Summary UK Weather Dependent Renewables: 2019

Reposted from edmhdotme

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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February 21, 2021 6:08 pm

I do hope the Russians are recording all the conversations on the sidelines and backrooms at Glasgow.

February 21, 2021 7:08 pm

The EIA LCOE data are just wrong, and after our scathing critique over at Judiths ‘True Cost of Wind’ they still haven’t fixed basic obvious flaws. Your post makes many good additional points; for example, intermittency and grid inertia are not priced in. Just don’t trust EIA comparisons at all.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 21, 2021 7:29 pm

The intermittency thing is huge. This web page gives data on Energy Returned On Energy Invested (EROEI). Once you fix intermittency (the page calls that ‘buffered’) wind goes from looking like it might be OK to being completely useless. So much energy is spent getting buffered wind and solar that there isn’t enough left to run society.

Last edited 8 days ago by commieBob
Reply to  commieBob
February 21, 2021 7:47 pm

CB, the intermittency thing is also easier to engineer around ( not economically, just in EE terms).
IMO the grid inertia thing is ultimately more fatal. Itnis far less calculable because depends on so many near instantaneous factors. For example, in the US, frequency sag below 59.3 (nominal 60) automatically trips generation off to protect it. There are thousands of ways that could happen near instantaneously. A generator fails. A transmission line goes down. Too many people crack a refrig simultaneously.
Grid inertia was the proximate cause of the great New England summer blackout of 93?. An Ohio transmission line sagged because its control monitor SW was improperly set, so it overloaded on a hot August afternoon. Its cutout caused two Ohio generators to trip, and eventually because of voltage sag despite lots of grid inertia within 10 minutes near half the US population was dark for days.

Now reduce grid inertia by adding renewable penetration, which has none. Nothing good happens, as Texas has proven both via intermittency and inertia.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 21, 2021 8:02 pm

… not economically, just in EE terms …

LOL. One of the big employers of our graduates once said something like: “When we give an engineer a problem, she will give us a solution. We probably won’t be able to afford to implement it though.”

Dave Fair
Reply to  commieBob
February 22, 2021 11:18 am

Real engineers take all costs into account when making recommendations.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  commieBob
February 22, 2021 3:52 pm

Fossil fuels remain comfortably away from the cliff edge but march closer to it for every year that passes. The Cheetah symbolises an energy system living on the edge.

I’d say fracing put paid to that notion. Sure, we consume some of a (virtually) finite resource every year, but the recoverable resource was never the entire resource to begin with. Broad stroke changes like that give a very different answer than the neo-Malthusianism.

Joel O'Bryan
February 21, 2021 7:13 pm

Even Libtard Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans” movie, in a rare moment of lucidity, explored many of these facets of the renewable energy scam being perpetrated and he demolished both wind and solar as being No Solution to climate change-related emissions.

But without the renewable wind and solar electricity scam, and the Green’s steadfast refusal against nuclear power, the climate scam itself has no point short of simply telling the West’s middle class to, “Please Go Die, Now.”

And it is through the wind and solar renewable investment scam that many “green” investor billionaires, like Tom Steyer, ride the climate gravy train.

Last edited 8 days ago by joelobryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 21, 2021 7:43 pm

Michael Moore and James Hansen have been red pilled and now realize that renewables are worse than a farce.

I wonder how many Texans are now red pilled.

Chris Hanley
February 21, 2021 7:18 pm

That’s a compelling summary of the ‘appalling delusion’ fatal for developed societies entertaining it.
Apart from the bankrupting costs in units of currency there is the abysmal Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) — a concept that seems to cause people’s eyes to glaze over — of biofuels buffered wind and solar, the latter in locations of moderate insolation like UK being a net energy sink.

February 21, 2021 8:55 pm

What is truly sickening is that all major political parties are in favour of unreliable expensive electricity. The poor wretched voters have no choice. It’s time for some serious mass demonstrations (with the demonstrators being very careful not to get shot like the ones in Washington).

Reply to  Mike Jonas
February 21, 2021 10:54 pm

It’s clearly a subversion strategy of the CCP.
That country has been on a war footing to favour solutions produced in PRC, while their propaganda reached fever pitch during lockdown.

Sars-Covid was just another bullet in the many rounds that have been shot over the last decade, but that one proved to be fatal, as one of the bullets got into Bojo’s cock, while another one ended up in his addled brain as “Mr overweight stupid” got the wuflu and ended up in ICU for a brief stay.
One has to wonder, if he had actually kicked the bucket, would things be evolving slightly differently.
The jury is out on that, but “NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE CHINESE”.
They are everywhere.

Lurker Pete
Reply to  pigs_in_space
February 23, 2021 7:15 am

The Chinese mite be the wicked witch of the west, but the wizards behind the curtain, pulling all the levers, are the globalist banksters at the BIS/WEF/UN/WHO China is fully on board with the new ‘Brics’ basket behind Central Bank Digital Currency, China was also fully onboard with the planning for the WHOs pandemic preps.

The Globalists have been proclaiming the imminent death of the dollar as a reserve currency, and a pivot to the East, for some years, it can hardly be a surprise every top down policy from the worlds puppet politicians follow the plan.

While you bang the drum against the bogey man dejour, the world is divided and concqured, the real culprits sit pretty, as usual.

Rory Forbes
February 21, 2021 9:06 pm

Here’s the story of Vancouver BC’s very own wind turbine … that never turns, but it is the only one of its kind with a plastic viewing pod, to generate revenue.

The “grossest distortion of green data” award still goes to Grouse Mountain’s Eye of the Wind turbine. It was narrowly approved in 2008 by District of North Vancouver council on the promise that it had partnered with BC Hydro to be a “beacon of sustainability” and to produce enough electricity to power 400 homes. When it was turned on in 2010, B.C.’s minister of energy, Bill Bennett, called it “Vancouver’s first commercially viable wind turbine.” He’s right. Its viewing station brings in around $750,000 a year. But it actually produces power for about 12 homes because the wind rarely blows hard enough to turn the giant turbines. Grouse Mountain refuses to release actual data. According to Petrie, it will be lucky to produce enough electricity in 25 years to make up for the energy embodied in its manufacture and installation.

I get to watch it cluttering up my view of the mountain every day, while I contemplate the folly of environmentalists with a creationist mentality.

Reply to  Rory Forbes
February 21, 2021 10:10 pm

You know, I see that thing probably 10 times a week for the last 10 years, maybe more. I have yet to see it turning!

Rory Forbes
Reply to  davidmhoffer
February 21, 2021 10:56 pm

Me too. I can’t seem to get it out of my view, like an open wound reminding me of a terrible error in judgement. So set on virtue signalling their “greenness”, they never bothered to check for wind.

YallaYPoora Kid
Reply to  Rory Forbes
February 21, 2021 11:56 pm

Why don’t you set up a Facebook site for you locals to report when it moves with date and time just to rub it in to the city virtue signallers. The excrement might hit the rotating ventilator.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  YallaYPoora Kid
February 22, 2021 12:08 am

I don’t think the thing is able to move any more. It’s just an ornament with a lookout at the top … truly a white elephant. We’re not supposed to notice it isn’t moving because it’s so virtuous.

I’ve never bothered with Facebook. I knew from the beginning what it would become.

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  davidmhoffer
February 22, 2021 7:13 am

You would think that they would at least show it turning in the publicity video..

Last edited 8 days ago by Right-Handed Shark
Tom Abbott
Reply to  davidmhoffer
February 22, 2021 5:42 pm

At least you don’t have to listen to it operating.

Reply to  Rory Forbes
February 22, 2021 12:32 am

BC hydro also refuses to release generation data from its generation sources.

Rod Gill
February 21, 2021 9:20 pm

There’s an extra cost, redo the calculations with % productivity of 15%, sometimes less for onshore wind. When the sun sets, unless there is a weather system blowing through, the wind drops. So just when maximum power is needed in the evening, wind power drops and solar of course stops altogether.

If your fleet can’t handle peak power, especially when its very hot or very cold……. Not good.

Pat Smith
Reply to  Rod Gill
February 23, 2021 8:50 am

This is my Willis moment! Very exciting!!. I have the database for the amount of power generated per hour in the UK by all the various forms of technology in 2020 from GRIDWATCH. (Well, the first 11 months – December is not downloadable yet.) I have taken an average of the aggregate power generated by all on- and off-shore wind turbines for the hour within which sunset occurs. It may be 17.01 or 17.35 or 17.59 – they are all put into the hour between 5pm and 6pm – I don’t have any more accurate way of doing it. I then compared the power generated at that time with the hour before and the hour after to see if the wind really does die down at sunset.

Here are the numbers. Average wind power generated throughout the whole year = 6.145GW. Hour before sunset = 6.344GW. The hour of sunset = 6.332GW. The hour after = 6.364GW. I expected to find that Rod Gill was right that the power would die down after sunset – it doesn’t appear to. Of course, if I were a real Willis, I would have a clever statistical analysis at this point proving it is or isn’t significant followed by a reference to the CERES database and signing off with a wind report from outside the house and making us chuckle. But I’m not so that’s it, I am afraid. Interesting, though.

February 22, 2021 12:57 am

Summary UK Weather Dependent Renewables: 2019

This misuse of language is appalling; Weather Dependent – correct apt descriptor, Renewable NO, NO, NO. The term is completely misleading. It needs to be discarded from the language.

You are talking about Weather Dependent Generators (WDGs). They are intermittent and are useless on their own in a modern power system. They are very expensive to back-up and throughly destabilise the grid at any significant level of output. They do not produce enough energy in combination with their essential back-up to enable their replication. THEY ARE NOT RENEWABLE. Their best claim is that they are currently a less than economic fuel substitute.

It takes 100t of steel to make 1MW of wind generation. It is much smarter to put the steel into gas turbines where it is possible to get maybe 100MW of output for a 1t of steel.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  RickWill
February 22, 2021 7:06 am

I like this appellation. I’ll try to use it.

Ben Vorlich
February 22, 2021 12:59 am

The output from renewables is lowest when demand is g, with the possible exception of solar in a heatwave, although as Griff pointed out Solar PV is less efficient in high temperatures. Extremes of temperature, heatwaves and coldwaves are associated with low wind speeds, at these times demand is highest for heating and airconditioning. I suspect that this is not taken into account in anyone’s calculation.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
February 22, 2021 12:59 am

*when demand is greatest

Climate believer
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
February 22, 2021 7:15 am

Yes, big demand coming in around 7-8PM when solar is at zero.

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Ron Long
February 22, 2021 1:45 am

The author touched on “wildlife destruction”, and it is this aspect that amazes me for the virtue-signaling left, the willingness to turn a blind eye to chopping up and smoking our flying friends. The same group wants to leave babies that survive abortion in the corner to die, so maybe there is a common thread here, and it’s not good.

Joseph Zorzin
February 22, 2021 2:27 am

Woody biomass power is renewable, sustainable, dependable base load power and breaks all those bullet points. And yes, it can only be a very small percent of total power needed- nobody is saying it’ll save the world, but it can help save the forest- when done right. Michael Moore got it wrong in his movie. It can be argued that it needs subsidies- yes, like all other forms of energy. It can be argued that it emits “carbon pollution”- well, it’s not really pollution and unlike any other energy source, the forests will recapture the carbon. And, a big part of the cost is labor- it takes a lot of rural folks to cut the wood, truck it, manage the forests, and run a biomass facility. But that’s a good thing. Rural people need jobs too. Forestry jobs matter!

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
February 22, 2021 5:24 am

So CO2 isn’t a problem. If that’s so what the hell are we doing abandoning NG

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
February 22, 2021 5:28 am

May as well burn coal. The UK is sitting on deposits that will last 300 years.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Bil
February 22, 2021 7:02 am

According to euracoal the UK has identified hard coal resources of 3910 million tons although total resources could be as large as 187 billion tons.

(At least these were the figures I downloaded some time back but now going to their site info on the UK is no longer available, presumably because we have left the EU)

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
February 22, 2021 3:58 pm

And, a big part of the cost is labor- it takes a lot of rural folks to cut the wood, truck it, manage the forests, and run a biomass facility. But that’s a good thing. Rural people need jobs too. Forestry jobs matter!

Bug, not a feature.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tsk Tsk
February 23, 2021 3:32 am

to you, maybe

but producing energy from the forest helps us produce better timber, so YOU can own a nice wood home with wood furniture and lots of paper products- the greenies now want to lock up all the forests to save the planet- but they all love THEIR wood homes with wood furniture and paper products- the hell with future generations, let them live in cement boxes like the people in the Middle East

Peta of Newark
February 22, 2021 4:04 am

It’s all just a brain-ache and I’d say impossible to calculate.

My initial gripe would be how ‘Renewables’ get automatic guaranteed access to the market – always and whenever they have any sort of output, no matter how trivial.

That has got to be the most grossly distorting piece of market-interference and subsidy there could ever be.
OK, you try here to price in the cost of backups, but….

Shirley, the only real way to do it is to let the consumers themselves decide – in some sort of way, tag the electrons.

A good guide I think is from the squirrel and hamster-like activities of the ‘proper’ Off Gridders’ (OGRs) = the ones I like to watch on their little forum here in UK

The answer is in there..
Renewable Energy is a Lifestyle Choice.

The OGRs quite cheerfully spend £1,000s on PV panels, solar hot water, sheds full of electronics and wiring, switches timers thermostats etc etc and then spend many happy hours (happy to them) monitoring, watching, tweaking and fiddling with this stuff.

BUT, only really so they can come onto the forum and tell everyone about it.
Patently no point, otherwise, what is the point of all this smugness and virtue signalling if you don’t actually ‘signal’?

Even bigger toys exist for them in the shape of humongous batteries, that even they admit are truly scary & dangerous pieces of kit, on every level after they lay out many more £1,000s to buy them.
Only to scrap them and buy again (haha renew) after 10 or 15 years.

That being exactly the case with even Onshore turbines, does anyone have any real idea how long the Offshores are gonna last?

The OGRs present the true costs of Renewables and 99.999% of the population simply couldn’t give a toss.
The don’t have the spare cash, the time, the education or skill, the physical space or not least, the inclination.
They have other things to do than fret about States of Charge or how much more leccy their Sunshine Panels produced compared to someone/anyone else’s over the last month.

Somehow, folks have to be given the choice of whether they want to do that.
But we all know what the answer will be – so how come our Elected Leaders don’t know

It doesn't add up...
February 22, 2021 6:54 am

The cost of intermittency is going to get a lot worse. Here’s a simplified look at the underlying problem.

Let’s model the output from an offshore wind turbine as

Capacity x(1 + cos(t))/2

So it averages 50% capacity factor, and oscillates between zero and full capacity output.

Again for initial simplicity, let’s assume a constant demand D, met by dispatchable power before any wind is installed, and operating at 100% throughput.

When wind capacity C is small relative to D, it can all be absorbed by the grid, and the average output of C/2 backs out the same amount of dispatchable generation, but without affecting the capacity required, since wind output regularly goes to zero. However, once C exceeds D, then at times of close to maximum output excess generation must be curtailed. Yet we have only just reached 50% average supply from wind, but we have also halved the average throughput of the dispatchable generation, increasing the effective capital cost by a factor of 2 and increasing maintenance and fuel costs through the effects of intermittency on plant efficiency and wear due to cycling.

Now consider what happens when we reach C=2D. Average wind output is now D, but any excess above D must be curtailed. That is 25% of the output, so we have actually only reached 75% wind which must fund the cost of 100% output, increasing the cost by a factor of 100/75.

Reality is worse than this model. Demand fluctuates, so any time wind generation exceeds low demand you will get curtailment, and more of it than the flat demand model suggests. Capacity factors are rarely as high as 50%, which means you need much more capacity to achieve a given level of output, and that in turn means that surpluses when they occur are correspondingly larger. In practice you run up against other constraints that limit the amount of wind that a grid can tolerate. Having sufficient inertia to maintain frequency control makes it hard to tolerate more than about 60% wind without sharply higher blackout risk. Grids like Ireland’s and South Australia depend on flexing surplus dumps via interconnector exports. Solutions such as synchronous condensers add another layer of cost.

Bruce Cobb
February 22, 2021 7:13 am

They jst can’t stop lying about what happened in Texas, and about how “evi” fossil fuels are, and how cheap and VIRTUOUS “renewable energy” is.
“The cost advantage of solar and wind has become decisive, and promises to become vaster still,” Noah Smith, an economist and Texas native,
<a href=””> wrote in his Substack newsletter.</a> “I don’t want to see my home state become an economic backwater, shackled to the corpse of a dying fossil fuel age.”
Of course, an “economic backwater” is exactly what it will become if they continue down their current “green energy” road.

Pat Smith
February 22, 2021 9:52 am

Figures for 2020 are almost identical. These come from Gridwatch (first 11 months only, December 2020 isn’t there yet). Average power for CCGT = 10.60GW, Nuclear = 5.32GW, Wind = 6.15GW (not split out as on- or off-shore), Solar = 1.38GW.

February 22, 2021 4:49 pm

I cannot understand the huge discrepancy these prices and the official figures, which puts wind power as cheap as chips. You need to explain why this is before this article is credible.
Also, EROI has accepted figures for different energy sources which are widely available e.g. on Wikipedia. Wind has a positive EROI according to these figures. Fossil fuel EROI’s are declining remorselessly as time goes on.

February 22, 2021 4:55 pm

Why use the term “productivity” where everyone else uses “capacity factor” ? This strange terminology alone is enough to make me very suspicious.

Reply to  kzb
February 23, 2021 8:22 am

KZB I prefer to use the word “Productivity” simply because non-engineering types may have a better chance of understanding. Also “Capacity” as opposed to “Capacity Factor” can add to confusion.
for Rickwill
I use “Weather Dependent Renewables” because that is sadly common parlance: I may take to putting “Renewables” in quotes in future.

Reply to  edmh
February 23, 2021 6:00 pm

People on this site understand “capacity factor” but “productivity” makes me think of a workforce. You would be better off using commonly-accepted terminology with brief notes to explain the terms to novices.
Connected to this point, use commonly-used units, like £/MW-h or $/MW-h. That way we know where we are.

February 23, 2021 4:59 am

Another thing: why not provide comparison prices in pounds per kilowatt-HOUR ? The fact that you are using £bn/GW makes it impossible to compare with more familiar analyses. It also leads to a suspicion we are being tricked. Using a RATE (i.e. GW or MW) instead of a unit of energy (e.g. MW-h) means it is not easy to place your prices in context.
Don’t get me wrong, if you could do this, it would be a very interesting article.

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