Would We Be Better Off Now, If We Had More Renewables?


By Paul Homewood

h/t Paul Kolk

For a change, a slightly more objective analysis of our energy policy from the BBC:


It covers some of the main factors, such as:

  • The dash for gas in the 1990s, and consequent over reliance on imported gas
  • The failure by successive governments to build nuclear power stations
  • Lack of gas storage, going back to cancellation of plans in 2008
  • David Cameron’s cancelling of subsidies for onshore wind and solar power

The first two items are clearly making the UK more vulnerable now. But quite astonishingly I can find no mention at all of the deliberate policy of phasing out coal power, begun in Tony Blair’s day. It is this which more than anything which has made us too reliant on gas.

Gas storage is a bit of a red herring, as it can only help in the short term, and does not address the underlying problems.

But I want to focus here on the last item on the list. We have seen frequent claims this year that energy bills would not have been so high if we had built more renewable capacity. This is what the BBC say:

Another explanation with more weight, he said, hinges on choices made by Mr Cameron’s government.

“The first and most important one was ‘getting rid of the green crap’,” he said.

The crude phrase, splashed on the front page of the Sun newspaper, was the “PM’s solution to soaring energy prices” in 2013. Back then, Labour was campaigning hard on the cost of living, promising to cap energy bills if the party won the 2015 general election.

In a surprise reshuffle, Mr Hendry was replaced as energy minister by John Hayes, who vowed to put “coal back into the coalition”.

“He wanted to see a huge growth in coal,” Mr Hendry said. “He did really throw the low-carbon agenda into reverse.”

Over the next two years, subsidies for renewables were cut, planning rules for onshore wind were tightened, and a zero-carbon homes policy was scrapped.

Had those green policies remained, estimated annual energy bills would have been £9.5bn lower under the October price cap, according to research by energy analysts Carbon Brief.

The culling of the green deal for home insulation was particularly disappointing for Mr Huhne, who sees the policy as one of his key legacies.

So, what is the truth?

Below is the Table from the Carbon Brief report quoted:


Of the £9.5 bn saving claimed, £7.4 bn is from onshore wind and solar projects, which would supposedly have been built without the cancelling of subsidies. (They fail to explain why they were not built anyway, if they were so “cheap”). I’ll ignore the savings from “efficiency” as the report fails to calculate the cost of fitting insulation etc – they even ludicrously include electric cars in this, conveniently ignoring the fact they cost ten grand more to buy!)

For a start, it is puerile to argue that we would be better off now if we had built more renewables, when nobody at the time forecast that gas prices would rocket.. You might just as well beat the wife for not choosing the right lottery number!

The missing capacity is calculated from 2017 capacity construction, detailed in an earlier Carbon Brief report here. For onshore wind, this works out at 5.4 GW over the period 2018 to 2021. Solar power is not mentioned in that earlier report, but we are looking at about 8 GW on the same basis.

If that extra capacity had been built, we would be getting an extra 11.8 TWh from wind and 8.0 TWh from solar.

The last wind and solar farms built under the CfD subsidy system are currently priced at £100.31 and £96.33/MWh respectively. There is no evidence that construction costs have come down since they were built. However until energy prices started spiking last year, the wholesale market price for electricity has been around £50/MWh:



In other words, we would all have been overpaying for that wind and solar power for the last four years, to the tune of £963 million a year, or £3.8 billion over the four years. It is painfully obvious that from a purely economic view, the right decision was made to end subsidies given the facts at the time.

Even then though, it would appear that Carbon Brief have grossly overestimated their “bill for cutting the green crap” Based on their own figures, the savings from onshore wind and solar are £379 and £368/MWh respectively. But according to OFGEM, whole sale prices in September were £364/MWh, and have been around £200/MWh this year.

Therefore, with wind and solar costs of £100.31 and £96.33/MWh, the potential saving would only have been £2 billion, not the £7.4 billion claimed. (The Carbon Brief was written in August 2022, when market prices spiked at £592/MWh).

While electricity wholesale prices may be higher next year, at this year’s levels it is clear that current savings would not yet have offset the cost of subsidies between 2018 and 2021.

There is a second chart in that Carbon Brief which is highly relevant:


As we still have to keep gas and other dispatchable sources of power as back up, we still have to keep on paying their fixed costs. Indeed the intermittent working of gas power stations actually makes them less efficient and puts up the prices they have to charge.

The only correct way to compare costs is to look at avoided marginal costs of gas, which the above chart does. Between 2018 and 2022, they reckon we would have had to buy an additional £33.5 billion worth of gas, if we had not had renewables.

Sounds impressive? .

Well, not really, because in the last five years, subsidies for renewable energy have cost the UK £75.7 billion – see here. These are the costs officially listed by the OBR as “Environmental Levies”. This actually understates the true cost, as it does not include the tens of billions spent on upgrading infrastructure and balancing the grid, both necessary to cope with the intermittency of renewables.

The Broken Energy Market

Instead of trying to second guess past decision making, what both the BBC and Carbon Brief should be doing is addressing the current situation.

If they really believe that market prices will stay high, then wind and solar farms will spring up all over the place, without the need for government intervention.

But the most effective and immediate way to cut energy bills is to reform the broken energy market. It may have worked well twenty years ago, but it is actually making the energy crisis much worse now.

It is ridiculous that electricity from all sources should be sourced at the price of the costliest generation, ie gas. It is even more unacceptable that renewable generators should not only make windfall profits from this market malfunction, but that they also continue to receive subsidies worth up to £10 billion a year. Unsurprisingly Carbon Brief fail to mention any of this.

Instead of the current broken system, we should implement one based on Power Purchase Agreements, PPAs, which are commonly used in the US. Prices for power would be agreed on a long term contractual basis from major generators, with preference given to dispatchable sources. Top up power for periods of peak demand/power shortages would be separately negotiated.

Meanwhile, intermittent wind and solar power would be paid a much lower price, one which recognised their lower value within the overall system.

One final factor, which again is not mentioned by the BBC – carbon taxes.

UK carbon prices are still around £80/tonne, about four times historic levels. This is directly increasing costs for gas generators, thus putting their prices up. And, as we have seen , this also puts up prices for all generators. These carbon prices could be reduced to zero tomorrow.

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Tom Halla
November 6, 2022 6:32 pm

The cheapest way to deal with wind and solar’s need for conventional backup is to build the backup, and forget the wind and solar.
Nuclear can be practical, as long as one keeps the greens well away from what they consider unclean. A negative experience curve is a sign of hysteria.

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 6, 2022 6:41 pm

It doesn’t matter how much wind and solar is built, when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, they all produce exactly the same amount … zero ! The zealots still don’t understand basic maths, multiplying any number by zero still gives produces zero.

Reply to  Streetcred
November 6, 2022 7:07 pm

proponents of wind & solar don’t want to accept that intermittency of weather-dependent power production is not a feature, it’s a TERMINAL BUG.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Mr.
November 7, 2022 1:15 am

And its not a feature that can be solved by clever engineering, its inherent in the energy source itself.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Leo Smith
November 7, 2022 4:17 am

Yes wind energy varies as the cube of the wind speed. The optimum output is at around 28mph in the current generation of windmills. Therefore 7mph constant wind velocity gives less than 2% of optimum electrical output. Hence the cut-in specification of 3 m/s or 7mph.

The proponents of wind can’t grasp the concept of kinetic energy, and simple arithmetic

Chris Hanley
Reply to  Streetcred
November 6, 2022 7:34 pm

I spent a few years working in the UK in the 60s and 70s and unless climate change has already worked wonders in the past fifty years, the idea of solar energy there strikes me as ridiculous.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Chris Hanley
November 7, 2022 1:18 am

Oh it produces quite a lot in the middle of a summers day.

Right now though its overcast, but quite high wind, so 0.29GW of solar. But 14.4GW of wind, which is the single biggest source of electricity in play at the moment.

France is taking nearly 3GW cos their nukes are cattled.

Campsie Fellow
Reply to  Leo Smith
November 7, 2022 2:10 am

Yesterday I visited the Science Centre in Glasgow. They had a feature showing the sources of electricity generation. It showed that at the time (about 12.30pm) 39% came from gas, 36% came from wind and 20 per cent came from nuclear. They did not even have a column for solar. Yesterday it was very sunny in Glasgow around mid-day.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Campsie Fellow
November 7, 2022 4:26 am

According to Gridwatch yesterday at its peak solar provided about 1.5GW.
I have happy memories of the burning bing at Queenzieburn on the way home from visiting relatives in Kirkintilloch. You anywhere near there as I assume it’s long gone?

Reply to  Streetcred
November 6, 2022 7:35 pm

And also ignored is working life time and removal and replacement costs as compared to a power station.

Reply to  Streetcred
November 7, 2022 12:10 am

No matter how many herons or pelicans at the garden fishpond. if there aint no fish, theres nothing to be got. No Harvest, no production, nothing – but the ethics and intelligence of our leaders including so-called Engineers ( everyone can be an engineer nowadays – like everyone can cut grass) is sorely failing.

The Real Engineer, CEng etc.
Reply to  Saighdear
November 7, 2022 2:07 am

The Engineers have been saying this for many years, but it is convenient for us to be ignored, and we have been big time.
The intermittent generators should be made to have a continuous supply agreement, and they should pay for the storage required. One days worth of UK battery storage would weigh at least a million tons, and cost £10 Billion at least (capacity 50GW x 24 hours). All renewable sources would need about a months worth of storage, so at least 30 x £10 billion. It might last 10 years, with reduced efficiency 20 years. A similar purchase would be 10 new nuclear plants, at £30 billion each, lasting at least 50 years. So simple even a politician can understand. Or so we thought!

It doesnot add up
Reply to  The Real Engineer, CEng etc.
November 7, 2022 2:31 am

I think your battery cost assumption is rather low. To provide 1.2TWh at an installed cost of £400/kWh is £480bn.

I think you have the size of capacity required right – at least to handle current levels of demand. Add on EVs and heating and it becomes impossibly larger. Not that £15trillion a decade is feasible before that.

Reply to  It doesnot add up
November 7, 2022 7:06 pm

Doesn’t the UK also have dunkelflautes that can last up to 48 hours? After which you then have to recharge the battery? Is one day’s storage enough to cope with these longer dunkelflautes? And what is UK’s stated energy reliability figure?

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Graeme#4
November 8, 2022 10:12 am

Last December there was over a week of Dunkelflaute in the UK. Wind is the narrow dark blue in the chart. Maroon is CCGT.

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 6, 2022 7:33 pm

If wind with back up was cost effective and efficient the sailing ships would still be sailing commercially, followed by steam powered tug boats for when the wind doesn’t blow.

Last edited 2 months ago by Dennis
Reply to  Tom Halla
November 7, 2022 2:39 am

Agreed Tom.
I published in 2002 that there was no real global warming (CAGW) crisis, and grid-connected green energy (wind and solar power) was not green and produced little useful (dispatchable) energy. In 20 years, nothing has changed. It was always a scam – wolves stampeding the sheep for political and financial gain.
My simpler solution, published in 2018:
Here’s an even better solution:
1. Build your wind power system.
2. Build your back-up system consisting of 100% equivalent capacity in gas turbine generators.
3. Using high explosives, blow your wind power system all to hell.
4. Run your back-up gas turbine generators 24/7.
5. To save even more money, skip steps 1 and 3. 

Reply to  Allan MacRae
November 7, 2022 6:52 am

If you skip step 1, you don’t need to skip step 3, i.e., nothing to blow up.

Reply to  bobm
November 7, 2022 9:48 am

Our idiot politicians have wasted trillions of dollars and millions of lives on climate-and-green-energy fantasies, based on their “Tinker Belle science” and “fairy dust”. One would conclude that nobody on this planet, not even the mentally-challenged, could be this obtuse, this utterly wrong with such consistency – but they clearly are.

Reply to  Allan MacRae
November 7, 2022 12:48 pm

Agree, 100%.

Carbon Bigfoot
Reply to  Tom Halla
November 7, 2022 3:27 am

What a dumb-ass title Paul to even suggest that. A better title to your article would be “Unreliables Have No Energy Density”. Of course the Normies are so uneducated and propagandized they still wont understand. Teach them Paul.

Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
November 7, 2022 5:11 am

Wind and solar grid-connected power generation systems fail because they are too intermittent and too diffuse – they take up far too much land.

November 6, 2022 6:54 pm

The BBC and Carbon Brief are liars and cheats, I don’t believe anything they say.

Bryan A
November 6, 2022 7:03 pm

Gas storage is a bit of a red herring, as it can only help in the short term, and does not address the underlying problems.
This actually is a non problem, the Earth provides ample Natural Gas storage facilities underground, we only need to tap into it.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Bryan A
November 7, 2022 3:03 am

Indeed. For many years the UK relied on production flexibility from the North Sea, using the fields as ample storage that was always full enough to meet demand. As production from the flexible fields declined, the role went to Norwegian fields instead. Rough and the use of Continental storage via the pipelines from Bacton have always been supplementary at best. In addition, the scheduling of LNG deliveries is now also an important source of flexibility. In recent months we have seen significant amounts of floating LNG storage. One example is the M.Mickie Harper than has spent over a month steaming up and down off Milford Haven, having loaded in Savannah, Ga. on September 19th.

Carbon Bigfoot
Reply to  Bryan A
November 8, 2022 4:01 am

http://www.lostinthepond.com/2014/02/11-us-states-that-for are-larger-than-uk.html
Without Gas Storage and extensive pipelines and compressor stations the USA cannot deliver Nat Gas where it is needed.( that includes LNG Shipping Points to save your county’s sorry ass energy crisis ) Gas Storage Tankage allows for routine, & pipeline freeze maintenance. As the link demonstrates the UK is a piss-ant land mass compared to the USA and Gas Storage is NOT a RED HERRING.

Bryan A
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
November 8, 2022 11:58 am

Most of our LNG is shipped East from the Atlantic Coast. NY and PENN have a huge natural gas field. The state’s just need to allow for exploration and infrastructure. New York??

November 6, 2022 7:06 pm

Here in the US, Biden declared this evening that he wants no more drilling.


Reply to  MarkW
November 6, 2022 7:14 pm

He’d rather buy Venezuelan oil.

Reply to  rho
November 6, 2022 9:27 pm

It was only a few days ago that he told them to pump more oil and threatened them with harsh taxes if they didn’t. It was only a couple of years ago that he said if they continued to drill, he’d put them in jail. Don’t worry, he’s still got time before the election to demand they pump more oil again.

paul courtney
Reply to  davidmhoffer
November 7, 2022 3:50 am

Mr. hoffer: Based on experience, Mr. Biden will toddle back and forth several times over a year or two, his mind is quite pliable. But don’t worry, the adults are in charge, Jen Granholm is gonna create a tax that will INCREASE production of the thing taxed.
We are being governed by ninnies, and we see the result.

Bryan A
Reply to  davidmhoffer
November 7, 2022 9:38 am

Biden appears to be of Multiple minds and apparently multiple personalities and seemingly lives in multiple worlds … all at the same time.

Most of the time,

He doesn’t know what he’s saying
He can’t articulate what he’s thinking
And he doesn’t really know where he is

His handlers cringe when he goes off script

It may be 25th amendment time

Climate believer
Reply to  Bryan A
November 7, 2022 1:18 pm

The worst “gaffe” for me is the “Where’s Jackie?

The guys mind is shot to pieces.

biden jackie.png
Chris Hanley
November 6, 2022 7:22 pm

As we still have to keep gas and other dispatchable sources of power as back up, we still have to keep on paying their fixed costs …

Indeed there is no valid comparison, wind and solar are not comparable alternatives to coal, gas and nuclear.

Last edited 2 months ago by Chris Hanley
November 6, 2022 8:17 pm

Would We Be Better Off Now, If We Had More Renewables?NO!
Quoting DR WILLIE SOONThroughout ecological time, life and biodiversity has thrived during times of warmth, and has struggled during prolonged bouts of cooling.
For us humans, Soon sees the only solution as being nuclear energy.
We better start building the nuclear plants now, implies Soon, before the materials required are covered in ice.
“In that sense there is a race. Humanity is always in a race of some kind.”
But for some inexplicable reason, nuclear isn’t an option within climate alarmist circles — this is an illogical stance that again nods to an agenda being at play here, and not to an honest force in search of a fix to a genuine real-world issue.
Nuclear has the potential to ‘solve’ both AGW as well as stave off many of the issues associated with a Little Ice Age.
Yet it is discarded.
The ruse is clearer than ever.
And finally, in a direct message to the propagandized among us, Dr. Soon has this to say: “If you want to face a serious problem, worry about an ice age, never worry about global warming.”

Reply to  upcountrywater
November 6, 2022 10:49 pm

Well written Upcountrywater .
Dr Wilthe Soon has more common sense and logic than all these people in high places who have swallowed the global warming scary fairy story .
What he says about nucleart should be the first Item on the agenda at COP27 .
If the world has a problem with rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere the only way to cut emissions would be to build nuclear power stations around the world .
I am quite certain that those people pushing this climate change believe that there are to many people on this planet .I am also certain that they think that we should all cut back on every thing that is now accepted as modern living.
I had friends that went on their OE in the 60s to 80s and visited countries behind the Iron curtain They all told me of the utter hopelessness of the people living under Communism .
I am quite sure that is the end game of climate change /global warming ,a means to an end .
Because that is where we are heading with expensive intermittent energy .
If a tenth of the money and time that has been spent on researching climate in the last 30 years was used to research nuclear power options and the disposal of spent fuel the world would be a much better place as affordable energy is essential for the well being of the worlds population.
I doubt that nuclear will get a mention at COP 27 which will be another useless virtue signaling spree with poor countries begging for money and demanding climate reparations .
I just heard on our news the claim that the last 8 years were the hottest recorded pushing COP27.
We all know that there were no thermometers during the MWP and there is ample evidence that it was warmer than present .

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Graham
November 7, 2022 4:35 am

There are enough studies here covering the MWP and the entire planet to keep Griff occupied thinking of reasons to discount them for days

November 6, 2022 8:38 pm

If they really believe that market prices will stay high, then wind and solar farms will spring up all over the place, without the need for government intervention.

The key question here is – Can China supply all the stuff needed and at what price?

China has some exposure to the global price of coal and coal underpins their manufacturing base. Any estimates based on massive build out of solar and wind depends on China’s ability/willingness to supply. I doubt China sees much value in holding debt denominated in GBP. So UK cannot simply create the finances needed to build more wind and solar. Where does the foreign exchange come from for a country racking up international debt at 6% of GDP each year..

Philip CM
November 6, 2022 10:29 pm

Governments played up investments in “renewables”, mostly with taxpayer dollars, and stifled investment across the board when it came to fossil fuel development and production. And now we’re getting the “gosh, golly, darn, maybe we should’ve done more with renewables question from the State propaganda arm, the BBC?
Isnt this the definition of gaslighting?

Leo Smith
Reply to  Philip CM
November 7, 2022 1:22 am

Isnt this the definition of gaslighting?

Of course. What are you doing to do about it?

It doesnt matter who you vote for, the government always wins

Leo Smith
November 7, 2022 1:14 am

Sadly, ir doesn’t matter how logical or correct this analysis is, the media and the people will still all be singing from the renewable hymn sheet.

Like Putin in Russia, no U turn is possible without admitting they lied, lied and lied again, and that’s why the U turn is needed. The thought is that when the bus goes over the cliff, at least they will still be in the driving seat.
Anyway its dreary reiteration of all the EcoBollox™ here, at the minute. Lost of articles about climate and renewables, all of it rubbish. But people believe it.

Not Dan
Reply to  Leo Smith
November 8, 2022 12:10 pm

Im curious as to why you mentioned Putin in your response regarding this article.

Sure your not gaslit on the Ukie story.

November 7, 2022 1:14 am

Could anyone give a good link to an explanation of why gas price is so high. The claim above that the increase of gas prices could not have been predicted strikes me as suspicious: if everyone was converting to gas while supply remained static or highly dependent on unreliable sources it strikes me that someone could and should have predicted that gas prices soaring was a distinct possibility.

John Collis
November 7, 2022 1:36 am

Can’t the BBC see the irony?
Solar panels depend on long periods of sunlight, which we had this year; however this brings high temperatures which are attributed by the BBC to climate change which we must reverse.
If we reverted to the weather patterns associated with the climate of even the 60’s and 70’s in the U.K. there would be reduced levels of sunlight as we had shorter periods of sunny weather (1976 being an exception).
High temperatures also reduce the efficiency of solar panels.
Perhaps a solution would be to cover Antarctica and the Arctic with solar panels (tongue firmly in cheek)

November 7, 2022 1:41 am

No mention of the Nuclear moratorium

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Aelfrith
November 7, 2022 4:37 am

Still ongoing to all intents and purposes

Rod Evans
November 7, 2022 3:13 am

Who would choose to buy a car if it was advertised that it would stop at any time due to the wind speed falling below a critical level. Equally who would buy that transport option if told it may not be possible to start it for several days in a row. Further who would buy that transport option if you are told it will cost more than the alternative proven vehicle technology and it will also consume all of your front garden and back yard.
That is currently what the wind energy option is compared to a reliable 24/7 fossil fuel/nuclear alternative.

Ben Vorlich
November 7, 2022 4:11 am

This actually understates the true cost, as it does not include the tens of billions spent on upgrading infrastructure and balancing the grid, both necessary to cope with the intermittency of renewables.

The Beauly-Denny Line cost in excess of £600 million to bring wind generated electricity south from Northern Scotland total length about 140 miles. As most of the wind generation is a long way from the people who need it you could estimate the cost of connection at £4 million per mile. Hornsea 2 is about 60 miles offshore or about £250 million

jeff corbin
November 7, 2022 7:04 am

No…., the technologically premature push for renewables is a political power play rooted in a decade of massive climate change fear mongering propaganda, which does not have the financial interests of local communities and families in mind.

Yes, we would be better off with scalable hybrid off grid system of fossil fuel /renewables made viable by a consumerized, affordable, safe, and effective electrical energy storage systems that reduce the average families spend on energy by a factor of 8-11; thus, ending the era of the grid/utilities monopoly and the global energy hegemon.

The goal of political leverage is political power and consolidation of wealth, not real solutions nor advancing actual economic advantages for local people. IMO this is what has been driving climate change propaganda machine, which has led to technologically premature solution of renewables.

Paradoxically, climate change being a false problem, thus creating premature solutions to disparage an energy paradigm, which is highly desirable and will eventually emerge in the future.

The problem is, if the paradigm of decentralized off grid energy generation, storage and distribution capture the imagination of the masses, it would threaten the current modus operandi of global energy and the massive push toward global economic centralization.

The Left does not want local people capitalizing and the right is so busy fighting the false problems and false solutions that the central tension… or this central issue is obscured.

Neither the Left nor global energy wants to see individual families and local communities empowered by truly viable off energy capital that results in:  1) reduction of energy spend by a factor of 8-11, 2) empowers decentralization of energy generation and distribution, 3) Reduces dependency of the masses on centralized systems, 4) empowers decentralized non-globalized non-stake holder capitalization.

The tension between what is and what will be the energy paradigm of the future is creating a political rhetoric both Left and right that obscures the paradox…. No not now AND yes, but not yet!

Are we going to be a country grasps this central issue and look toward the future doing what makes good financial sense now while looking to the future that empowers the energy capitalization of families and local communities?

Right now we are simply twisting (+/-)  in the foment of propaganda that is designed to maintain status quo?

Bottom line, there is enormous reserves of coal, natural gas, and oil available in the world. With this being the case. the conflict is about protecting geographic markets and maintaining high prices for as long as possible. Carbon taxes enable global oil to leverage political systems by becoming an increasing bigger funder of governments and politicians. In the 9-14 states where global energy has strongly advocated for and passed carbon taxes, anti-off grid laws regulations have been written into the law. why… to thwart the vanguard of excitement in the “NOT YET” paradigm.

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