The 2019 UK Weather Dependent Renewables fleet: costs and comparisons
These Comparative costs for Renewable Wind and Solar and conventional Power generation are derived from 2020 USA EIA (Energy Information Administration) information. An estimate of longer-term costs is made over a 60-year service-life, (as with Nuclear). These costs are independent of any subsidies or tax benefits enjoyed by Renewables.
The productivity of Renewables, (Wind and Solar power), is crucial. It is only when their actual productivity is combined with comparative costs can the true costs of the power that is effectively supplied to the Grid be estimated.
These straightforward calculations 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 EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables, using conventional generation technologies, (Nuclear or Gas-firing) ? and how do those figures compare ?”.
By the end 2019 the UK had a fleet of about 35Gigawatts of Weather Dependent Renewables, more than half of the installed fleet. It cost about £62 billion in capital and implied a further long-term cost of about £260 billion. Over the year Renewables contributed about 7.3 Gigawatts, less than 23%. But the most cost-effective form of power generation is from Gas-firing at less than £1billion / Gigawatt. Burning Gas produces much less CO2 than other fossil fuels, (were that a concern).
According to these rough calculations, using Gas-firing instead of Renewables to produce that 7.3Gigawatts to the Grid could have saved the UK about £55billion in capital and roughly £230billion long-term. Savings would be less with Nuclear power, but still substantial. All these extra costs are either picked up by Government, (the taxpayer ), or are a burden on electricity bills.
There are other additional Cost and CO2 implications of Weather Dependent Renewables
The comparative figures above only account for direct generation costs and are underestimates of the full costs incurred by using Weather Dependent Renewables. Those ancillary costs associated with Renewables result from:
- Renewable’s unreliability in terms of both power intermittency and power variability.
- Renewables are non-dispatchable, put simply, the clouds do not clear away and the wind does not blow to order whenever power is needed.
- the poor timing of Renewables generation is unlikely to match demand. Any Wind power is subject to Weather variability. Solar energy falls off in the evening, the times of peak demand. In winter Solar yields about 1/9th of its summer output.
- much additional engineering infrastructure is needed for access to Renewable sites.
- the long transmission lines incur transmission power losses and increased maintenance.
- Renewables need large land areas, compared to conventional generation, (Gas-firing or Nuclear).
- the continuing costs of back-up generation, which is essential but may only be used on occasions running in spinning reserve, still emitting CO2 nonetheless.
- if sufficient back-up conventional capacity is in place to support the grid, then there is very little point in doubling up the generation capacity with comparatively non-productive Renewables, even though they might substitute some CO2 emissions.
- any consideration of electrical storage using batteries, even if long-term, (a few hours), Grid scale batteries were economically feasible.
- Renewables create unsynchronised generation lacking inertia to maintain essential grid frequency.
- Renewables cannot provide a “black start” recovery from a major grid outage.
Importantly in addition these cost analyses do not account for:
- Renewables are very dependent on large amounts of rare earth elements and scarce materials, largely sourced from China.
- Renewables cause inevitable environmental damage and destruction of wildlife.
- Renewables “Carbon footprint”, Wind and Solar technologies may never save as much CO2 during their service life as they emit for their materials sourcing, manufacture, installation, maintenance and eventual demolition.
- Renewables are dependent on fossil fuels both as feedstocks for materials and as fuel for support.
- Renewables Energy Return on Energy Invested, they may well produce only a limited excess of Energy during their service life as has been committed for their manufacture and installation.
- Renewables certainly do not provide the regular massive excess power sufficient to support the multiple needs of a developed society.
Power generation problems
As Government imposes more Renewables onto the Power industry, Power supply managers face major problems, as Political decisions insist on the impractical collection dilute and irregularly intermittent “Renewable Energy”. The professional pride and the responsibility of Power managers will try to sustain the consistent service, that is so crucial to the Nation, but it will become increasingly difficult.
Full-time productive conventional generators are put out of business as they become non-profitable.
In the end any extra costs don’t matter, either the Government, (or rather the Taxpayer), picks up the tab or the extra costs are just passed on to the customers via their growing bills: the customers don’t have any real choice because the power business is effectively a monopoly.
An excellent way to undermine Western economies is to render their power generation unreliable and expensive. That objective of Green thinking is progressively being achieved by Government policy but without popular voter mandate throughout the Western world.