Skip to content

National Infrastructure Commission: Renewables could meet two-thirds of UK’s energy demand by 2030

August 13, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Robin Guenier




According to the Commission’s ‘Renewables, Recovery and Reaching Net-Zero’ report, published today (11 August), there is “no material cost impact, either over the short or long term”, of deploying renewables at an accelerated pace, in line with the nation’s net-zero target. The Commission had previously said, in line with the UK’s original Climate Change Act target of reducing net emissions by 80% by 2050, that renewables should account for 50% of consumption by mid-century.

By 2050, electricity generation should stand at a minimum of 465 TWh, compared to 345TWh in 2019. This will account for the electrification of sectors such as heat and transport, as well as population growth and digitisation.

The report models a variety of scenarios in which the 65% quota is met by 2050, concluding that between 86GW and 99GW of generation must be deployed by the end of 2030 – including a minimum of 40GW of offshore wind. The UK’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal is notably designed to ensure that 30% of electricity generated in the UK comes from offshore wind arrays by 2030, and that capacity increases fivefold through to 2050.

Offshore wind should be complemented with large-scale solar and energy storage, the report recommends, to account for varied generation patterns. It does not take biomass into account, nor nuclear, and recommends that the Government approves a maximum of one new nuclear plant, other than Hinkley C, before 2025.–Renewables-could-meet-two-thirds-of-UK-s-energy-demand-by-2030/


Surprisingly, for a news site that is supposed to be an expert in these matters, EDIE don’t seem to know the difference between ENERGY and ELECTRICITY. Needless to say, the NIC are planning for two thirds of electricity from renewables, nor two thirds of energy!

The NIC plan is the usual mix of wishful thinking, but this is the first time I have seen a detailed breakdown of total system costs, which include both construction and running costs.

Their full dataset is available here, and is based around different scenarios, though they are all similar through to 2030. My summary is taken from the high electrification scenario, which targets 80% renewable generation by 2050.

Excluding generation costs, annual system costs are projected to rise from £6.9bn currently, to £15.3bn in 2030 (all at 2016 prices):




These essentially reflect the cost of running the grid, which will keep on rising to £25.3 bn by 2050, an increase of £18.4bn from today. They are, in a way, the hidden costs of decarbonising the electricity supply, and come on top of the subsidies for renewables we are familiar with.

Astonishingly, however, the NIC claim that renewable subsidies will sharply fall after 2028:



These numbers simply do not add up, unless the NIC have assumed much higher wholesale prices. Either way, of course, consumers are shafted.

The OBR are currently projecting that subsidies will carry on rising until 2024/25, when they will amount to £11.4bn – ie ROCs, CfDs and FITs:



CfDs run for 15 years, which means that none will expire until well after 2030. Furthermore, when Hinckley Point comes on stream it will add £2bn to the total.

Renewable Obligations last for the lifetime of the asset, so these will still be substantial throughout the 2030s, as will FITs.

In all likelihood, therefore, renewable subsidies will be costing consumers up to £15bn a year by 2030, with little respite after that until after 2040.

[I have by the way asked the NIC for their detailed workings here. My guess is that they have assumed that rocketing carbon taxes will force up wholesale power prices, thus making subsidies appear lower).


As with projections from the National Grid and the Committee on Climate Change, the NIC seem to have simply picked renewable capacity targets off the top of their heads, with little thought of how it could be integrated in the overall grid.

About the only mention of the problem is this:



While we know the CCC live in cloud cuckoo land, it is utterly disgraceful that the supposed technical experts of the NIC should gloss over the potentially catastrophic problems facing the nation’s electricity supply, which would be caused by their recommendations.

As we know, flexible demand may be fine for evening out the peaks and troughs in a day but useless for longer periods of shortfall. And reliance on imported electricity is hugely risky, not least when the rest of northern Europe will likely also be short of wind generation.

Which leaves us with those “storage technologies”. And here is what the NIC suggest:


So in 2050, when we are reliant on renewables for 80% of our electricity, we will have storage capacity available of 55.7 GWh.

The plan by then is that we will need 596 TWh of generation a year, or 1.63 TWh a day. When the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine, we would therefore have enough storage to last us 49 minutes.

Heaven knows what we are supposed to do for the rest of the winter.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    August 13, 2020 8:38 pm


    The last table states “Nameplate capacity GW”, but GW will be either charge or discharge rate. Units of (storage) capacity are GWh.

  2. Joe Public permalink
    August 13, 2020 8:43 pm

    “So in 2050, when we are reliant on renewables for 80% of our electricity, we will have storage capacity available of 55.7 GWh.”

    With the increased demand expected from electrifying (some) space heating and vehicle motive power, that 55.7GWh will keep our grid live for maybe an hour on a cold January weekday at 17:00.

  3. Broadlands permalink
    August 13, 2020 8:58 pm

    Renewables are of little value in transportation. Fossil fuels, renewable biofuels, will be required for the foreseeable future.

  4. Geoff B permalink
    August 13, 2020 8:59 pm

    no wind yesterday, gas turbines struggling with the high ambient temperature, I read in the guardian that a coal station had to run. What is going to happen if there is no wind in January?

    • Ian Wilson permalink
      August 14, 2020 8:18 am

      That’s precisely what happened in last January’s anticyclone, when for long periods wind produced under 1% of our electricity and solar next to nothing. Coal consistently generated over twice the output of wind, and soon there won’t be any coal……………

    • jack broughton permalink
      August 14, 2020 11:59 am

      The link is typical amusing Guradian drivel. Apparently, according to the Grauniad’s experts,the gas turbines are less efficient at air high temperatures: while in reality their efficiency increases but available output falls significantly: so you need more of them on-line. Of course the real crowing is about how long we have avoided burning any coal, (vast quantity of American trees burned, less efficiently, instead is not mentioned of course).

      The UK media demonstrate every day how technical ignorance generates fake news.
      As the old poem says “You cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God! the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to”

  5. August 13, 2020 9:13 pm

    “there is “no material cost impact, either over the short or long term”, of deploying renewables at an accelerated pace, in line with the nation’s net-zero target”

    Net of what? What explains the love affair of the British with the word Net?

    • Broadlands permalink
      August 13, 2020 10:43 pm

      The British are not alone in not understanding that NET stands for Negative Emissions Technology…the capture and long-term storage of CO2, net of the CO2 emission reductions to get to zero. Better luck riding a bicycle to Hawaii.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      August 14, 2020 8:25 am

      That’s so clearly wrong I don’t know where to start. The Stern Report (which has its failings) was very clear – you shift to renewables as fossil fuel plant needs replacing. That is the ONLY way Stern got the cost to be acceptable, and even then the Report uses far too low a discount rate to do so.

      As far as I am aware, there has been nothing of comparable detail or quality since. Instead we have ad hoc policies with ad hoc claims that simply cannot be true.

      These claims about costs are simply made up, both on the renewable cost side and on the costs of alternatives to give the “right” answer. It will therefore end in disaster.

  6. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    August 13, 2020 9:34 pm

    Renewables could meet two-thirds of UK’s energy demand by 2030” if 2/3 of the people move to other continents.

    Fixed it for them. You are welcome!

    • Lez permalink
      August 14, 2020 7:10 am

      I’m told that New Zealand is a nice place to live. I can see no future prosperity for the UK unless someone with a modicum of common sense takes charge of the Westminster lunatic asylum.

      • August 14, 2020 8:51 am

        More about New Zealand

      • Dave Ward permalink
        August 14, 2020 9:49 am

        “I’m told that New Zealand is a nice place to live”

        Correction: It WAS a nice place to live. Now (thanks to an insane overreaction to Covid) Jacinda Arden has turned it into a prison camp. You can forget any ideas of emigrating there, or to Australia either, for that matter…

  7. Geoff B permalink
    August 13, 2020 9:46 pm

    They do not seem to have any concept of grid stability problems with asynchronous power as generated by offshore wind farms. The dc links have to be converted to ac at the shore based substation, With traditional steam turbines (coal and nuclear and the steam back end of gas) there is a massive amount of spinning mass which gives frequency stability, there is none from the inverters, they are just banks of semiconductor thyristors with no thermal mass, you just cannot overload them, they just trip out at the slightest frequency variation, (as happened when Hornsea tripped out a year ago). So frequency stability of the grid is a criteria that is overlooked if you just look at generation capacity.

    I could also go on about VARS (Volts Amps Reactive) a sort of negative power that comes and goes each cycle, due the phase difference between the voltage and current ….. the power factor! You know, I graduated as an electrical engineer 50 years ago almost to the day. Relying on intermittent wind and solar power is going to be a disaster,

    • Phillip Bratby permalink
      August 14, 2020 7:12 am

      Try telling that to the powers that be. Their eyes will glaze over as they tell you that there is no limit to the amount of wind power that can be connected to the grid.

      They should be made to read John Constable’s article ‘The Brink of Darkness – Britain’s Fragile Power Grid’ and tested on it until they understand it.

      • StephenP permalink
        August 14, 2020 7:37 am

        In the post WW1 period when there were quite a number of small farms rented to returning ex-servicemen consisting of three acres and a cow, the smallholder would use the services of a local bull owned by a farmer with a large herd.
        One day a maiden lady of a certain age saw a young girl leading a cow down the road. ‘What are you doing, she asked?’
        ‘Taking our cow to be serviced by the bull, she answered.’
        The maiden lady thought this was most improper for a young girl to be doing, so she said ‘Couldn’t your father do that?’
        No, replied the girl, it has to be the bull.

      • yonason permalink
        August 14, 2020 9:43 am

        @StephenP My response i, as below…
        “LOL – What a clever and funny girl. Thank you, StephenP. That was excellent! I will be sharing that one.”

      • yonason permalink
        August 14, 2020 10:18 am

        @Phillip Bratby

        Got it. Thanks

        Click to access Constable-Brink-of-Darkness.pdf

  8. BLACK PEARL permalink
    August 13, 2020 10:02 pm

    As usual just another waste of our money …. fairy story

  9. Thomas Carr permalink
    August 13, 2020 10:20 pm

    What an incongruous mix of advisories, imperatives and conditionals in the Commission’s publication. And yet the NICs expects its work to be treated as authoritative. One wonders if they have the capacity to understand what you set out by way of refutation , Paul.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 14, 2020 5:35 pm

      I was steered into taking a look at Bus2Grid recently. Here are my initial findings:

      SSE has an unusually informative page here:

      28 buses initially.

      e-Bus Depot Capability to provide Grid Support
      Typical fully electrified bus depots could provide around 2-10 MW firm availability for overnight grid services and could participate in National Grid FFR and DNO services
      UK Power Networks launched last year its Flexibility Roadmap as a first step to release DNO benefits and creating a local flexibility market. It has also launched flexibility tenders through Piclo platform
      Fixed vehicle schedules offer very predictable periods of demand and connected storage

      Electric bus depots as a source of energy and power can provide 300kWh per bus and 40 kW export capacity per charging point for around 120 buses per depot (London average). With V2G technology the potential could provide huge increases: 36MWh per depot and 4.8MW per depot.

      They seem to be a bit coy about round trip losses and battery degradation through extra cycling. But I think their real problem comes from the fact that buses are out on the roads during rush hours when there might be demand to discharge to the grid. Which really just leaves filling their boots on windy nights when prices are negative, which isn’t really V2G. They are also suggesting they might provide some localised grid stabilisation services, and it is certainly true that windy nights can create more need for stabilisation, but mainly close to generation, not London with its absence of windmills. They are competing with the purpose built grid batteries, for which the popular size is 50MW and 50MWh, which can equally be installed wherever is convenient (major substations are favoured), and will operate 24/7 less maintenance time. Their real problem is that they have a narrow window of use for supplying power to the grid, since overnight demand is lower, as the diagram on this page reveals:

      I did have a quick double-take at this note:

      For more information and to speak to someone directly please contact Kevin Welstead, our Sector Director for Electric Vehicles, at her email address:

      A new kind of transformer, perhaps?

      Piclo piqued my interest. So I had a trawl around their website and found links to recent white papers on grid management by demand shifting and storage, and on storage itself, available here.

      These are at a different level of sophistication entirely from the pap fed by the NIC and CCC etc, because these people are involved in providing a commercial marketplace and want to convince real energy companies to participate. They do make some interesting and valid points about competition between various kinds of services leading to suboptimal results, and they provide a ballpark estimate that grid and storage optimisations could save £5bn a year. They have at one level a sophisticated model. Yet there are some wonderful assumptions, like another 9 Dinorwigs (where?), and the use of the National Grid unicorn scenarios about domestic heat. But I suspect worst of all they never really look at how renewables perform: the several days on end of very low output, the significant variations in average output between years, and so forth. All swallowed up in average performance figures that actually make a nonsense of much if their effort.

  10. bobn permalink
    August 13, 2020 11:10 pm

    Why is the country burdened by so many vacuous tax gobbling talking shops producing garbage reports? With the Govt closing most actual productive businesses in its flu panic, its left us with these overpaid money wasters. No wonder the economy is tanking. Enjoy the coming depression, Ive just bought a cow to keep the family supplied in the coming dark ages.

    • yonason permalink
      August 14, 2020 2:23 am

      You need two more items before you’ll be completely ready.

      1. Another cow.
      2. An appropriate business model. Here are some suggestions.

      • StephenP permalink
        August 14, 2020 7:49 am

        Sorry, for some reason my reply got posted four comments too early.

      • yonason permalink
        August 14, 2020 9:42 am

        LOL – What a clever and funny girl. Thank you, StephenP. That was excellent! I will be sharing that one.

  11. Alan Fields permalink
    August 13, 2020 11:29 pm

    O/T chief executive of network rail blames rail accident im Scotland on heavy winter rain due to climate change

    On Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 03:26 NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT wrote:

    > Paul Homewood posted: “By Paul Homewood h/t Robin Guenier > According to the Commission’s ‘Renewables, Recovery and Reaching Net-Zero’ > report, published today (11 August), there is “no material cost impact, > either over the short or long term”,” >

  12. Curious George permalink
    August 14, 2020 12:15 am

    No adults in the National Infrastructure Commission?

  13. George Reagan permalink
    August 14, 2020 4:57 am

    In their wet dreams …

  14. EyeSee permalink
    August 14, 2020 8:19 am

    You point to the figures for required generation and how renewables can’t and certainly not consistently, provide this power, which ought to be evident to all. I think generally the public are apathetic because it is distant, usually of abstract or a technical nature, that they do not care to investigate. And also that it is so stupid it will never happen. This seems the British way, disappointing though it is, that we ever engaged with anti-capitalism in the form of the Climate Change scam, in the first place. But with the inconsistent, science-absent, panicked reaction to coronavirus that the headless chicken government has adopted, then I think it is time to start seriously objecting to the continuing waste of our money. Money spent to destroy everyone’s futures.

  15. August 14, 2020 9:06 am

    ‘and other innovations are also needed’ – which have little chance of turning up out of nowhere to save their wishful ‘thinking’.

    ‘Renewables could meet two-thirds of UK’s energy [=electricity] demand by 2030’ – on a sunny day with long daylight hours and some wind around, otherwise forget it.

    • Gamecock permalink
      August 14, 2020 12:54 pm

      My seat-of-the-pants estimate is that 30% is the maximum penetration renewables can achieve. Beyond that, the financial case for traditional generation is lost, and the renewables lose their free backup. ‘Renewables could meet two-thirds of UK’s energy’ becomes renewables will have to provide ALL of UK’s energy (sic), because there won’t be any other source, the others having been driven out of business.

  16. Ben Vorlich permalink
    August 14, 2020 9:10 am

    I like looking at every morning and guess what the weather is like in the UK. Today appears to have very little wind and not much sunshine. Just right for 100% renewable nirvana

  17. Paul Weeks permalink
    August 14, 2020 10:02 am

    This week I managed to get my electrician to fit a change over switch etc so I can ‘run’ my house off a generator……..

    • Gamecock permalink
      August 14, 2020 12:57 pm

      Decentralization of power generation is an unintended consequence, though rather obvious.

  18. Harry Passfield permalink
    August 14, 2020 10:41 am

    Curious legal positions in play: VAG suffer Billions in fines for their emissions-defeating ‘trick’ because they were selling customers cars that did not perform as described.
    By the same token, wind-farm companies can sell us their power generators based on a name-plate output that is further from reality than the VAG emissions numbers.

    What it comes down to is this: I want to buy a car but the honest dealer tells me that, although it’s supposedly powerful and efficient engine will allow it to reach 120 mph and deliver 50 mpg, it is extremely unlikely that it will always achieve that, if at all. By the same token, in case of a puncture the car has a top of the range spare tyre – but it will only last for 20 miles, if that. In any case, there are no means by which the driver could change a punctured wheel as a third-party service company has to be called out to do that. And if you run out of fuel on your journey you may have to wait for ages for a refill – which at times could over-fill your tank and prevent you moving because of the danger such a load presents.
    I don’t want to buy a car after all.

  19. Gamecock permalink
    August 14, 2020 11:17 am

    ‘Renewables could meet two-thirds of UK’s energy demand by 2030’

    Easy peasy. With your factories and businesses moving to South Carolina, you’ll have plenty of electricity from renewables. Ghost towns don’t need much.

  20. jack broughton permalink
    August 14, 2020 11:43 am

    The luminaries on the NIC ought to read Paul’s “Guides for Dummies”, for they are clearly Energy-Dummies. The first lines of the report say that “Renewables are now the cheapest form of Electricity generation”: this is the first of many technical howlers. They have the cost of offshore generation falling from £ 2m/MW to £ 1.3m/MW when it is rising, and pay no attention to the cost-implications of low availability-factors; which is appalling for solar electricity, and poor for wind.

    Solar power without battery storage is a financial liability that has never been properly costed: it displaces fuels for a short time /day then causes the fossil fuel generators to work at low overall efficiency and high cyclic-stress damage when clouds pass etc. Adding sensible levels of storage to every solar panel is the right cure for this (smoothing their output); but,of course, greatly increases the cost of solar and reduces the efficiency of collection…..

  21. Jeremy Poynton permalink
    August 14, 2020 4:47 pm

    Beyond madness….



    Brief summary of the two papers above.

    “In order to save the planet we will have to destroy it”.

    “And the size of the battery means that they require huge
    quantities of materials in their manufacture. If we replace all of
    the UK vehicle fleet with EVs, and assuming they use the most
    resource-frugal next-generation batteries, we would need the
    following materials:

    • 207,900 tonnes of cobalt – just under twice the annual
    global production;

    • 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate – three quarters of
    the world’s production;

    • at least 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium –
    nearly the entire world production of neodymium;

    • 2,362,500 tonnes of copper – more than half the world’s
    production in 2018.

    And this is just for the UK. ” (KellyDecarb)


  22. George Reagan permalink
    August 14, 2020 6:11 pm

    Don’t hold your breath. Regards, Skeptic, retired engineer, physicist petroleum geologists

  23. jack broughton permalink
    August 14, 2020 8:08 pm

    I’ve just gone through the spreadsheets from Aurora Energy Research that the NICs madness is based on. The best solution would be to confiscate the computers from these idiots until they understood the numbers that they were putting in: unfortunately, an impossibility. The spreadsheets are classic GIGO, (purporting to be models of reality) and thus will be beloved of Climate Change Believers.

    HINT: The price of CO2 is used to make the numbers whatever they want them to be

  24. avro607 permalink
    August 14, 2020 11:32 pm

    If you are still there Paul,apologies, but I cant figure out where the 55.7GWh is worked out from at the beginning.A quick clue please?

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      August 15, 2020 9:53 am

      avro – Paul H must be on his bike still…

      From the last table and the line for 2050 – 0.42GW for 30mins, plus 0.45GW for 1 hour, 0.64GW for 2 hours and 13.45GW for 4 hours giving a grand total of 55.74GWh. I assume anyway.

      Which is a bizarre way of displaying it unless one wanted to show the maximum output assuming all other generation suddenly failed, and that Dinorwig has been dropped by then.

      And flow batteries will be zero? If we want to store a lot of energy for a long time I’m pretty sure lithium batteries will not be the only answer in 2050!

    • August 15, 2020 9:58 am

      It’s the GW x the battery hours, eg 13.45 x 4

  25. Coeur de Lion permalink
    August 15, 2020 6:08 am

    The objective is to control global temperature in 2100. U.K. produces just over one per cent of global CO2. So the whole campaign is pointless. I heard that on the BBC. Not.

    • Gamecock permalink
      August 15, 2020 11:40 am

      Would you PLEASE stop saying that ?!?!

      Nature produces >96% of CO2. UK’s production of 1% of Man’s <4% puts UK at <0.04%.


      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        August 16, 2020 11:17 am

        Spot on.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      August 16, 2020 11:20 am

      Anthropogenic CO2, which is only 4% of total.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: