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Fossil Fuels v Renewable Energy

March 31, 2022

By Paul Homewood

Can renewable energy ever replace fossil fuels?

 

Wind Farm. Tangy wind farm, Argyll Scotland stock photo

Fossil Fuels v Renewable Energy?

Let me start by stating that I am not pro or anti anything. In a free market, the best technologies, solutions and products automatically come to the fore, without the need for subsidies, regulations and mandates.

If renewable energy is all that is promised, it will do the same.

There is of course no doubt that the cheap, abundant and reliable energy provided by fossil fuels has transformed society and made all of us better off than ever before in so many ways.

We get rid of them at our peril!

So far, our transition to renewable energy in the UK has been painfully slow and extremely expensive. Wind and solar power still supply only 3% of the UK’s total energy consumption after two decades of trying. Meanwhile, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, subsidies for renewables were expected to cost £12 billion in 2021/22. This actually understates the reality because it does not include all of the indirect costs involved in grid balancing and so on, meaning the true cost is probably over £15 billion.

It is of course true that the recent rocketing of gas prices has reset the agenda. But it is important to note that the current price does not reflect the cost of extracting gas. It is the result of an imbalance in supply and demand. Such imbalances have occurred before, and a normally functioning market would quickly increase gas production, driving prices back down to historic levels.

But even before those price rises, it was being claimed that wind and solar power were cheaper than fossil fuel. However such claims fail to take into account the additional system costs imposed by their intermittency.

Moreover, claims that offshore wind costs are now down to around £40/MWh simply are not supported by the evidence. The claims are derived from the prices agreed for Contracts for Difference, the government subsidy mechanism. However, wind farms are under no legal obligation to actually take up these contracts; they are effectively only options.

Detailed examination of actual company accounts continues to show that the capital costs for building offshore wind farms has not fallen significantly in recent years, and that the true running costs are probably around £100/MWh. To put this into perspective, historically wholesale electricity prices have been under £50/MWh.

Solar power has certainly come down in cost in recent years, but the technology is a dead end here in the UK, because of our latitude. In winter, when demand for electricity is at its highest, our solar farms typically work at only 2% of their capacity.

Solar power certainly has a future in sunnier climates. But even in India, for instance, the government have realised that they cannot run an electricity grid purely on intermittent power. Even their ambitious plans only project that a 11% of their energy will be coming from wind and solar by 2040.

And it is of course intermittency which is the overriding problem here. You can forget about batteries and other forms of storage, as these can typically only supply power for an hour or two. This is useless when the wind stops blowing for days and weeks on end.

Hydrogen is usually wheeled out as the answer to all of our problems, replacing gas needed to back up wind farms as well as heat our homes. However, even the Committee on Climate Change accept that most of the bulk of our hydrogen will have to be made by steam reforming natural gas.

This process is not only expensive, it also wastes a lot of the gas input. In other words, you need more gas to produce hydrogen than you would need if you just burnt the gas itself in the first place. Worse still, steam reforming emits carbon dioxide, so you need to bolt on a carbon capture system adding yet more cost.

All in all, hydrogen made this way would be double the cost of gas in energy terms. But, crucially, you would still need as much natural gas as you do now, and more. Far from replacing fossil fuels, hydrogen increases our reliance on them.

The alternative is green hydrogen, which is made by electrolysis. It is usually suggested that surplus wind power is used for this. However, the amounts of hydrogen which could be produced this way would be tiny, as well as extremely costly given the intermittency of the process.

The bottom line is that we will still need gas, and lots of it, to back up a renewable heavy grid. Indeed, the more renewable capacity we build, the more backup we need.

It is not just a matter of intermittency. We also need a readily, dispatchable source of power to balance supply and demand.

And that is only considering electricity. We need lots more gas for heating and industrial use.

The biggest problem with using hydrogen, or for that matter electricity, for domestic heating is how you cope with peak demand in winter. On average over the year, demand for gas is roughly double that for electricity. But in winter, peak gas demand is seven times as much.

To get a scale of the numbers, gas consumption peaks at around 350 GW in mid winter. Current government plans target wind capacity of 45 GW by 2035, which on average will produce just 15 GW, and often as little as 2 GW.

You can of course store gas very easily, so that it can be turned on and off when needed. Green hydrogen, most of which would be made during summer when demand for electricity is low, would have to be stored for use in winter, something for which there is no ready solution.

There are plenty of vested interests out there who are claim hydrogen is the way forward and call for government “investment”. But what they are really after are the fat subsidies that will come with it.

The simple reality is that we will continue to need fossil fuels for many years to come. In the long term we will have look to develop new technologies such as nuclear fusion, or build small nuclear reactors and the like if we want to decarbonise.

Renewable energy has a part to play, but it can never be the whole answer.

72 Comments
  1. T Walker permalink
    March 31, 2022 5:40 pm

    Totally spot on Paul as usual.

    I think every MP should be forced to read this article – I will send it to mine. I haven’t found if he is one of the Tories who believe in fairies yet.

    Keep up the good work thank you.

  2. Mike Jackson permalink
    March 31, 2022 5:40 pm

    I can see a future for solar power in the right niche — powering my outdoor Christmas decorations or, as my supplier insists, powering my window shutters should I feel like replacing them. But in both cases it is daylight rather than sunlight (I am told) that is providing the necessary and in the case of the lights we are talking about 50 miniature LEDs for 6 hours a day.
    Hardly comparable with a consistent supply of electricity at peak time!
    I know that some operators (certainly on some French autoroutes) are using solar power to operate information boards which, given the technology, makes good sense since reliability is of major importance in this context.
    As far as wind is concerned I knew of several local farmers in my youth who used small ‘whirligigs’ to power dynamos on parts of the farm where occasional power was needed and the outlay for mains cables (even assuming the option was available which it wasn’t always) too high to make it worthwhile.
    Like you, Paul, I have no prejudice against any form of electricity generation per se but both wind and solar are inefficient, unreliable (the end user needs to be certain that when he flicks the switch he will get power), expensive, space greedy and hence environmentally unsound, and actively detrimental to the environment in their material requirements and the environmental impact of the equipment itself in use.
    These are not systems on which to construct a reliable power grid. How anyone can seriously believe otherwise is a mystery. To me at least!

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      March 31, 2022 7:57 pm

      Mike Jackson:
      In remote parts of Australia there are radio telephones powered by a battery which is kept charged by a solar panel. Used for emergencies.

    • Matt Dalby permalink
      March 31, 2022 9:38 pm

      You’re spot on that renewables are space greedy and environmentally unsound. For that reason I think anyone who cares about the environment, and I think most people care about the British countryside and don’t want to see it ruined by massive industrial scale wind or solar projects, should be anti renewables. Obviously every energy source has an environmental/spatial footprint, so I wouldn’t mind too much seeing a thousand or so turbines spread across the U.K. if that number could supply most of our electricity 365 days of the year. It’s the massively high level of impact for a pathetic amount of power that really annoys me, plus the fact that so called greens protest against pretty much every construction scheme but turn a blind eye when it comes to renewables.

      • Mike Jackson permalink
        April 1, 2022 10:41 am

        If people understood the figures — one I’ve seen is that a wind farm would need over 1,000 times as much space as a gas wellhead for the same output — we might make some progress but I fear the human race is wired to think with its heart rather than its brain. Enviro-activists have always been very good at capitalising on that. They are also inveterate liars (as I know from long experience of dealing with them!) which means that those of us — the majority — who tend by and large to trust our fellow human beings are easy meat!

      • jimlemaistre permalink
        April 1, 2022 5:49 pm

        Gentlemen . . . We ALL lose this debate looking at merits and demerits of Wind Power . . . What goes into building those turbines and all the infrastructure EXCEEDS the environmental cost of producing Fossil Fuels alone. THIS is what needs to be pointed out . . . EVERY DAY ! Debating weather or not they work or are efficient or weather of not they need back up misses the point altogether . . . There is NO SUCH THING as GREEN ENERGY !!
        The amount of coal and natural gas burned to build these monuments to environmentalists FAR exceeds the environmental costs of burning coal or natural gas to produce electricity !

        Worst . . . 800 lbs of Neo Dymium Boron in each turbine, Rare Earth Magnets, puts RADIATION into the environment. Production of these in Mongolia adds more radiation into the environment than ALL the Nuclear Reactors in the USA every day. It has been said that the tailings pond can de seen glowing from the space station at night . . . Let’s all get a grip here and call out the lies about ‘Green Energy’ . . . There Ain’t No Such Thing !! Page 3 . . .

        https://www.academia.edu/52039545/All_Electricity_Poisons_Planet_Earth

        https://www.academia.edu/71023588/Batteries_Renewable_Energy_and_EV_s_The_Ultimate_in_Environmental_Destruction

        My thoughts . . .

  3. March 31, 2022 6:06 pm

    Why do we still say that “we need to decarbonise”, or that gas reformation produces a lot of CO2 ? Do we really care that, after a near doubling of CO2 in our air since pre-industrial times, the globe remains cooler than most people would wish ?

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      March 31, 2022 7:46 pm

      You assume that increasing CO2 increases temperature. It doesn’t, it follows it. You have cause and effect mixed up.

      • Cheshire Red permalink
        March 31, 2022 8:54 pm

        You’d think this glaringly obvious error would be at the very forefront of government research to establish if it’s actually true, based on very close scrutiny of the evidence.

        After all if it is then the case for squandering untold billions stops on the spot.

        All the evidence I see indicates it is the case. I suspect the PTB don’t want to face the truth as there’s now too much skin in this game.

  4. March 31, 2022 6:11 pm

    I suggest, if MPs really think they should be tinkering with Energy (about which they blatantly have no clue), then Wind and Solar should be used exclusively to produce “Green Hydrogen”.

    No exceptions.

    Leave them to work out the price they need to charge for the Hydrogen. Promise not to levy a “Windfall Tax” on them in the first decade of this undertaking.

    But I still think that HMG should be taking legal action against the promoters of Ruinables for the disgraceful lies they still persist in telling. And go after the MPs and Civil “Servants” for Gross Misconduct in Public Office. A richly deserved life-sentence offence. Start with Deben.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      March 31, 2022 7:44 pm

      Oh, well said that man!! Deben is just the start, Davey, Huhne, Starkey and many more….

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      March 31, 2022 9:37 pm

      “Leave them to work out the price they need to charge for the Hydrogen” The thing is that is actually an easy calculation. You can buy both wind turbines, compressor/cylinders and electrolysers “off the shelf” For example ITM in Sheffield
      https://itm-power.com/products/hgas1sp
      So you know your capital outlay, can work out your likely utilisation factor and derive a cost per kilo of Green hydrogen in a packaged form. And it will be staggeringly expensive so they sure as hell ain’t gonna do it with their own money.

      • Martin Brumby permalink
        April 2, 2022 11:15 am

        Precisely.

        Let the whole, ridiculous, contemptible GangGreen agenda crash and burn.

        And bring the venal prats who have supported this agenda be punished.

        I could then at least die contentedly.

    • Micky R permalink
      April 1, 2022 9:30 pm

      ” But I still think that HMG should be taking legal action against the promoters of Ruinables”

      Currently, an estimated 10k deaths per annum in the UK due to energy poverty. If a coroner states that energy poverty is a factor in someone’s death then that could be used to shine a spotlight on the culprits.

      Who can steer the spotlight? No-one at the BBC, they are all believers. Nick Ferrari at LBC could, Mike Graham at TalkRadio, also several of his colleagues.

  5. Broadlands permalink
    March 31, 2022 6:21 pm

    To make any viable transition to an all-electric world fossil fuels are needed for transportation. Renewables like solar and wind transport nothing. Lowering our CO2 emissions has already demonstrated what happens to the availability and prices of gasoline, diesel and biofuels to economies.

  6. Mark Hodgson permalink
    March 31, 2022 7:21 pm

    Paul, you say (and I’m sure that you’re right):

    “The claims are derived from the prices agreed for Contracts for Difference, the government subsidy mechanism. However, wind farms are under no legal obligation to actually take up these contracts; they are effectively only options.”

    Try as I might, I cannot find the basis for this assertion in the convoluted website information I have trawled through. The CfD documentation is turgid and far from clear. Can you point me to something online that makes this point clearly, please?

    Thanks in anticipation.

    • Joe Public permalink
      March 31, 2022 7:35 pm

      Hi Mark

      There’s a reference in the …..

      “Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC) Contracts for Difference (CfD) Masterclass, 20 April 2021”

      Click to access LCCC%27s%20CfD%20Masterclass%2020.04.21%20-%20questions%20and%20answers.pdf

      ….. to “Non-Delivery Disincentive” here:

      Click to access cfd-proposed-amendments-scheme-2020-ar4-government-response.pdf

      “The government proposes to introduce a consequence for non-delivery that applies to the project that has failed to deliver ….”

      • Mark Hodgson permalink
        March 31, 2022 7:44 pm

        Joe P, many thanks. From the Q&A you link to, these seem most relevant:

        “21. What penalties will the generator have if they fail to meet the milestones and ultimately if they decide to break the contract?

        LCCC has the right to terminate the CfD of projects that have not sufficiently progressed. Such a project would also be subject to inclusion on the Non-Delivery Disincentive (NDD) register. The NDD is a contract feature designed to incentivise applicants who have been successful in the allocation process. The penalties for NDD are covered in the November 2020 Consultation Response.

        22. Is the Non-Delivery Disincentive (NDD) applied to i) the applying company or ii) to the site defined by the co-ordinates in application? If ii), can you clarify if it is applied to the co-ordinates specified in the Application or at ICP (noting that the site awarded maybe smaller than that applied for).

        It is applied to the site, not the company. The definition of ‘Excluded Site’ can be found within the Contracts for Difference Regulations. The regulations relating to excluded sites was subject to an update in The Contracts for Difference (Allocation) (Excluded Sites) Amendment Regulations 2016. Temporary site exclusions apply under several scenarios set out in the Allocation Regulations. If a project is terminated before reaching its MDD, it will be subject to a temporary site exclusion and included on the Non-Delivery Disincentive (NDD) register, which is reviewed by the Delivery Body (part of National Grid ESO) prior to each allocation round.”

        That does seem to be pretty limp, and certainly supports the view that walking away from a CfD that turns out to be unprofitable is definitely an option.

    • Gordon Hughes permalink
      March 31, 2022 8:59 pm

      Note the phrase “the government proposes to introduce …”, i.e. this will affect future not current CfD contracts. At least two companies are already exercising the option by postponing the CfD start dates for phases of offshore wind farms that are commissioned but have CfD strike prices that are lower than current market prices.

      I am not sure whether you were referring to the information on the website or the contracts themselves. The latter are really awful – 500+ pages of legal goobledy gook. The stuff you quote gives a flavour of the contracts and shows that the LCCC & BEIS bureaucrats are unable or unwilling to think clearly. In effect, they are saying: you are a naughty boy and we may punish you by excluding you from future bids. However, anyone who abrogates a CfD contract does so to avoid huge losses or to make a lot of money at market prices, so exclusion is necessarily a trivial or non penalty.

      • Mark Hodgson permalink
        March 31, 2022 9:06 pm

        Thanks, Gordon, that all makes sense (even if Cfds don’t!).

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        April 1, 2022 1:23 pm

        Who are the naughty boys not commencing their CFDs?

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      April 1, 2022 9:08 am

      You can walk away from any contract. Of course you may then be sued but the person suing you would have to prove damages to get anything out of it. There’s a general principle that people can’t be forced to lose money as well. The developers are I’m sure banking on renegotiation rather than simply not operating. What’s the government going to do when it needs the capacity to meet its stupid legal obligations under Net Zero? If the currently contracted developers can’t make mo ey at the agreed CfDs then new developers won’t be able to either, so the only option for the government is renegotiation.

      • Micky R permalink
        April 2, 2022 11:07 am

        “. You can walk away from any contract. <"

        Would be interesting to see if there are "Force majeure" clauses in the various contracts, which could perhaps apply in the event of an "energy emergency" leading to increased deaths due to energy poverty.

  7. jimlemaistre permalink
    March 31, 2022 8:08 pm

    ALL energy production of ALL kinds is Poison to Planet Earth . . . ‘Green Energy’ does NOT exist ! Propagandists can say whatever they like and pervert the minds of the Scientifically illiterate . . . but Not so long as I breath. Electricity is by far the worst, the least efficient, most environmentally damaging of ALL energy production systems available to Humanity . . . OHM’s Law is the reason why. Resistance from the moment Electricity is produced Increases demand. 15% of the electricity is lost as HEAT on the way to the end user. to use 100 kwh you must produce 115 kwh. then every use of electricity further reduces that efficiency. Hot water tanks and baseboard heaters and air conditioners waste even more energy.

    The worst misuse of Electricity, Environmentally is to power Electric Vehicles . . . at least 16% of the electricity delivered to the battery is lost as HEAT charging the Electrons inside the battery . . . that means 31% or more of the Electricity produced is wasted as HEAT before you ever put your foot on the accelerator ! Why is this NOT broadly known ? Who keeps this knowledge from being Heard ? What is wrong with our society ? This is very BASIC physics !
    Electricity for general household and business use is fine . . . anything more is Scientific Madness ! Welcome to our Strange New World . . .

    If you believe that EV’s are ‘Emissions Free’
    You probably should go join the ‘Flat Earth Society !

    If you believe that EV’s are ‘Emissions Free’
    You probably believe that The Earth is the center of The Universe !

    That . . . is how stupid it is to say that Electric Cars are ‘Emissions Free’ !

    For more information read the following . . .

    https://www.academia.edu/74915195/Electric_Cars_The_Lies_Exposed_

  8. Ray Sanders permalink
    March 31, 2022 8:10 pm

    The important concept to consider is “Energy Density” – the amount of energy in a given mass of “fuel”. To put this into context 1litre of water at the top of a 100metre high dam has a potential energy of 0.001MJ/kg. In comparison Natural Gas is 53.6MJ/kg. That means there is 53,600 times more energy in an equivalent mass of gas. That explains both why hydro electric dams hold back such massive lakes and also exactly why we use hydrocarbons…they pack a massive punch from a tiny amount.
    All renewables have a very low energy density whilst fossil fuels are very high. The whole concept of “Green” hydrogen is to concentrate low energy density renewables into a higher energy density format (though only if compressed) to be useable.
    So compare 0,001MJ/kg (the 100m high water) with 53.6MJ/kg (methane) and then to eighty three million six hundred and ten thousand (83,610,000) MJ/kg that is available from Uranium238 in a Fast Breeder reactor. To me that represents the conclusive reason why nuclear power is really the only viable path. Curiously a large proportion of all those over excitable “climate scientists” also hold this view and even got it printed in the Graun!
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/03/nuclear-power-paves-the-only-viable-path-forward-on-climate-change

  9. Graeme No.3 permalink
    March 31, 2022 8:11 pm

    In Australia we have some local billionaires running around spruiking hydrogen using a vast array of solar panels. At one stage talking about piping it 4,000km. to Singapore (but now the “plan” is to sen the electicity direct via DC cables. Both “plans” are open to the objection that they need to cross a rather active tectonic fault line.
    Quite a few readers comments in The Australian are in favour of letting free enterprise decide (without government subsidies which most think are the real idea).
    The recently elected Labor government in South Australia has a plan (rather an idea) for a hydrogen plant in Whyalla to supply the local steel producer. The last time they were in power we got a desalination plant which can be definitely classified as a White Elephant.
    And we had a pilot plant in Victoria going to use brown coal to produce hydrogen and ship it to Japan. Haven’t heard what value, if any, we got for our $400 million.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      March 31, 2022 8:32 pm

      Regarding South Australia, I really find them rather amusing. Going down the route of renewables they had to install their “big battery” and then they had to install big synchronous condensers to make the system stable.
      https://www.electranet.com.au/what-we-do/projects/power-system-strength/
      So three expensive items to do what one much cheaper system did before – and the suppliers happily claim it saves them money. You couldn’t make it up.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        April 1, 2022 2:57 am

        Ray Sanders:
        You left out the new interconnector to NSW being built to allow excess wind generation to be exported to a much bigger market, and in return access to black coal generation to complement the Victorian lines (also up-graded). Just a few billions. There have been quite a lot of occasions when selected wind farms are ordered to shut down; this has reduced the CF by 5-7%.
        All this may be in vain as the NSW Deputy Premier (known in some circles as Mad Matt) wants a giant wind +solar installation and will be looking for somewhere for that output. Of course both the NSW and Victorian governments are itching to close their coal fired plants. They will then blame the resulting blackouts on the Federal Govt. and say the solution is MORE RENEWABLES.
        At least our big battery didn’t catch fire like the Victorian one.

  10. Michael permalink
    March 31, 2022 8:38 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I’ve just read an article about H2-Fuel, a fuel system using sodium borohydride as a source of hydrogen. I’m not quite sure what to think about it, is it one of these investor scams? or perhaps real. Sound too good to be true, so it might be.

    https://h2-fuel.nl/functioning-of-h2fuel/?lang=en

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      March 31, 2022 9:12 pm

      Hi Michael, there is nothing especially new about storing hydrogen using metal hydrides in fact there is even a wikipedia section on it
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_storage#Metal_hydrides
      Yes it works but as with so many other “breakthroughs” there are the practicalities of scale cost, energy density and reliability etc etc.
      Put it this way, if their advertised process was really that simple and effective as they claim it would have capitalised upon decades ago. As they say on Dragon’s Den…I’m out.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      April 1, 2022 6:27 am

      Michael:
      Used sodium borohydride in the laboratory in the late 1960’s. It was less of a problem than Lithium aluminium hydride.
      Both have been around for over 50 years. See Ray Sanders comment above.

  11. HotScot permalink
    March 31, 2022 8:47 pm

    You get nothing for nothing.

    The bizarre notion that ‘green hydrogen’ is an economical fuel is just as preposterous a concept as green wind power.

    One wind turbine will never in its lifetime, even if wholly devoted to doing so, produce enough electricity to replicate itself.

    That’s perpetual motion, the impossible holy grail of everything scientific.

    Burning one fuel to generate another, in hydrogens case, is simply bonkers. Use the bloody fuel you dug/drilled out the ground in the first place and cut out the middle man.

    The next great thing of course is geothermal energy, boreholes sunk deep into the earth’s core to extract ‘natural’ heat from its molten midst.

    So why, if fossil fuels are to run out, won’t the molten core of the planet eventually cool if we extract too much of it?

    How about we just burn all the coal, oil and gas we can whilst working on geothermal for when those fossil fuels run out?

    Well, because we have nuclear fission, which is as near to perpetual motion as we can achieve right now, and we continue work on nuclear fusion, which is even closer to perpetual motion, but which is, of course, as impossible to achieve as nuclear fission was, until the global Military Industrial Complex realised it could be used as a weapon.

    Can fusion be used as a weapon? Clearly not or the global MIC would have exploited it by now.

    We are now as far down the rabbit hole as we can go. People are beginning to understand that you get nothing for nothing. Not enough yet, but that’s an ongoing project.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      March 31, 2022 9:17 pm

      “Can fusion be used as a weapon?” Are you being serious? Never heard of a Hydrogen Bomb?
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermonuclear_weapon

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        April 2, 2022 1:41 pm

        Not sure that a fission bomb triggering a fusion bomb is what Hotscot meant as it’s impractical as an energy source for anything other than a bomb.

  12. GeorgeLet permalink
    March 31, 2022 11:14 pm

    It’s a kin to thinking you can build a perpetual motion machine.

  13. Tinny permalink
    April 1, 2022 7:30 am

    I would genuinely like to read a rebuttal to the points Paul makes in his excellent summary.
    If there are flaws in his arguments, then they should be easy to point out.
    The fact that we never see well thought-out counter arguments, other than pie in the sky, says a lot.

  14. April 1, 2022 7:38 am

    “Renewable energy has a part to play, but it can never be the whole answer.”

    That depends on the question?

    In a rational world not biased by the unproven CO2 hypothesis and man’s arrogance in believing it can control climate, renewable generation would be used purely where grid power is unavailable. Why connect an unstable and intermittent supply to the grid?

  15. NeilC permalink
    April 1, 2022 7:58 am

    Posted this morning “THIS IS NOT AN APRIL FOOL” Wind energy in the UK.
    https://www.weather-research.com/articles/this-is-no-april-fool

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      April 1, 2022 10:43 pm

      NeilC:
      Good article. But the point about mean wind speed isn’t clear. Turbines have already been defended against intermittency by the claim that “it’s always blowing somewhere”. When that was demolished in Australia by the finding that a wind drought could extend from Eyre peninsula in SA to Gippsland in east Victoria and up to north Queensland, the money grubbers was their hands about and babble of storage.
      It is probably futile to calculate the hours with wind speeds above the minimum for operation, & I doubt these are available and wouldn’t be if it made money grubbing so obvious.
      Perhaps the suggestion that to ‘guarantee’ 100% supply from wind would need 1,584,429 wind turbines installed?

  16. April 1, 2022 8:55 am

    “the technology is a dead end here in the UK, because of our latitude”

    Not only because of the latitide of the UK, but also due to its climate. Winters in the UK are typically grey and overcast, limiting the amount of sunlight available to solar panels.

    Solar is a poor investment in the UK, made irresponsible when solar farms are sited on prime agricultural land which should be used for growing food – in a country that already imports more than 40% of its food.

    • Crowcatcher permalink
      April 2, 2022 11:47 am

      As I posted on an earlier thread.
      Where I live in South Shropshire there is a proposal for a 15 acre wind farm robbing us of prime agricultural land with no right to object, only “comment”.
      The local “tweeny greenies” are loving it!!!

  17. April 1, 2022 9:21 am

    the true cost is probably over £15 billion.

    If that’s for 3% of total energy need, it’s £5 billion per 1%, so £500 billion for the whole lot. Where’s that supposed to come from?

  18. April 1, 2022 10:26 am

    Because of growing energy costs, a war in Europe an unstable Middle East and an ever more powerful China, I have become increasingly concerned about energy adequacy and security which has been ignored by UK Governments for far too long, however, what I have to say about this here is not meant to be party political in any way whatsoever, the subject just needs to be addressed thoroughly and I believe that this Government must to start thinking out of the box.
    I have just been informed that another unwise European bank ING Bank will be investing “big time” in more wind energy and I believe that this will be a very expensive long-term mistake for any Bank.
    All banks, investment firms and Governments should now urgently be heavily investing in Micro Nuclear Reactor (MNR) electrical generation as a fast way to get an economic, secure, and efficient baseload source.
    Whilst very marginally useful, wind will never provide a consistent baseload demand and it has exorbitant subsidies, augmentation costs, power adjusting costs, additional transmission costs, and so on. Independent analyses of levelled-up costs (e.g., from the (IEA) International Energy Agency) have concluded that, when ALL applicable wind-related costs are accurately calculated, wind energy is MUCH more expensive than any conventional source that we have and is more expensive than MNR generated power. A subtle, but significant, difference between wind energy and other conventional sources of electricity is in “power quality”. This term refers to such technical performance factors as voltage transients, voltage variations, waveform distortion (e.g., harmonics), frequency variations, and so forth. The reality is that wind energy introduces many more of these issues than does MNR and a conventional power facility. Additional costs are needed to deal with all these wind-caused problems.
    Other Banks, like Banco Santander, for example, are involved in financing the Dogger Bank Wind Farm project in the UK. A consortium of 29 banks and 3 export credit agencies have contributed to raising £8 billion to finance this Wind Farm even though it is massively subsidised by the UK Government. Over the past 10 years, Santander claims to have consistently been a leading bank in financing renewable energy, being in the top 3, in both value and number of deals.
    It is unsurprising, therefore, that Santander’s share price remains on the floor as they continue to make very risky long-term investments in insecure, high maintenance energy projects with intermittent outputs.
    Wind turbines require continual work on them including older turbines now being replaced with better-performing ones When the wind is at storm/hurricane force the “windmills” can collapse as they have done in recent UK storms! This all costs a lot of money! Then it must not be forgotten that they are also easy sitting ducks that are able to be attacked by an aggressive enemy like Russia. They are not secure.
    It must always be remembered that when the wind does not blow or if the wind blows too hard, wind energy does not work unless there is hugely expensive, relatively short-lived, battery storage for those times of no wind generation.
    Wind and solar power will never be a baseload provider but it may have some very short-term use in power for green Hydrogen production. However, MNR will be much cheaper eventually.
    In the UK, for example, when electricity prices are low, wind farms, are paid very large subsidies in the form of green levies taken directly from household bills. Last year, this amounted to around £30 of the total £176 of green levies included in energy bills. When wholesale electricity prices are high, renewable producers pay the money back to the Government. But rather than that money going directly to households, it is passed back to energy suppliers!
    Wind power has become a political obsession of governments, particularly in the UK, and one suspects that there is a great deal of money-making vested interest in it! I would not presume to suggest wind energy companies are political party doners or that Minister’s relatives hold shares in them, but this approach to a future of secure energy is not rational.
    There are only three sources of reliable providers of “net-zero” baseload electricity supply and these are Hydroelectric, Geothermal and Nuclear.
    The first two rely on both Geography and Geology and are not possible everywhere in the world. However, there does need to be investment in new dams to increase very reliable Hydroelectric output, particularly with new turbine technology, despite the potential howls from the “NOT IN MY BACKYARD” brigade.
    There must also be investment into developing Geothermal power that has huge potential and one which the Government should be encouraging in Cornwall. Just look at Iceland as a more obvious example.
    The Chancellor must be pushed hard to provide investment into new nuclear power stations, but the PM, who supports more nuclear power has got the wrong model of nuclear solution because you actually get massively more bang for your buck if there is instead large investments into localised, economic, factory manufactured, safe, modular, compact micro-nuclear (MNR) power plants located in cities all over the country and housed in small “Putin proof” below ground containments. If we do this we cannot be held to ransom by a criminal thug like Putin in the future. Many US, Korean, Rolls Royce in the UK and Canadian companies have already developed these.
    The International Energy Agency and Governments around the world must be pushing hard for MNRs above all other means of electricity production to ensure a consistent and flexible secure supply of localised grid electric power. In addition, there must be a build-up in the development of the huge amount of “transitional” gas that we have in the shale beneath us on land and in wells under the North Sea. This is essential until MNRs are in wide spread use.
    I hope that you will not mind me giving you a brief MNR history.
    American naval MNRs, starting with the SW1 and iterations of that design, have operated without any safety incidents since the USS Nautilus submarine that was launched in 1954 right up until today. Since late 2019, the USA has 70 nuclear-powered submarines, Russia has 40, China has 19, the UK has 10, France has 9 and India has 3. On top of this, all US aircraft carriers have nuclear power along with numerous Russian icebreakers and a growing number of commercial vessels including those from Japan.
    MNRs are a well-tried safe and economic technology.
    Whilst Rolls Royce has recently developed a much larger commercial modular SMALL Nuclear Reactor (SNR) the time is ripe for a new wave of much more economic and compact MNRs for several reasons. They are cheaper to “mass” produce. They can be contained within the same small space as that of the space in a nuclear submarine. Then, if the global community has any hope of slashing CO2 emissions by mid-century, new MNR technologies can be a major FAST roll-out element in the baseload mix. Traditional large-scale “dinosaur” nuclear power is beset with problems. Many existing plants are ageing, and new custom design nuclear power construction is plagued by substantial delays and huge cost overruns; large-scale nuclear power plants can cost more than £22.5 billion as in the case of Hinkley Point. They are also, of course, unsafe, being a very easy target in warfare as we can see in the war in Ukraine. Finally, as misconceived supplies of renewable energy grow, MNRs can better handle the very variable nature of wind and solar power as MNRs are easier to turn on and leave running.
    There is growing MNR innovation as well.
    The new design, announced by TerraPower in the USA, financially backed by Bill Gates, is a combination of a “sodium-cooled fast reactor”. This is a type of MNR in which liquid sodium is used as a coolant, together with an energy storage system. While the reactor could pump out 345 megawatts of electrical power indefinitely, the attached storage system would retain heat in the form of molten salt and could discharge the heat when needed, increasing the plant’s overall power output to 500 megawatts for more than 5.5 hours. This allows for a nuclear design that follows daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalise on peaking opportunities driven by renewable wind and solar energy fluctuations.
    Both Russia and China have been using such “naval type” modular, MNR power generation, including off-shore units, for both domestic and commercial nuclear electric power generation, and it would be wonderful if UK steel producers, for example, could invest in this technology instead of continuing to use expensive imported dirty coal.
    The MNR plant in the latest UK nuclear submarine fleet is a very compact third-generation pressurised water reactor nuclear propulsion system developed by Rolls Royce in collaboration with the US Navy. This plant will have a 30-year refuelling life and could power a city the size of Glasgow. In addition to powering our subs, we should be using this same type of plant commercially and domestically to provide safe, compact, and economic electricity!
    Now we get to the nub of the matter.
    Given the very long knowledge of MNR electricity generation technology, why are the International Energy Agency, the UK Government, Banks, and British investment companies not promoting this means of long life, efficient and safe electricity production instead of being fixated on vulnerable, unreliable wind and particularly solar?
    It is much cheaper and quicker to provide mass-produced, factory manufactured, compact MNRs, competitively procured from the UK, the USA, France, Korea, Canada, Japan and even possibly China, than it is to plan, finance and build heavily subsidised giant nuclear power stations such as Hinkley Point.
    The UK Government, deliberately it would seem, never ever refers to the great potential of MNRs. Only recently has Sir John Redwood mentioned it in one of his recent regular Diary features!
    Not only Banks but especially Governments must future proof their investments and should be leading the way in promoting, and even helping to finance the fast roll-out of modular MNR power, not just in the UK, but also around the world to ensure energy security and to develop markets for home producers of such plant, not just Rolls Royce.
    Kwasi Kwarteng and the Energy Minister seem to be the main ones in the UK Government fixated on the expansion of wind power. Greg Hand’s last performance in the House of Commons was like an over-excited attendee at a “green wind fest”!! This must stop!

    Thank you for your reading this and I trust that it will contribute to the very necessary urgent energy security debate
    Kindest regards,
    John.

    • Mikehig permalink
      April 1, 2022 5:23 pm

      John,
      Aiui the problem with using submarine nuclear technology in a civilian environment is the fuel. They use highly-enriched uranium (93+%) which is weapons-grade. I have a vague idea that civilian use of such material is barred by international anti-proliferation treaties.

      A quick websearch distracted me with this site which caught my eye because of the pictures of submarine reactors – they are chunky bits of kit!:
      https://www.mathscinotes.com/2014/11/submarine-fuel-math/

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      April 1, 2022 11:02 pm

      John:
      Yes, and no. I would be opposed to any use of molten sodium for heat storage from safety concerns.
      Yes, the Russians have several small reactors (including 2 on a ship which supplies power and water to a cold remote spot) because they don’t have the massive regulatory costs which mean that reactors in the UK have to be huge (and expensive).
      There is some enthusiasm for the alternative of ‘Liquid’ reactors using molten salts e.g. thorium types. These have a history of use (around 5MW) and are supposed to be fool proof, but as you are aware not safe in the hands of your politicians.

  19. Keith permalink
    April 1, 2022 11:29 am

    “In a free market, the best technologies, solutions and products automatically come to the fore”

    In that vein what about the mwave https://bomborawave.com/mwave/ – no external moving parts unlike the turbines in Orkney etc. Featured on one of Portillo’s rail journeys recently. I assume there’s a downside with it that I’m missing?

    • April 2, 2022 8:36 am

      Keith,

      wave is dependant on wind strength, so it will be intermittent just like wind farms are. An also it will suffer the same technical deficiencies as wind and solar, and I’m sure it will be expensive.

  20. Nicholas Lewis permalink
    April 1, 2022 12:41 pm

    Great blog again. So today we have an unusual cold snap which has the grid already above 40GW with solar allegedly providing 6GW at midday and with wind declining for remainder of the day that by evening peak they will need another 3GW to cover that loss. The only source for that is gas. The quicker it is accepted that renewables are only an offset to fossil fuels and that we will need CCGTs and nuclear for the forseeable future the more chance we can build a system that at least delivers reliable and price certain energy (even if it remains high). Of course when someone comes up with a battery that has the energy density of oil then we can re-evaluate.

  21. Realist permalink
    April 1, 2022 2:42 pm

    The problem is politicians picking winners (subsidies, tax exemptions, exemptions from regulations etc for renewables) and losers (increased and invented taxes, invented regulations, threats if not actual bans etc. for “fossil fuels”) and thus distorting the market. Actual users end up with extortionate prices at point of sale due to increased costs and taxes for what actually works.

  22. Sceptic permalink
    April 1, 2022 3:18 pm

    Could you fact check this which has been circulated by a colleague.

    Cold rock slapped by record temperatures

    The Concordia research station in the middle of Antarctica registered a record temperature 40°C above seasonal average on March 19 in what would constitute a record-shattering events in the Southern continent, being not only the highest temperature excess ever measured anywhere on Earth but also the absolute highest on the South Pole.

    Sources: ClimateReanalyzer.org; National Centres for Environmental Information; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; visualization by The Economist

    On the other side of the globe, the Arctic is recording temperatures 30°C above the average with even some Russian regions above freezing temperature in the middle of polar winter. The Arctic is warming three to four times faster than the global average with shrinking ice caps accelerating Global Warming in a feedback loop disrupting ocean currents and weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere.

    Source: Parts of Antarctica have been 40°C warmer than their March average – The Economist, Extraordinary Antarctica heatwave, 70 degrees above normal, would likely set a world record – CNN

    • jimlemaistre permalink
      April 1, 2022 6:28 pm

      Mr. Sceptic . . .

      The Winter of 2021 . . . .The COLDEST on Record in Antarctica . . . Last year . . . !!!

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2021/10/01/south-pole-coldest-winter-record/

      South Pole posts most severe cold season on record, a surprise in a warming world While the rest of the world sizzled, the South Pole shivered with an average temperature of minus-78 degrees over the past six months. Amid a record hot summer in large parts of the Northern Hemisphere, beset by devastating fires, floods and hurricanes, Antarctica was mired in a deep, deep freeze. That’s typically the case during the southernmost continent’s winter months, but 2021 was different. The chill was exceptional, even for the coldest location on the planet. The average temperature at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station between April and September, a frigid minus-78 degrees (minus-61 Celsius), was the coldest on record, dating back to 1957. This was 4.5 degrees lower than the most recent 30-year average at this remote station, which is operated by United States Antarctic Program and administered by the National Science Foundation.

      The more things change . . . The more they stay the same . . .

      The Big Green Propaganda Machine . . . to them . . .Truth and Scientific Fact . . .
      No meaning!

      Propaganda is about HOW you spin the story . . . Oops, so what if you leave out a bit here and there . . . ???

    • Curious George permalink
      April 1, 2022 8:29 pm

      Thanks, a great post for this exceptional date.

  23. Harry Passfield permalink
    April 1, 2022 7:14 pm

    DEBEN – on R4 PM today. Lying through his teeth about renewables being so much cheaper than FF. He even came up with the nugget that wind used to be £150/MWh but is now only £50/MWh!! No mention of subsidy or users paying for them, but being BBC, no alternative voice allowed. I was hoarse shouting ‘LIAR’ at the radio.
    Paul, you have to have a listen….

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      April 1, 2022 7:16 pm

      Should I have said: ‘Being economical with the truth’?

  24. April 1, 2022 9:55 pm

    Did anybody hear Lord Deben on Radio 4 PM this afternoon? An absolute pack of lies and propaganda – pretty par for the course for him though.

  25. Mack permalink
    April 1, 2022 10:41 pm

    And just to cheer up all the fellow travellers on this site in the UK, the word on the political grapevine has it that the, once skeptic, Boris (the man who once, rightly, claimed that wind farms couldn’t blow the skin off a rice pudding never mind power a modern industrial economy), has decided that the solution to onshore wind farm energy intermittency is to…..double or treble the amount of onshore wind farms. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that he has spoken to the ‘wind’ yet to obtain agreement to provide sufficient puff to save his suicidal energy policies. We await with baited breath for the update…a bit like his becalmed windmills of late.

  26. Micky R permalink
    April 2, 2022 11:16 am

    Domestic energy should be cheap and reliable, neither of which apply to renewables.

    • Nicholas Lewis permalink
      April 2, 2022 5:38 pm

      Hang on with CfD its far cheaper than gas fired powered generation at todays gas prices yet the wind people are getting the full rate and have to pay back the excess profit to whom? Well its not me despite my energy provider telling me its sourced my energy from renewable sources.

  27. It doesn't add up... permalink
    April 2, 2022 3:59 pm

    Interesting news.

    https://www.current-news.co.uk/news/dale-vince-steps-down-from-ecotricity-as-he-looks-for-new-owner

    He plans to go into politics.

  28. ronaldsteinptsadvancecom permalink
    April 2, 2022 9:12 pm

    Paul, As a prolific author of books and Op Ed articles on energy literacy and the co-author of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize nominated book “Clean Energy Exploitations”, would like to connect. Ronald Stein http://www.energyliteracy.net/

  29. John Culhane permalink
    April 3, 2022 9:03 am

    Ireland -2MW wind March 2022

    • April 3, 2022 7:23 pm

      John
      Presumably none of that is coming from Derrybrian in Galway? sarc!

  30. ScepticMeg permalink
    April 3, 2022 2:13 pm

    Just seen report about lithium battery store blaze https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10680335/Huge-Merseyside-blaze-took-59-hours-extinguish-caused-explosion.html

  31. Dave Andrews permalink
    April 3, 2022 4:23 pm

    Re hydrogen storage the International Energy Agency published a Hydrogen Tracking Report in November 2021 which said there were four hydrogen salt cavern sites operational, 3 in US and 1 in UK.

    In the UK i believe they are talking about the Storengy site at Stublach Caverns in Cheshire but are a somewhat ahead of themselves in implying the site is operational for hydrogen. The company say they have developed the technology required to store hydrogen and are now looking to start debrining our first hydrogen cavern.

    The time to create a new cavern, including drilling the well and solution mining is typically 3.5 years but can vary up to 6.5 years. Repurposing an existing cavern used for nat. gas up to 2 years.

    They add also

    “In the absence of a hydrogen market and of a commercial model for hydrogen storage this will require some form of public funding to happen.”

    https://www.storengy.co.uk/our-products-and-services/green-gases-hydrogen-biogas/hydrogen

  32. April 3, 2022 4:32 pm

    Only 8 years left to make ‘rapid shift’ from fossil fuels, says IPCC.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-60959306

    Get ready to say goodbye to modern life then 🙄

  33. April 3, 2022 7:37 pm

    NUT ZERO
    The Nut Zero cultists
    Wish to put us back in caves,
    By destroying grown up energy
    Make us New World Order slaves;
    They want to limit plant food
    Yet we must live on greens,
    They’ll ban God given protein
    But feed us on vaccines.

    Voltiacs and windmills
    We know only work part time,
    They need fossil fuelled back uip
    To deny this is a crime;
    It’s time to get afracking
    And digging up more coal,
    We have planty carbon energy
    What we own we can control.

    Old and poor can heat or eat
    They no longer have a choice,
    Social Media gangsters
    Deny realists a voice;
    Allied with the Lugenpresse
    They feed us propaganda,
    Sourced from the Davos eunuchs
    All marxist propaganda.

    Patrick Healy

  34. Jack Broughton permalink
    April 4, 2022 10:41 am

    Suddenly, wind and solar power look cheap compared with gas generation: but hold on, gas is only expensive because we stopped fracking and storage to placate the greenies…… Also, if we had continued to exploit north sea oil we would be on “a nice little earner”.

    Conclusion: Hasn’t the green lobby proved its value to the UK many times over!

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