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The Cost Of Solar Power – Ed Davey’s Vanity Project

August 30, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




Ed Hoskins has one of his excellent and detailed posts on renewable energy:


Comparative effectiveness of weather dependent Renewable Energy in the UK




The late Professor David Mackay in his final interview with Mark Lynas in April 2016 stated that powering the UK wholly with Renewable Energy is an “Appalling Delusion”.

In 2014 and 2015 the UK installed record amounts of Solar Energy.  As a result, from being the sixth largest Solar PV installation in Europe, by 2015 the UK had increased its commitment to being the third largest in Europe after Germany and Italy.

According to David Mackay, this substantial commitment to Solar energy was made in spite of the clear professional advice, from the civil servants at the UK Department of Energy and Climate change that Solar Energy should never have been considered as useful and viable in the context of the UK environment, (unfavourable timing,  latitude and weather).

The capacity factor for Solar energy in the UK is only less than 9%.  This is the least performant solar power in Europe.

By 2015 the UK solar installation amounted to a total of about 9.6GW nameplate capacity yielding the equivalent of about 0.86GW of power, but only when the sun shines.

Using US EIA data of overnight capital costs for comparison, the total capital value of solar installations has now amounted to about £28,000,000,000 and just recently in 2014 and 2015 the UK committed an additional ~£19,000,000,000 to Solar energy installations, according to the green oriented EurobserER recorded data.

  • in 2014 from 2,782MW to 5,230MW an increase of +96%  equivalent to ~£8,800,000,000
  • in 2015 from 5,379MW to 8,917MW a further increase of +66%. equivalent to ~£10,500,000,000

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 14.20.23.png

These were by far the most rapid growth rates for Solar installation throughout Europe.

Using the same US  EIA comparative figures, this £28,000,000,000 capital investment could have provided:

  • ~40.0 Gigawatts of gas-fired installations at 87% capacity:  nearly sufficient to meet the UK’s highest demand.
  • ~6.5 Gigawatts of Nuclear generation at 90% capacity

The full amount of ~£28,000,000,000 cumulative capital expenditure on Solar energy is never stated explicitly because the full sum is well disguised.  The sum is subsumed in subsidies, overcharged electricity bills, feed-in tariffs, Renewables obligations and other government mandated CO2 reduction support mechanisms.

Whilst the proposed costs of Hinckley Point C, (at ~£18billion), are much discussed and now even questioned by government as to their viability, the much greater sum expended to contribute less than 1 Gigawatt of power, if the sun shines, on UK Solar installations has simply been ignored.

So this very significant sum has knowingly been allowed to be wasted by central government, (then DECC), at the expense of the UK taxpayer and the UK electricity purchaser.

The outcome of the following analyses fully justifies David Mackay’s assertions of “appalling delusion” and non viability of weather dependent Renewables with comparative cost effectiveness calculations.

  • solar power in the UK is about 41 times less cost effective than gas-fired power.
  • wind power overall is about 11 times less effective than gas-fired power.
  • coal firing is about 3 times less cost effective than gas-fired power.


This is just the summary, the full post is here.


What I find particularly significant is  the statement from Prof David Mackay that, this substantial commitment to solar energy was made in spite of the clear professional advice, from the civil servants at the UK Department of Energy and Climate change that Solar Energy should never have been considered as useful and viable in the context of the UK environment, (unfavourable timing,  latitude and weather).


A video of Mackay’s interview with the Guardian can be seen here


Whether we have really spent £28 billion on solar cannot be known. But we do know that the Committee on Climate Change have estimated the annual Renewable Obligation subsidy for solar at £307 million.

In addition to this are Feed in Tariffs, for smaller installations, which cost a further £991 million a year. Not all of this is for solar, as wind is also included. However, the CCC have told me:





If we assume that solar accounts for 80% of FITs, we arrive at an annual subsidy of £1.1 billion.

The CCC assume both ROs and FITs will run for 20 years, so we get a total subsidy of £22 billion, all to be paid for by consumers.


It has been pointed out before that some of the biggest beneficiaries of solar subsidies are people with big houses, and therefore plenty of roof space. Passing on these costs to electricity bill payers is a very regressive form of taxation.

The fact that ministers at DECC pursued such a policy against the clear professional advice of their civil servants, and on the basis of green ideology, is not only a disgrace, but an abuse of their authority.





A couple of charts drive home Ed’s message:


First, DECC data shows the rapid rise in solar capacity in 2014 and 2015.




Secondly, BP figures show just how irrelevant solar power is to the UK’s overall energy consumption.



  1. August 30, 2016 6:23 pm

    I recall that Greg “Barking Mad” Barker was the minister most strongly pushing solar. But of course he was in good company with Chris “Loony” Huhne and Ed “Mr Potato” Davey. Lamp posts and piano wire would be too good for them.

    Greg “Barking Mad” Barker wanted 22GW of solar by 2020. Unbelievable idiocy.

  2. August 30, 2016 6:33 pm

    ‘The capacity factor for Solar energy in the UK is only less than 9%. This is the least performant solar power in Europe.’

    Surely even a government energy minister should be able to figure out what this means – how hard can it be? We’re just too far North for solar to be even moderately effective.

  3. AlecM permalink
    August 30, 2016 6:39 pm

    The lunatics took over this Asylum because Cameron was too lazy to do his bloody job.

  4. August 30, 2016 6:47 pm

    Hard to believe that anyone could ever expect solar to pay in the UK other than if the equipment were almost free.

    I assume that the comments on the cost of coal power are assuming CCS? The real cost of coal power, using what is left of our fleet of excellent coal fired power stations, would be the world cost of coal / .4. This would surely beat any other fuel anywhere; however, saying carbon dioxide is like saying “Volde…” to our brainwashed civil servants and politicians.

  5. August 30, 2016 7:02 pm

    DECC Department of Eccentric Clueless Clowns.
    Potato Ed, Lord Dipin and the rest are either certifiable or criminal.

  6. August 30, 2016 7:03 pm

    The statement that “DECC always knew that solar was worthless in the UK” amounts to gross incompetence and in any other profession, (except banking,- if that’s really a profession), would be severely punished.

  7. August 30, 2016 8:40 pm

    Reblogged this on Wolsten.

  8. Mark Hodgson permalink
    August 31, 2016 7:37 am

    Some of the consequences are to be found at the BBC’s latest offering, under the headline “Smart energy revolution ‘could help to avoid UK blackouts'” at :
    Harrabin would do better to ask himselg=f why we are facing blackouts.

    • August 31, 2016 8:03 am

      The move toward flexible energy use is supported by the National Infrastructure Commission. And the advances in energy software are described by the World Energy Council as the biggest change in 21st Century energy – along with solar power.

      Already some firms benefit from using extra power when it is cheaper off-peak. That trend is spreading to households: a firm in Cornwall is offering a “sunshine tariff” that aims to persuading households to use cheap solar power when the sun is out, for example.

      Solar power……. in the UK……. National Grid UK executive director Nicola Shaw….. give me strength!

  9. August 31, 2016 9:11 am

    Where I live there are plenty of rooftop solar panels in the posh end of town but none elsewhere, so yes, this is a tax on the poor to pay the well-off planet savers. Notable is the absence of solar panel installations over the past several years, I suspect this is the real reason for the bleating from the solar industry, simply a lack of customers, not an attack by the govt on the subsidies.

  10. AndyG55 permalink
    August 31, 2016 9:39 am

    Photovoltaic in the UK ? Are they serious ????

    Didn’t ANYONE ever do the maths??????

    London is 8.5 degrees further north than Hobart is south, and not even the rabid AGW denizens of Hobart would ever think that solar could actually work for more than a couple of days a year

  11. Jackington permalink
    August 31, 2016 11:21 am

    Obviously Ambrose Evans-Pritchard never reads this sort of report when compiling his rose tinted predictions.

  12. August 31, 2016 11:33 am

    Minister: we’re going to cobble together some nebulous concepts and call it ‘smart energy’.

    Smart energy revolution ‘could help to avoid UK blackouts’

    ‘Could’? Give us a break, we’re talking about a whole country here. Is that the best they can do?

  13. Bloke down the pub permalink
    August 31, 2016 12:46 pm

    It has been pointed out before that some of the biggest beneficiaries of solar subsidies are people with big houses, and therefore plenty of roof space. Passing on these costs to electricity bill payers is a very regressive form of taxation.

    It should also be pointed out that one of the groups most vulnerable to high energy costs are the pensioners, yet with pay-back times in excess of ten years what pensioner in their right mind would invest in them? The same can be said for Harrabin’s smart energy revolution. Disclosure: I have solar pv and am therefore one of the people screwing the system.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 2, 2016 9:42 am

      I disagree with you. You are not one of the people screwing the system – you are merely taking advantage of what is on offer. The people who created a system that is screwed are the criminals.

  14. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 31, 2016 5:12 pm

    One ray of sunshine: I believe it was Andrea Leadsom who was responsible for slashing solar FiTs to great effect in stopping installations almost completely, as these charts illustrate:


    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      September 1, 2016 8:17 am

      A small error in the second chart: the right hand axis should be labelled kW/Installation.

  15. Green Sand permalink
    August 31, 2016 6:57 pm

    For what China is about to receive we are all truly thankful:-

    “…….Sir Ed, who was knighted in the New Year’s honours, lost his Kingston and Surbiton seat to the Tories in May. After leaving the Department of Energy and Climate Change he set up his own consultancy.

    He is now chairman of Mongoose Energy and a ‘senior adviser’ to MHP Communications, a lobbying and PR firm whose clients include EDF Energy – although he will not be advising EDF.

    He worked briefly for the Australian Macquarie Bank, which invests in solar panels, and Herbert Smith Freehills – a law firm which deals with the energy sector.

    Sir Danny – said to be looking for a house in China ahead of his expected bank appointment – was knighted in August, three months after losing his seat in the Scottish highlands.

    A Cabinet Office spokesman said the current system ‘strikes the right balance between a robust and rigorous process which at the same time allows former public figures to continue with their lives’.

  16. August 31, 2016 8:21 pm

    A friend told me a few years ago that his solar panels had generated 100KWh in summer months, I said that’s great you got £4..he said “no they paid me £40” yes the solar FIT was 40p/KWh !
    What idiot set it at TEN times conventional fuel wholesale price ?

    I told him that if anyone thought they could reduce CO2 with his solar panel, they would have put it in a sunny African place where it would be working 3-5 times harder, and that it’s like people saying they care about CO2 and then flying to Rio for a 4 day climate conference.

  17. Paul2 permalink
    August 31, 2016 10:37 pm

    Off topic but there really is no depth these morons will sink to in order to convince us of their lies:

  18. tom0mason permalink
    September 2, 2016 5:29 am

    You may enjoy this BBC piece by Roger Harrabin, apparently we don’t have to worry about the grid problems and blackout as renewables plus the ‘smart grid’ will save the day.

    A “smart energy” revolution could help ensure that the UK does not suffer blackouts, according to National Grid’s new UK chief.

    Nicola Shaw, its executive director, said technological advances will reduce the need to build new conventional power stations in the UK.

    An “internet of energy” will allow fridges, washers and dishwashers to help balance energy demand.

    Some commentators say the UK needs more gas-fired power to prevent blackouts.

    Ms Shaw agreed that more investment in gas-fired power was needed, but argued that between 30% and 50% of fluctuations on the electricity grid could be smoothed by households and businesses adjusting their demand at peak times.

    So there we are no panic as super-dooper yet to be proved technology will save the day.


    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 2, 2016 9:49 am

      So I presume she has not noticed the rash of stories of tumble dryers catching fire and burning out houses? Fancy running yours at night? And what does the Fire Brigade say on the running of appliances? That would be don’t run them at night or even in an empty house in case of problems. And as for offers such as British Gas to have free weekend energy if you have a ‘smart’ meter, what happens if everyone did it? Same with the claim for water meters – halve your cost with one. Everyone does this and the water companies see income halve – what next? That would be price rises.

      • tom0mason permalink
        September 2, 2016 3:29 pm


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