gaia of the Greens (nuclear here has no chance). Oh, and as long as we are still allowed to use two-stroke equipment and still allowed to cut down (just some) trees that we personally planted. Those latter points can’t be taken for granted here. If overseas viewers ever wonder why survival/homesteader/wildlife ‘bothering’ shows don’t film Down Under, it’s because we easily lead the World in green-tape.

  19. An exceptional post but I have a feeling that the people who matter would ignore the conclusions even in the unlikely case that they read it.

  20. In all these types of discussion centred on how we should or shouldn’t generate electricity an important point is almost always missed.

    We need to FORGET CO2. ENTIRELY.

    Even if convincing evidence was to be found that CO2 really did cause atmospheric warming to the extent that it is problematic as long as China burns so much coal that any difference we make is completely insignificant we are wasting our time with anything that’s more expensive than coal or gas.

    Also, if you factor in the full cost of insurance cover against the catastrophic failure of a nuclear plant and the ensuing clean-up rather than sweep this under the rug by having the state (I.e the taxpayer) foot the bill if required I think it would be a cold day in hell that conventional PWR nuclear power is cheaper than gas or coal.

    And as for burning woodchips for power in the UK when you live on an island of coal?
    How dare you!

Comments are closed.