Brave Green World and the Cost of Electricity


    • Approximately 50% of the recent rise in electricity bills may be attributed to the rise in natural gas and coal prices. The rest may be down to the UK government’s Green, CO2 abatement measures.
    • Feed In Tariffs (FIT) are paid to those who have installed small scale renewable energy at home. There is no benefit for those who haven’t but everyone has to pay in the order of £10 to £14 / MWh to those who do benefit.
    • Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROC) are paid to large scale renewables producers such as large wind farm owners. There is no benefit for those who don’t own a large wind farm but everyone has to pay in the order of £6.43 / MWh to those who do benefit and this charge seems set to only rise into the future.
    • “Free” energy efficiency assistance provided by large utilities benefit those who have participated in the scheme. The assistance is not free since the cost is added to energy bills. Everyone has to pay for the minority who have benefited from the scheme.
    • Levelised life cycle cost for renewable electricity is currently far more expensive than oil, gas and nuclear. Consumers are being obliged to pay for these higher costs.
    • The cost of balancing the grid is currently being met by large utilities, the owners of coal and gas fired power plant. They are losing market share to the high cost renewables. Faced with losing market share one has to assume they are raising prices to maintain a modest level of profits (that are regulated). This is the hidden cost of running two parallel electricity systems (the existing conventional and the new wind based).

  • The government has more pain planned for UK consumers in the form of carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon taxes that could easily add another 50% to the cost of gas fired electricity.
  • The Brave Green World is resulting in a redistribution of wealth from those who do not own renewables generation to those who do. I suspect those who are paying most are those who can least afford it.
  • Individually ROCs and FITs probably don’t add much to energy bills since the renewable electricity generated is such a tiny amount. But collectively the points detailed here combine to produce significant upwards pressure on electricity prices in a sociably inequitable manner.
  • The UK and much of Europe does have an energy crisis in the form of diminishing supplies of indigenous primary energy production. The only scalable, affordable and sensible option to address that crisis is nuclear power perhaps supplemented by shale gas.

Last week I gave prominence to a piece by Simon Jenkins writing in The Guardian that produced a furious response among some of my wind developer associates:

Never in the history of public subsidy can so much have been paid by so many to so few…Simon Jenkins writing in The Guardian

The response:

This is, as usual, shockingly dishonest

This resulted in a 97 comment email thread on the old Oil Drum list with a vast amount of information on electricity prices exchanged. To what extent  is the rise in electricity prices down to the rising cost of fuel and to what extent is it down to UK government and EU policies?

At the outset I need to declare that I am no expert in the electricity market and how it works. I have found it extraordinarily complex to understand – and this complexity in itself is a problem.

The cost of electricity in the UK

Figure 1 The cost of an average annual electricity bill in the UK according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The data are from spread sheet QEP221, tab 2.2.1 (St) and the Standard Credit rates are plotted.  DECC have anchored real prices on 2005 which gives the illusion that 2012 real price was £421 when the actual price is £500. I think DECC need  to explain the rationale for doing this.

In real inflation adjusted terms UK electricity prices are only marginally higher than they were in 1996 begging the question what all the fuss is about? The chart shows that for a decade, the population had grown accustomed to cheaper electricity but then the corner was turned post 2003 as rising fossil fuel prices bore down on the market. The financial crash and recession provided some respite (not a good remedy) but prices are now once again heading higher. And it’s not just electricity but food, natural gas, petrol and diesel have all gone up sharply in the last decade.

The cost of fuel

Most electricity in the UK (and throughout much of the OECD) is still generated by burning coal and natural gas. The cost of both of these fuels has shot up since the year 2000 (Figure 2) and this naturally impacts the price of electricity produced from these sources. In N America there is actually a glut of natural gas and coal and prices there are much lower offering the USA and Canada significant competitive advantage. Europe is in competition with E Asia (Japan, S Korea and China) for liquefied natural gas cargoes (LNG) and new supplies of coal and gas from Russia. The closure of nuclear power plants in Japan post Fukushima sent already high LNG prices even higher. This is the competitive energy market that Europe finds itself in.

Figure 2 European coal and UK natural gas annual average prices according to the 2013 BP statistical review of World Energy. The figures are not inflation adjusted.

With natural gas costing $2.71 in 2000 and $9.46 in 2012 (according to BP) this 3.5 times uplift in price must obviously feed through to the price of electricity. According to this rather outdated summary from the Committee on Climate Change (Figure 3) somewhat more than half of the rise in electricity prices between 2004 and 2011 can be attributed to the rise in fuel cost.

Figure 3 Slightly outdated from the Committee on Climate Change, apparently not advised by DECC. Much of the recent electricity price rise took place in the time interval 2004 to 2011 (Figure 1).  I would urge DECC to provide their own breakdown of how changes in global market prices and policy changes are impacting electricity prices in the UK.

It is at this point that government action goes off on an extraordinary trajectory. Confronted with spiralling prices on the international energy market one may have thought that government would do all that it could to ease the pain for its hard pressed tax payers. In fact, the opposite has happened. Through pursuit of CO2 reduction targets and other environmental goals enshrined in the UK 2008 Climate Change Act and EU legislation, the UK and other European governments have set out to redesign the continent’s electricity generation infrastructure. The main focus is on the CO2 intensity of generation and hang the cost and other environmental impacts. It is this part of the story that is complicated.

Cost comparison of generating sources

In this report DECC provide figures (estimates) for the various generating options in the UK. The data from Table 6 of the report are summarised in Figure 4 (below). The numbers are for £ per MWh of electricity produced (1 million Watts produced for 1 hour). High, central and low numbers are given for each type and I use only the central numbers in this cost comparison. The numbers are “levelised costs” for the “full life cycle” of each generating type and therefore built in are assumptions about the life span of generating plant – wind turbines and gas turbines, and the future cost of fuel in the case of gas. The cost of borrowing money is built in at 10%. It is impossible to forecast any of this with any certainty more than a few years into the future.

Figure 4 Data compiled from table 6 of this report. See text for explanation.

The costs shown in Figure 4 are for new plant to be commissioned in 2014, 2020 and 2030 and do not apply to the cost of electricity from old plant that is already operating. A few key observations:

  1. For new plant to be installed in 2014, combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) are by far the cheapest option despite high gas prices
  2. The cost of CCGT is projected to rise only a little in the future. This is surprising for me since scarcity of gas and even higher prices may persist with current policies
  3. The cost of nuclear shown is the strike price for Hinkley Point in 2023 and is not directly comparable with the levelised costs shown for the other categories.
  4. The cost of wind and large solar are forecast to fall sharply in the future. The cost of solar has been falling for many years and it seems a reasonable assumption that this trend will continue. But according to this report by UKERC the cost of wind has not changed much since 1997 and there seems little justification for assuming that this trend will change in future.

The bottom line is that cost forecasts such as this have so much uncertainty to be all but meaningless. But the provision of information that shows the cost of CCGT going up and wind coming down does serve to support government policy.

There are other cost estimates for the different electricity sources that are more or less alined with those published by DECC for example Mott MacDonald and UKERC final synthesis report. And so there seems little reason to doubt that the DECC figures for 2014 are in the correct ball park.

The UK government has rigged the electricity market so consumers are compelled to pay for and subsidise the most expensive forms of electricity generation currently available to us. Little surprise then that prices are going up.

How renewables “subsidies” work

An important point to make at this juncture is that there are no government subsidies sensu stricto for renewables. What exists is a set of market mechanisms that 1) gives renewable electricity priority to the grid and 2) guarantees a consumer paid subsidy for that electricity. For small generators such as home based solar photovoltaics the mechanism is called a Feed In Tariff (FIT) and for larger scale producers like wind it is called a Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC).

Feed in tariff (FIT)

The easiest way to explain the FIT is to use an example of a home owner with a photo voltaic array mounted on the roof. Let us imagine the array is large enough to provide all of the home owner’s electricity during day light hours. Setting aside the capital cost of the array, the home owner gets “free” electricity during the day. But the home owner also gets paid the FIT by his normal electricity provider, currently of the order £10 to £14 / MWh – here’s a simple table that explains it all! The cost of the FIT (the “subsidy”) gets paid by everyone else. If the home owner produces more electricity than can be used then it gets sold to the grid for the going rate of electricity + the FIT. Great news for the owner of the solar array, bad news for everyone else.

Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROC)

The ROC is a government imposed market regulation that obliges the traditional power generators to buy renewable energy from the likes of large wind farm developers. It is a complex mechanism that I still do not fully understand. UK utility EoN provide this explanation:

The Renewables Obligation (RO) is a mechanism designed to support large-scale renewable electricity generation. Through the RO, the Government places an obligation on all licenced electricity suppliers, like us, to source a proportion of the electricity we supply to customers from renewable energy sources. All suppliers in England, Wales and Scotland are affected by the charge.

We meet our obligation by purchasing Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs), either from renewable generators or from the ROCs market.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) sets the RO obligation level each year; this dictates the number of ROCs that suppliers – like us – are required to produce for each MWh we supply.


To help build a sustainable energy future we need to invest in and support power plants that can generate renewable energy, so we can hit ambitious Government climate reduction targets. Due to this, the UK is generating much more renewable energy than ever before, so the level of supplier obligation and consequently the cost to you – as our customer – has also increased. In the early years of the RO, the charge was relatively stable and predictable. However, future renewable energy sources, such as generation plant conversions (eg fossil fuel to biomass) and large offshore windfarm developments, have less predictable capacities and delivery timescales, making forecasting for future years difficult. The graphs below show how quickly the RO charge has increased over the last ten years and our predicted view for the next three years*:

Figure 5 History and forecast of the ROC and buy out price provided by EoN.

If you are not following along, and I’m struggling, perhaps it is simplest to look at the graph (Figure 5). The ROC is determined by multiplying the column on the left by the column on the right. In 2012 it was 0.158*£40.69 = £6.43 / MWh. This gets paid to the renewables developer and is added to your electricity bill. EoN’s forecast shows ROCs heading higher and I imagine they will keep going up until the people revolt – at the ballot box.

The ECO Green Deal

The UK has had a series of initiatives designed to help householders to become more energy efficient, not because energy efficiency is an essential common sense thing to do in our current energy “crisis” but because it is believed that energy efficiency will lead to reduced rate of CO2 emissions, which it won’t, but that is a story for another day. The Green Deal is a straight forward government backed scheme to provide interest free loans to assist families with energy efficiency measures – insulation, new gas boiler – fine!

The Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) is the more insidious scheme operated under government diktat through the six big UK power utilities (Scottish and Southern Energy (UK), British Gas (Centrica, UK), EoN (German), Scottish Power (Iberdrola, Spanish), NPower (RWE, German), EDF (French). The ECO is like earlier schemes, where “free” help is offered to home owners to improve energy efficiency. Its just that the “free” help gets added to electricity and gas bills.

The ECO will be funded by energy suppliers.

Those who have taken up the schemes benefit through lower energy usage that should outweigh the increase in energy bills. Those who haven’t, don’t have any benefits but have to pay for those that do.

Hidden costs

The costs of various generating technologies shown in Figure 4 misses what is likely to be one of the biggest costs of introducing intermittent renewables onto the grid and that is the cost of load balancing. Figure 6 shows quite clearly the impact of intermittent wind on the distribution of power supply and how gas and coal fired power are wound down to make way for wind when the wind blows – this is the plan to displace use of fossil fuels. Without extremely large scale energy storage (that would also add significant costs) wind cannot exist on the grid without fossil fuel load balancing. The reward for the fossil generators for providing the invaluable load balancing service is loss of market share. I believe this is likely to be one of the main upwards pressures on electricity prices today. This is bonkers capitalism.

Figure 6 The share of UK electricity generation in the UK for the month of November 2013. The “other” category sums inter-connector imports and exports, pumped storage and hydro. Data from the truly excellent Gridwatch.

A leaked board room report from a large European utility said this:

The severe crisis impacting [our company] and the entire established energy industry is primarily a crisis of the power generation business. The massive erosion of wholesale prices caused by the growth of German photovoltaics constitutes a serious problem for [our company] which may even threaten the company’s survival. The only solution to this problem is a reform of the market’s ground rules, primarily to safeguard conventional generation by an adequate remuneration for the provision of capacity.

The curious thing here is that high cost photovoltaics are lowering wholesale prices in Germany – leaving me somewhat confused. Presumably everyone is making a loss, unless of course market mechanisms transfer money to renewables providers enabling them to turn a profit.

The future

The government is only getting started with its Green mania and has lots more pain in store for the populace. In particular the introduction of carbon capture and storage (CCS) should be particularly effective at sending electricity bills way higher. And there will be no way out for utilities, they will either have to pay for CCS and pass this cost on to consumers or pay for being allowed to vent CO2 to the atmosphere and pass that cost on to consumers.

Table 10 of this report shows the future (2019) cost estimate for gas (CCGT) minus the carbon tax to be £61 / MWh* while gas (CCGT) fitted with CCS to be £95. So consumers of gas fired electricity can look forward to another 56% hike in their electricity bills to fund this madness.

* note that this number is at variance with the figure given in Table 6 of the same report – £82 estimated for 2020

Futility and failure

The Green effort so far in the UK has resulted in wind contributing about 2.3%, solar 0.15%* and biofuels 0.16% of all the energy we use (Figure 7). All the economic pain and landscape degradation inflicted so far is making a negligible impact on the total energy budget. To make any significant impact the current levels of deployment would need to be multiplied 10 to 20 fold. Do any of our main stream political parties really want to inflict this on Britain?

Figure 7 The relative contributions of various energy sources to the total primary energy consumed in the UK in 2012 according to the BP statistical review 2013. Note that wind is converted on the basis of thermal equivalence assuming 38% conversion efficiency in a modern thermal power station, i.e. the amount of energy generated is grossed up to make it comparable with thermal generation where there are significant waste heat losses.

Since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 the combined actions of European States has had negligible impact on European emissions and no measurable impact upon global emissions (Figure 8). Current energy policies have taken on the form of a futile crusade.

Figure 8 Global fossil fuel consumption expressed in millions of tonnes of oil equivalent (mmtoe) from the 2013 BP statistical review of world energy. Mmtoe converted to CO2 by assuming CH2 as general formula for oil with molecular weight=14 atomic mass units (amu) and a molecular weight for CO2=44 amu. The arrows show landmark dates in the Kyoto process. During this period, CO2 emissions accelerated. The only process to halt the relentless rise in CO2 emissions is spikes in the oil price causing recessions in 1974, 1979 and again in 2008.


The UK and other European governments need to find a way of supporting energy efficiency measures that are equitable. They also need to wake up to serious energy security issues as indigenous supplies of oil and gas decline. Intermittent renewable electricity, in particular wind, does not provide energy security. Focus also needs to turn to the provision of affordable energy to combat spreading energy poverty. Current pursuit of a renewables based carbon free vision is failing at every level. Nuclear power provides the only scalable, affordable, secure and sensible way forward, albeit with some manageable risks attached. Shale gas and oil may help provide a bridge to that nuclear future.


The author does not own any small scale renewables, apart from a couple of wood burning stoves, and therefore does not benefit from FITs. I have considered installing photovoltaics on a number of occasions, and having read once again how heavily rigged the system is in favour of participants it seems foolish to not participate. A major barrier for me is the fact that northern Scotland is cloudy and receives little direct sunshine in winter when energy demand is highest.

I am interested to hear in comments from folks around the UK and Europe who have installed solar, what the costs and benefits actually are.

Other posts on Energy Matters

Parasitic wind killing its host
The changing face of UK electricity supply
LNG Heading East
UK North Sea Oil Production Decline

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65 Responses to Brave Green World and the Cost of Electricity

  1. Roger Andrews says:


    I’ve been doing some research into the question of how the UK got itself into such a mess with renewable energy, and although my research isn’t complete (and maybe never will be – every day another skeleton falls out of the closet) I’m providing a brief summary of what I’ve learned to date FWIW.

    1. The UK’s “green pain” isn’t something recent. It started in or around 2004. We see its onset in the increase in electricity prices shown on your Figure 1 and even more clearly in the graph below, which adds gas prices, fuel poverty and installed wind capacity:

    2. The green pain began with the Renewables Obligation Order of 2002, which set mandatory renewable energy generation targets for future years. (The 2002 Order specified 3% renewables in 2002-2003 rising to 10.4% in 2010, which I don’t think is too far off what actually happened). For the last eleven years this Order has been used as the bludgeon to enforce “decarbonization”:

    3. The 2003 DTI/DEFRA Energy White Paper then made the pain worse by stating that the government’s target was now a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. (This document is worth a read if only because it shows how totally divorced the authors were from reality):

    4. Up to this point the 2008 Climate Change Bill has generated a lot of hot air but little in the way of practical impact. It didn’t substantially change anything anyway. The Renewables Obligation was already doing its thing and the government had already endorsed a 60% emissions cut by 2050.

    The question now is what the just-passed Energy Bill will do. I haven’t had time to look at that yet but I get the impression it’s going to be more of the same. I’m also going to have to spend some time going through the amazing amount of data you’ve put together. Be back. 🙂

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Hi Roger, I have to confess that in the period 2005 on when I first began to take keen interest in energy matters my eye has been on the world stage. And so I have been unaware of stuff going on at the local level in the UK which may at first glance seem harmless.

      The 2002 Order specified 3% renewables in 2002-2003 rising to 10.4% in 2010

      At this time the reality of UK North Sea decline may have been sinking in to some in Whitehall. It has always been a speculative possibility for me that renewables drive was rooted in hope to offset North Sea decline playing to the Green chorus which has grown to run the show, and has now run out of control.

      Others blogging here – Leo Smith and Hugh Sharman – know a lot about the history and hopefully may call by to share their knowledge. I was taken aback by how complex the UK system has become – complex to the point of opacity. It has taken me a week to compile what I present here, I just hope its accurate. E 🙂

      • Roger Andrews says:

        “At this time the reality of UK North Sea decline may have been sinking in to some in Whitehall. It has always been a speculative possibility for me that renewables drive was rooted in hope to offset North Sea decline”

        The Greens were well aware that North Sea gas was being depleted but had no plans to replace it with renewables, as the following quotes from the 2003 White Paper attest:

        “It is commonly agreed that UK oil and gas production will decline significantly over coming years. We are currently working with the industry to maximise the economic potential of our North Sea supplies. But it is still likely that the UK will become a net importer of gas on an annual basis by around 2006 and of oil by around 2010. By 2020 we are likely to be importing around three-quarters of our primary energy needs. And by that time half the world’s gas and oil will be coming from countries that are currently perceived as relatively unstable, either in political or economic terms.”

        And how were we going to “to maximise the economic potential of our North Sea supplies”? First by taxing what was left of them:

        “The 2002 Finance Act …. will raise a fair share of revenue on North Sea producers’ profits …”

        And when they’re gone by using the depleted fields for CCS:

        “If coal is to play more than a marginal role in the mix beyond around 2015, generators will need to find economic ways of dealing with the consequential carbon dioxide emissions. One option is to capture and then store the carbon dioxide. The most promising approach at present would be to lock the gas away in geological structures such as depleted oil and gas fields …. The UK North Sea offers a potentially very valuable resource in this respect …”

        And where were we going to get the “around three-quarters of our primary energy needs” that we were going to be importing in 2020?

        “… either from or through a single European market embracing more than 25 countries.”

        And security of supply? Not to worry:

        “Relying on imports need not be a problem in itself. Oil and – currently to a lesser extent – gas are internationally traded commodities. And all countries, whether import-dependent or not, have a common interest in promoting open markets and predictable prices.”

        Euan, you really should take a look at the 2003 Energy White Paper. It’s a real eye-opener.

  2. Hi Euan,

    What does “strike price” mean?


  3. Kit P says:

    There are two ways to look at PV installed on the roofs of individuals. First it is a scam. Second, it is a hobby for rich people. This hobby has two outcomes. If the rich person is lucky, his hobby will result in the small amount of electricity before the some emitting diodes fail harmlessly. Now and then the rich home owners will be standing across the street with his family and the fire department watching the fire. You can not fight an electrical fire until the circuit is de-energized. Got yo wait for the sun to go down. At best PV does not work very well.

    • tythers says:

      This hardly reflects the experience of those who have installed PV. Many are generating all the electricity they consume and putting extra into the grid. They have spent several thousands installing their panels, and anticipate a return of around 8% on their investment, including the FITs.
      If we look at this from a macro POV, it makes some sense to encourage people to become power generators using readily available space, i.e. their roofs. Approximately 3 million roofs equals one nuclear power station.
      The (understandable) reaction to spiralling energy costs prompts people to reach for the cheapest option, which is fossil fuels. But this will get us into much bigger trouble later. You can have cheap now, much more expensive later (and panic), or ratchet up the prices gradually to encourage efficiency and innovation. You can’t have both. It’s called the Energy Crunch.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Here’s how sunshine varies in the UK owing to variations in cloud cover. The South is almost twice as sunny as the north. And so I really wonder how this variance impacts the efficiency and finance of solar panels – I live way up North. Proper deployment of solar should have panels optimally positioned to capture as much sunlight as possible. An argument can be made to have some facing more to the East and some facing more to the West to provide greater load following capability. In Aberdeen its pretty random. You are just as likely to see panels on N facing roofs as south – this makes my blood boil since it is the government that is “sponsoring” this with “our” money.

        You can’t have both. It’s called the Energy Crunch.

        This plan to deliberately make electricity more expensive than needs be worries me. You can have both if you build nuclear power and our general reluctance to embrace the Brave Nuclear World means we have a self created energy crunch.

        • Roger Andrews says:


          The self-created energy crunch began in 1997, when the Nations of the World gathered at the Kyoto Conference and agreed that CO2 emissions must be cut if the Earth was to be saved from global warming.

          How have the Nations of the World done in the 16 years since then? Collectively they’ve succeeded in increasing global CO2 emissions by over 40% (from 24.40 gigatonnes in 1997 to 34.40 gigatonnes in 2012).

          And how has the UK done? Well, it has at least cut its CO2 emissions, but by only 0.06 gigatonnes (from 0.55 gigatonnes in 1997 to 0.49 gigatonnes in 2012), and most of this was probably a result of the 2008/9 global recession.

          Next question; what’s happened to global warming? According to AGW theory the 40% increase in CO2 emissions since 1997 should have caused an increase of several tenths of a degree C in global temperatures, but global temperatures haven’t risen at all. The mean global surface temperature anomaly in 2012 (0.54C) was in fact lower than in 1997 (0.59C).

          And what’s happened to global warming in UK? Suffice it to say that the mean annual temperature in Central England is still the same as it was 350 years ago (9.45C in 2013, 9.43C in 1664).

          “Beam me up Scotty, there’s no intelligent life down here” seems to hit the nail squarely on the head.

      • Kit P says:

        Is tythers a scam artist or just repeating what he has heard? First, PV systems cost a lot more than ‘several thousands’. Second PV systems never work as the scam artist ‘anticipate’. If you make a claim about return on investment, then you should provide some examples to support that claim using standard methods. None exists, I have looked. That is what a scams is. Get the money up front and then disappear.
        It is a cold overcast winter day. I just checked. The 33 closest nuclear power plants are all at 100% power providing huge amounts of power. Solar = 0 kwh. Scam artist prey on those who do not understand the difference between power, energy, and capacity to produce power from energy. So no, solar does not equal nuclear.
        Finally power costs are very stable. The claim of ‘spiralling energy costs’ is just part of the pitch of the scam artists. It takes one day to install a 4 kw PV system on the roof of a house. It makes prefect sense to wait until power cost actually spiral and the PV starts delivering a quality price. The is no energy crunch.

  4. Roger Andrews says:

    Earlier this year, and at a cost of around $9,000 US, I installed 2,250 watts of solar panels on my roof. They have worked pretty much exactly as advertised, knocking about $1,500 per year off my electricity bills.

    This, however, doesn’t mean that I’m making 17% on my money because it isn’t my money any more; it belongs to the solar panel company. The correct way of evaluating the economics of domestic solar power is in fact to treat the investment as an annuity, but a 17% return on an annuity ain’t too shabby either. 🙂

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Roger, you live in Mexico – where it is hot and SUNNY! No doubt you have AC and therefore very strong correlation between sunshine and electricity demand. Solar seems like a great idea in hot sunny places. We are approaching the winter solstice. Sun rises in Aberdeen after 9 and sets about 3, its 5˚C and windy. I’d guess solar panels would be putting out close to zero today. Our heating is running flat out on nat gas and electricity will be coming from wind, hydro, nat gas and nuclear (its pretty windy today – the Greens gonna get all excited).

      Knocking off $1500 / year seems a lot – electricity expensive in Mexico? Or you have a huge pad? 😉

      • Roger Andrews says:

        Huge pad? Yes, by UK standards. But we have only two room air conditioners which we rarely use (we get by with fans), no heating system (doesn’t get cold enough), 100% energy-efficient light bulbs and gas hot water. So our overall electricity usage is low.

        Electricity expensive in Mexico? Depends. If you can get by with a small refrigerator, a TV and 20 watt light bulbs you will pay something like UK 5p/kwh. But as soon as you add luxuries like computers, freezers or 40 watt light bulbs the dreaded Mexican sliding rate scale grabs you and you find yourself paying about UK 20p/kwh. So while our solar panels do produce a lot electricity (churning out 1.2kw when I last checked) most of the cost saving occurs because they drop us down into a much lower price bracket.

        And FWIW I estimate that my solar system would generate about twice as much electricity as an equivalent solar system in UK allowing for differences in latitude and cloudiness.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Roger, the main points here, different solar geographies and different electricity pricing and solar subsidy regimes can produce very different outcomes depending upon where you are. And efficiency of solar is rising, cost falling. It’s a very complex landscape. E

          • Roger Andrews says:

            Getting a little O/T here, but having just looked at some photos of UK solar installations I would suggest that the outcome could be improved by the simple expedient of pointing the panels in the right direction. Sticking them flat on the roof regardless of the pitch of the roof or which direction it’s pointing in is not the way to do it, and if the solar panels on the roof of London City Hall work at better than 10% efficiency I will personally eat them.


      • Joe Public says:

        Knocking $1,500 out of a $9,000 pa power bill seems impressive to us Brits.

        But then that’s virtually entirely because the usage profile for AirCon-cooling maxes out when the sun shines, in summer; us limeys have maximum demand for space heating during winter, when the sun don’t shine (much)!

    • Kit P says:

      Roger let me help you learn how to tell the truth. First, you tell me how much electricity your solar system produced. How many kwh? On average you could make 324 kwh per hour if you were as good as a utility system. At 5 cents per kwh, that is about $16 per month worth of electricity.
      I have a large all electric home. Part of my power bill is for the power I buy, part is the transmission service, and part is taxes.
      When the value of power produced is very low but claims are on the order that of $1500 for a year, I start looking for the scam or the facts that are let off the spreadsheet. The simple payback period is 46 years.
      One way for the scam to work, is for Roger to be stealing money from his neighbors thanks to the utility billing department. A second way for the scam to work, is Roger signed a piece of paper without having a lawyer check it. A Ponzi scam. Roger tells all his friends what a great deal it is. When the second mortgage comes due, the scam artist are gone.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Kit, your comments here are appreciated, I just wish you could bend them a little bit more toward the polite side. I agree that what is needed are some hard numbers. Cost of array. Annual output in kWh. Value of that output for different geographies, electricity pricing and taxation regimes. And levels of subsidy. I spent some time today looking for this information online and a bit surprised that it wasn’t there on the first or second page of Google. I’m a bit suspicious. You say it’s a scam. I really want to see the numbers from folks who have installed PV to guide me to the truth. On this one I really don’t know where the truth lies.

        • Kit P says:

          Euan, the truth is very easy to spot. I am a big advocate of utility scale PV. Power professionals will get the most kwh out of the limited resource of solar panels while minimizing the environmental impact. The cost is spread out over the entire rate base. One interesting aspect of large systems is that real time data is often available on the internet. After a while it stops. I can not find data on systems after the first couple of years except that they no longer produce power. It would appear that the purpose of PV is to have a photo op.
          The scam is targeting homeowners. Like many scams they target the elderly. A close friend was ready to buy a system but his wife got home in time to stop it. What kind of unethical scum try to sell a retired person who has had a stoke PV system to make power for 30 years? I would be surprised if Roger’s system even has a meeter to measure kwh. The purpose of home PV systems is get money from home owners not make electricity.
          We have a sailboat and a vegetable garden, Hobbies we enjoy. Not trying to make a return on an investment.

          • Roger Andrews says:

            Roger’s solar system actually does have a meeter, and so do the solar systems of his neighbors across the street and the lady who lives next door. The dozens of other people in the area with solar systems all have meeters too.

    • Diogenes says:


      I think the key point is when do you need the power. In the UK in Winter, you need the power when it gets dark and cold around 4pm. Not much sunshine available and storage is not an option in the UK – not enough rivers in geologically appropriate valleys. On the other hand, if you need poower at noon for the aircon because it is too damn hot, then solar is perfect.

  5. tythers says:

    I don’t appreciate being called a scam artist. Insults add nothing to the debate.
    There are two issues here: one is the return on domestic solar installations – in terms of power output and financial. I live in the SW of England, and entirely take the point about locating panels where there is plenty of light. I would agree that Aberdeen is less than optimal.
    I do not have PV panels (yet), but several of my neighbours do, and I have visited other domestic installations where the homeowner has shown me their bills. Over the course of a year, some of them have generated enough power for all their needs and a little surplus. I have no reason to disbelieve them, as they all have meters, just like Roger’s neighbours.
    Aha, you say, the power is not necessarily generated at the time when they are drawing it, so this doesn’t count! I accept the point, but would argue that the grid distributes the power, so it should be counted. I would also accept that a system designed for centralised generation and distribution is not well-suited to operating the other way round, and that using fossil-fuel generating capacity to top-up renewables is not an ideal use of them either. Energy-storage solutions currently being developed may well help to deal with this, and may result in some community-sized autonomous systems eventually.

    The second issue determines how one sees the whole energy question. Does one accept or reject the science on climate change? I acknowledge that there are people who think the science is wrong. The problem I have with that is that most scientists accept the science, including all of the major scientific institutions in the world. Science is about the slow accretion of evidence and the application of lots of doubt along the way. If the evidence changes, then so do the conclusions. But the evidence has been getting stronger. And the objections have serious flaws. Claiming, for example, that global temperatures have not risen since 1998, employs the unacceptable statistical trick of cherry-picking the hottest year on record as the starting-point. It also ignores all the other evidence, such as sea temperature increases or ice loss, in order to focus on one single statistic. And one cannot extrapolate from the local to the global – a cold winter at lower Northern latitudes has sometimes been simultaneous with record warm temperatures at the N Pole. A picture of snow in Israel does not mean there is no global warming.
    You may not accept this, and that’s fine, although in debate I would expect you to back up your position with scientific evidence rather than anecdote.
    To return to the issue in hand: if one does not accept the science, then it makes no sense to plan to abandon fossil fuels. If one does accept the science then the need to abandon fossil fuels is urgent.
    I happen to agree with James Lovelock and others that the urgency of the situation is such that nuclear, with all its drawbacks, has to be part of the mix. And that we need renewables, and lots of R&D on renewables to increase their efficiency.
    But regardless of where one stands on climate change, the question of whether we are reaching the end of the era of cheap energy is important. Conventional oil is declining, and it is doubtful, despite the wild claims from the US, whether unconventional supplies will fill the gap. Euan has shown that there are some questions to be answered about the US fracking boom. If we are entering a period of more expensive energy – whether imposed by supply not keeping up with demand, or because of the potential damage being caused to the habitability of the planet, or both – this has serious consequences for how we organise our society. I happen to think we are.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Hi Tythers, the fact that domestic PV systems provides sufficient gross electricity to cover uses is one thing, but it is the cost of installation discounted at say 8% over the panel’s working life – whatever that is, in relation to savings on power bills that counts. Determined to get to the bottom of this at some point.

      Energy-storage solutions currently being developed may well help to deal with this

      Would you care to elaborate…

      The problem I have with that is that most scientists accept the science, including all of the major scientific institutions in the world.

      Would you care to provide the evidence that backs this statement? I’d point out that there is no such thing as “the science” in this incredibly complex system. I am a fairly die hard sceptic but my current views actually fit in at the lower end of IPCC estimates for climate sensitivity. So yes, I can agree that human activity is impacting climate, the crucial thing is the degree of that impact – and AR5 showed there was absolutely no agreement on that at all.

      If the evidence changes, then so do the conclusions. But the evidence has been getting stronger.

      This is where you lose me in Green speak. How can sideways moving temperatures provide stronger evidence? What has happened is that the evidence has strengthened substantially for a much lower climate sensitivity than previously claimed. The extension of the range of climate sensitivities to the low side in AR5 is the evidence for this and that is based on the empirical observation that temperatures have stopped rising.

      Melting ice and ocean heat. The land ice has been melting since the end of The Little Ice Age, the onus is really on climate science to provide evidence that Man has anything to do with this at all. Current global sea ice anomaly is positive. And ocean heat – how does the ocean continue to warm with static atmospheric heat? In fact what are the controls on ocean heat? As a geologist I’d start by looking at the mid ocean ridges where boiling hot water is gushing in all the time. And then I’d look at cloud cover since I suspect direct radiative heating by the Sun would also be pretty important. The atmosphere has so little mass and dT is so tiny that I’d suspect conductive heating from atmosphere to ocean is negligible. I’m just speculating here, perhaps you could point me at some articles.

      Whilst my priority is on energy security, affordability and overall environmental impact I do keep a wary eye on emissions at the same time. It seems we may agree on nuclear in general, happy to continue this conversation.


      You should read this, because snow in the Middle East is perhaps caused by the same phenomenon. If you can’t source it I’ll email you.
      Solar forcing of winter climate variability in the Northern Hemisphere
      Sarah Ineson1*, Adam A. Scaife1, Jeff R. Knight1, James C. Manners1, Nick J. Dunstone1, Lesley J. Gray2 and Joanna D. Haigh3

      • tythers says:

        I’ll see if I can get some data from people who have had domestic PV installations. When I was quoted for an installation over a year ago, the cost of putting in 12 panels was around £7k, with an expected return of 10 to 11% p.a.. This would have produced a payback period of 8 to 10 years, based on a 16p/kWh FIT. It has since reduced, as has the cost of the panels. Which is as it should be. The PV output of this is 2.94 kW, which would have produced enough to cover most of my annual consumption.

        Right, into the lions’ den….

        Energy storage solutions: This is clearly an important area for research to improve the viability of renewables. Here is a link to a TED talk (I think it’s the one) by a chap developing large-scale cheap batteries using liquid salt.

        Scientific consensus: There have been a number of studies, some of published papers, some surveys of the scientists, and they have shown that 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening and we are the cause. Of 13,950 papers studied by James Powell, only 24 were found to reject global warming. OK, so you’ll quote the paper by Andrew Montford (GWPF) at me, but I think this article by Stefan Rahmstorf pretty much sums up my position:

        Note the comments about AR5.

        Scientists I have spoken with express regret that more papers disagreeing with the consensus are not published. This is the way science proceeds, not by articles and blogs. Unfortunately the few that do get published seem to fall foul of the problem of selective use of data.

        Temperatures stopped rising:

        On sea ice, please refer to the NSIDC website, which gives detailed analysis of the ice at both poles. The increase in Arctic sea ice this year was from a record low level in 2012. It has lost 20% of extent and 40% of volume since 1980. You will find in their November report some information about methane escapes from the warming sea-bed off Siberia.

        On ocean warming:

        Thanks for the Nature Geoscience letter, which I have so far just skimmed. Seems some interesting stuff on NAO and solar UV flux variability. They do state (p.756) “ Our experiment can say little about links between solar variability and global mean temperature change”, but it may help in forecasting cold winters.

        The problem of being on one side of the fence or the other highlights the difficulty of reasonable discussion about energy issues. All the priorities are changed depending on whether you think warming is serious or negligible. The question of nuclear forming part of the energy future, or at least the transitional future, depends a lot on whether the waste can be dealt with and on safety of operation. After Fukushima, perhaps best not to locate near a coast… oops, well, Hinckley’s ok, isn’t it? (There is evidence of a tsunami in the area in the 1600s…)

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Hi Tythers,

          Thanks for this. I’m going to cherry pick a few points to respond to;-) Might come back later to pick up the ones I set aside for now. I’d seen that TED talk before – great presentation, wouldn’t want to put it down, but need some data on efficiency, price and longevity. Can we agree that battery storage of this sort is likely a non-starter for wind – where for a truly independent renewables grid you need contingency to store power sometimes for up to 7 days (I know its a lot more complicated than that). But I see more potential here with the diurnal need to store solar. Utility will depend very much on geography. But its a good exercise to work out the true cost of intermittency. Lets imagine you have 12 hours daylight then you need to double up on your solar panels and buy a big battery to get your power at night. 8 hours daylight, triple up on your panels and buy two big batteries. Not sure what the economics of that might look like.

          Re Sea ice, for convenience I usually use Cryosphere today but have been to NSIDC who actually record a different metric than Cryosphere. This is a discussion for another day.

          Re the Ineson paper; yes they provide supporting evidence for rather extreme regional “weather” variance but conclude no impact on global average – I find that rather surprising but can accept it for the time being. One thing I found interesting is there models show Arctic warming in response to this phenomenon. And so I went looking and found 1 paper that suggested the Arctic was periodically ice free during The Little Ice Age. Didn’t like this at all at first but it fits with other strands of N hemisphere sea ice evidence that I cling to. If you accept The Little Ice Age occurred as a result of a different pattern of atmospheric circulation to that we have become accustomed to, then the “weather” or “climate” may change “everywhere” without a major impact on global average temperatures – winners and losers. Extreme weak solar cycle 24 is getting ready to fizzle out. IF there is any truth at all in the connection between solar geomagnetic flux and climate then N Europe could be in for occasional extreme severe winters in the decades ahead.

          Mike Lockwood seems not to believe in the Little Ice Age at all now whilst I understand The Geological Society (somewhat surprising for me) view it as an aborted beginning of the next ice age – this IMO is a strange form of consensus. As for tsunamis in the UK, the big daddy was the Storrega slide – circa 6000BC. I don’t know how you go about managing the risks of extreme high impact, low probability events.

        • Joe Public says:

          Hi Tythers.

          “……….based on a 16p/kWh FIT. It has since reduced, ………”

          Look no further for absolute proof it’s a subsidy scam.

          My electricity supplier currently charges me 13.913p/kW. This includes the ‘extra’ cost it has to pay in guaranteed subsidies to solar PV owners.

          I can draw power whenever I want; within reason I draw however much power I need.

          My electricity supplier has to produce the stuff; distribute it; market it; pay for measures to help its customers use less of its product; read clients’ meters and bill them; and, invest in the massive infrastructure necessary to provide security of supply.

          What other industry is forced to buy the highest priced commodity, at times when, because of unpredictable intermittency it might not actually have a market for that commodity, and (ignoring its overheads) forced to sell that bought-in product for less than it paid?

          Oh, and get criticised by politicians who actually created the mess, when it mentions the home-truths.

    • Roger Andrews says:


      “Does one accept or reject the science on climate change?” Prof. Richard Lindzen of MIT, one of the world’s most eminent climate scientists, has come up with a simple way of allowing people to decide for themselves.

      The graphs in the link below split the global surface temperature record between 1895 and 2008 into two equal halves – one covering the 52-year period from 1895 to 1946 and the other the 52-year period from 1947 to 2008. Both are plotted at the same scales but the years are not shown.

      The game goes like this. According to AGW theory the warming on the 1895-1946 graph was dominantly natural and the warming on the 1947-2008 graph was dominantly anthropogenic. Can you tell which graph is which? If you can do so without any hesitation then the science is settled. If not, well, it isn’t.

  6. Kit P says:

    I do not recall calling anyone a scam artist by name. If your are marketing PV to old people based on false claims, then scam artist is a description that fits. Get over it! Looking at someone’s electric bill is not a economic analysis. It is how scam artist work. Furthermore, if a FIT pays you a lot more for power than it is worth, you are stealing from your neighbors. Come up with all the rationalizations you want but it is stealing just the same. Too be an ethical person you actually have to check to see if your good work is actually good.
    While I am skeptical of AGW, I am an expert on reducing ghg associated with producing power, PV is a very mickey mouse solution. The reason is that PV does not produce very much power relative to the environmental impact of making them. There is a ton of LCA that back up my claim. If the expected power production is 20% for 25 years, then PV is good. If the actual production is 5% for 5 years, then PV is worse than coal.

  7. Roger Andrews says:

    Euan and tythers:

    On the question of the global warming “scientific consensus” I suggest you take a look at the 2010 Bray & von Storch poll (entitled “CliSci2008: A Survey of the Perspectives of Climate Scientists Concerning Climate Science and Climate Change” in case the link below doesn’t work)–Perspectives_of_Climate_Scientists_Concerning_Climate_Science_%26_Climate_Change_.pdf&ei=1HewUratF4qj2QX1hYCYCQ&usg=AFQjCNGN3opz7-HCLUKzlijedf9LR9kFDQ&sig2=wQYE2luqwUwgbOIBi_P0IA

    Bray & von Storch is arguably the only climate science poll we have that tells us anything. It was a scientific study, not a propaganda piece, and instead of boiling the questions down to a few tendentiously-worded sound bites it asked for opinions on a wide range of technical and non-technical issues related to climate change. Rather than ask for yes-no responses it also asked for respondents to rank the strength of their agreement on a scale of 1 to 7 and plotted the results as histograms. (Take a look at some of them and try to decide how skewed the distribution has to be before it represents a “consensus”. There’s no objective way of doing it.)

    The results aren’t of purely academic interest either. Countries now plan to spend billions (trillions?) to cut CO2 emissions because of what climate models predict will happen over the long-term if they don’t, but according to the responses to questions 16d, f, h and j climate scientists have little confidence in the long-term predictive skill of climate models.

    • tythers says:

      Thanks for that. Very interesting, but fairly predictable: high confidence in the IPCC, and quite a degree of concern over climate change. I agree with some of the respondents that some questions were not very well put, but in general a good survey.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        But here we are spending all this money to cut CO2 emissions because climate model predictions say we have to even though the climate modelers admit that climate models don’t have predictive skill. Doesn’t that bother you even a teeny weeny little bit?

        • tythers says:

          I did not see this from the survey. Bearing in mind this is from 2008, and things have moved on, there was broad agreement that predictive modelling of precipitation is fairly poor, but on temperature fairly good. The statement that ‘climate modellers admit that climate models don’t have predictive skill’ is a semantic trap. The whole point of climate modelling is to look forward, and the models are improving all the time. They give a range of possible outcomes, which are projections, from which probable outcomes – predictions – may be derived.
          Climate models do not say anything about what we have to do. That is interpretation. The scientists point to the causes of warming, and some of them warn about possible scenarios, but the decisions to act upon this information are made by politicians.
          I will allow that the confusion over ‘projection’ and ‘prediction’ in the survey was concerning, and would hope those who got it wrong have sorted out their terminology by now.

  8. Euan Mearns says:

    @ Roger, The Bray and von Storch article is intriguing. My scepticisim begins with the term “Climate Scientist” – what is it? Questions I’d like to see asked “When did you become a Climate Scientist?” “How did you become a Climate Scientist?” When you became a Climate Scientist what did you believe the principle cause of Climate Change was?

    I know geologists, working on glaciology, who believe in anthropogenic global warming, and they call themselves climate scientists. And those who don’t buy into the whole deal, call themselves sceptics. I would like to see same study repeated on all physical scientists.

    And I’m with you Roger. They correctly identify a string of key variables where understanding is very poor and yet still believe the models are valid. It stacks up as belief but not as science. And then there are the unknown unknowns.

    • tythers says:

      Hmm. OK, I can understand a wish to define ‘climate scientist’ closely.
      Does the survey really ‘identify a string of key variables where understanding is very poor’? It certainly identifies this with precipitation, but not ‘a string’ of variables. Most of the histograms show the mean in the middle or slightly above.

      I do not buy this ‘belief but not science’ meme. Poor understanding of this or that variable is a simple description of the state of science on that particular aspect. What the scientists do is to work to increase understanding, not bridge the gap with unfounded belief.
      Do you have an alternative to the models? Given the choice between scientific uncertainty and ignorance, I would choose the former every time.

    • Roger Andrews says:

      “The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they’re scared stiff of the fact that they don’t really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing. They could be absolutely running the show. We haven’t got the physics worked out yet.”

  9. A C Osborn says:

    I am sorry, but tythers comes across as a 20 something Greenie who has swallowed the whole AGW/IPCC scam hook line & sinker, just like my Niece’s 20 year old son.
    I suggest he tries reading some history and looks at a few Anti AGW sites for answers to “facts” put out by the warmists.
    Andrew I have to ask if you actually believe this statement that you made, “The correct way of evaluating the economics of domestic solar power is in fact to treat the investment as an annuity, but a 17% return on an annuity ain’t too shabby either.”
    With an Annuity the money is still yours, the Interest is extra. In your case the $9000 is gone and you have some Panels that are Degrading in output and Depreciating in value from the moment they were installed.
    So before you can show any Interest you have to get back your original $9000 of outlay, after that the $1500 per year will be profit. It would be a very handsome “profit” if nothing goes wrong with the Units, unfortunately they do appear to be prone to developing “issues” as suggested by Kit P and like Wind Generators their life expectancy is not as good as advertised.
    I hope you are Lucky.

    You have not mentioned whether or not your $1500 saving includes any kind of Subsidy?

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Maybe I should have made it clear that I was talking about a life annuity, where you pay a sum of money in and receive x% of it a year for the rest of your life but can’t get the money back (a common option in US retirement plans). Had I used the money to buy such an annuity I would have gotten maybe 5% p.a., meaning that I would have to live into my nineties to get my money back even without discounting. With the solar panels (assuming they don’t fall apart – will they? have to wait and see) I get 17% and a six-year payback. Clearly a no-contest.

      Mexico doesn’t subsidize solar electricity. My solar panels save me money because electricity rates are set very low for people who don’t use much electricity and who are therefore assumed to be poor, and set very high for people who use lots of electricity (or what Mexicans think is lots) and who are therefore assumed be rich and in a position to subsidize cheap rates for the poor people. It’s Mexico’s answer to fuel poverty.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Right, so all the “Rich” people who can afford to install Solar power act like “Poor” people and thus get a Subsidy which they do not deserve and reduce the amount of money available to reduce the Poor people’s bills.
        A Bit like the UK Windmill owners down rating their Turbines so that get even bigger subsidies.

        AS you say a great investment.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          AC – I think this is a little unfair. I do not believe Roger (in Mexico) has received any subsidy and therefore has not taken any money out of a poor persons pocket. What he has explained is that the socialist pricing structure for electricity in Mexico creates the economic leverage that makes it worth while investing in solar PV without subsidies – for those who can afford to do so.

          The broader point here, which I think is an important one, is that energy efficiency is the domain of the upper middle class (UK terminology). I live in a fairly substantial granite house, good insulation up top, excellent wood framed double glazed windows and good, sealed outer doors. I paid my taxes and paid for all the energy efficiency stuff myself. But it does cost and I sympathise with the lower income groups, living in poor quality housing, who cannot afford to keep properly warm. In the UK at least, the government needs to work out a socially more equitable way of assisting low income groups to become more energy efficient.

        • Kit P says:

          AC, at this point I do not believe anything Roger says. If he stated the rates for different levels of use that might be different. If he told me how many kwh his system produces, then I would not think he was evading an honest answer. The cost of a long hot shower where I live is 25 cents. I measured the temperature of the cold water and hot water. I measured the flow rate with a low flow shower nozzle (code since 1986). A simple calculation knowing the cost per kwh on my bill.
          Conservation, aka doing without! So if I was rich in Mexico and a long hot shower cost 50 cents, the conservation rate of return of 71% (fabricated number to show Roger how to really makeup stuff) by taking one fewer showers per week. Another thing we do not conserve on is AC in the summer. It is about $3/day to enjoy a good nights sleep when it is hot and humid. It is like conserving on good red Spanish wine. Life is is too short.
          Two points here. One, there are many things that make life better but do not cost very much to make. Two, some places politicians make them expensive. Like Roger, they make up justifications.

  10. Matthew Parsons (Scene) says:

    Dear Euan, despite reading many and various posts on your blog, I have found it difficult to ascertain what your ‘ideal’ energy supply system would look like. If you have time, could you please summarise it in a few sentences? (perhaps restrict this to the UK)

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Matthew, I have stated several times that I’m in favour of the “French” model, essentially all nuclear. Next post should be on my 2050 Pathway. There is no such thing as an “ideal” electricity supply system, no such thing as a free lunch. If you are a colleague of Jelte’s then I imagine you won’t like some of these posts very much. I’ve blown hot and cold on renewables over the years. Should be evident I’m currently in very cold mode. Solar seems to work in Germany, following load in summer, but not much good in Scotland in Winter. Nuclear works. Scotland could have 2, 3GW EPRs. One at Hunterston, one at Torness, Hydro and a little bit of gas for load following – job done. The alternative is to cover the country in dams and wind turbines and still have a system that doesn’t work. best Euan

  11. Kit P says:

    Roger, since your PV system has a meter you can tell us all exactly how many kwh that you made. Then I can tell you what it cost to make it. Then you can explain whose pocket you took a $1000 out of. Fortunately it is not out of my pocket.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Kit, with reference to the reply to AC above, if Roger has received no subsidy, then he has not robbed anyone. If excessive electricity use in Mexico is penalised by high prices, then it is at least interesting to observe how the system responds. In effect, in Mexico, the “rich” are subsidising the poor when it comes to electricity use. Roger has opted out of the subsidy – can you blame him? There is no such thing as a perfect system.

      If all “rich” people in Mexico opted out like Roger, then the Mexican State may end up with more energy to sell, more revenue to distribute as it sees fit?

      • Roger Andrews says:

        Thank you, Euan

        It’s really nobody’s business, but in an attempt to avoid further character assassination I will point out that my wife and I have given over $70,000 to poor Mexicans in the eight years we’ve lived here.

  12. A C Osborn says:

    Roger, it was not intended as Character Assassination, but to point out that by moving in to a less use zone you are in effect getting a subsidy compared to not having Solar Panels, despite what Euan says.
    I congratulate you on your Generosity, it is far higher than mine.

    • Roger Andrews says:


      Thank you. It’s nice to know that there are at least two people on this blog who don’t think I’m a scam artist and an exploiter of the poor.

      Anyway, in an attempt to put this issue to rest so that we can all get back to more important matters here are some numbers on my solar system. Feel free to play around with them, although you may not learn much:

      My average consumption: ~650 kWh/month
      (Compared to US average consumption of 930 kWh/month in 2011)
      Solar generation: ~350 kWh/month (2.25 kW peak capacity)
      Power from grid: ~300 kWh/month

      Electricity rates (you can convert pesos to the currency of your choice):
      Minimum charge: 25 pesos
      0-75 kWh at 0.79 pesos/kWh
      76-140 kWh at 0.96 pesos/kWh
      >130 kWh at 2.81 pesos/kWh

      According to these rates I should have been paying 25 + 75*0.79 + 65*0.96 + 520*2.81 = 1,601 pesos/month for ~600 kWh before I installed the solar system, which is about what I was paying.

      And now that I’ve installed it I should be paying 25 + 75*.0.79 + 65*0.96 + 170*2.81 = 624 pesos/month for ~300 kWh.

      But I’m being billed less than 100 pesos/month for less than 100 kWh.

      Doesn’t add up, does it?

      Welcome to Mexico 🙂

      • Kit P says:

        1,601 pesos = $123 x 12 = $1476 – hard to save $1500 a year
        2.81 pesos = $0.22, so 350 kwh is worth $77 or $924 – still not saving $1500 a year. However, the payback period much better. A likely reason for things not adding up is that there is large variation solar output and power usage. So Rogers’s claims may be only a slight exaggeration.
        So Roger, I have lived in mild climates like Spain and California. Corrupt government mild climate, a fair tradeoff. Are there other benefits?

  13. A C Osborn says:

    “But I’m being billed less than 100 pesos/month for less than 100 kWh”, now that is really odd, is it like that every month?

    • Roger Andrews says:


      • Euan Mearns says:

        Roger, thanks for posting the numbers. That’s a very steep rise in price with usage. And the middle category is 76-140 and then > 130, is that correct or a typo? And getting billed < 100 kWh – is that a mistake or what? And up thread you said that you don't own the panels – why not?

        I disagree with AC on the subsidy thing. In effect you have opted out of subsidising the poor but that's a pretty abstract way to look at things. The way the Mexican market is rigged it would be bonkers to not do what you have done.

  14. Roger Andrews says:

    Hi Euan:

    Yes, the 130 was a typo. Should have been 140.

    I didn’t say I didn’t own the panels. What I said was that I didn’t own the MONEY any more. The solar panel company took over ownership of that.

    As to whether the <100 kWh is a mistake, here's a list of the things that could be causing it:

    1. My solar system is pumping out much more juice than it's supposed to, although I'm pretty sure it isn't.

    2. Our old meter was going round too fast, and/or the new meter that came with the solar installation is going round too slow, or the meter reader was misreading the meter before and/or after the installation.

    3. Some of our electricity was going to our neighbor before the solar system was installed and/or some of our neighbor's electricity is coming to us since it was installed. The electricity for both houses comes in on opposite sides of the same creeper-covered concrete wall, and who knows what goes through it? (Power sharing is common in Mexico. A friend of mine who bought a house here started tracing all the cables and pipes that disappeared into his outer walls and found that he was supplying all his neighbor's electricity and also supplying water to no fewer than six surrounding residences.)

    4. The Mexican government has repealed the laws of physics, not that they worked very well here to begin with.

    5. I have somehow screwed up the calculations.

    6. Any of the above, all of the above or none of the above.

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm going to quit worrying about this and pour myself another tequila.


    • A C Osborn says:

      Roger, have a nice relaxing weekend and please excuse my querulous nature.

    • Kit P says:

      My first jobs in commercial nuclear power is as a test engineer. Having properly calibrated instruments is essential to understanding what is true. Improvements to reduce uncertainty in just one variable such as feedwater flow, can increase output 1500 MW or about $12 million a year.
      Generally, power systems are designed to produce more power than nameplate. I get paid to evaluate if we can take advantage of the design margin with improved instruments. This small improvement at a nuke plant is about 3000 of Roger’s PV system.
      There have been other documentations of PV system exceeded nameplate for short periods. It is like the gambler brags about winning a small jack pot and ignoring $8k in losses. I do think an investment in a trip to Vegas is more likely to be a good investment than solar.

  15. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, you said “The way the Mexican market is rigged it would be bonkers to not do what you have done.”, doesn’t that also apply just as much to the UK market where subsidies do exist and isn’t that the reason for all the Solar Panel and Turbine sales over the last few years?
    Am I then bonkers for not jumping on the bandwagon and grabbing some tax payers money?
    Which being a grumpy old retired Git is precisely what I am against. LOL

    • Euan Mearns says:

      AC – the main reason I have not yet conducted a serious investigation into installing solar PV in Aberdeen is because the sun rarely shines here. We have solar panels in Aberdeen facing N, S, E and W. And university professors will tell you it makes no difference, which may well be the case in a city where the sun rarely shines. I was also offered a condensing boiler once by a “salesman” who told me the boiler would condense out the CO2 emissions and save the planet. Where is government regulation of all this BS?

      To be perfectly honest, I have not understood the market mechanism for “subsidising” all this stuff until writing these posts. Its very difficult for me to give an honest answer to your question. But lets say right now I am happy to be in the position where I have not stuck my snout in that trough. If it is the case that Solar PV up north is totally useless and the only way to dress the window is to add levies to the electricity bills of the poor then those who introduced this system should be held to account.

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