Renewable Energy Delusion: Counting Staggering Cost of Wind & Solar Obsession

The notion that we’ll soon be exclusively powered by wind and solar is an appalling delusion, but one which comes with a staggering price tag.

Sure, the wind and sun are free, but attempting to rely upon chaotically generated wind and solar power is an altogether different prospect.

Adding wind turbines and solar panels to an integrated system that was perfectly capable of delivering power as and when power consumers need it, and at prices that all comers could afford, was always going to end in tears.

While subsidised wind and solar might interrupt the delivery of power from reliable sources, those reliable sources have to be maintained to compensate for the inherent unreliability of wind and solar.

The simple and unassailable fact is that for every MW of wind or solar there has to be a MW of coal or gas or nuclear or hydro ready, willing and able to pick up the slack, whenever the sun sets and/or calm weather sets in.

The unnecessary duplication of capital costs is just the beginning.

The cost of extending and beefing up transmission networks – to bring electricity occasionally generated from wind turbines or solar panels located beyond the back of beyond – is another new and wholly unnecessary cost that comes with our ‘inevitable transition’.

Little wonder, then, that consumers are being whacked with ever-increasing power bills in any country that has fallen for the grand wind and solar delusion.

Ed Hoskins provides a thorough and detailed analysis of just why an obsession with intermittent wind and solar inevitably drives power prices through the roof.

The excess costs of Weather-Dependent power generation 6/2022
Ed Hoskins
21 May 2022

This post estimates the scale of the fiscal waste both in immediate capital costs and in the longer term resulting from the imposition by policy of the use of Weather-Dependent power generation.

The primary policy to combat “Climate Change /  Global Warming” in the West has been to install, heavily subsidise and give massive preferential legal support to Weather-Dependent “Renewable” Wind and Solar for power generation, nominally expecting these technologies to reduce National emissions of CO2, a minor Greenhouse gas.

A simple calculation combines the comparative costs of Weather-Dependent generation with their measured productivity/capacity percentages showing the costs differences of contributing an equivalent amount of power to the Grid as conventional power generation technologies.

The result shows that all assertions of Wind and Solar power generation reaching cost parity with conventional fossil fuels or nuclear power are patently false.

Weather-Dependent power generation Wind and Solar technologies are in fact parasitic in Energy terms on conventional power generation and are not viable to support the power needs of any developed Nation.

The recorded productivity history of European wide “Renewable” Power generation since 2008 is shown below.

To emphasise their unreliability the actual Weather-Dependent performance achieved during the European Wind Drought of 2021 can be seen clearly in terms of reduced productivity.

For the last 10 years, as “Renewable”, Weather-Dependent, Wind and Solar installations have become established in Europe. In those10 years they have achieved the average overall productivity percentages below.

These productivity values have remained consistent over time and are used here for these comparative purposes.  As Weather-Dependent generation technologies are now mature and well established, such that only minor marginal improvements in their productivity performance will be available.

Note that Conventional power generators are rated at ~90%, that is the full potential achievable, allowing only for maintenance, when those dispatchable conventional technologies are un-encumbered by the political interventions prioritising the mandatory imposition of power input from intermittent and unpredictable Weather-Dependent “Renewables”.  The comparisons here are based on a limited 40 year service life, conventional generation technologies have much longer service lives.

Gas-fired power
The most cost effective, reliable, dispatchable and incidentally the least CO2 emitting means of fossil fuel power generation is Natural Gas.

Gas-firing produces:

  • CO2 emissions ~1/2 that of burning Coal or Lignite
  • CO2 emissions almost ~1/4 of the use of imported Biomass.

Over the past 20 years, the cost-effective use of Fracked Natural Gas for power generation, replacing Coal in the USA, has reduced  USA CO2 emissions/head by about one third.  In the USA the price of Natural gas remains advantageously low, when compared to the currently unstable Global market price for Natural Gas.

In the 1990’s the UK’s “Dash for Gas policy” for power generation contributed significantly to the UK’s reduction of CO2 emissions, achieving a reduction of about 40%.  In France the long-term commitment to Nuclear power has lowered CO2 emissions/head in France:  France now achieves CO2 emissions/head ~15% below the worldwide global average.

Note that, these values show the CO2 emissions effect of the Covid 19 epidemic in 2020.  Those lower CO2 emissions values in Western Nations will recover somewhat in subsequent years.

Power generation costings compared
The US Energy Information Administration, EIA provides regular comparative costings for various power generation technologies: their table was updated in March 2022.

Extracting data from this table and combining the cost data with the likely service life that Weather-Dependent generators can achieve results in the summary table below.

Except for Offshore Wind power generation, the comparative basic capital and long-term costs are roughly comparable between fossil fuels and Weather-Dependent generators. Nonetheless, Gas-firing is proven to be particularly cost effective, both in the capital cost of generation installations and for the 40 year longer-term.  Note that the US  EIA variable fuel costs for Gas-firing are set by the earlier USA gas market prices, not the current inflated Global market price.

The comparative costs above show the costs of installing and running the generation technologies:  the picture changes radically when their measured productivity is taken into account.

This trivial calculation then shows the comparative costs of actually delivering a Gigawatt unit of energy to the Grid.

It is only when their actual productivity contributing power to the grid that a true cost comparison of the power supplied to the Grid can be made: these are summarised below.

So, when not accounting for productivity, the US EIA comparative power generation costs for the installation and running of:

  • Onshore Wind power is roughly twice the capital cost of Gas-firing
  • Offshore Wind power is 5 – 9 times the capital cost of Gas-firing.
  • Solar Power is about 1.5 times the capital cost of Gas-firing

But when taking into account productivity the installation and running of power installations :

  • Onshore Wind power is ~8-9 times the cost of Gas-firing
  • Offshore Wind power is ~16-25 times the cost of Gas-firing.
  • Solar power is about ~10-12 times the cost of Gas-firing.

Estimating the excess costs over Gas-firing of Weather-Dependent power generation in Europe
As of the end of 2021 the EU and the UK together had installed ~385 Gigawatts of Weather-Dependent power generation: these installations generated at the rate of ~70 Gigawatts in total: a combined productivity / capacity figure of ~20%.

The estimated capital costs for the 2021 EU+UK Weather-Dependent installations amount to ~707€billion. The estimated long-term costs amount to ~2200 €billion over 40 years: however Gas-firing to generate the same level of power output would cost ~74 €billion and ~163 €billion respectively. Thus the excess costs over the use of Gas-firing amounts to ~633 €billion in capital expenditure and ~2038 €billion in long-term cost over 40 year or ~50 €billion per annum over the period.

Thus these estimates show the use of Weather-Dependent generation causes unnecessary excess capital expenditures of ~3% of annual European GDP and long-term ~10% of annual European GDP. Over the 40 year anticipated lifetime the excess expenditure amount to ~50 € billion per annum.

The distribution of excess costs between the three Weather-Dependent generation technologies is shown below:

Estimating the scale of the fiscal damage in Europe
The excess cost implications of displacing Gas-firing with Weather-Dependent generation for power generation for the current 385 Gigawatt of installed European Weather-Dependent power generation is summarised as follows:

These figures show the gross scale of the fiscal damage that has been achieved to date by the Climate Change Activist movements by managing to ban fracking for indigenous European supplies of Natural gas, which could well have been used economically for power generation as well exemplified in the USA.

Parallel calculations above show the excess comparative costs of using Nuclear power rather than Gas-firing. The costs of installing Nuclear power are higher and thus the excess costs are smaller but nonetheless significant.

In addition Weather-Dependent generators compare poorly with conventional generators by other measures, such as the EROI Energy Return on Energy Invested.

These comparative values roughly indicate the fiscal damage of the irrational political obsession with nominally reducing CO2 emissions, (EU(27) at 7.6% and the UK at 1% of Global CO2 emissions).  Pursuing these policies has increased both the costs and the unreliability of power generation across the Nations of Europe.  The continuing political intention to double down and pursue the massive expansion of Weather-Dependent power installations throughout Europe can only lead to increasing the gross fiscal waste from such a decision.

The actions of Russia have sought to protect its European Gasprom markets for Natural Gas.  Accordingly Russia has actively supported the Green Climate Change and Anti-fracking movements widely throughout the Western world.  The gross scale of the fiscal damage that these actions have already achieved can clearly be seen above.

Subsequent to the outbreak of war and Russia’s invasion of  the Ukraine, it has now become clear that the wholesale imposition of “Green / Net Zero Thinking” in the West is the successful outcome of a long standing fifth column operation supported by Russia and probably China over the last several years.

These undermining processes, aimed at damaging Western economies were fully recognised as a serious threat to the West by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as long ago as 2014.  So, an excellent way to damage Western economies has been to render their power generation progressively more unreliable and more expensive.

This self-harming process has led to the incautious dependency of Germany and other European Nations on Russian energy supplies.  Europe and in particular Germany, is now wholly energy dependent on a supplier antagonistic to the West.  Those energy sales are funding Russia’s incursion into the Ukraine and enable the threats to other Nations in Western Europe.

The other unaccounted Cost implications and CO2 emissions penalties of Weather-Dependent power generation
The significant ancillary costs, not accounted for in the calculations above, inevitably also associated with Wind power and Solar PV generators result from:

  • their unreliability in terms of both power intermittency and power variability.
  • the non-dispatchability of Renewables:  the wind will not blow, the clouds will not clear away and the world will not stop rotating to order, whenever power is needed by Man-kind.

Weather-Dependent generators do not run 24/7:  they do not achieve 90% productivity. 

  • the poor timing of power generation by “Renewables”, it is often unlikely to be well coordinated with demand for power:  for example, Solar energy, falls off in the evening, at times of peak demand.  Winter Solar output is virtually absent even in Southern European countries, ~1/7th of the output than in the summer, often the periods of lower power demand.
  • the continuing costs of back-up generation, which is essential to maintain continuous power supplies, but which may only be used on occasions and has to be wastefully running in spinning reserve and emitting some CO2 nonetheless.

It should always be noted that if there has to be sufficient back-up capacity using fossil fuels to support the grid whenever wind and solar are not available.  Such support is costly to run continuously, then there is very little point in doubling up the generation capacity, to be available 24/7,  with comparatively non-productive and much more costly Weather-Dependent generators, which might conceivably substitute some CO2 emissions but they certainly still emit substantial levels of CO2 for their manufacture, installation and maintenance. 

  • the long transmission lines from remote, dispersed generators, incurs both power losses in transmission, further infrastructure and increased maintenance costs.
  • requirement for the sterilisation of large land areas, especially when compared with conventional electricity generation, (Gas-firing and Nuclear).
  • much destructive additional engineering infrastructure is needed for access.
  • any consideration of electrical storage using batteries, which would impose very significant additional costs, were long-term, (only a few days), battery storage even feasible economically.  This makes any idea of long-term seasonal power storage impractical.
  • unsynchronised generation with lack of inherent inertia essential to maintain grid frequency.
  • Weather-Dependent generators cannot provide a “black start” recovery from a major grid outage.

Importantly in addition these cost analyses do not account for:

  • the Energy Return on Energy Invested:  Weather-Dependent generators may well produce only a minimal excess of Energy during their service life as was committed for their original manufacture and installation.  They certainly do not provide the regular massive excess power sufficient to support the multiple needs of a developed society.  Accordingly, they are parasitic on the use of fossil fuels for their existence.
  • the inevitable environmental damage and wildlife destruction caused by Weather-Dependent generators.
  • the “Carbon footprint” of Weather-Dependent generation technologies:  they may never save as much CO2 during their service life as they are likely to require for their materials sourcing, manufacture, installation, maintenance and eventual demolition.
  • when viewed in the round, all these installation activities are entirely dependent on the use of substantial amounts of fossil fuels both as feedstocks for the materials and as fuels for manufacturing.
  • the technologies used in Weather-Dependent generators are also highly dependent on large amounts of scarce materials giving rise to very extensive mining demands.

None of these imposed supplementary cost implications are assessed and included in the Cost comparisons above.

The appalling delusion
As Professor David Mackay FRS, (eminent Cambridge UK physicist and former chief scientific officer at the UK Department of Energy), said in an interview just before his untimely death in 2016, that the promotion of

The “Renewable Energy” obsession was driven by an “appalling delusion”.

The delusion has been perpetrated by people who have no understanding of the mathematics, engineering and practicalities of Energy technologies.

Would anyone sane ever buy a car costing between 8 – 25 times the normal price that only works one day in five, when you never know which day that might be?  And then insist that its technology is used to power the whole economy.

The comparative figures above are radical underestimates of the true costs of mandating Weather-Dependent “Renewables”.  These comparative results only account for the cost comparisons for capital and running costs of the power generation installations themselves and the actual electrical power generated accounting for their measured productivity capability of each generating technology.

3 thoughts on “Renewable Energy Delusion: Counting Staggering Cost of Wind & Solar Obsession

  1. Lewis Strauss looked at the cost contributed to nuclear power by raw uranium — 0.001 cents per kWh — and infamously said “too cheap to meter.” The fuel cost for wind and solar is 0.000 cents per kWh. Why isn’t it also ridiculously described as “too cheap to meter?”

    The excessively large capital cost for nuclear power is a result of the Rockefeller Foundation paying for a graduate student to “determine” that arbitrarily low levels of radiation cause inheritable generic changes in fruit flies, after Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech at the UN. Rockefeller also paid lobbyists to push the “linear no threshold” model of radiotoxic exposure. Fossil fuel interests continue to pay environmental alarmists such as Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth,, EDF, NRDC, … to shout fright of nuclear power. The result is the perpetuation of the US NRC ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) standard for nuclear power plants and spent fuel storage. If that standard were applied uniformly, it would end airline flights and CT scans, and require evacuating all of Colorado, most of New Mexico, the Tibetan Plateau, Guarapiri Beach in Brazil, and the vast tracts of India where thorium is abundant.

  2. Instead of calling it a greenhouse gas just call it .0004th of air or An Infinitessimally Small Fraction Of Air (AISFOA) to add to the waste bin of unnecessary acronyms that also are used to deceive. They like to use the term 400 parts per million to make it sound like so much but it’s just 1/2500th of the air and is a part of life and plant breath and never just accumulates unless weather disappears into the sunset as should all subsidies never to be seen again. Everything is a greenhouse gas. It’s marketing con games. CO2 is carbon and oxygen oxygen when did that become a dangerous gas? LOL that is what these hustler$ are doing as they spend all your money. Carbon footprints do not exist.

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