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Renewable Energy In The UK

December 27, 2018

By Paul Homewood



One reader’s comment yesterday discussed the amount of progress we have made on renewables to date, suggesting it was actually rather impressive.

Of course, we also regularly hear similar sentiments from the likes of Claire Perry.

As it’s the end of the year, it’s a good time to take stock.

All the numbers to follow are annual for 2017, unless stated otherwise.

First, let’s look at the electricity mix:




Conventional sources, ie fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro and others still account for 71% of electricity generated.

Arguably we should also include biomass in the “conventional” category, as burning wood is little different technically to burning coal. In any event, most experts now agree that burning wood pellets is not only environmentally harmful, but also does not actually cut CO2 emissions in any meaningful sense.

Despite the fact that 28 GW of wind and solar capacity has been added since 2009, the grid still requires full standby capacity from reliable sources. This is contracted for under the Capacity Market Market. (Currently, the EU is reviewing whether these payments are legal under EU law).

For instance, 52.4 GW has been contracted for  2020/21 at a price of £22.50/KW. That is a total cost of £1179 million, all of which is added to electricity bills.

The vast bulk of this standby will come from gas, coal and nuclear.

For the foreseeable future, the grid will continue to rely heavily on these same sources.



As if to reinforce the point, wind power is currently only supplying 1.9% of the UK’s power, meaning that it is running at just 3.7% of its capacity:




Meanwhile, solar power has generated just 7.28 GWh today, meaning it has run at 2% of capacity.



On paper, the increase in wind and solar capacity has been impressive. However, the reason is simple – the obscene amount of subsidies thrown at it.

Next year, subsidies for renewables will cost energy users over £11bn, equivalent to about £400 per household. Without these subsidies, none of this wind or solar would, in all likelihood, have been built at all.

This cost will continue to rise in years to come, as more offshore wind projects come on stream, not to mention Hinkley Point. Subsidies for existing schemes will, of course, carry on for many years to come as well.


It is frequently claimed that the cost of renewables has fallen drastically in recent years. But offshore wind farms due to come on stream in the next few years will still cost as much as £155.53/MWh, triple the market price.

Subsidies via ROCs and CfDs have now ceased for new onshore wind and solar projects. It is no coincidence then that new investment in these has also dried up. In the first 9 months of this year, onshore wind capacity has increased by a tiny 456 MW, to 13.3 GW. The increase in solar capacity is even smaller, at 306 MW.

Much of this new capacity still qualifies for subsidy, as contracts were already in place before the cut off.

So far, we have only looked at electricity generation. But if we look at overall energy consumption, the contribution from renewables is even less impressive.

Given that electricity only accounts for less than a fifth of total energy, wind and solar only account for 3% of primary energy consumption.

Far from our progress on renewable energy being “impressive”, the facts show that we have actually achieved extremely little at enormous cost.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    December 27, 2018 8:06 pm

    We should never forget the assistance that having priority access to market (first on, last off) gives to the relative-generation quantities of renewables vs others

  2. HotScot permalink
    December 27, 2018 8:12 pm

    When I occasionally recite these numbers to people they just don’t believe me.

    3% of our energy mix provided by renewables is just a lie, the BBC tells them so.

    I really don’t bother with them now. Evidently I’m the deranged fanatic for actually doing some research on the subject.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      December 28, 2018 12:04 pm

      France is having a moment of confusion on energy. A petition with about 2 million signatures demanding action on Climate Change whilst protests against high taxes and energy costs continue.

  3. Harry Passfield permalink
    December 27, 2018 8:13 pm

    Perry is so thick she can’t even get her (she says, inaccurate) Wiki entry corrected even though she has call on some (cough) top talent in Business & Energy Ministry. She probably doesn’t even understand the concept of backup requirements – let’s face it, she probably still doesn’t understand why PV is so sinusoidal. Or, that for every Watt of renewable out there there has to be as much again of backup. Is it a government plan to put the thickest MPs in Business and Energy? (Long-Baily to follow, if JC gets in….arrrggghh!)

    Happy New Year, Paul!!

    • mikewaite permalink
      December 28, 2018 11:25 am

      It is not the thickest MPs who become energy ministers, but the cleverest.
      Consider the subsequent careers of former occupants of that position once they have been kicked out of office. All of them have obtained highly lucrative positions in the renewable energy sector that they once were supposed to regulate ( and whose managers and owners they probably met on a daily basis).

  4. John F. Hultquist permalink
    December 27, 2018 8:15 pm

    “… achieved extremely little at enormous cost“.

    Wind and solar can’t keep up with rising demand, let alone replace existing energy needs.
    All they do is make everything else less efficient and more costly.
    Near where we live (Washington State, USA) wind had a good day on the 21st. It went to zero on Christmas Day, bounced some since then, and is not quite zero today (27th). Nuke and small scale thermal** are steady. Hydro is used to balance all the rest.

    **burning scraps at wood and paper plants, methane at landfills, and many others.

  5. HotScot permalink
    December 27, 2018 8:28 pm

    And another thing!

    Whilst I’m at it (rant coming). Since the initial almost undetectable earth tremors from the Cuadrialla site in Lancashire, have we heard anything more some months on? I haven’t.

    It would be interesting to understand how much energy is extracted from a single fracking well relative to a single wind turbine site. They both occupy similar footprints.

    And what really gets my goat is that one of Scotland’s major resources is it’s ‘unspoiled’ tourist inviting countryside, yet the effing insane Scottish Nationalist Party insist on ripping the countryside apart with wind turbines.

    Who in their right minds would want to travel thousands of miles to see a skyline contaminated by these disgusting structures, probably no different from their experiences at home.

    • C Purdy permalink
      December 27, 2018 9:17 pm

      Hear, hear. I couldn’t agree more.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 27, 2018 11:20 pm

      I like to point out that the Wytch Farm oil field, with its half a dozen drill sites that are so well camouflaged that many locals are not even aware of their presence just a short ferry ride from Sandbanks, the location of homes of multi-millionaires under which some of the wells have been drilled, has produced as much energy as will be produced by all the UK onshore windfarms in their projected lifetimes. Sandbanks inhabitants did object strongly (and successfully) to the plans for an offshore windfarm that would have spoiled their view of the Needles, which would have generated only a tiny fraction of energy produced at Wytch Farm.

    • Lezz permalink
      December 28, 2018 8:35 am

      Just a few years ago, I took the train from Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh. So many beautiful vistas blighted by wind turbines. I suppose Jimmy Krankie and her army of delinquents believe that this is a price worth paying.

  6. December 27, 2018 8:29 pm

    I cannot imagine why the EU is reviewing whether the Capacity Market payments are legal under EU law. If it is illegal then the resources that need those payment will become uneconomic will simply shut down. Is the EU so energy innumerate that they don’t see that system reliability will suffer?

    • Hivemind permalink
      December 28, 2018 4:16 am

      Or perhaps that is their very intent.

  7. Ossqss permalink
    December 27, 2018 8:33 pm

    It would be interesting to see what the numbers look like based on total energy use/need vs. just electricity.

  8. MikeO permalink
    December 27, 2018 9:24 pm

    I can’t see my comment!!!

  9. December 27, 2018 9:24 pm

    RegenSW (now Regen), the propaganda arm of the renewable energy ‘industry’, used to produce an annual progress report telling us how much renewable capacity was installed each year. They stopped producing the report in 2016 because, in their words, “Since the Feed-in Tariff was capped and its closure announced in 2015, small-scale renewable generation has ‘nose-dived’, ‘fallen off a cliff’ or any other gravity-based metaphor that has been used to describe the huge reduction in installation”.

    What they seem to concentrate on now is “Championing a diverse, engaged and democratic renewable energy sector”. I haven’t a clue what that means, but at least we have now seen the back of new solar farms and onshore wind turbines. There must be some wind turbines coming to the end of their subsidy life, so it will be interesting to see whether they get removed.

  10. Ian Miller permalink
    December 28, 2018 12:09 am

    Understand this: there is no other way to say it.
    Supported by the BBC, the Left is at war with this country, and the sooner we wake-up and realise it the better !

  11. Ian Miller permalink
    December 28, 2018 12:11 am

    I can’t see my comment either !

  12. markl permalink
    December 28, 2018 12:59 am

    They will not be able to hide the inefficiencies of wind and solar energy much longer. The more added the worse it will get. The proliferation of PV panels and Turbines on the landscape will be like flags of totalitarian inefficiency. Energy costs to consumers must go up to add more production. More industries will move out due to energy costs. People will want to know why steam is still coming from coal and gas fired plants if they are not needed and hard questions will be asked. Brown outs will come first and then black outs. “There wasn’t enough wind/sun” will not be a satisfactory reply. Interconnects will fail or generating countries favoring one country or their own over another are more unacceptable answers. Add up the negatives that are bound to occur and the people won’t stand for it. A poorly thought out plan with major unintended …. but known ….. consequences.

  13. MikeO permalink
    December 28, 2018 1:08 am

    Here in Australia where I am from we have a very long transmission grid. It starts in South Australia covers Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. We also have a body who collects data from all generators across that grid in five-minute increments. This is ideal for analysis and I have the whole dataset for four years ending in 2017. Shortly I will collect the data for the whole of 2018 and produce a report on five years of data. Currently I can only speak of the data I have in 2017. Our wind power stations are dispersed over 2,250,000 km² and occupy 2000 km². The effective plate capacity is about 4 GW and the capacity factor was 30%. It has been below 6% often, 72 times in 2017, and even zero for hours. Over the four years of my data the amount of dispatched electricity has grown very slowly. It has been 1.4% over four years that is less than 1% per year. There is a definite trend for power from these two decrease in winter. If you are interested I will pass along to you my report when finished.

    Something you may be able to help with is that the same body who collects the data here also offers data for rooftop PV on small buildings. As anyone know how this is being done?

    • December 28, 2018 1:23 am

      Anton Lang on PApundits- international does an almost daily post on the Australian energy market. He does a fastastic job.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 28, 2018 12:16 pm

      I’d also recommend taking a look at Geoff Eldridge’s site, which allows some very interesting analyses of NEM data, including prices and the ability to do scatter plots so you can see the amount of correlation between different outputs, or with prices. THere’s also data on interstate connector flows.

  14. December 28, 2018 1:14 am

    What we need here is a graph of energy cost plotted against the intermittent to reliable generation ratio. I expect it will be exponential in nature.

    The true actual costs should include subsidies to both intermittent and reliables for the provision of backup facilities. Mere consumer bills do not necessarily reflect this due to market distortions.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 28, 2018 1:16 pm

      Not to mention the cost of grid connections which, somehow, these green carpetbaggers get away with.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 28, 2018 1:47 pm

      Here’s a start in South Australia:

      There are various features in this plot: the evidence of curtailment, with few points beyond the 1300MW level; the bands in price that show where marginal generators kick in; the highest prices (over A$14,000, not plotted) are associated with low levels of wind output, and the lowest (minus A$1,000 – again not plotted, but you can download the data) with high wind output.

  15. Europeanonion permalink
    December 28, 2018 10:57 am

    Paying subsidies to land owners is counter intuitive, is money that should be channelled towards fusion research and other productive / promising applications that could actually maintain the planet. The focus on green energy production and its feather-bedding is working contrary to the necessity of our futures; a dangerous obsession that is attractive in politics, that is until they start to meter-out supply, introduce power rationing.

    What is really galling about the whole thing is that a (currently) slightly warmer environment is shielding crank energy schemes from being exposed for what they are.

    Meanwhile my complaint to the BBC about AGW reporting has been re-submitted after, initially, they chose to answer a question I had not asked and chose instead to cover me in the confetti of their Metropolitan obsession.

  16. Robin Guenier permalink
    December 28, 2018 11:04 am

    Yes, wind and solar’s 19% contribution to the UK’s 2017 electricity generation is not very impressive. But it’s a lot more impressive than what’s happening in China where – despite all those claims about its “leading the renewable energy revolution ( – they contributed only 7%:

  17. Jack Broughton permalink
    December 28, 2018 11:49 am

    Had the joy of going north on the M1 yesterday (well of going north anyway). Radcliffe power station was flat out, but dozens of white-elephants were barely flapping in the breeze . Sadly the wreckers seem to have now finally stopped Ferrybridge and Eggborough, but Drax was merrily burning as many trees as it could.

    Energy Policy????

  18. David permalink
    December 28, 2018 11:54 am

    We have a long way to go to be 100% renewable, it’s true. We must work harder. More investment into renewables is needed, not less. Government needs to double down and then some.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 28, 2018 1:14 pm

      Guess you left the /s off the end of that comment, David. Otherwise, what are you doing out of class before lunch? Holidays, you say? 🤔

  19. MrGrimNasty permalink
    December 28, 2018 12:40 pm

    Going for a post-Christmas walk, a car full of a family piled out onto the promenade – the first thing the mum said was “What an eyesore”, pointing at the Rampion industrial complex blighting the seascape.

    Now as eyesores go, it is intrusive most of the time (visibility permitting), but compared to what these windmills have done to supposedly protected countryside of outstanding beauty throughout Europe – that is a real disgrace.

    The main problem is that the vast majority of people (being urban based) just have no concept of the size of these turbines and the amount of land they use.

  20. David R permalink
    December 28, 2018 12:42 pm

    If you want pg0ignorany graduate mathematicians to understand your articles, please do not use undefined acronyms like CCGT, DSR, OCGT, etc.which cannot be deduced from the context.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      December 28, 2018 4:31 pm

      Most if not all are defined in the links e.g. CCGT & OCGT.

      DSR=demand side response e.g. big industrial users paid to agree to power down when grid demand cannot be met from generation capacity.

  21. December 28, 2018 12:49 pm

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  22. Silverback permalink
    December 28, 2018 7:59 pm

    Has anyone in the UK heard about ‘subsidy free’ solar panels on domestic premises. i’m trying to research into it (not to install it) but can’t find any mention of it on the internet. If it is subsidy free, I’m not sure how it would work – or what the point of it would be. Replies gratefully received.

  23. Jack Broughton permalink
    December 29, 2018 11:29 am

    Where do curtailment costs appear in the summaries: are they part of the ROCs and FITs?

    • December 29, 2018 4:16 pm

      I’m not certain, Jack, but I don’t think they appear anywhere there. They just get swallowed up in the National Grid costs

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 29, 2018 10:39 pm

      It’s a Balancing Mechanism cost, which is “socialised” – i.e. smeared across our bills.

      There is a very good discussion of some of the associated issues here;

      • Jack Broughton permalink
        January 4, 2019 11:47 am

        Thanks for the link to REF, very helpful. I miss “Variable Pitch” which gave a lot of data on ROCS and operations of power stations. I’m not very up on the sites available, so thanks again.

  24. Gerry, England permalink
    December 29, 2018 3:03 pm

    WUWT have post on Telegraph article covering a report on the expected life of our onshore windmills. Seems they will last 12-15 years not the 20-25 years the industry and government morons have planned for.

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