Electricity and energy in the G20

While governments fixate on cutting emissions from the electricity sector, the larger problem of cutting emissions from the non-electricity sector is generally ignored. In this post I present data from the G20 countries, which between them consume 80% of the world’s energy, summarizing the present situation. The results show that the G20 countries obtain only 41.5% of their total energy from electricity and the remaining 58.5% dominantly from oil, coal and gas consumed in the non-electric sector (transportation, industrial processes, heating etc). So even if they eventually succeed in obtaining all their electricity from low-carbon sources they would still be getting more than half their energy from high-carbon sources if no progress is made in decarbonizing their non-electric sectors.


• The G20 membership roll actually includes only 19 countries. The twentieth “country” is the European Union, four members of which (France, Germany, Italy and the UK) are G20 voting members. When we add the remaining 24 EU member states we find that the G20 actually embraces 19+24=43 countries. Adding the data from the extra 24 countries would have involved a lot of unprofitable work and including the EU data would have caused double-dipping in the case of France, Germany, Italy and the UK. So to round the total back up to 20 I added Spain, which has a seat in G20 conferences but no vote, reportedly for political reasons.

• The data used are entirely from the 2016 BP Statistical Review, which while it may not be the best source of data in every case is complete between 1985 and 2015, coherent and easy to work with.

• No allowance is made for electricity or energy imports/exports or for “carbon leakage”. Energy consumed in the non-electric sector is assumed not to include any significant contribution from low-carbon sources.

• The percentage of electricity/energy from low-carbon sources is the best measure of progress in cutting emissions. The percentage of “renewables” in a country’s generation mix ignores nuclear and therefore does not give representative results.

• All values are given as million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe). Where necessary terawatt-hours have been converted to Mtoe by dividing by 4.42, which is the factor used by BP for all generation sources based on an assumed thermal conversion efficiency of 38%.

The Electricity Sector:

Figure 1 plots electricity consumption in the G20 countries as a percentage of total world electricity consumption. Despite all the upheavals over the last 30 years the G20 countries have consistently consumed between 75% and 79% of the world’s electricity. There has been no significant change in the percentage since 1995:

Figure 1: G20 electricity generation as a percentage of world electricity generation.

Electricity generation in the G20 countries in 2015 is summarized in Figure 2. There is an enormous range, with China generating forty times as much as Argentina (and seventeen times as much as the UK):

Figure 2: Total electricity generation, G20 countries, 2015

Of greater interest from the standpoint of emissions, however, is what percentage of its electricity each country generates from low-carbon sources, in which I include hydro, nuclear and “renewables” (wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, geothermal etc.) Figure 3 ranks the results for 2015:

Figure 3: Electricity generation by source as percent of total electricity generation. G20 countries, 2015. Hydro, nuclear and wind, solar etc are the low-carbon sources. Thermal generation is dominantly coal and gas.

France, with 92.5% of its electricity coming from low-carbon sources – dominantly nuclear – tops the list and Saudi Arabia brings up the rear with 0% when rounded off to the nearest 0.1 Mtoe. Japan has sunk down close to the bottom following the post-Fukushima nuclear shutdown. The UK occupies a respectable fifth place.

Figure 3 also tells us which countries can reduce their emissions the most by replacing more of their existing thermal electricity generation with low-carbon electricity generation. China and the US, the world’s two largest emitters, can clearly make progress by doing this. France, however, has about reached the limit, with Canada and Brazil not far behind. Yet having almost completely decarbonized its electricity sector France now plans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting its nuclear generation from 75% to 50% of total generation by 2025.

Figure 4 now shows the rankings when only wind,solar,biomass etc, the renewable sources that most G20 countries plan to replace thermal generation with and which are commonly used to measure “progress” towards this goal, are plotted. France and Canada fall to midpack and the top four positions are occupied by Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK, all of which generate at least three times as much of their electricity from renewables as any other G20 country except Brazil (whose generation comes dominantly from biomass, which is only questionably a low-carbon source):

Figure 4: Low-carbon electricity generated by “renewables” (wind, solar, biomass etc.) as percent of total generation, G20 countries, 2015.

It seems that large-scale development of wind, solar and other renewable source is an approach that has been adopted only by the richer European countries.

Another question that arises here is how much progress the G20 countries have made towards decarbonizing their electricity sectors since 1985, when the BP data begin. Figure 5 shows that the answer is “none”. The low carbon generation percentage in the 1985 G20 generation mix was 26.8% and in 1995 it peaked at 28.8%. But since then it has been mostly downhill, with a percentage of 26.5% – 0.3% lower than the 1985 value – in 2015. As illustrated in Figure 5 this is mostly a result of the replacement of low-carbon nuclear with low-carbon renewables like wind and solar, which of course does nothing to reduce emissions:

Figure 5: Low-carbon electricity generation as a percent of total electricity generation, G20 countries, 1985-2015

Total Energy:

As noted earlier electricity in 2015 supplied only 41.5% of the total energy consumption of the G20 countries, which has also stayed remarkably stable at around 80% of total world energy consumption for the last 20 years (Figure 6):

Figure 6: G20 energy generation as a percentage of world energy generation, 1985-2015

As shown in Figure 7, however, only two countries – France and Japan – got more than half of their total energy from electricity in 2015. (The G20 average was 41.5%):

Figure 7: Percent of total energy obtained from electricity, G20 countries, 2015

And Figure 8 shows the impacts on 2015 low-carbon generation when expressed as a percentage of total energy consumption rather than electricity generation (compare with Figure 3):

Figure 8: Electricity generation by source as percent of total energy consumption, G20 countries, 2015. Hydro, nuclear and wind, solar etc are the low-carbon sources. Thermal generation is dominantly coal and gas consumed in the electricity sector and oil, coal and gas consumed in the non-electricity sectors.

Thanks to its abundant nuclear, electric home heating and electrified rail system only France got half of its total energy consumption from low-carbon electricity in 2015. Canada and Brazil got slightly more than a third, Spain a quarter and everyone else a fifth or less. Basing estimates of emissions reduction progress on the percentage of total electricity generation from low-carbon sources clearly gives misleading results. When we base them on total energy consumption the picture is less encouraging, as illustrated in Figure 9 (compare with Figure 5):

Figure 9: Low-carbon electricity generation as a percent of total energy consumption, G20 countries, 1985-2015

In this case there is an overall increasing trend in low-carbon energy (from 11.2% in 1985 to 14.4% in 2015, almost all caused by growth in wind, solar biomass etc.) but at this rate of growth total decarbonization of world energy will not be achieved until 2250 or thereabouts. In addition, the values are only about half those obtained in Figure 5. Basing estimates on electricity data alone therefore results in roughly a factor-of-two overestimate of progress towards decarbonization of world energy.

And how do we rank the progress of different countries? One way if doing it is to measure the change in the country’s percentage of low-carbon total energy generation over a fixed period, and I chose the ten-year period between 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol came into force, and 2015. Choosing a different period will of course give different results, but here is what I got:

Figure 10: G20 country ranking based on 1995-2015 change in low-carbon total energy generation as a percent of total energy consumption.

Three countries have made over twice as much progress as anyone else in the G20 – Italy, Spain and the UK. And with Germany coming fifth the EU can indeed lay claim to being the world leader in renewable energy, although what good this has done the EU is questionable.

A somewhat surprising outcome is that China comes fourth, although this may be as much a result of cutbacks in coal as of increases in low-carbon generation. Three other countries that have come under fire for laggard behavior – Australia, Canada and the US – have also significantly increased their low-carbon percentages. At the bottom of the list are Brazil and Japan. I’m not sure what caused Brazil’s poor performance, but Japan’s cellar-dweller status is entirely a result of the post-Fukushima nuclear shutdown. It stands as a lesson to other countries who are contemplating nuclear phaseouts.

Finally, Figure 11 plots annual low-carbon generation percentages for all of the G20 countries except Saudi Arabia, which to all intents and purposes has no low-carbon generation, since 1985. Readers who prefer an alternative approach to ranking country performance are at liberty to choose different periods and report back.

Figure 11: Annual low-carbon electricity generation as percent of total energy consumption, individual G20 countries, 1985-2015.


As noted in the introduction governments fixate on reducing emissions in the electricity sector and generally ignore the larger problem of how to reduce them in the non-electricity sector. One reason for this is that it’s comparatively easy to legislate changes in the electricity sector but far more difficult if not impossible to do so in the non-electricity sector. (Green NGOs also fixate on electricity, which is why we get bombarded with reports of a new solar generation record in Germany or a new wind generation record in Scotland etc. etc.)

Another reason for concentrating on the electricity sector is that the generation technologies needed to reduce emissions (nuclear, hydro, wind, solar) already exist. But the same cannot be said of the non-electricity sector, where the needed technologies consist of such things as hydrogen from electrolysis and methane from biogas, which have yet to be commercially proven, economic large-scale energy storage, which does not and may never exist, and a potpourri of speculative measures such as smart meters, smart appliances, smart grids, the “internet of things”, EVs charging from and discharging back into the grid, insulation upgrades and “demand response”, all of which will require wholehearted participation from a public which may not be willing to participate wholeheartedly.

But the bottom line is that before we can plan for a world that runs on 100% low-carbon energy we must recognize the scale of the problem, which involves total energy, not just electricity. The scale of the problem in the G20 countries is displayed in Figure 12, which reproduces Figure 9 in a different form:

Figure 12: Figure 9 with Y-scale expanded to 100% and thermal generation included, illustrating the magnitude of the problem the G20 countries still face in decarbonizing their energy sectors.

The requirement is ultimately to replace the red-shaded bars with shades of dark blue, light blue or green – presumably dominantly light blue because nuclear is presently the only practicable solution.

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103 Responses to Electricity and energy in the G20

  1. Alex says:

    “The results show that the G20 countries obtain only 41.5% of their total energy from electricity and the remaining 58.5% dominantly from oil”

    For clarity, and comparing primary energy with electricity, does this mean

    A: That for each 41.5KWh of electricity consumed by an average country, they also burn 58.5KWh of fossil fuels for other stuff? So if the electricity is made from fossil fuels at 41.5% efficiency – they burn 100KWh of fuel to make the electricity, and 58.5KWh of fuel for other stuff.


    B: That 41.5% of fuel goes into electricity production. If they were fossil fuels, that would mean about 15KWh of electricity for every 58.5KWh of other fuel burning.

    The DECC pathways calculator helps to visualise this:

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Alex: You are justified in raising this issue. The web contains innumerable articles telling us how much of a country’s electricity generation comes from renewables etc., but no one publishes a county-by-country list showing what percentage of total energy is supplied by electricity. The fact that this critical parameter is ignored provides a valuable insight into the mentality of the politicians and bureaucrats who are currently minding the store.

      I used the BP data set because it’s the only one that allows this parameter to be calculated for all countries. Other calculation methodologies and data sets may, however, give different results. The BP data, for example, show that the UK gets 40% of its total energy from electricity, but recent publications from DECC and its successor DBEIS show much lower percentages (17% and 27% respectively):



      I don’t know why the results are so different, but if DECC/DBEIS are correct the problem is worse than we thought.

      • Alex says:

        Looking at the Energy Trends Table 1.2, “Wind, solar and hydro”, “Nuclear”, and “Net Imports” are under the category “Primary electricity”. This suggests that a 1GWe nuclear reactor is given as 24GWh/day of energy, and not the ~70GWh of thermal energy.

        It gets more confusing when we use a heat pump. As 1 unit of gas creates 0.4 units of electricity (40% efficiency), which then creates 1.6 units of heat (CoP of 4). Of that, 1.2 units is “renewable” and 0.4 is “dirty”.

        • After writing this post I got to thinking about some of the inconsistencies in the methodology, in particular the approach of converting generation from sources that don’t burn any fossil fuels – specifically hydro, wind and solar – into million tonnes of oil equivalent. So I tried a different approach to see if it made a difference.

          To level the playing field I first assumed that the world energy supply was 100% electric, with cars, trucks, buses, trains, home heating, ships, even aircraft all powered directly or indirectly by electricity. In this case the oil, gas and coal have to be converted into TWh but the low-carbon generation does not because BP already gives TWh numbers for these generation sources. This gets around the problem of having to guess non-existent thermal conversion factors for hydro, wind, solar etc. to convert them into Mtoe.

          Instead of using BP’s 38% across-the-board estimate I also applied separate thermal conversion factors to oil, coal and gas using 2014 data from DOE/EIA (link below). The values were:

          Coal 32.7%
          Oil 31.6%
          Gas 43.2%


          Applying these values to BP’s 2015 oil, gas and coal consumption data gave the following results:

          Oil 15,307 TWh 29.2% of total
          Gas 15,041 TWh 28.7%
          Coal 13,944 TWh 26.6%
          Total 44,292 TWh 84.5%

          While the low-carbon TWh numbers remained unchanged:

          Nuclear 2,577 TWh 4.9% of total
          Hydro 3,946 TWh 7.5%
          Renewables 1,613 TWh 3.1%
          Total 8,136 TWh 15.5%

          The totals are within a percent of those used to construct Figure 12.

          • Alex says:

            Thanks Roger. I’ve been doing some work with Andy Dawson to model UK demand and supply for electricity in 2050, assuming high electrification scenarios. That assumes an elimination of coal, not much oil, and for gas, either hardly any (nuclear scenario) or quite a bit (renewables scenario). Hopefully we can publish this soon.

  2. The Dork of Cork. says:

    Because the goal is to increase prices in the economy, not emissions.

    We are witnessing financial policy goals, not physical economy objectives.

    A rise in domestic energy prices will simply increase transport inputs as the society under the umbrella of scarcity will desperately seek cheaper prices elsewhere.

  3. cafuccio says:

    This is a mandatory read !

  4. Pingback: http://euanmearns.com/electricity-and-energy-in-the-g20/ | SMIPP Ltd.

  5. SourabhJain says:

    Excellent blog. I couldn’t agree more. Hypothetically speaking, even if we generate all of our electricity from renewables, we may only solve 40 percent of the carbon emission problem. If we electrify all transport, then we may reach 70-80 percent reduction of emissions. But, remaining 20-30 percent of 2050 is going to be a lot like 40-50 percent of today’s emissions due to growth in industrial heating and feedstock applications.

    You are right in mentioning that the scale of problem is one of the biggest hurdle in low carbon future. Second thing you rightly pointed out that many people may not be “wholeheartedly” willing to support latest fad of “smart everything”

    PS: In figure 11, do you mean low-carbon electricity as a percentage of total electricity rather than total energy? Graph looks analogous to figure 3 and not figure 4.

  6. Phil Jones says:

    Brilliant, thanks. Your articles should be compulsory reading for policy makers. I referred to your “trip round Swansea Bay” article in my submission to the Hendry Review of tidal lagoons and I propose to refer to this article in my imminent response to a consultation on the tidal lagoon proposal for Swansea Bay – it demolishes the developer’s “overriding public interest” argument.

  7. David McCrindle says:

    Thanks. Sobering blog. To me it means that if CO2 emissions do produce genuinely harmful effects then there is no way they are going to be avoided, short of a collapse of industrial civilisation from some other source. Even with a fair wind (which it doesn’t have) nuclear could not practically close the gap anything like fast enough.

    One helpful extra figure for us lazy people would be a figure 2 equivalent for 1985 so that we could also see the absolute change over time.

  8. keith harrison says:

    You may be interested in this recent study on the effect and results of energy conservation, looking at US studies and the province of Ontario, Canada.


  9. pyrrhus says:

    Excellent post! So the entire debt-fueled low carbon energy program, worldwide, has accomplished nothing…..Wonder what section of the population in the West will be left holding the bag for this insanity…..

  10. Pingback: Climateers Tilting at Windmils | Science Matters

  11. Ron Clutz says:

    Well done, and extremely timely. Thanks for putting it together.

    Reblogged at Science Matters: https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/climateers-tilting-at-windmils/

  12. singletonengineer says:

    Excellent article!

    Working understanding of the content of Figures 5 and 12 should be essential pre-requisites for voters in elections at all levels, especially in those nations which have functioning education systems – such as the G20 group.

  13. Greg Kaan says:

    A truly excellent reference article for any policy makers involved in any way with the environment, energy and general economy. It’s just too bad that it is beyond the grasp of too many in the voting public and against the ideological and/or vested interests of many others.

  14. Peter Lang says:

    With cheap nuclear power the world could have unlimited petrol, diesel, jet fuel (and cleaner; i.e. without contaminants).

    ‘Zero emissions synfuel from sea water’ – https://bravenewclimate.com/2013/01/16/zero-emission-synfuel-from-seawater/

    The planet is not short of energy. However, progress is blocked by the irrational beliefs of the anti-nukes.

  15. Javier says:

    Great article Euan,

    The bottom line is clear. We are as dependent as ever from fossil fuels and all the money and efforts had not made a dent in global CO2 emissions. We have substituted a 3% of electricity or 1.5% of energy from nuclear to new renewables and in the process have made electricity more expensive.

    Another piece of the puzzle is that investment in new renewables has stalled or is decreasing in many countries. As a turnaround in public opinion on nuclear is unlikely in many countries, and the penetration of electric vehicles is similarly negligible, what is left is to admit defeat and go home to wait for Peak Oil to reduce our emissions and our energy.

  16. Rob says:

    This makes a nonsense of the green notion of efficiency and demand side measures to cut back and restrict electricity use when we should encourage and subsidise wider electricity.

  17. Leo Smith says:

    I keep forgetting that unless you have actually bothered to look at the figures, you dont actually have any reason to know the split between e.g. direct fuel burn and fuel burn for electricity generation.

    Perhaps this is a point that needs repeating to the Ignorati?

  18. Peter Davies says:

    The article does not present an informative picture of what is happening to nuclear and renewable energy in the G20. The graphs may be accurate, but the perspective is omitted.

    The clue lies in figure 2. If you do some quick sums the problem becomes very clear. China and the USA between them produce half of the electricity in the G20. By extension the USA and China also account for around half of the primary energy consumption in the G20. China on its own accounts for more than 25% of both.

    Until the arrival of Xi Jinping at the head of China in 2013, China’s energy policy was mainly based on cheap coal and an secondary enthusiasm for geoengineering large hydro schemes (big enough to add measurable fractions of a microsecond to the length of our day). Remember that China single-handedly scuppered a robust climate agreement at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference. China’s full conversion to large-scale renewables has been fairly recent. Wind and nuclear were both on the increase even before 2013, in which wind generation overtook nuclear, but are still low in absolute terms.


    The other aspect of China has been its tremendous 9-10% growth rate over the last decade. This came with a corresponding growth in energy use. Although China has been reducing its carbon emissions per unit of energy used, it is still at a pretty low level compared to most of the G20.

    So the main problem with the G20 percentage statistics presented above is that China has gone from a small G20 player to the biggest G20 player and has had an influence which increases each year on the G20 statistics, driving most of the growth in the absolute numbers in each category as it does so.

    So when the article says G20 nuclear has been replaced by wind this is not necessarily an accurate picture. What is more likely true is that both nuclear and wind are increasing, but the growth rate of nuclear is slower than the growth rate of overall G20 energy use caused by China, while the growth rate of wind power happens to exceed that of overall G20 energy.

    A better comparison of what is happening in the G20 would be a country by country comparison of absolute numbers in electricity generation and primary energy use, plus overall absolute total figures.

    The article also omits a very important point about non-electricity primary energy use. A lot of direct fossil fuel use can be substituted by electricity, for instance heating. But if you do this on a high-carbon electricity grid you might increase fossil fuel use rather than reducing it since electricity generation from fossil fuels is only 40-60% efficient. Therefore the first thing to do is to reduce emissions from the electricity grids. Only then are there advantages in replacing direct fossil fuel use with electricity. We are not there yet. That is the reason why France has a higher percentage use of electricity than other G20 countries – it already has a decarbonised grid thanks to nuclear.

    So the priorities in decarbonising electricity first are correct. It is the most straightforward to do and is a pre-requisite for significant reduction of current non-electricity emissions.

    • Willem Post says:


      For each of the years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, the world consumed about 78% of ALL energy from fossil energy.

      The rest was hydro, nuclear, wind, thermal solar, bio.

      That means zero progress was made getting rid of these evil fossil fuels, despite well over $1.5 trillion of investments during these years.

      Also, I note, tar is a waste product of refineries. Add aggregate and you have asphalt. No tar, no asphalt.

      Back to concrete roads as in the 1940s and 1950s? Making concrete with wind and solar energy?

      Back to small dirt toads all over the world?

    • Robin Guenier says:


      It’s true that China essentially “single-handedly scuppered a robust climate agreement at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference”. But, far more significantly, it almost single-handedly (supported in particular by India) engineered a robust climate agreement at the 2015 Paris climate conference that exempted so-called developing countries (including G20 members China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and South Africa) from any obligation, legal or moral, to reduce their emissions: https://ipccreport.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/cop-21-developing-countries-_-2.pdf

  19. Peter Davies says:

    Slight erratum on the above. For clarification :

    “A better comparison of what is happening in the G20 would be a country by country comparison of absolute numbers in electricity generation and primary energy use BY TYPE FROM 2005 TO 2015, plus overall absolute total figures.”

    In other words even if all G20 countries have been expanding their use of renewables in percentage terms it is still possible for the overall G20 percentage to reduce when countries at a lower level of low-carbon energy grow total energy much faster than countries at a higher level of low-carbon energy. i believe that is what has happened to the G20 (with the exception of Japan) and that the graphs in the article miss this completely.

    • Peter Lang says:

      The only reason renewables have gained the penetration they have so far is because of the huge subsidies they receive, which is driven by the irrational religious-like fervour of the RE advocates and ignoramuses. Renewables cannot make much of a contribution to global electricity supply, let alone global energy supply. You’ve been told why many times on other web sites and here but seem to be immune to relevant facts and continue repeating your beliefs.

      The only reason renewables have got this far is because of the huge subsidies, the irrational beliefs in renewables being the world saviour (because they are called “renewables”), and the irrational fear of nuclear power.

      • Peter Davies says:

        I am working on a grid model for Texas which shows renewables can provide 100% of the ERCOT grid electricity in the 2030-40 time frame with no gaps, a reasonable price and no subsidies. This model demonstrates that your statement above is based on misunderstandings. It should be published before too long.

        • Alex says:

          For the UK in about 2050, the limit for renewables would be about 85%, with the rest provided by gas.

          That could be “improved” with massive over production or unrealistic amounts of storage.

          Texas should be easier, largely because there’s less need for winter heating, and the sun doesn’t go AWOL for as long as the wind.

          • Peter Davies says:

            Texas is good because it has both high quality wind and high quality solar resource. And, perhaps more to the point, it has publicly available data for load, wind and solar irradiance.

      • Peter Davies says:


        Just to remind you of the current facts. The lowest global contract prices (with no subsidies) for wind and solar are as follows :-

        Onshore wind – 3 US cents/kWh (North Africa)

        Solar PV – 2.9 US cents/kWh (Chile – Atacama desert). Dubai comes a close second at 2.99 US cents / kWh.

        Offshore wind – 7.2 Eurocents / kWh to which another 1.4 cents must be added for the electrical connection. (Borssele, Holland). The total of 8.5 Eurocents is 7.3p or 9.7 US cents per kWh.

        And the costs keep going down at a rate faster than even the most optimistic BNEF projections can keep up with.

        • robertok06 says:

          “And the costs keep going down at a rate faster than even the most optimistic BNEF projections can keep up with.”

          It seems that you miss, sorely, a reality check on the effect of intermittency and astronomical costs of storage and interconnectors.

          Enough of green dreams!… NO THANKS!

          Solar PV?… only during the day, and 0.01% or less of the population of planet earth lives on the Atacama desert… just to make an example.

          There is no way that intermittent renewables can cover more than a fraction of the demand of modern industrialized countries. It is physically impossible, and the contrary is a myth that has been debunked already many times… de Castro et al, Energy Policy of few years ago, or Weissbach et al, also Energy Policy of 1-2 years ago max… or Lion Wirth on the rise of real, buffered, LCOE cost as the penetration of intermittent REN increases…

          Proof is that in ANY country where the “incentives” of any kind have been zeroed, new installation of new intermittent RENs has stalled or halted… Italy, Germany, UK, US, etc…

          • Peter Davies says:

            The intermittency of wind and solar is well captured by the historical ERCOT wind generation data and the SolarAnywhere direct normal irradiance data. A grid model of Texas using both of these thus automatically takes account of renewable generation variability.

            I’ve never seen anyone use a real grid model to try to debunk renewables. When you start playing with such a model the first thing you find is that buffering just wind or just solar is pretty stupid because you end up with many times the storage (or backup generation capacity) that is needed by a system which includes both.

            And if you care to look at the population and solar irradiance maps you will soon find that a majority of earth’s people are clustered around latitudes which are close to pretty good sunlight.

            Are you suggesting that at 3c / KWh in the best locations, you believe onshore wind and solar PV generation still needs subsidies. You really must be kidding!

          • Alex says:

            robertok06 is not suggesting that renewables need subsidies. It is the developers who say that. As you point out, €72/MWh for offshore in the Netherlands (plus a lot of additional off-book subsidies).

            If Texas can get to renewables* with no subsidy, then that is excellent for them. Texas is on the same latitude as the Sahara – and “raw” solar is cheap. Northern Europe is rather different.

            *Coming back to this article – they still need loads of oil to drive their 3 ton SUVs to the local gym.

          • gweberbv says:


            interconnectors/grid enforcements are actually very cheap (ok, ignoring Icelink for the moment). Compared to financing the installation of tens of GW of wind turbines and PV installations the additional costs of the grid are a joke.

          • Peter Davies says:


            At the moment all renewables in Texas gets the federal PTC/ITC subsidy worth 2.3 cents / kWh. That’s why Texas wind power PPA’s are for 2 cents / kWh at present. This will get phased out over the next few years. I’m not aware that the manufacturers are complaining about the phase-out. The solar manufacturers seem to think they’ll continue to reduce after-subsidy prices over time even during reduction of subsidies.

            If the Texans 3 ton SUVs are electric vehicles then there is no emissions problem provided it is a low emissions grid or they have their own solar power.

            For Borssele there is no extra subsidy for the power. I’m not familiar with the Dutch system, but in the UK the producer gets the price he bids by a combination of market price payments plus a “contract for difference” which makes it up to the price contracted (or he pay money to bring it down to that if the market price is higher). The grid (consumer) picks up the costs of the connection from the offshore wind farm to the onshore grid itself which is 1.4 Eurocents/kWh, so this has to be added to the 7.27 Eurocents/kWh from the bid making a total of 7.67 Eurocents/kWh (correction from the 7.5 in my post above). That’s just the way grid connection works in many places, including Texas.


            “The government took on the burden of preparing all the site data required to help with bids, including the environmental impact assessment. ”

            Doing all this stuff once makes it far easier for the bidders and removes duplication of some costs which get passed on to consumers anyway and so would be higher if all bidders had to do it independently.

            Around the North Sea there have been strenuous efforts by governments and contractors to streamline the offshore wind tender process and it is indeed bearing fruit.

            That’s in addition to the normal product technical and economic development. Less than half the cost is the actual wind turbine as they require solid foundations (unless floating!) and inter-turbine cabling. Making the turbines larger means fewer of them, reducing foundation and cabling costs. Bigger turbines also have a lower cost per kW turbine cost.

            The sub 10 Eurocents / kWh prices are no accident – a lot of people have put in effort to get there, and it is now paying off. UK is leading the way on offshore wind, but other countries are pulling their weight too. And yes, research has been paid for by European governments.

            By contrast the USA is happy to be a offshore wind follower rather than a leader, but is now starting to get very serious about it. Watch those prices tumble. You ain’t seen nuffin yet!

          • robertok06 says:

            @peter davies

            “Are you suggesting that at 3c / KWh in the best locations, you believe onshore wind and solar PV generation still needs subsidies. You really must be kidding!”

            3 cents/kWh is an unreal/fake price, it is impossible on planet earth to get this low with PV.

            Just go to…


            … type in 2 $/Wp, 5% interest rate, and then tell me what capacity factor you need to go down to 3 cents/kWh… which would still be INTERMITTENT, i.e. almost useless when on a large scale/deployment.

            With CF=30% I get 8.2 c$/kWh… even with 1 $/Wp I get only down to 5.2 c$/kWh… one should go up to a CF of ….. SIXTYFIVE percent in order to equal 3 c$/kWh.

            Remember: math is NOT an opinion, and doesn’t play with PR.

            To conclude, I can only tell you that if you want to write serious papers and are not capable to understand this simple concepts… intermittency and capacity factor… and in addition you are from Texas (being there, done that myself, by the way).. then… “Houston, you have a problem”… a big one… what else can I tell you? 🙂


        • Alex says:

          Take these costs with a large pinch of salt.

          For example, the Dutch wind farm is actually the subsidy, not the price. They’ll also get the wholse sale price. The latest UK offshore wind farms are getting about £120/MWh.

          Wind power also receives a lot of additional subsidies not “on the books”, including the capacity payments to cover its shortfalls and curtailment payments to cover its overproduction.

        • Willem Post says:


          Wind was given a $7 billion subsidy to build transmission.
          The cost of that was not added to wind energy.

          So, much crowing about wind energy being cheap, competitive.

          Such crowing may work in Texas, but not on this website.

          Solar is near zero or zero about 60% hours of the year in Texas,

          About 75% in New England, even higher in Germany and the U.K., together about 200 million people.

        • donoughshanahan says:

          It is not 7.2 eurocents/kWh. That figure is a subsidy on top of the market price as per the Dutch Sustainable Energy Incentive Scheme


          “Selected energy producers are granted a premium on top of the market price in order to compensate the higher costs of electricity from renewable sources. This premium is paid for a period of up to 15 years, for a maximum of 3,000 full load hours per year”

  20. Peter Lang says:

    France now plans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting its nuclear generation from 75% to 50% of total generation by 2025.

    Dead right. This would increase emissions intensity of France’s electricity from 44 g/kWh to about 150 g/kWh..

    • Peter Davies says:

      The future emissions intensity of French electricity depends entirely on what replaces the decommissioned nuclear. A combination of renewables and batteries would enable a further reduction in Frances emissions intensity.

      • robertok06 says:

        A combination of WHAT?… BATTERIES?

        Ahahahaahahah…. how about calculating, for a change, the battery needs for storing over a couple of days the equivalent energy of, say, 30% of the French nuclear production?

        For which REN company do you work for?

        • Peter Davies says:

          Guessing at 50GW average French load, and guessing cycles in a sine wave between 60GW daytime peak and 40GW nighttime load. So for the current nuclear solution you probably need to store something like 8 hours of 10GW nightime excess, which is 80GWh. At $100 / kWh by 2030 that is $8bn. Sounds like a bargain to me.

          • Alex says:

            He said a couple of days.

            So, if you replace 30% (15GW) with renewables. Call it 40GW of wind. Then you have a week where output is – say, 5% CF, so 2GW. Your shortfall is now 13GW, and the storage needed is 13 x 24 x 7 GWh = ~2000GWh, or about $200 billion at your figure.

            If you model the UK in 2050 with 100% renewables, you’d need somewhere around 30TWh of storage, or $3 trillion at your cost. Hence you end up with gas backup. Whilst the gas might be only 15% of supply, you need about 90% of capacity.

            Remember, in the future, most heating will be electric. In northern Europe – if not in Texas – there must be enough electricity or people die from cold in large numbers. Several orders of magnitude more deaths than from a nuclear reactor core breach, which is projected to happen once in a million years or so for a nuclear powered UK.

            If you don’t have the gas backup, you need to plan for the “worst” weather in 1000 years. So even with the 30TWh of storage, you’d still need 85GW of gas capacity, sitting there, waiting … waiting …

          • Peter Davies says:

            If it is for a couple of days you will be using some other form of storage. A Norwegian pumped hydro conversion would be ideal as Norway has 8TWh of existing hydro reservoir capacity. Failing that you would use gas turbines as backup fed by renewable hydrogen (or renewable methane) from electrolysis of water using surplus renewable power.

            Batteries are too expensive for more than a day of storage but pretty efffective for less than a day.

          • Peter Davies says:

            Texas needs about 14 TWh of renewable gas storage – 15 days of average load.

            You are forgetting something. You will also have the batteries. So even for a multi-day break your gas generation only has to have the capacity for an average load (or average load minus nuclear baseload), not for a peak load. The batteries provide the rest.

            Needless to say the costs are therefore much lower than your estimate. And typically most of the gas generation needed is already installed and mainly depreciated.

          • gweberbv says:


            what’s the problem with having 80 GW of gas plants ‘sitting and waiting’? I guess calendaric ageing is not a big issue for such plants. Burning the gas is the expensive part. Not installing the capacity and paying a few people in the control room to ‘sit and wait’.

          • gweberbv says:


            I do not think that this battery would be really cheap. If I assume 10 years of operation, I end up with storage costs of about 35 $ per MWh for your example. Not prohibitively expensive, but also not cheap.

          • Greg Kaan says:

            what’s the problem with having 80 GW of gas plants ‘sitting and waiting’? I guess calendaric ageing is not a big issue for such plants. Burning the gas is the expensive part. Not installing the capacity and paying a few people in the control room to ‘sit and wait’.

            I think the following article totally debunks your notion, Guenter. If the fuel cost was the biggest issue, then the most efficient plant should have been the one most economic to leave idle


          • gweberbv says:


            you follow a simplistic view here.

            It does not matter how efficient a gas power plant is. It will never be able to compete with hard coal or lignite at current fuel prices. (In the US the situation is just the opposite.)

            The very few gas plants that are still in operation in Germany are mainly combined heat and power plants. They earn money with selling the heat and getting in addition a subsidy for producing power.

            Last but not least: As long as the Irsching plant is basicly unused, there is at least a theoretical chance to sell the equipment for a good price. Which seems now to be the best option for the owners to cut their losses.

          • Greg Kaan says:

            Wow, coal is that much cheaper in Germany than the UK that the UK can have 80 GW of CCGT sitting idle.

            How simplistic of me.

          • robertok06 says:

            “So for the current nuclear solution you probably need to store something like 8 hours of 10GW nightime excess, which is 80GWh”

            Maybe for nuclear (can’t check the data now, I’m on a business trip)… but the problem (your problem) is that PV CANNOT ABSOLUTELY WORK with 8 hours of storage, man!… PV needs long term storage… needs to store during the sunny months in order to cover the ~ 4 months with reduce/no production (caveat: Texas is not the center of the world… look at UK’s or Germany’s production data vs month).

            Re-do the math even at 100$/kWh with ONE MONTH’s worth of storage at, let’s stay low for France?…. 1500 GWh/day?… and then come back.

            Nice try, though…. 8 hours!… 🙂

        • Peter Lang says:


          how about calculating, for a change, the battery needs for storing over a couple of days the equivalent energy of, say, 30% of the French nuclear production?

          I know you recognise the following but I’ll write it for others who may not.

          If the power sources is to be intermittent renewables (not other already fully dispatchable technologies), then we’d need perhaps 30 days of storage, not 2 days. We’d need sufficient storage to supply the average power output of the intermittent renewable generator through the worst-case low-wind season and/or the worst period of low solar generation. And the generators and energy storage need to last for 60 years (equivalent of the design life of new nuclear plants) or include in the costs of decommissioning and replacement of the generator and storage plants.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Robertok06 asked:

          For which REN company do you work for?

          He’s a PhD student at Imperial College studying energy storage. He doesn’t seem to have been taught how to do objective analysis and research.

      • Willem Post says:


        The French would never put up with cluttering their country side with thousands of 500 ft tall, noise making wind turbines.

        Almost nobody lives in the Panhandle.

        • Peter Davies says:

          Willem, Wikipedia says the EU has an onshore turbine height restriction of 200m. Offshore wind turbines can be as big as you like. Only Donald Trump cares.


          Dong Energy is installing 8MW 217m (617 feet) turbines in the Burbo Bank Extension area in the Irish Sea. Rotor diameter is 164m (so the hub height must be 135m).

          France has an area nearly twice as big as Germany, and some parts are very sparsely populated, so there might not be any people around to care.


          Nobody lives in the Panhandle – apart from wind farm installers and maintenance guys. Texas spent $7bn to build 18GW of network capacity to defined CREZ (Competitive Renewable Energy Zone) regions where wind and solar are both good to transmit power from places like the Panhandle to the large population centres.

          • robertok06 says:

            “France has an area nearly twice as big as Germany, and some parts are very sparsely populated, so there might not be any people around to care.”


            Man, you don’t have the slightest clue about France either!… can you possibly be right and write something making at least SOME sense once in a while?

            In France people can’t even choose the type and colour of the tiles on the roof… zoning rules as draconian as they can be.

            Take a break from the PhD and visit France, is just across the chunnel. 🙂 …

            … try going to Auvergne, right in the middle of the “Exagone”, and ask people in that sparsely populated part of the country whether they would like to have at least a couple of spinning turbines visible from anywhere in the countryside…. because that’s what would be needed to be in order to replace 410 TWh of nuclear baseload energy.

            Please, stop making a fool of yourself… this blog is not followed by monkeys living on trees… if that’s what you’re looking for then I can suggest plenty of “green” bloggers… just ask.

          • Alex says:

            “In France people can’t even choose the type and colour of the tiles on the roof”

            Interesting. I assume from driving through the country a lot, that they’re also not allowed to paint their houses?

            A lot of villages in southern Germany have placards objecting to wind farm plans. Ironic, since onshore wind farms in Germany have a CF of about 16%. That will be worse still in the south of the country.

            Also, please be polite to Mr Davies…. If this blog is only populated by nuclear proponents and everyone agreeing with me, it will be poorer for it 🙂

          • Euan Mearns says:

            France = 643,801 km^2
            Germany = 357,168 km^2

            1.8 times bigger

          • gweberbv says:


            France has already more than 10 GW of wind turbines installed and is curently installing new turbines with a rate of roughly 1 GW/year. In fact, France has already now more onshore wind farms than UK.

          • robertok06 says:



            France has already more than 10 GW of wind turbines installed and is curently installing ”

            …. I know, I know… every month EdF reminds me that, with small raises of the monthly bill… 🙁

            Employing intermittent and seasonal wind or, even worse, PV to replace CO2-free dispatchable nuclear is the stupidest thing I’ve seen done by mankind lately.

          • robertok06 says:


            … on the area of France vs Germany.

            The metropolitan area of FR is only 550thousand km2, what you have cited inclused all the overseas territories, departments, etc… so the European contiguous part of it (including the island of Corsica) is much less than the twice as big as mentioned by Peter.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            @ Roberto 🙂

            So its only 1.54 rounded up to 2. I simply used Wiki, surprising for me to learn that the French want to inflate their importance. I always view the French as a very modest people.

          • Peter Davies says:

            Apologies – my fault for just picking the Wikipedia French headline number.

            What does seem to be true is that European France has half the population density of Germany – 64.6m / 551,000 sq km = 117 / sq km vs 82.2m / 357,000 sq km = 230 / sq km.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        The future emissions intensity of French electricity depends entirely on what replaces the decommissioned nuclear. A combination of renewables and batteries would enable a further reduction in Frances emissions intensity.

        Die EnergieWende provides ample evidence that this is utterly false. Despite massive investment in wind and solar, look at the “reductions” achieved by Germany, despite being able to offload excess to neighbours and buy shortfalls from them when the wind and sun do not co-operate. And you then go on to discount meaningful utility level battery storage later so why use it here?

        Peter Davies, you have tried (and failed) to make your position viable in in the open threads on Brave New Climate many times. Do you have anything to contribute here that you have not already posted and have had refuted there?

      • donoughshanahan says:


        “what’s the problem with having 80 GW of gas plants ‘sitting and waiting’”
        You what?

        Not only will we have the maintenance and operation costs (and issues due to not running and heating cooling) to contend with, electrical generators can only make money when they are generating…

        • gweberbv says:


          let’s say you get 80 GW of CCGT (in fact, you can also use OCGT for the part of the fleet that is expected to be rarely used) for 80 billions. How long will these plants last if most of them are used with low CFs? Let’s say 40 years on average. That’s 2 billions per year. Now what’s O&M? Let’s say it is 1 billion per year (I found fixed O&M of 13 USD per kW installed in a report from 2013). Let’s assume electricty production is 600 TWh per year, then the costs of maintaining the backup fleet would be 5 bucks per MWh. Looks not too bad, I think.

          However, the key issue would be to have enough storage capacity to balance out short-time variations (< 1 day) in RE production and demand. I expect this would strongly reduce the wear and tear due to ramping and also increase the efficiency of the gas plants compared to a situation where these plants have to follow closely the difference between demand and RE production all the time (e. g. the situation of Ireland).

          • robertok06 says:

            “How long will these plants last if most of them are used with low CFs? ”

            They won’t last a single day, simply because they won’t be built by anybody in his/her sane mind, if that’s the operational mode they are supposed to follow.

            C’mon, guenter… get real!… who would build any power plant that would take literally decades to get paid?…

            Don’t forget to use this!


          • Alex says:

            In a 2050 demand model, I figure the UK could be supplied with 260GW of wind capacity and 100GW of solar capacity and about 85GW of gas/diesel/biofuel capacity. The gas etc provides 14% of the electricity and has a utilisation of 10%. I would assume a lot of that would be diesel, which is probably better for sitting around waiting for a few years.

            I modelled storage and came to the conclusion it makes little difference, beyond evening out intra-day demand, and ensuring that the gas turbines can get a good solid run to avoid the Ireland situation.

            With enough capacity payments, the gas plants could be built. It’s technically possible.

            The “96.8% nuclear scenario” has 36GW of gas capacity supplying 3.2% of demand at a 6.5% utilisation.

  21. Jan Ebenholtz says:

    Very good article Euan!
    But what are your conclusions on what future energy policy mankind must pursue?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Jan, first of all the article was written by Roger Andrews. But my opinions on the future course of energy policy are 1) it should not be built around the sole variable of CO2 intensity, 2) a holistic view of environmental impact should be observed, 3) affordability and reliability should guide the path.

      • Jan Ebenholtz says:

        Sorry for the misstake!
        Reply to 1)
        That must depend on if global warming is regarded to be caused by fossil fuel or not.
        Reply to 2)
        If the fossil fuels are regarded as an environmental hazard regardless GHG then ofcource to make a significant change you need gen 4 nuclear fission or fusion reactotrs to produce in a huge scale the needed energy for all energy sectors. This requires a huge effort of the world to acheive like a war effort. But it is not impossible.
        Answer to 3)
        I think that subsidicing a energy type can be done to get some momentum to that energy type but favoring renewebles for so long time against nuclear was a big misstake. Unfourtunatley the Green movement has blocked the developement of nuclear and the way into the atomic age and actually prevented a solution to the problem they so want to solve.
        If that would not be the case would market powers already developed the nuclesr solution a long time ago. Cheaper than coal is the only way we will get a fast transition to nuclear

  22. BMD says:

    @Peter Davies, there is no way that a combination of renewables and batteries could enable a further reduction in France emissions intensity, together with a reduction of 75 to 50 % of the contribution of nuclear. This would need a huge storage capacity which is not possible to build at a reasonable price.
    And what for? It would not eliminate nuclear and its risks, while the bill would be astronomical. This is the most stupid and cynical idea that could germinate in politicians minds, but it did.

    • Peter Davies says:

      There is a European potential for something like 80TWh of pumped hydro. As described above, Norway has scope for converting its existing hydro lakes and reservoirs to pumped hydro.

      If there’s not enough pumped hydro to cover the multi-day gaps then it will have to be gas turbine generation from renewable hydrogen or renewable methane generated from electrolysis of water using spare renewable power. In most cases there is already enough gas turbine backup capacity as, with batteries to smooth the daily peak, you only need to generate average demand, not peak demand.

      Thus the bill is pretty reasonable.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        If there’s not enough pumped hydro to cover the multi-day gaps then it will have to be gas turbine generation from renewable hydrogen or renewable methane generated from electrolysis of water using spare renewable power.

        Peter, I’m afraid you’ve totally blown your credibility. Green fairytales are ten a penny. Please don’t waste any more of our time.

        • robertok06 says:

          “then it will have to be gas turbine generation from renewable hydrogen”

          YES! YES! YES!… it get’s even better than the 2-day storage in batteries!…

          “renewable hydrogen”!… let’ see… H2 from hydrolysis at 50% efficiency, via PV “surplus” electricity in Germany at 10% CF… with the H2 then burned in mix with gas at 60% efficiency… for a combined efficiency of 0.1 x 0.5 x 0.6 = 0.03… 3%!…

          … and all this at 3 cents/kWH, right Peter? 🙂

          A standing ovation for this brilliant idea, please!

          C’mon Peter!

      • gweberbv says:


        I agree that it is a wise strategy to have a 2-tier backup system with a few full-load hours of demand as storage capacity (primary backup) and then conventional plants as the secondary backup. But I have no clue why these plants should burn ‘renewable hydrogen’. If we can decarbonize 70% of the electricity sector in most of the relevant nations, we are just fine and still have a very long road for decarbonizing the non-electricity sector (mainly by electrification).
        No need to introduce ‘renewable hydrogen’ at all. Such thing will never fly.

      • robertok06 says:


        Norway does not have a scope to do what you claim… simply because it would be un-economical, as well explained in this peer-reviewed paper which, bad luck for you, just came out and has been published in the journal Energy Procedia:


        A short excerpt from the conclusion paragraph:

        “The reason why large-scale PSP will give a small profit is because the large PSP
        capacity will depress the high and increase the low power prices, arbitraging away its own profitability. As expected
        the results also show that consumers will lose and the producers will gain a benefit if large-scale PSP should be
        constructed in Norway. Even with more than 11000 MW of exchange capacity to the European continent, only
        about 950 MW of PSP would be profitable and increase the yearly income by 800 M € compared to no investment.”

        Similar analysis and conclusions are reached by this nice master thesis…


        … which I have already cited and linked on this blog on similar occasions… when other green dreamers have claimed something similar to what you claim here:

        “Environmental concerns and uncertainties in future intercontinental transmission lines, and—> price volatility induced by solar and wind power <— can also affect future PHS investment decisions.
        The recommendation to policy makers is therefore not to invest in large scale PHS capability in Norway at this point, but to conduct further research in order to allow for more informed decisions in the future."

        On page 25 you can read that…

        "Norway has a few existing pumped hydro storage plants, but most of these are solely intended for seasonal pumping (i.e. pumping during summer, generation during winter).
        Today, there are three PHS plants that exceed 100 MW; Aurland III (270 MW), Duge (200 MW), and Saurdal (320 MW3) (Skau, 2013a). BKK applied for a concession to build a smaller PHS plant, Askjelldalen, but they withdrew the application due to lower expectations for the necessary price differences between summer and winter (Lie 2013a)."

        • gweberbv says:


          the interesting finding of the paper is the following: With the current fleet of hydro plants Norway can already act like a 10 GW PSH plant. This is the implicit message of Fig. 1a). Until roughly 10 GW of transmission capacity Norway faces only slightly increasing variation of power prices. Which means nothing else that Norway can balance up to 10 GW. After this 10 GW point, the price variation increases drastically, when no additional PSH is considered. Which means that Norway can no longer balance anything and is just importing the price variations from the UK, GER et al.

          The conclusion is more or less useless. The finding that the one and only PSH plant in the world (in the model) will be very profitabel is trivial. Of course, it will be. And because it is profitable (if it is profitable at all), competitors will also try to get their share. Until the earnings per MW installed PSH capacity drop below the amount that is necessary to build this MW PSH capacity.
          Thus, what is missing in Fig. 3b) is a flat line that shows the ‘profitability threshold’ for PSH. That means a surplus of zero + X. (X dependung on many factors like risk, interest rates, etc.) If building PSH plants was a purely economical exercise then there will so many PSH plants being build that the curve displaying income per MW will reach this value.

          • robertok06 says:

            “With the current fleet of hydro plants Norway can already act like a 10 GW PSH plant. ”

            Yes… Norwegian PHP can balance 10 GW , in A CONTINENT that needs several 100s GW… and therefore it is as useless as it can be.

      • Alex says:

        Peter, if this is based on the same reports I’ve seen, “Europe” includes Turkey, and over half the expansion possibilities are in Turkey, which has issues of stability and distance.

        Synthetic fuels would be very useful for storing excess production. For purposes of efficiency, these should be made from heat, rather than electricity. So some form of nuclear hight temperature reactors, or solar thermal, or advanced bio fuels (e.g. Algae).

        Which ever way you cut it, getting close to zero emissions is a hell of a lot easier with nuclear. For the UK, 25 times Moreside is only about £250 billion CAPEX, even before any price falls.

  23. Javier says:

    The name of the article’s author comes too small.

    Congratulations on an excellent article, Roger, once more.

  24. Jan Ebenholtz says:

    Sorry Roger for my misstake not credit you for the article!
    But what are your conclusions of what to do to achievr the best energy policy?

  25. The Dork of Cork. says:

    The new trans pyrenees cable between France and Spain seems to have increased Spanish electricity.imports by a large amount.
    90% + according to Iea monthly data ( Jan to May 2016)

    This will most likely affect.price in France and older importers of the French surplus.
    The UK electricity price will.increase all other factors being equal.

    I suspect the reason nuclear has been shunned is that it produces such a large surplus.
    It forces scarcity based economies into Keynesian policies unless the surplus can be exported.

    • robertok06 says:

      “I suspect the reason nuclear has been shunned is that it produces such a large surplus.
      It forces scarcity based economies into Keynesian policies unless the surplus can be exported.”

      You suspect the wrong thing, I’m afraid.

      Nuclear is avoided like pest only on and because of ideological grounds, based on NOTHING else than irrational fobia and urban legends.

      There is a very nice paper published recently on Energy Policy which has quantified the positive and large effect of the massive nuclear implementation in France.
      A similar one, same journal, has looked at the consequences of an hypothetical (and unfortunately very likely) dismission of most of Sweden’s nuclear power… this one is open source on Energy Policy’s web site (if I remember correctly).

      Nuclear is the highest energy density form of electricity (power, in general) production, and therefore MUST necessarily be the one form which costs less, all other factors being equal… first of all the scalability ad libitum… i.e. possibility to generate all of the necessary power demanded by mankind.

      Slide 44 of 46 of this presentation of James Hansen, the famous climatologist, says it all about the merits of nuclear and “green” alternatives… comparing 10 years of nuclear progress in France vs 10 years of crazy installation of wind turbines and useless PV in Energiewende-land, Germany:


      Incidentally… slides 45 and 46 show EXACTLY why “nuclear has been shunned”… ideology (45) and incompetency (46)… a usual trait of the slow development of our specie. 🙁

      • The Dork of Cork. says:

        Nope, I think energy policy is following a rational path.
        It’s just not in the general publics interest.

        Incidentally I think the Industrial sabotage we have witnessed in the Uk (Drax biomass etc) is most likely partially a programme to bail out French nuclear.

        If I remember correctly the Uk exported electricity to the continent for two quarters back in late 2009 when coal electricity capacity remained high.

        When global trade breaks down coal becomes very cheap, cheaper then nuclear infact.
        The elimination of Uk coal capacity preserves the monopoly position of French based nuclear.
        A 2009 event can never happen again.

        Again from a individual companies perspective it is a matter of recovering costs, not how much surplus you can give.
        People simply are not given enough money tokens to buy current installed capacity.
        It becomes a question of what you shut down.

  26. Peter Davies says:

    Hi Euan, no problem. It’s your site.

    However, for your personal information you might like to take a look at figure 1-1 on page 9 of the following document which shows the way the Germans are thinking about electricity storage and its links with other types of storage, including gas storage – https://www.agora-energiewende.de/fileadmin/Projekte/2013/speicher-in-der-energiewende/Agora_Speicherstudie_EN_web.pdf

    Have fun.

    Peter Davies

    • Greg Kaan says:

      Cute diagram.

      However, having an outline of intention is a far cry from a detailed plan of implementation. That document is a typical collection of handwaving statements without quantitative substance by the Agora Energiewende.

  27. ristvan says:

    Terrific post. It is true that some transport (trains in Europe because of short distances, hybrid vehicles) could be at least partly electrified. But not agricultural or contruction equipment, class 7-8 trucking, or aircraft. And it is true that recycled steel scrap can be produced from electric arc furnaces, but not primary steel ( granted reduced iron pellets can be used in primary electric arc–but they are reduced producing CO2). Cement by definition produces CO2. So the entire notion of renewables saving the day is ridiculously skewed even before pondering the electricity intermittency problem.

  28. Peter Davies says:


    There is quite a bit to say about power to gas for electricity storage to put it into perspective and give an objective view of the status. Any attempt to do this in comments is bound to fall foul of your blog rules which sensibly say that greenies like me should not post unduly large numbers of comments, nor repeat the same point multiple times, both of which seem inevitable when responding to similar points scattered among different sub-discussions in comments. However, if you think that power to gas is an appropriate topic for your blog I would be happy to write such an article for a full post which you could vet before posting. With other commitments it might take a month or two to put together something worthwhile and informative.

  29. Peter Davies says:

    Euan, Roger’s power to methane post is a good starting point. The article questions whether 15m tons of CO2 per year is readily available in France. As Rud says, cement production can’t help producing CO2 and France used to produce 20m tons of hydraulic (sets under water) cement per year. It’s not clear whether they still do, but cement used in France has to be produced nearby as it is too cheap to be worth shipping long distances. 20m tons of cement produces 16m tons of CO2.

    Power to methane and generation using gas turbines is only around 34% efficient end to end.

    For a Texas grid model with 300 GWh of battery storage (7.5 hours of average load of 40GW) with average renewables generation of 27% more than average load, the gap to be filled by power to gas storage plus gas turbine generation was 5.8%.

    The relative costs for the power to gas storage per MWh of total demand were:-
    – backup gas turbines $12-16
    – electrolysers $9
    – renewable power to drive the electrolysers $3.8-5.5

    Using current pricing for gas turbines and electrolysers ($1/watt, 10 year lifetime), future estimates for wind $25-35 and solar PV $20-30 per MWh by the 2030s. The hydrogen to methane process was assumed to be less than the reduction in current electrolyser costs by the 2030s.

    The electrolysers cost more than the power to drive them because the load factor is only 23% when you use surplus renewable power. Looked at another way, the additional costs to produce renewable gas to drive the backup gas turbines are similar to the costs to keep the backup gas turbine capacity available.

    Power to gas is only worth implementing when you already have very high levels of renewable power and a few hours of battery storage. Only then are the gaps small enough to make it economical to eliminate CO2 emissions completely, if that is what you need to do. It is for that reason the equipment is not properly commercialised yet. But the major European countries seem to be devoting significant R&D money to the process already.

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