Weaknesses of solar and wind, Myths and Questions that require an answer

Guest post by Rob Jeffrey

It is claimed that wind and solar are the cheapest sources of electricity and these sources should dominate future electricity supply.  This paper focuses on known additional costs and subsidies which are not taken into account in the costs of wind and solar put forward by their advocates.

Advocates of wind and solar claim a cost of 0.62 rand (about 3.6 US cents) /kWh.  This is, however, the price at the gate of the supplier.  It does not include all the costs of supply necessary to convert this electricity from non-dispatchable electricity supply at the gate to dispatchable electricity supply at the point of supply to the customer.  These are in effect direct subsidies to solar and wind suppliers, whereas they should be added as a cost to the renewable energy suppliers.

Renewables, such as hydro, biomass and thermal have different qualities and are not considered in this paper.  In any event, Hydro and thermal are not options as they are not available in quantity domestically in South Africa.  Gas is another fossil fuel, which at this stage, is not found in significant economic amounts in South Africa.  The critical issues are that solar and wind have very low load factors and are variable, intermittent and unpredictable.  In other words, they are not dispatchable. In the case of wind, the load factor is an average of 35% or less and solar 26% or less.  Their supply is weather dependent, and therefore backup must be available 100% of the time 24/7.

Coal has a load factor on average of approximately 80% and nuclear an average of 90%.  Their load factors are affected by predictable maintenance requirements and generally to a lesser extent by unpredictable repair requirements.  A reserve margin (or backup) of 20% has traditionally been considered sufficient to cover for both these events.  Methodologies and more realistic estimates of the real costs of solar and wind, including back up, can be calculated using the load factor alone.  This gives the cost of wind at R1.77/kWh and the cost of solar at R2.38/kWh.  These costs must be compared to a coal cost of R1.31/kWh and nuclear at R1.44/kWh.  More complex methodologies taking risk and uncertainty of outages into account and using variance or standard deviation as the estimate of risk put the costs of wind at R2.52/kWh, solar at R3.83, coal R1.10/kWh and nuclear R1.33/kWh. 

Added to the claimed costs of 62cents/kWh for solar and wind should be the following items:   

Additional grid costs:  Transmission lines will have to be built, yet used for less than 35% of the time.  This low usage suggests that at the minimum grid costs of wind must be at least approximately 3x the grid costs of dispatchable power units if not more.  The capital cost per kWh and the running cost per kWh must be approximately 3x that of reliable dispatchable power supply.

Efficiency loss of backup and alternative electricity supply: Due to low utilisation, backup facilities would typically be running approximately 40%  below their optimal efficiency.  Their efficiency loss is in effect a direct subsidy of the solar and wind.

Excess supply of electricity:  Because electricity supply from solar and wind is variable, there will be periods where a surplus of electricity will be generated.  In terms of the power purchase agreements (PPA), Eskom must pay the renewable producers for the excess power being produced.  All these are additional costs that at present are passed on to the utility (Eskom) or other electricity producers or consumers. 

Insufficient electricity supply as a result of technology being unable to close the gap between supply and demand immediately:   Because electricity supply from solar and wind is variable, unreliable, unpredictable and intermittent there will be periods where a shortage of electricity supply will exist.   The economy will suffer as a result of the Cost Of Unserved Energy (COUE).  

High Economic Cost Of Unserved Energy:  The IRP estimates the COUE at R87.85/kWh.  This is as per the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) study.  A senior energy expert estimated that load shedding cost South Africa more than R1-trillion over the previous decade or about 1.5% GDP growth per annum.  

Insufficient electricity supply as a result of extended periods of weather-related conditions:  

The Higher the penetration of low load, high variable intermittent technologies, the higher the Cost Of Unserved Energy:  Models invariably are only as good as the assumptions used.  Most models assume the certainty of output and do not take into account risk and uncertainty.  The fact is that the real world is subject to risk and uncertainty. 

Reduction in sales by Eskom as a result of artificially low prices offered by renewable suppliers: Installation of renewable power direct at customers’ or potential customers’ premises of Eskom reflect finally as a lost demand or sales at Eskom

Cost of backup for installation directly supplied by solar and wind:  If there is a reduction in such customers’ electricity supply, Eskom is expected to provide immediate backup supply.   Eskom must have the necessary substantial backup readily available.  This is extremely costly.  

Cost of purchasing electricity from customers who have their own renewable installations:  The trend is that customers can sell their surplus electricity supply to Eskom.  Invariably, there is a commitment to purchase, which in return reduces the perceived backup required.  However, this is not true as backup is still necessary for regular backup requirements but also the full installation of the renewable supply at the customer’s premises.  Either way, customers are paying for the additional costs involved.

Destruction of industries and political, social-economic impacts:  The move to solar and wind as set out in the IRP would result in South Africa’s coal industry shrinking by 46%.  Coal mining accounted for 26.7% of the total value of mining production in 2015, making it the most valuable in terms of sales of the 14 primary mining commodities.  Several previously prosperous communities in Gauteng and South Africa would become ghost towns with rising unemployment and increasing poverty levels.  Social benefits would increase dramatically.

Lack of permanent job creation:  Renewable energy sources do not give rise to permanent jobs being created.  Most jobs created by solar and wind relate only to the construction phase.  Most jobs, mainly skilled jobs, are generated overseas in countries supplying equipment.  These countries would primarily be Germany in the case of wind-related equipment and China in the case of solar equipment. 

Export of jobs and Loss of energy sovereignty:  The move towards solar and wind will mean that South Africa loses it energy sovereignty, primarily to Germany for imports of technology and equipment related to wind and China for equipment related to solar.  South Africa will effectively export its skilled jobs overseas and suffer a loss of skills.  Instead of South Africa being an energy exporter, it will become an energy importer as a result of losing coal exports and becoming dependent on gas imports.  Any current account deficit caused should be factored into the cost of solar and wind.

Creation of a current account deficit and not utilising valuable natural assets:  Coal is one of South Africa’s most significant commodity products and the country’s largest export.  The importation of gas and loss of coal exports will result in an increasing and substantial current account deficit.  Coal mining accounted for approximately 26% of the total value of mining production in 2015, making it the most valuable in terms of sales.  Potential uranium reserves are also substantial.  The drive for wind would deprive South African citizens of these benefits. 

Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) is not a sound methodology to compare highly variable and interruptible electricity technologies with electricity supplied by reliable dispatchable electricity-generating technologies:  A report entitled ‘Critical Review of The Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) Metric’, by M.D. Sklar-Chik et al., South African Journal of Industrial Engineering December 2016 concludes that “LCOE neglects certain key terms such as inflation, integration costs, and system costs.” The work of Paul Joskow et al. of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published in February 2011 wrote a paper entitled Comparing The Costs of Intermittent and Dispatchable Electricity Generating Technologies.  They note “Many international reports prove that such electricity supply is costly due to its variability, interruptibility, inefficiency and its requirement of 100% backup”.

The test of global reality:  There is nothing like the test of global reality.  In 2016, the prices paid by industry in Germany were approximately 52% higher than France (nuclear) and 86% higher than Poland (coal).  The average estimates discussed above result in costs that are close to this global reality. 

The above costs are absorbed by Eskom or other suppliers or directly by customers.  They can be measured in R billions /annum and should be added to the costs of solar and wind. 

Emerging economies need to focus on those technologies which are efficient and effective.  In South Africa, mining, manufacturing and industry need security of supply of electricity at competitive prices.   The only two electricity generation sources of Energy available in South Africa that can achieve these objectives in this country are High-Efficiency Low-Emissions (HELE) coal, otherwise called ‘clean’ coal and nuclear.

The country must focus on raising its economic growth rate by ensuring it has a sustainable, secure supply of electricity at the lowest economic and financial cost.  Any decision must be accompanied by the necessary supporting condition fostering domestic and foreign investment into its economy.  The arguments above show clearly that renewables in the form of solar and wind in particular, almost certainly have substantial additional costs which are not fully accounted for in the current costs being utilised by their advocates.  This also means that the so-called least cost optimum mix recommended by them is wrong.  As a result, this methodology as currently defined and used is severely flawed.  The technique and methodology recommended uses statistical calculations based on variable estimates utilising the variance and mean of each technology to calculate the COUE.  Current models do not utilise any such statistical and analytical technique.   

The above arguments and estimates lend force to the evidence that solar and wind, in particular, are unaffordable in the current economic situation in the country.  The estimates strongly suggest that the least cost methodology is severely flawed and that going forward the renewable technologies of solar and wind should play a marginal role in any future technology mix for the country.

The final nail in the coffin for South Africa is that increased penetration of wind will lead to a rapidly rising import bill for gas imports and the demise of its coal mining industry, if not the entire mining industry.  These are catastrophes which could ensure that the future of South Africa will move towards rising unemployment, increasing poverty and increasing social and political instability.  South Africa needs to focus its energy plans on HELE or ‘clean’ coal, nuclear, domestic solar and limited gas.

Rob Jeffrey is an independent economic risk consultant.  He is the former MD of Econometrix and continues to consult for them.  Areas of specialisation and expertise include global and domestic economic trends and strategies to foster economic growth, the development of several vital sectors of the economy, including industry, mining, agriculture, credit and financial services.  One of Rob’s significant areas of expertise is the South African electricity and energy requirements of the South African economy.  He has been the author or co-author of numerous reports, papers, presentations and articles on matters related to national industrial, Energy-related, economic policy and the carbon tax.  He co-authored submitted and presented reports on the economic consequences of introducing the carbon tax to the Davis Tax Committee.  Rob has broad practical experience and expertise in the industrial, construction, and engineering sectors.  He was MD of Dorbyl Structural Engineering, Chairperson of the Constructional Engineers Association (CEA), the CEA representative on SEIFSA, and an executive member of the Association of Steel Merchant Stockholders.  He has sat on numerous councils and advisory panels.  Rob graduated with a B.Sc. in Mathematical Statistics and Applied Mathematics at the University of the Witwatersrand and has Masters Degrees in economics from Cambridge University and Business Leadership from the University of South Africa. 

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July 3, 2020 10:03 pm

Rob, I think you have a typo in the first line, viz:

Advocates of wind and solar claim a cost of 62cents/kWh

I think you must mean 6.2¢ per KWh


Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
July 3, 2020 10:35 pm

As far as I can tell the article is written using the South African currency, the Rand. link It is currently worth about six American cents. Each rand is divided into 100 cents. So … 62 South African cents is worth about 3.6 American cents.

Reply to  commieBob
July 4, 2020 1:12 am

Advocates of wind and solar claim a cost of 62cents/kWh. This is, however, the price at the gate of the supplier.

Any quantity should have proper units. A US writer may assume USD as an international default currency but unless this article was taken from a S. A. newspaper I would not think it was assuming Rand cents.

Since it is headed “guess post” , I would assume it was written for WUWT and thus assuming USD not S. A. Rand.

So it seems that Willis’ 6.2 may be nearer for the wholesale price, if that was what was meant by “at the gate of the supplier”.

At least he got the energy units correct kWh and not KWh.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Greg
July 4, 2020 7:35 am

In the above article’s fourth paragraph, the author states he is using units of “R”, an abbreviation for Rand, the fundamental currency of South Africa, which is the targeted audience of his article. A logical inference is that all units of currency in the article refer to the Rand.

The United States does not have sole ownership of the word “cents” when referring to sub-units of its fundamental currency. Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cent_(currency)

Based on the article’s last paragraph, it is obvious that the article was targeted for South Africa, not for WUWT nor for a US audience.

Robert Jeffrey
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
July 4, 2020 8:48 am

Thank you for the comments. I apologise the article was written in terms of South African Rands and Cents. Instead of 62 cents I should have said R0.62. That way it would have been clear.
Kind regard

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
July 4, 2020 11:50 am

Other than the currency confusion this is a clearly written article — the first I’ve read from a South African point of view.

I have two inventions that will solve the intermittent solar and wind power problems:
– Nuclear powered fans, and
– Nuclear powered spotlights

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
July 4, 2020 11:50 am

Robert, thanks for both the article and the note. I’ve taken the liberty of clarifying the units in the second paragraph.

My best to you, stay well,


Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
July 3, 2020 11:44 pm

Other countries do have their own currencies. 🙂

The Euro has ‘cents’ too, is just means a hundredth.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
July 4, 2020 2:30 am

It took me five seconds to realize the author was taking about South Africa, and the currency units were not US $.

Reply to  joe
July 4, 2020 6:22 am

I caught the SA, but only absorbed the ratios; in SA, wind and solar are double priced and economically destructive in other ways.

Great article: Every politician and voter on Earth should be exposed to rhis kind of clear, rational, energy discussion.

July 3, 2020 10:31 pm

Solar/wind advocates hate it when you say “what do you use when the wind doesn’t blow, or it’s cloudy” and they answer “dispatchable power”. So then you say “OK, so you need to include that cost in your analysis”. And then they realize that solar/wind are IN ADDITION to the existing nuclear or coal/gas power plants…

July 3, 2020 11:05 pm

There are so many ways renewables are bunk. In the interview with Michael Shellenburger featured in this WUWT story, he focuses on energy density. If I remember correctly, he has fossil fuels and nuclear supplying America’s energy needs and taking up quite a bit less than 1% of the land. Solar and wind would require 50% of the land to supply the same energy.

Shellenburger’s perspective is that the less land we use, the better it is for the environment. If we use technology to grow more crops per acre, that means we need less farm land. That means more land can be left wild. He sees that as a gain for nature. So, taking up half of all the land for wind and solar is a disaster for the environment.

Shellenburger flat out calls Amory Lovins a liar. I would extend that to say that not only are the greenies wrong about the cost of renewables but the ones capable of doing the arithmetic know they are wrong. In other words, when they say wind and solar can deliver electricity for 4 cents/kwh, they are actually lying. As Rob Jeffrey points out above, there’s no way useful energy can be delivered to customers at anywhere near that price.

If a car salesman claimed his vehicles could get two hundred miles a gallon, because they could as long as they were always driven down hill and with the wind, he’d end up in jail. In my humble opinion, that’s the kind of sales job the renewable energy advocates are doing.

Reply to  commieBob
July 4, 2020 6:29 am

I had a ‘53 Chebbie Truk that got 200 miles/gallon, ‘struth; a quart of oil every 50 miles. It was re-refined 30 wt for 10c/qt. I believe I got some motive power from the burning oil.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  kim
July 4, 2020 12:10 pm

T’was in 1962 that I owned a 1952 Henry J ….. which averaged 42 mpg …… and that was in the hilly country of central West Virginia, USA.

In flatland country (Florida, Texas, etc.) it would probably have averaged 60 mpg.

Now days, new vehicles burn twice as much gas to get half as far …… and they claim that improvement helps the environment.

Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
July 4, 2020 2:32 pm


Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  kim
July 5, 2020 3:47 am

DUH ????????????????

Reply to  commieBob
July 4, 2020 7:49 am

“…there’s no way useful energy can be delivered to customers at anywhere near that price.”

And that seems to have been demonstrated wherever solar and wind have become a significant contributor to the energy supply. The price of electricity to the consumer goes up, not down. It’s a testimony to the corruption of today’s journalism standards that this point is so difficult to get across to the public.

Reply to  Rod
July 5, 2020 8:38 am

A good article, thank you Rob Jeffrey.

As stated many times on this site, we published in 2002 that grid-connected wind and solar both FAIL due to intermittency and diffusivity. Competent professionals have known that since ~forever.

So the question is, are advocates of grid-connected renewable energy grossly incompetent* or deeply corrupt, or both?

This is not technically complicated – this is the easy stuff. Told you so, 18 years ago. Since then hundreds of millions of lives and trillions of dollars of scarce global resources have been wasted on green energy nonsense.

* As George Carlin said:
“Think of how stupid the average person is; and then realize half of them are stupider than that!” 🙂

July 3, 2020 11:45 pm

If wind and solar are so cheap why are electric prices to the consumer so high.

Clearly, the final price includes all the costs along the way, and it is extortionate.

Serge Wright
July 3, 2020 11:49 pm

In Australia, the total installed nameplate capacity of installed wind and solar is around 33GWh in a grid with a peak demand at 7:00pm which is usually around 30-33GW. The average RE contribution to the peak demand period is only ~2GW and can be as low at 0.4GW when a high pressure belt sits across the continent and removes the wind generation for extended periods. The means that despite the enormous deployment of RE generation capacity, the full amount of coal and gas reserve generation needs to be retained, resulting in RE being an addition cost base to the existing fossil fuel generation. This has resulted in retail retail price rises from around 25c to over 50c KW/h over the past decade, in line with the logical expectation of what you would expect when you build a second grid in parallel to the existing one, but still require to retain the existing one.

However, this is not the biggest issue in trying the convert your existing grid to RE. Even if infinitely rising prices were not an issue for consumers, time of deployment becomes the biggest obstacle. Here in Australia, to reach the current nameplate deployment of 33GW/h took around 15 years and this deployment has been done at the fastest rate per capita of any country anywhere. In order for Australia to be able to remove the fossil fuel generators, which still provide 90% of generation at night, they would need to build 3x the current RE generation, along with enormous amounts of storage, which will mainly be pumped hydro, due to the lack of other cost effective alternatives. This would take at least another 30 years, provided they could continue at the same record pace and maintain the very high subsidies, resulting in a total build time of around 50 years and at a cost of around 400-500 billions dollars, including the storage. The storage is very expensive and would cost around 150-200 billion for only 7 days of supply, including transmission and the loss factor of the storage would also be enormous and require around 30GW of additional RE nameplate generation to make up for the lost power. But, the biggest problem is the time to build of 50 years, which is more than double the lifespan of the RE components, meaning it is simply not possible to achieve the end goal, because your work effort would be distracted towards replacing the aging turbines and panels every 20 years, which is more labour intensive and time consuming than the initial greenfield deployment.

Although the time to deployment issue has not been officially noted in Australia, the most recent energy plan being proposed by the government seems to be targeted at using gas backup with one new pumped hydro plant of 2GW / 7 days storage, at a huge cost of $10B. This basically means that AU will maintain 2 grids and the limiting factor of the RE grid capacity will be determined by the end users tolerance of the price and considering that gas is very expensive in Australia, it will be interesting to see how this pans out. Most likely the house of cards will crash down in around 5 years when the initially built turbines start to be decommissioned and the realisation of the false dream starts to bite.

Dazz in South Oz
Reply to  Serge Wright
July 4, 2020 11:13 pm

Nick Stokes strangely silent now . hehe

July 4, 2020 12:34 am

Second paragraph, “gate of supplier” and “point of supply to the customer”. I’m afraid you’ve lost me already. Pity, as the article looks interesting. Could you clarify?

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Phil
July 4, 2020 4:40 am

Think loading dock of the vegetable grower’s site to the loading dock at the grocery store.

Supplier’s gate to customer.

Reply to  Phil
July 4, 2020 4:51 am

Gate of supplier is where electricity leaves the generating facility, i.e., the substation to the electric grid. Point of supply is the customer’s meter. In other words when renewable advocates claim solar and wind are cheaper they ignore all the factors that are needed to get intermittent and diffuse renewable energy to the customer.

I really enjoyed this piece. It brought up some issues that I had not considered and described others very well.

Kudos to Rob Jeffrey

Robert Jeffrey
Reply to  Phil
July 4, 2020 9:25 am

The gate of the supplier is the gate of the windfarm. In South Africa the grid is operated by the utility, Eskom, this transports the power, ie electricity, to the point of supply to the customer ie the house, the factory, the business, using the electricity ie the final user. I hope that is clear.

July 4, 2020 12:40 am

While intermittent, renewables are perfectly predictable.

you can know to a high degree of confidence how much sun or wind will be available and plan use of other sources accordingly.

UK National Grid predicts wind to 95% or better confidence 24 hours in advance.

Transmission lines do not stand idle: they will be used at some part of their capacity. and how much new line is required? siting large scale solar near existing grid connections is an important consideration in cost effectiveness. Besides rooftop etc solar means there’s no transmission loss or power line needed…

Surplus capacity is easily stored in grid scale batteries (itself easing the ramp up and down of conventional power when predictably solar ramps down, for example) or in pumped storage, renewable hydrogen.

In short all the arguments advanced here have already been resolved in economies where renewables are already at a high share of power generation.

Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 12:54 am

UK National Grid may be able to predict wind to 95% or better confidence 24 hours in advance. And I can predict how much solar power will be generated at 2 o’clock in the morning. But if both those predictions equate to zero, you still need 100 percent backup. As for grid-scale batteries, they were never required before the current rush to renewables, so they are most definitely a cost which needs to be added to the price of renewable energy.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  Phil
July 4, 2020 1:43 am


Grid-scale battery backup still is not for tomorrow: gigantic expensive and gigantic in volume…
Fairbanks, Alaska has a backup battery for about 5 minutes for the whole town (170.000 inhabitants) only the time to start up the emergency diesel generators when the main supply fails. At -40 C mid winter quite necessary. Have a look at it:
That is the second largest battery backup of the world… The largest now is in South Australia, delivered by Elon Musk, that maintains the 50 Hz in case of failure of one or more supplies…
They had a complete blackout a few years ago when a storm destroyed two supply lines and after that several wind parks did turn down unexpectedly (and unnecessary)…

Sir Darren P
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
July 4, 2020 11:14 pm

South Australia is a case study in green madness

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 1:28 am


That is an illusion… While a day ahead in general predictions is more or less possible within large margins, electricity need to be regulated within minutes…
The predictability of solar is reasonable and a bunch of clouds doesn’t advance over a country within minutes, but wind does: from maximum to zero (within a storm, they need to be stopped) within 15 minutes over a whole state is not uncommon. If that is 50% of your supply at that moment, you are in deep trouble.
Except if you have a lot of hydro (ramps up to 100% capacity within minutes) or gas in “hot standby”, the latter uses gas to keep the turbine hot, without delivering one kWh, so that it can be ramped up in minutes too. In cold standby it takes 15 minutes for a gas turbine to deliver 100% of its capacity, with a bad yield (around 25%), while other high-yield gas/coal/nuclear facilities need 2% of full capacity/minute to ramp up or down. The costs of that extra gas (without delivery or with bad yield) and the installing costs for a 100% backup must be added to the costs of wind- en solar…

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
July 4, 2020 4:59 am


I agree with you on all but one point. “a bunch of clouds doesn’t advance over a country within minutes” is generally true but what happens when you have a 200 MW solar PV installation on a mostly cloudy day when the clouds are moving along. There is going to be a lot of variation from that facility that cannot be predicted other than to say we know it is going to vary a lot. Obvious solution is to require all utility scale renewables to include their own energy storage system, pay them full price for their dispatchable power and less for any power that isn’t dispatchable.

Reply to  Roger Caiazza
July 4, 2020 6:33 am

There be hippoGriffs.

Reply to  Roger Caiazza
July 4, 2020 4:05 pm

The sudden appearance of clouds over a large solar array in Alice Springs Australia caused cascading power outages that led to a complete town power blackout that lasted many hours.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 1:55 am


About new linesL
– All off-shore wind needs new lines to connect to the main grid. Here they made a “plug connection” on sea and a DC line to the mainland at a cost of 500 million euro, to be payed by the regular household customers (not the wind farms or the industry).
Germany needs a new main DC line to connect the wind farms in the North Sea to the industry area of the Ruhr (mid-west Germany) over about 500 km. They struggle already 15 years to have all the permits, because the resistance of everybody who lives in that trajectory…
If there are a lot of solar panels in a street, the local lines have insufficient capacity (because there is hardly any use and people and -electric- car are at work, not at home…), so the local distribution network must be increased in capacity. That is the case for a lot of places in Germany and The Netherlands…

All these extra costs should be attributed to wind and solar, but they are not…

Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 2:11 am

What grid scale batteries Griff? That $100 million battery in South Australia holds enough electricity to keep the power flowing for 5 minutes. To achieve 24 hours, you would need 24 x 60 / 5 x 100m = $29 billion, for a state with a GDP of 110 billion.

Of course even a day wouldn’t be enough to guarantee supply. Britain recently had a total wind drought which lasted 9 days. South Australia recently had a wind drought which lasted 3 months.

So long as renewables need dispatchable backup, the true cost of renewables is the cost of renewables + the cost of dispatchable backup. Cheaper to just go with the “backup” system, and forget the renewables.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
July 4, 2020 1:51 pm

Worse, it would take so long to build all those batteries, that the ones installed first would have to be replaced long before the last ones could be installed.

Ron Long
Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 2:53 am

Hey Griff, do us all a favor and go walk underneath a line of giant wind turbines and see the dead and dying mangled birds and tell us how you think that is progressive.

Reply to  Ron Long
July 4, 2020 4:49 am

Griff has a long history of cognitive dissonance. I now assume he’s a paid troll as he is immune to facts or logic.

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
July 4, 2020 6:36 am

A Gorebot, fortunately with warning labels.

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
July 4, 2020 1:52 pm

How many times has Griff left and sworn never to return?
My count is 3 times.

In the Real World
Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 3:10 am

Normal total rubbish from Griff.
While the Lockdown has been going & causing low demand , wholesale grid price in the UK has been down to £20 odd per MWh . Hornsea , [ biggest offshore wind farm in the world ,] is getting £162.47 per MWh , & higher than that constraint payments when it sometimes produces more power than needed .
The S. Australia battery plant , [ again , biggest in the world ,] stores enough energy to keep the UK grid going for about 12 seconds when demand is high .

And not far from where I live they have been putting in new power lines to hook up to another new offshore wind farm . Several years ongoing so far & cost in the £ Billions .

So nobody with any common sense believes that wind & solar is anything but incredibly expensive & very unreliable , & still needs a large percentage of conventional generation to keep the grid frequency stable .

Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 5:22 am

all the arguments advanced here have already been resolved in economies where renewables are already at a high share of power generation.

Ok, griff. Please list all these economies where the intermittency issues of renewables have been resolved.

I want to know because they certainly haven’t in my neighbouring state of South Australia and these same issues are afflicting our grid more and more as renewables penetration increases.

Reply to  Analitik
July 4, 2020 1:53 pm

Griff keeps holding up Germany, while ignoring that Germany is connected to and draws from the European grid.

Reply to  Analitik
July 4, 2020 4:59 pm

In California the Independant System Operator has spent years warning and complaining about the phenomenon where, in the early evening when people go home and start their evening activities, the sun is also going down. So at the same time demand is spiking, supply is falling off the table. The combined cycle gas turbines, which are designed to provide base load electricity, are very hard pressed to keep up with the spiking demand. On the worst days, when it’s hot and calm, it’s even worse because the wind isn’t blowing and the windmills aren’t providing any of the electricity. They call it the duck curve. If grid scale batteries were anything more than Griff’s fever dream, they’d be helpful in California.

Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 6:05 am

The BIG problem in the UK (and like many other countries) is that wind and solar are mandated to go on the grid whenever they are producing electricity. Effectively they are allowed to jump the line when it come to supply (much to the detriment of all other suppliers).
This requirement immediately screws the other reliable suppliers economically, as coal (now US tree powered bio-fuel) and gas powered plants, were built to make a profit at a certain projected level of LONG TERM continuous supply, and now they are having to reduce their output dynamically because of wind and solar. This put costs up (more maintenance and repair) while profitable output of supplying the consumers is reduced (less income for being on rolling stand-by).
In this manner and with all the subsidies, wind and solar appear (artificially) cheaper. If the electricity market were a real ‘level playing field’ then wind and solar would look hellishly expensive, as well as very unreliable!

Master of the Obvious
Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 6:29 am

In short all the arguments advanced here have already been resolved in economies where renewables are already at a high share of power generation.

Well yes, the author makes it abundantly clear that the technical solutions exist. His point is that the costs of these solutions are substantial and are often glossed-over or ignored by the advocates for renewables. As he noted, the cost of power in Germany lines-up well with his reckoning.

I guess the extension of Margret Thatcher’s observation is that renewables are cheap until you run out of other peoples’ money……

Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 8:14 am

Griff, why, if it’s all so easy and low cost, the price for electric power in Germany is the highest at least in Europe thanks to renewables ?
We pay here for power not produced in case of storms, or if wind is not blowing.
The costs for the 50Hz regulations in case of to much renewables is also to add.
How often the costs for renewables turn negative and we pay for the export of the overproduction.
Yoi are aware of nothing, as our Greens told us once, the costs for electricity will be not more than the price of a ball of ice.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 10:07 am

griff, it all flows smoothly in words but notable extensive costly blackouts have occurred in UK, Germany where one is idealy close (relative to North America) to neighboring systems – French nuclear, Polish coal, etc.

South Australia is a teaching example of disastrous blackouts where one has tried to go renewables alone. In Germany, they revitalized brown coal mining and in UK Drax is burning boatloads of hardwoods from South Carolina! In South Australia, sales of diesel electric generates are booming.

What are your thoughts on Schellenberger’s realization that renewables are neither economic nor environmentally sound if you have to tie up hundreds of thousands of hectares of land that could be farmed or returned to nature to replace small footprint fossil fuel units plus extirpation of millions of bats and birds. How does this meet any sensible objective if they don’t deliver satisfactorily, economically and environmentally.

Schellenberger is a lefty environmentalist of 30yrs experience who advised Obama on renewables and worked on IPCC reports. James Lovelock of the Gaia vision and an icon of climate campaigners changed his mind and said that he was wrong to spout the climate fears for the future. He used the word ‘silly’. Michael Moore “Planet if the Humans”…

griff, you are not a stupid man. I don’t get the impression you are an atmospheric physicist, so have to base your beliefs on what others tell you. I hope you are taking note of the very courageous defections of estimable former supporters, whose reward will be hugely negative and career ending. At least let legitimate doubt in for consideration.

Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 1:48 pm

I see that griff is still trying to claim that meteorologists can predict wind speed to withing 1mph a 24hours in advance.

They also know exactly where every cloud will form, a day in advance.

Is there any lie so incredibly stupid, that griff and his fellow trolls won’t repeat it?

BTW, grid scale batteries don’t exist. Despite the claims of the climate liars.

Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 5:14 pm

Can you explain why California, Germany and Denmark have such a high cost of electricity? The writer talked about why prices are high. I can solve a problem by paying twice as much. Which is creating additional problems.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  griff
July 4, 2020 10:29 pm

Griff wrote,…renewables are perfectly predictable.”

Power prediction from Solar panels on a space vehicle in a known orbit are perfectly predictable as long as all the control and attitudes systems work. Nothing regarding wind and solar is perfectly predictable on Earth given the the weather forecasts are useless > 7 days days out for most areas. Even sunny Arizona gets clouds in the summer and monsoons.

So Thanks for the laugh Griff. I always thought you were an idiot. Now I’m sure.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 5, 2020 7:00 am

Griff seems to feel that having the weather man predict that tomorrow is going to be windier, or sunnier than today, is sufficient for predicting how much energy wind and solar will produce.

July 4, 2020 1:18 am

LCOE and capacity factors tend to be a tendentious issues. 2 recent papers from the Aberdeen business school may be of interest to UK observers or residents (by which I mean customers and taxpayers of course) who can assess them better than I.
-“Better estimates of LCOE from audited accounts – A new methodology with examples from United Kingdom offshore wind and CCGT
JohnAldersey-WilliamsIan D.BroadbentPeter A.Strachan”-
•LCOE estimates from public domain data can be unreliable.
•A new methodology is proposed, based on robust audited accounting information.
•This methodology is demonstrated for offshore wind and CCGT in the UK.
•The analysis shows that UK offshore wind LCOE remains higher than recent CfD bids.
•The analysis suggests that UK offshore wind LCOE is now falling gradually.
This paper is paywalled , but a citing article from the same authors is open access and contains a history of UK offshore windfarms and their performance up to 2018 based on publicly available data.

-“Analysis of United Kingdom offshore wind farm performance using public data: Improving the evidence base for policymaking
JohnAldersey-WilliamsIan D.BroadbentPeter A.Strachan “-
Policymakers and regulators increasingly need to balance the requirements of energy demand, security and costs, and to do so they need accurate estimates of performance. This study uses public data to assess United Kingdom offshore wind farm performance to improve policy decisions. We find that average capacity factors have improved from 34.9% in Round 1 (2001) to 41.0% in Round 2 (2002) projects. Drivers and correlations of performance for United Kingdom offshore wind farms are analysed. The research also addresses problems with existing capacity factor estimates and generates new estimates of inter-year variability of capacity factors, providing a more accurate evidence base for policy and regulatory decisions.

One interesting , noneconomic , fact from the article is that analysis of offshore wind speeds from 2001 to present (useful if not essential for the turbine entrepreneurs ) shows no significant increase , contrary to the alarmist scare stories issued at regular intervals (ie virtually every programme) by the BBC .
(BTW these articles are from respectable journals published by Elsevier)

July 4, 2020 1:51 am

The future of nuclear is clearly smal modular molten salt reactors, whose USD prices will be 4 cents per kWhr, levelized, roughly half that of conventional new nuclear. These reactors can also load follow, eliminating most need for auxillery peak load capacity from fossil fuels/hydro.

Roger Knights
July 4, 2020 1:58 am

“backup facilities would typically be running approximately 40% below their optimal efficiency. Their efficiency loss is in effect a direct subsidy of the solar and wind.”

Change to “indirect”

“Several previously prosperous communities in Gauteng and South Africa would become ghost towns with rising unemployment and increasing poverty levels. Social benefits would increase dramatically.”

Change to “Social-benefits payments to compensate would increase dramatically.”

July 4, 2020 2:13 am

One of the costs missing in the article are the transmission losses. Transmission losses are related to the square of the power throughput for a given transmission system. So low capacity factors translate to much higher than average transmission losses. For example, if wind output is at 100% for 1/3rd of the time then the transmission losses are up 9-fold during the time of output equating to 3X that of a a system supplying a constant 33% of the rated capacity.

This factor came to be recognised financially in Australia a few years ago when some of the remote intermittent generators had an enormous reduction in the power actually paid for. A remote solar farm suffered transmission losses determined to be as high as 20% of the energy metered at the generator boundary; about 4X the loss it initially paid based on average output.

Once again the author makes the mistake of referring to intermittent wind and solar generators as “renewable”. These devices, of current design, can in no way be described as “renewable”. They consume more energy in their creation than they can ever hope to power the processes used to produce them. The applications where they provide economic merit are very limited.

Reply to  RickWill
July 4, 2020 1:58 pm

Transmission losses are a square of the current through the system.

If you double the voltage and halve the current, the power stays the same, the transmission losses decrease.

Reply to  MarkW
July 4, 2020 5:47 pm

If you double the voltage and halve the current, the power stays the same, the transmission losses decrease.

That does not alter the fact that the transmission losses are much higher when the capacity factor of the generator is low. All you have done by increasing the voltage, at great cost, is shift the base case losses.

No transmission system operator is going to increase the voltage of their transmission network to reduce the transmission losses for the intermittent generators. The system was designed for the customer to achieve a design peak demand. It makes no difference if the demand at any time is being serviced by intermittent generators or dispatcahable generators. The transmission losses have to be covered by the generator operating at the time, not the average of the output over a period of time, as was being done in Australia before they operator realised that intermittents were not covering their actual losses.

For the particular 55MW solar farm at Broken Hill, the cost of doubling the transmission line voltage over the 300km to his transmission node would be more than the cost of the solar farm. There are a number of consumers and other generators on the transmission line as well and they would all need to upgrade their systems at HUGE cost.

Reply to  RickWill
July 5, 2020 7:02 am

No transmission system operator is going to change the voltage on their system at all.
These systems are designed to run at one voltage, and that’s the voltage they run at regardless of how much power is being demanded.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  RickWill
July 4, 2020 2:35 pm

These devices, of current design, can in no way be described as “renewable”. They consume more energy in their creation than they can ever hope to power the processes used to produce them.

Da is my major concern regarding renewable energy. If true, it means that renewables are quite simply throwing money away. If true, promotion of renewables should be a crime.

Has a proper study been performed, showing all energy used in manufacturing, transport, installation, maintenance and eventual decommissioning? If not, why not?

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
July 4, 2020 6:08 pm

This is a good source of information on the ERoEI for intermittent generators:

The Net Energy Cliff shows how with declining ERoEI society must commit ever larger amounts of available energy to energy gathering activities. Below ERoEI = 5 to 7 such large numbers of people would be working for the energy industries that there would not be enough people left to fill all the other positions our current altruistic society offers.

Buffered wind and solar, required to turn their intermittent output into usable dispatachable output puts them both beyond the energy cliff. The figures quoted for for LCOE for wind and solar always exclude the cost of buffering i.e. making it useful to power an industrial process or even a modern household.

Ben Vorlich
July 4, 2020 3:43 am

A Nissan Leaf battery is 40kWh in 0.5 cubic metres. The UK demand is usually about 30GW. So to keep the UK going for an hour on batteries alone would required roughly 375000 cubic metres of Nissan Leaf batteries. A 1 square metre tube of batteries of that capacity would stretch from London to Manchester, and for a day’s, a windless cloudy day in January, power that 1 sq mtre tube would stretch from London to Los Angeles. A day’s storage for UK would require about 18 million Leaf batteries. I think. Not grid scale

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
July 4, 2020 8:54 am

Fat Batteried Grids, they make the rockin’ world unsound.

Vincent Causey
July 4, 2020 3:52 am

The article is badly written. Gave up in the end. It doesn’t even say what currency, the cents per Kwhr is. Only further down was South Africa mentioned.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Vincent Causey
July 4, 2020 5:18 am

Read through to the end and much becomes clear in context.

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  Vincent Causey
July 4, 2020 6:49 am

Vincent Causey
July 4, 2020 at 3:52 am

I beg to differ. The article is clearly written with its conclusions applicable regardless of the currency involved.

I found it most useful…so many thanks to Mr. Jeffrey and WUWT.

Robert Jeffrey
Reply to  Vincent Causey
July 4, 2020 9:38 am

I apologise. Will try to get it better next time. One must view it as whole.

Reply to  Robert Jeffrey
July 4, 2020 3:41 pm

He’s just looking for an excuse to ignore the article.

July 4, 2020 4:30 am

Its important to note how levelized costs are calculated. Its a cash flow, NPV calculation.

You take the total generated power over the lifetime of the installation as one of the elements. You do not take any account of when its generated either by season or time of day. The quantity of interest is total amount generated.

You then take the total cash out by year. These will include capital costs, maintenance and decommissioning. You then discount them to get an NPV of these cash flows

Divide this number by the amount of power generated and you end up with a figure of cost per kWh. This is the levelized cost.

Advocates then compare this with, for instance, wholesale prices, or costs of a conventional plant per hour, and claim that wind or solar is cheaper or at parity.

The problem with it as a method is that it takes no account of whether the power is generated when its needed. A huge peak of supply at 2am is treated the same as if it were at peak usage time.

This is obvious nonsense. Always has been. Levelized cost calculations basically assume that the supply generated from wind or solar is identical in periodicity to that generated from conventional or nuclear.

In addition, of course, as others have pointed out, its usual to simply omit the additional costs from extra transmission lines, and backup supply.

So you have a combination of assuming two methods of generation are delivering comparable and substitutable products, when they are not, and leaving out half the costs for one of them.

Always call out LCOE assertions whenever you hear them, on this basis. They are pure intellectual dishonesty.

Reply to  michel
July 4, 2020 4:34 am

You can see the dishonesty of the method by a simple example. Apply it to an installation which takes 20 years to build, and only delivers in the final year, after which it is decommissioned.

Compare this to another which generates the same total amount of power, but regularly and continuously over the 20 year period.

The two systems would have exactly the same levelized cost. This is despite one being obviously useless to any utility company serving a normal economy, and the other being exactly what is needed.

The method is pure intellectual dishonesty.

John Furst
July 4, 2020 5:15 am

Does anyone know of similar studies for USA costs? And what other cost contributions should be added.
Suggestions for additional costs including above categories, and also missing costs that include: Excess regulatory costs of coal and nuclear. Including redundant and repetitive demand for studies and other construction delaying tactics.
Costs hidden in price to customers (distribution equipment and maintenance and special consumer subsidy programs) or taxes/credits/rebates/govt employees/etc.
Excess coal costs may include costs based on fictions of lives or damage attributed.
Nuclear costs should also include the mandatory costs included in customer bills for future dismantlement.

David Lilley
Reply to  John Furst
July 4, 2020 6:05 am

Any carbon taxes should also be excluded from any comparison of levelized costs. They are a totally artificial construct whose main purpose is to make fossil fuelled power more expensive.

July 4, 2020 5:43 am

Is Japan ahead of us (in the UK) or sadly entrenched in the past?
The item from “Notalot– ” about japan’s projcts for replacing some . but not all, nuclear plants is possibly of relevance in this debate given that it is a technologically advanced nation that , one assumes, does not relish a return to medieval squalor:
Paul Homewood is referring to an Economist report and comments :

-“Coal currently accounts for 31% of Japan’s electricity. By contrast wind and solar only provide 8%.
It is true that Japan is also closing a lot of its older, more polluting coal plants. With the switch back to nuclear, we will likely see the share of coal reducing. Nevertheless the new coal power stations due over the next five years will ensure that Japan remains committed to a substantial contribution from coal power for decades to come.
The Economist naturally bemoans the slow transformation to renewables, but Japan knows full well that heavy reliance on wind and solar would be far too dangerous.”-

The policies for future energy security being proposed by Japan are almost the direct opposite of what is being proposed by the UK . One us must be wrong – them or us? Well I suppose the intelligent answer would be that to compare Japan’s energy policy to ours (in the UK) is to compare apples and oranges . Japan’s motives are energy security for the population and their industry . Ours is to save the world from thermal obliteration by eliminating 2% of global CO2 emissions.
How selfish of the Japanese. (/s?)

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  mikewaite
July 4, 2020 8:43 am

Japan’s situation is in some ways unique:

1) No internal fossil fuel resources. Whether coal, oil or natural gas, it all has to be imported.
2) Relatively small area with relatively large population and large industrial base. There simply isn’t enough land area not already in service to support low-density power sources like wind and solar.
3) Highly educated and capable population.

All of these factors argue for nuclear as the dominant electrical generation type, but there is a substantial anti-nuclear bias among the Japanese public. To be sure, the extra engineering and construction expenses required to site a nuclear plant in a highly active earthquake region must be considered. But if not nuclear, then either imported coal or imported gas will provide most of Japan’s electricity.

Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
July 4, 2020 11:59 pm

But without radiation how do we get Gojira?

July 4, 2020 6:05 am

The need for spinning reserve/batteries, the interconnection requirements and the expense of maintaining such a complex system makes this zero emissions scenario impractical. Of course this will seem of little relevance to those living in a fantasy universe or whose living depends on perpetuating fantasies of this sort.

July 4, 2020 6:18 am

“It is claimed that wind and solar are the cheapest sources of electricity and these sources should dominate future electricity supply. This paper focuses on known additional costs and subsidies which are not taken into account in the costs of wind and solar put forward by their advocates.

Advocates of wind and solar claim a cost of 62cents/kWh. This is, however, the price at the gate of the supplier. ”

It is claimed?
provide a citation to forestall claims you are presenting a strawman.

‘Advocates of wind and solar claim a cost of 62cents/kWh.”

again a citation helps you and your reader.

When the first couple paragraphs would fail Freshman English, I generally don’t see why reading further would be warranted.




anything but coal

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 4, 2020 6:43 am

Expert @ Freshman English now, esteemed commissar?

Deign, if you wish, to address the argument.

Rich Davis
Reply to  kim
July 4, 2020 8:21 am

Oh Kim, don’t you know that mosh is an English major who can barely string a few words together without a spelling error or a grammatical faux pas?

Black pot, meet kettle.

Reply to  Rich Davis
July 4, 2020 8:29 am

Oh yes, he wrote my program 35 years ago as an exercise in computer created poetry.

We are anciently intimate.

In the Real World
Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 4, 2020 7:21 am

This article shows the relative costs of generation .
It is UK based , but uses US figures as well , to show that over the life span of a CCGT , [ gas ] power station , wind & solar are over 12 times more expensive .

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 4, 2020 7:51 am

From the Forbes article you cited:
“Lazard’s most recent Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) analysis shows U.S. renewable energy prices continued falling fast in 2019, with wind and solar hitting new lows, after renewables fell below the cost of coal in 2018. LCOE measures the total cost of building and operating a facility over its lifetime, and shows renewables beating fossil fuels by ever-larger margins – even without subsidies – with that trend forecast to continue for decades to come.”

Cheapest; check.
“. . . .renewables fell below the cost of coal in 2018. LCOE measures the total cost of building and operating a facility over its lifetime, and shows renewables beating fossil fuels by ever-larger margins – even without subsidies”

Should dominate in future; check.
“that trend forecast to continue for decades to come”

Not sure if you meant to provide the cite you requested, but it does appear to be what you asked for.

Reply to  James Schrumpf
July 4, 2020 8:32 am

See Michel above @ 4:30 & 4:34 AM.

Reply to  James Schrumpf
July 4, 2020 2:03 pm

If renewables were as cheap as the trolls claim, then utilities would be rushing to install them. There would be no need for subsidies or mandates.

As usual, the warmunists see only what they are paid to see.

Reply to  James Schrumpf
July 4, 2020 4:15 pm

Lazard’s LCOE has been rightly criticised on this site for its many failings. One of its major failings is that it only compares costs over 30 years, the presumed lifetime of wind and solar, ignoring the fact that coal and nuclear have much greater lifetimes.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 4, 2020 8:14 am

Tell ABC to the Chinese

Reply to  Derg
July 4, 2020 8:36 am

Heh, they build a coal plant every week, some with scrubbers, which are often unused in the scramble for greater output.

You are asking the difficult of this commissar.

Reply to  kim
July 4, 2020 8:47 am

Scrubber Scramble,
Take a ramble
Through Chinese jungle,
Watch them bungle.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 4, 2020 10:09 am

It is claimed? provide a citation to forestall claims you are presenting a strawman.

There’s additional material in the paper that wasn’t presented here. See p. 6.

“The CSIR estimates that the LCOE, which takes capital cost and all the above factors into account, for wind and solar is 62c/kWh, coal is R.105/kWh and nuclear R1.30/kWh.”


Still, admittedly, no direct citation in the paper that I could find. Nevertheless, the claim isn’t a strawman. He’s right. See p. 8 here:


When the first couple paragraphs would fail Freshman English, I generally don’t see why reading further would be warranted.

And here you make yourself look like a moron. Why do you do it dood? You opened with a complaint about committing a logical fallacy and then you go and do it yourself?

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 4, 2020 10:48 am


Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 4, 2020 2:02 pm

If anyone should know about freshmen lit, it would be steve.

Regardless, thank you steve for dragging up a propaganda piece that suffers from every single flaw detailed in the above article.

Paul Johnson
July 4, 2020 6:34 am

This is an interesting article that runs down the COSTS of additional infrastructure required to accommodate non-dispatchable power. There’s an easy way to understand the VALUE of non-dispatchable power by taking a system-wide viewpoint.

Assume a fossil fuel/nuclear power grid that fully meets demand. Add an electric power unicorn intermittently providing 20% to 100% of demand for free with semi-predicable outages lasting minute, hours, or days. What happens to costs? In the real world, all the existing equipment is still needed to cover unicorn shortfall/outages. Capital, operating, and maintenance costs remain the same or increase due to cycling. Only fuel costs are reduced. Thus, the VALUE of non-dispatchable power is, at most, the avoided fuel cost for the back-up systems. So-called levelized costs aren’t level at all.

July 4, 2020 6:55 am

ABC, eh?

Hint: CO2 is not dangerous, coal is the cheapesrt energy source in many places, & China has spent recent years nailing down hydrocarbon sources all over the planet.

Things you don’t notice because of your carbon fixation.

Tighten up!

Dave Andrewsa
July 4, 2020 7:55 am

Since renewables were introduced on a large scale in the UK the cost of balancing the grid has risen from £367m to £1.5 billion per year, largely due to the measures needed to manage their intermittency. Consumers are also burdened by the £10 billion per annum cost of renewable subsidies. Electricity prices have risen dramatically and are only heading in one direction.

Bill Rocks
July 4, 2020 8:22 am

Rob Jeffrey,

Thank you for the communication. Your document offers much information and analysis for the reader to consider.

I have been in the control room of the impressive Matimba power station, and other important sites in your beautiful country, and therefore read your dissection of the South Africa RE industry with especial interest.

Best wishes.

July 4, 2020 8:30 am

Energy that is not fit for purpose really has no value.
In fact the disruption it causes gives it a negative value.
This is clear from open market transactions. Utilities that have to dispose of excess renewable generation have to pay others to take it. The only value it has is when renewable use is mandated by law.
Curtailment fees are also and example of this. How can one say it has value when the consumer has to pay to not take it?

Reply to  Billy
July 4, 2020 8:41 am

Bingo: Sun and wind energy has negative value, except in specialized applications; they are not ready for prime time.

Robert Jeffrey
July 4, 2020 9:45 am

I apologise. Will try to get it better next time. One must view it as whole.

Bill S
July 4, 2020 10:31 am

Another cost factor left out of the RE equation is that RE must build in excess generating capacity than demand to recharge the high capacity low cost batteries that do not yet exist. Let’s imagine that a fossil fuel/nuclear energy system produces X amount of power on demand annually. This system is fully replaced with an RE system with 7 day battery backup to accommodate the times when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine.

The capacity of the RE system will need to be 1.2 X, or some multiple greater than 1X, in order to recharge the storage system back to its full 7 day capacity after a 5 day shortfall, for instance. In addition, calculating whether the storage system needs to be capable of 3 days, 7 days, or 21 days is also difficult because weather patterns are unpredictable year to year. The amount of storage capacity needed will also drive whether the additional production capacity is 1.2X or 1.5X. The decision of how much storage capacity is enough will be a huge driver in the total cost of the system.

July 4, 2020 11:07 am

Excellent analysis. Forty years working for an electric utility and he has hit all of pertinent points. The only thing missing is that none of the analysis that I have read in the last 20 years include the “Standby” loads of Wind turbines or of the Solar Inverters.
Solar Panels are rated at power of the panels, e.g., Max output Voltage and Max Output current. The power delivered is less. Then there is the power loss while not doing anything – like your PC when shut off and not unplugged, or the battery removed. Not much but not insignificant. Especially when the greenies complain about all of the Cellphone Chargers plugged in and wasting electricity, which, due to using switching converters today is truly insignificant.
Wind Turbines are truly wasteful when not generating electricity. The output is again the power delivered to the grid. However there is a separate line to the low power distribution system that power all of the equipment to make a Wind Turbine work. Pumps, motors, cooling systems, computers, ventilation, local wind direction, motors and hydraulics to position the turbine into the wind and adjust the pitch on the prop, communications systems, and even aircraft warning lights and monitors for these lights and even heaters and de-icers in northern areas. And don’t forget the rotation of the main shaft to prevent it from warping. Rule of thumb is that all of this energy adds up to about eight to fifteen percent increasing lineally with size.
This power comes off of the low voltage distribution line not the output line. It must come off of this line as you can not position or even know where to position the turbine unless it is coming off of the output line as there is no power there when it is not running. Unlike Solar panels on your roof, there are Reverse Power protection breakers that prevent reverse power going back to the Wind Turbine. that means you need one additional Wind Turbine. However, that 15 percent is used 24/7/365. That means over one day you are using the power, wasting the power, the equivalent of one in six wind turbines that should be subtracted from the claim that the new Wind Farm will PROVIDE the power to light 100,000 homes they brag about. It will only light 85,000 homes. This means power needs to come from somewhere else to provide the power needed for the non rotating wind turbines so they can align themselves with the wind and not harden the grease into a glue like paste when it is cold.

Reply to  Uzurbrain
July 4, 2020 2:08 pm

Wind turbines need to be kept turning, even when there is no wind. If they don’t, they will develop flat spots on the bearings.
This is probably the biggest single load during times when the turbines aren’t producint.

Reply to  MarkW
July 5, 2020 7:05 am

I would imagine that when it gets cold and the wind isn’t blowing, the oil will have to be heated in order to keep the bearings lubricated.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  MarkW
July 5, 2020 10:30 am

That definitely does not seem to be the case for many windfarms located in Southern California. On most days where there is little or no wind, one can drive by any such farm and see that the majority of the wind turbines are not rotating at all.

I assert that the claim of having to keep wind turbine shafts rotating to prevent “developing flat spots” (the correct engineering term is Brinelling) is equivalent to urban folklore. Modern bearing calculations and design can easily prevent this from occurring . . . it’s just a matter of keeping applied bearing contact stress comfortably below selected bearing material yield/creep strength. Of course, like anything, one gets what one pays for.

For fun, just imagine the complications if the asserted requirement to keep heavily-loaded bearing always turning was applied to the drive shafts of submarines or large ocean vessels or heavy earth movers.

Reply to  Uzurbrain
July 4, 2020 7:12 pm

Very good and important points, one not mentioned is reactive power, which wind and solar cannot provide or perhaps only in small amounts, and never where the big loads occur in the system. Another issue is the big and ongoing failures in gear boxes and bearings of all makes and types. This is because no wind turbine can be designed to withstand vertical loads and stresses as well as the forces when there are large and sudden wind changes. The downbursts under severe thunderstorm cells prevent any realistic feathering of the blades and all would be driven downwards at the same time regardless of their blade angles.
It is not commonly realized that when thunderstorms associated with fronts pass a point on the ground the wind veers 180 degrees instantaneously – imagine what that does to the gear boxes and bearings. That is caused by the inflow wind feeding the thunderstorm being overtaken by the wind generated by the direction of travel of the storm.

July 4, 2020 11:50 am

Other than the currency confusion this is a clearly written article — the first I’ve read from a South African point of view.

I have two inventions that will solve the intermittent solar and wind power problems:
– Nuclear powered fans, and
– Nuclear powered spotlights

Reply to  Richard Greene
July 4, 2020 1:14 pm

Lipstick on a pig, but it’ll look tremendous.

William Astley
July 4, 2020 1:07 pm

Another a key unsolvable problem for intermittent power (sun and wind) and wind …

…is the impossible battery problem.

It is impossible to construct a ‘battery’ system that can store the entire power of a country….

…To be re-used six months later.

What! No one noticed that there is an excess of wind and sun in the summer and a deficit in the winter?

The largest power demand, for northern countries, is in the winter, when it is cold.

To get to Zero Emission…. The ‘plan’ is countries will be powered and heated using electricity. And electricity will be produced by sun and wind gathering.

The Increase the Electrical Grid by a Factor of THREE problem.

The additional power loads (heating, transportation, manufacturing, and so on, that were previously powered from the burning hydrocarbons) will require expanding the electrical grid by more than a factor of three.

There will need to be three times as many hydrocarbon burning power plants to power the grid when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining/winter.

The Summer Winter Load Shift Problem

The total monthly available, wind and sun power, peaks in the summer and is lowest in the winter. In the winter there are high pressure systems that result in no or little wind over large regions, for weeks.

A grid support battery system is economical and useful, to store a small amount of power, that is then re-used, at most within a few days.

A battery system cannot and will not (because of practical reasons, such as there is no CO2 savings) be used to power/run an entire country (the US, Germany, France, UK, Canada, China, and so on)

A battery system cannot store the power for an enter country… to be re-used six months later.

This is a link the a study that lists some of the impossible to solve engineering problems to get to zero emission by 2050, for the UK.

There is no zero emissions way to power planes, to power ships, to mine, to construct buildings, roads, bridges, and other stuff, to make cement.

There is no zero emissions alternative to plastics, and so on.

Zero Emission by 2050 is impossible, regardless of how much money is spent.


Chas Wynn
July 4, 2020 2:10 pm

It seems evident from the vast majority of posts that there is a consensus that renewables, for the purposes of bulk electricity supply, are not worth any consideration at all. Here in Ontario Canada the renewables party has taken the retail cost of electricity from one of the cheapest in North America to one of the most expensive in just 20 years. The real question is, where did the billions spent on this global charade land?Michael Moore in his ‘Planet of the Humans’ highlights the answer: corporate interests. The political influence of the latter cannot be over emphasized, and, this means that the charade will continue until the inherent lack of reliable dispatch in renewable supply causes such blackouts that the long suffering public demand new political leadership. South Australia seems to be closing in on that eventuality.

July 4, 2020 4:24 pm

Again this highlights the power of propaganda and who delivers it. Base load and true costs are totally ignored by renewable advocates yet they are easy to quantify and verify. It’s a known fact that wind and solar can not reliably provide electricity for the world even if you carpeted the earth with panels and turbines. The myth of grid scale batteries isn’t understood by all yet is constantly cited as the base load backup. The world is being mushroomed by the media that is bought and paid for by those that want us to fail.

July 4, 2020 7:20 pm

Very good and important points, one not mentioned is reactive power, which wind and solar cannot provide or perhaps only in small amounts, and never where the big loads occur in the system. Another issue is the big and ongoing failures in gear boxes and bearings of all makes and types. This is because no wind turbine can be designed to withstand vertical loads and stresses as well as the forces when there are large and sudden wind changes. The downbursts under severe thunderstorm cells prevent any realistic feathering of the blades and all would be driven downwards at the same time regardless of their blade angles.
It is not commonly realized that when thunderstorms associated with fronts pass a point on the ground the wind veers 180 degrees instantaneously – imagine what that does to the gear boxes and bearings. That is caused by the inflow wind feeding the thunderstorm being overtaken by the wind generated by the direction of travel of the storm.

July 4, 2020 7:43 pm

In Australia, Dr Alan Finkel, the Government’s Chief Scientist reported levelised cost of solar as A$91/MWhr without backup (6.4 US cents/kWh) and A$172/MWhr with 12 hours storage. Those costs include no allowance for grid upgrades to account for new generating locations. New coal station A$76/MWhr, wind without backup A$91/MWhr.

July 5, 2020 10:05 am

Agree with the guys mentioning batteries as a back-up and also to transform instantaneuos produced electricity at the (wind, solar) site to grid dispatchable quality electricity.

They will be needed to avoid energy surges and energy spikes which will fry the grid. It messes up the calculation on several levels, agreed.


YallaYPoora Kid
July 6, 2020 6:38 am

Via my sleuthing I suspect that Griff is actually a woman, so you will all have to withdraw that sexist dialogue. She is a Greens councillor in NSW, Australia (no surprise)

See link https://www.facebook.com/catherine.griff.33 and her Greens profile https://greensoncouncil.org.au/cathy-griff/

It all makes sense now.

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