No Contest: Intermittent Subsidised Wind & Solar Most Expensive Electricity of All

Sunset and calm weather mean that wind and solar don’t compete with coal, gas or nuclear power, but that doesn’t stop pointless cost comparisons. Electricity generated when you don’t need it, is worthless – and wind or solar power that you can’t get, just when you need it most, can’t be bought at any price. And that’s what comes if you attempt to rely on sunshine and the weather.

In this little analysis, Donn Dears dumbs it down, so that even the most numerically challenged might appreciate just why chaotically intermittent wind and solar will never replace conventional power generation.

Worldwide Costs for Power Generation
Power for USA
Donn Dears
19 February 2019

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently issued a report, World Energy Outlook WEO 2018, on the energy transition that, according to the IEA, is underway in an effort to combat climate change. 

The IEA claimed that the cost of wind and solar is declining and that they can replace fossil fuels.

The IEA’s report, however, seems to contradict this claim and proves that wind and PV solar are more expensive than electricity generated from coal or natural gas.

Chart from WEO 2018


The chart shows the amount of new power generation being installed by 2020.

The capacity factors for PV solar, Wind, Coal, and natural gas were calculated using information from the IEA chart. (Capacity factor is the amount of electricity a wind turbine, or any other power generation method, produces over a year, compared with how much it should produce using its nameplate rating.)

Capacity factors derived from the IEA chart:

  • PV Solar: 6%
  • Wind: 31%
  • Coal: 55%
  • Natural Gas: 46%

These capacity factors appear low. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated CFs for Coal of 85% and natural gas as 87%. The EIA also estimated wind at 35% and PV Solar at 25%. Recent EIA reports omit CFs for Coal, and uses estimates of CFs in 2022, not actual CFs for 2018.

The IEA’s PV Solar CF can likely be accounted for by where PV Solar was installed. Most PV Solar installations in the United States are in areas having insolation levels reasonably conducive to PV Solar, while most PV Solar installations elsewhere in the world are at higher latitudes where insolation levels are not conducive to PV Solar.

I emailed the IEA and asked for their CF data in an effort to determine why the IEA’s CFs were so low, but was told I would have to buy their WEO 2018 report. 

Rather than buying the IEA WEO 2018 report, the data from the above IEA graph was used to calculate capacity factors and costs.

The cost per KW, using US costs, for building each type of power plant is shown here:

  • PV Solar: $1,000
  • Wind: $2,000
  • Coal: $2,800
  • Natural Gas: $1,000

Calculating the cost of constructing each type of power plant, i.e., by multiplying the gigawatts being installed (from the chart) by the cost per KW, and then dividing the total cost by the total amount of electricity actually generated by each source, results in the following costs per Terawatt hour.

Cost per Terawatt hour:

  • PV Solar: $2,043 million
  • Wind: $727 million
  • Coal: $583 million
  • Natural Gas: $250 million

This establishes that renewables, i.e., wind and PV Solar, are more expensive than generating electricity from coal-fired and natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants.

The media has repeatedly reported contracts between suppliers and utilities where wind and PV Solar are less expensive than electricity generated by coal-fired and NGCC power plants, implying that wind and solar are the least costly methods for generating electricity. As the above calculations demonstrate, the contracts reported by the media must be incorporating subsidies to reduce their costs.


The IEA WEO 2018 supports a worldwide energy transition and forecasts capacity additions in power generation, by type, by 2020.

Using data from the IEA chart, the above calculations demonstrate that electricity from coal-fired and NGCC power plants is far cheaper, four times less expensive when comparing NGCC power plants with PV Solar plants, than renewables.

There is no need to delve into levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) and all the minutia associated with LCOE calculations. The cost and output of units being installed worldwide establishes, unequivocally, that wind and PV Solar are more expensive.
Power for USA

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. They know not what they do!!! Keep up the good work of spreading the word and eventually we may make some progress in convincing these idiots that CO2 is a friendly and very necessary gas which has been shown by geologists (historically) chemists (spectroscopically) and physicists (studying radiation transfer), to be UNABLE to cause global warming!!!

  2. prismsuk says:

    “../.Sunset and calm weather mean that wind and solar don’t compete…”

    The wind ‘disappeared’ for 5 days, at the end of February in the UK. Contemplating a ‘reasonable’ mix of wind and solar to meet the demand in a 100%-renewables-UK, throws up a comparison between the cost of battery backup and the cost of CCGT backup.

    To meet a ‘random’ 5 day [very] low wind/bright sunshiny period gives a battery cost of £1,164 billion. It’s safe to conclude that renewables will forever require fossil=fuelledc CCGT backup and will never be truly decarbonised:

  3. In addition the cost to the environment of wind power i.e. blades killing birds of prey, must also be taken into condesideration. New coal technology allows for carbon capture (underground gasification of coal) whilst nuclear is the cleanest form.

  4. Renewables are by far the cheapest generation of electricity ever thought up like turning lead into gold. When generation consists of 100% wind and batteries Australian’s house hold electricity bills will be the cheapest ever and in some cases around $000 because hopefully no one will have to pay for something that they never get. I think the young generations who have never had to go without anything will be shocked when there is no food, electricity, jobs, mobile phones, or very little of anything else , like living in a white Mogadishu. But with the present culture of blame and total removal from reality the X,Y,E,Z and LGBTI generations will always find someone else to blame. Bring on the 14th century Australian society, at least it will keep the babyboomers in fits of laughter.

  5. Barry James says:

    You recently published my article on the comparative costs of wind and coal power. I have published an update which examines the cost of grid disruption.

  6. Brett Thompson says:

    That’s great but you’ve got Turnbull telling everyone renewables are the cheapest, you guys need your own TV show

    • Of course they are. When your son has all his money invested in windmills what would you do. Collapsing a whole countries economy is small change compared to your sons career at an investment bank. ROFL.

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