Estimating life-time costs for Renewable Energy in Europe

Guest Post by Ed Hoskins that originally appeared on edmhdotme. A short bio for Ed is given at the end of the post.

Summary

  • Electricity generation by using gas-fired installations is significantly cheaper than Renewables in terms of both installation capital cost and Operation and Maintenance  costs, even when accounting for the cost of fuel.
  • The € 1.1 trillion capital costs already spent on Renewables in Europe would have been sufficient to re-equip the whole 1,000 Gigawatt European electricity generating fleet with Gas-fired power stations producing electricity for the grid effectively at ~90% capacity.

  • The European Renewable fleet with a nominal nameplate output of ~ 212 Gigawatts only contributes ~ 38 Gigawatts to the European Grid, a capacity percentage at about 18%.
  • The installation of the Renewables fleet as of 2014 has already lead to a 60 year lifetime financial commitment amounting to about €3.1 trillion:  this is equivalent to the annual GDP of Germany.
  • 60 year life-time costs of Onshore wind power range from 10 – 13 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation.
  • 60 year life-time costs of Offshore wind power and Solar power range from 40 – 50 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation.
  • during the 60 year life-time Gas-fired generators have a full-time productive capacity of about 90%  whereas the combined capacity figures for Renewable Energy of only about 18% is achieved across all European Renewable installations.
  • These notes make estimates of:
    • the likely capital expenditure over 60 years
    • the running costs including fuel costs, if applicable, over that time period
    • the likely combined 60 year costs overall
    • the ratios of Renewable financial performances compared to Gas-fired electricity generation.

Introduction

This article is concerned with the two main forms of weather-dependent Renewable Energy, Wind Power (Onshore and Offshore) and Photovoltaic solar power.

In the UK this amounts to ~75% of all installed Renewable Energy.  The other Renewable Energy  inputs are traditional Hydro power ~8% and the remainder are other sources such as biomass, waste and landfill gas amounting to ~17%:  they are not considered here.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 10.22.31.png

It accepts that the effective capital cost of weather-dependent Renewable installations range from 16 – 63 bn€ / Gigawatt for the electrical energy produced when their capability for productive contribution to the grid is taken into account.  This compares with the installation cost of Gas-fired electricity generation of about 1bn€ / Gigawatt, produced for the grid.

Estimating life-time costs for Renewable Energy in Europe

This further article assesses the costs of  weather-dependent Renewables over a 60 year life-time and compares them with Gas Fired Electricity generation.  It accounts for:

  • for capital costs
  • running costs
  • an overall combination both.

A 60 year life-time  is chosen as being the approximate in service life for the alternate generation technologies  Nuclear and Coal-fired power generation.

It assesses the lifetime costs of weather-dependent Renewable Energy in addition to the capital cost and capacity characteristics shown in the earlier site.  These notes give indicative comparisons between the lifetime costs of Renewable Energy technologies by demonstrating  comparative costing ratios between the Renewable technologies and Gas-fired electricity generation.

This article follows on from and should be read in association with:

https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/renewable-energy-the-question-of-capacity/

Assumptions

  • The capital and running costs estimated here are based on assumptions for the viable lifetimes of Renewable plant as compared to the 60 year operational life of a Nuclear and Coal fired generating plant.
  • The likely cost of Operation and Maintenance are calculated as percentages of the original capital installation costs.
  • The capacity factors for Onshore and Offshore wind generation are based on the 10 years of capacity information measured from UK data from the Renewable Energy Foundation.
  • The overall Solar capacity factor in Europe was measured in 2014 from the EurObserER data, (12.1%).  This EurObserER capacity level is rather higher than the level for Solar PV capacity reported for the last 10 years for the UK, (8.6%).
  • Gas-fired, Nuclear and Coal-fired capacity data is taken from  US  EIA data tables.
  • The US$ is used by the US  EIA data on comparative costs.  It is assumed that the Euro and the US $ provide roughly equivalent value on their respective continents.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 12.55.37.png

It should be noted that in the 2014 cumulative Operation and Maintenance costs for Gas-fired electricity generation fuel amounted to ~75% of the variable costs at 2014 prices as presented  by US  EIA.  However since that time Natural Gas prices have halved, as a result of the USA fracking revolution.  As fracking is increasingly being employed worldwide, except in Europe, where a “Green Philosophy” survives to block this useful and large scale energy source, it seems that international gas prices, whether imported or not, are likely to remain low for the foreseeable future.  However large scale gas exports from the USA to Europe have now started.

In summary this results in 60 year life-time cost when using 2014 fuel prices costs as are shown below.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 11.17.43.png

60 year life-time expenditures on Renewables:  € billion

When these 60 year lifetime costs are combined with the current renewable commitments already made in Europe by 2014, (EurObserER data), the estimated scale of the 60 term investment made country by country can be seen.

The following graphic shows the estimated 60 year life-time future expenditures in Europe (28), as if installations were made simultaneously.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 17.51.40.png

In total Europe (28) as of 2014 had already made a 60 year commitment to Renewable Energy technology amounting to some 3.1 trillion €uros.

As can be seen below ~37% of that European investment has been made by Germany.  However as Germany has opted for the extensive use Solar PV, the overall performance of Renewable investment in Germany is, at 13.2% capacity, the least performant of all European countries .

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 12.05.34.png

Comparisons with Gax-fired generation

The following graphics show the comparisons with Gas-fired power generation  for the alternate generating technologies.  It shows that for installed nameplate capacity the Onshore capital cost can be almost 4 fold Gas-firing and the Offshore capital cost are 18 times more costly.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 09.34.45.png
Solar PV are only 2.6 time more expensive to install for the same nominal nameplate output.  However the low capacity factor for Solar PV means that they are less effective.

But when the capacity factors are taken into account in the comparative ratios the lack of effectiveness of Renewable technologies becomes much more clear.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 09.34.17.png

This shows that for the 60 year costs involved supporting Renewable Energy, that Onshore wind power is about 10 times more costly overall for the power it produces, whereas both Offshore wind power and Solar PV are both almost 40 times less effective overall.

In 2014 the costs of natural gas fuel comprised about 80% of Gas-fired generation, the picture changes somewhat if current prices for Natural gas are taken into account, say by reducing the Operation and maintenance percentage from 4% as above to 2.5%.  This increases the ratios for Onshore wind power to 13 times from 10 times overall and for Offshore and Solar power from ~40 times to ~50 times.

Alternate assumptions can be made in this simple model. Nonetheless  whatever reasonable values are chosen, the indications always remain with much the same comparative outcomes.  Renewables always remain substantially more costly, as a means of electricity generation, rather than Gas-firing by orders of magnitude, .

All these comparative values between Renewables and Gas-fired generation still ignore entirely the problems with the vagaries of intermittency and non-dispatchablility inevitably associated with weather dependent Renewable technologies.

The Renewable Energy industry could not exist without the Government mandated subsidies and preferential tariffs.  Without Government subsidies and consumption mandates the Renewable Energy industry is not a viable business.  And without its Government mandate, Government subsidies and Government interference Renewable Energy would never be a chosen part of the generating mix, when viewed from the needs for the engineering viability of a nation’s electrical supply grid.

It is progressively being realised that the failure of Renewables in Germany, far from being a beacon of Renewables excellence, is now being seen as a massive and very costly policy failure, which is vastly damaging Germany’s industrial prowess and which is not now even managing to reduce Germany’s CO2 emissions output.

http://notrickszone.com/2016/03/17/grand-debacle-germanys-renewable-energy-effort-turning-into-a-colossal-costly-and-senseless-failure/#sthash.uhH6zpQM.dpbs

Some conclusions

  • Electricity generation by using gas-fired installations is significantly cheaper than weather-dependent Renewables in terms of both installation capital cost and Operation and Maintenance  costs, even when accounting for the cost of fuel.
  • The € 1.1 trillion capital costs already spent on Renewables in Europe would have been sufficient to re-equip the entire ~1,000 Gigawatt European electricity generating fleet with Gas-fired power stations producing power effectively at ~90% capacity.
  • The European Renewables fleet with a nominal nameplate output of ~ 216 Gigawatts only contributes ~ 38 Gigawatts to the European Grid, a capacity percentage at about 18%.
  • 60 year life-time costs of Onshore wind power range from 10 – 13 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation.
  • 60 year life-time costs of Offshore wind power and Solar power range from 40 – 50 times more expensive than Gas-fired generation.
  • during the 60 year life-time Gas-fired generations a productive capacity of about 90% is achieved whereas the combined capacity figures for Renewable Energy of only about 17% is achieved across all European Renewable installations.
  • Gas-fired electricity generation significantly reduces CO2 emissions, when compared other fossil fuels such as all forms of Coal and Lignite:  this is in spite of the fact it burns a “fossil fuel”.
  • This effect is already seen in the USA where significant CO2 emissions reductions are being achieved by the transition from Coal to Natural gas for electricity generation.  This effect arises from the fact that coal contains a 6-10 times higher proportion of carbon atoms as natural gas and thus produces proportionally much more CO2 when oxidised for equivalent thermal outputs.
  • By 2014 the countries of the European Union had made a current and future financial commitment of some 3.1trillion to Renewable Energy technologies, Wind Power and Solar Power.  That commitment continues to increase with further Renewable installations into the future.
  • 3.1 trillion Euros is about the annual GDP of Germany and about 50% greater than the annual GDP of either France or the United Kingdom
  • More than 1/3 of the financial commitment to Renewables in Europe so far has been made in Germany.
  • CO2 emissions from Germany are now increasing, so the the vast investment in Renewable technologies to control man-made CO2 emissions is manifestly failing, most obviously  in Germany.
  • Some part of the €3.1 trillion financial commitment made in support of Renewables could have been usefully invested for further research into low CO2 alternates such as:
    • small scale reproducible standardised Nuclear generation technologies
    • the establishment of Thorium based reactor technology
    • fusion power.
  • The use of current Renewable technologies should be examined critically from “cradle to grave” to assess the effectiveness of the technology in actually reducing man-made CO2 emissions at all, when manufacturing, installation processes, grid connection and demolition are fully accounted for.
  • If as many assert, that
    • man-made CO2 is not pollutant,
    • is not the cause of catastrophic and dangerous Global Warming / Climate Change
    • is a positive benefit to plant life and thus the biosphere.

then the investment commitment of some €3 trillion in Europe has been entirely wasted.

  • This waste has arisen from the adherence to an erroneous Green philosophy, as determined by the European Union and subsequently supported to various extents by the governments of other European countries, and most particularly in the UK with the 2009 Climate Change Act.
  • At the same time all other non-European nations are continuing to emit very large amounts of CO2 such that now Europe as a whole only accounts for ~10% of worldwide CO2 emissions with:
    • Germany ~2.1%
    • UK ~1.3%
    • France ~0.9%

https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/man-made-co2-emissions-1965-2014-accounting-for-the-under-reporting-of-chinese-co2-emissions/

  • This is emphasised by the fact that in 2014 Chinese CO2 emissions (at 8.24 tonnes/head) have now exceeded the overall European CO2 emissions average by ~12% and France in particular by employing Nuclear power for electricity generation, has CO2 emissions/head  40% lower than China.
  • The French CO2 emissions level (at 4.96 tonnes/head) is in fact now lower than the global average, (at 5.09 tonnes/head).  That global average includes India and the whole of the rest of the underdeveloped world.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.41.35.png

Bio for Ed Hoskins

At 76 I am retired: I qualified at Guys as a dentist and then read architecture at Cambridge. I did research on quantifiable aspects of building and planning. In 1969 I founded one of the earliest spin-off software companies from the University, Applied Research of Cambridge. ARC pioneered many effective software products for building, planning and geographic information systems. I ran ARC for some 16 years and it grew to about 150 people worldwide.

I encountered Green thinking when researching pollution in London. The results were not in line with the Green script, and when published they elicited death threats. So I started to wonder why Greens were so afraid of simple facts.

This entry was posted in Energy, Political commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

108 Responses to Estimating life-time costs for Renewable Energy in Europe

  1. Euan Mearns says:

    Ed, I just wrote a lengthy comment and lost it. It’s really irritating when that happens 🙁 Everyone should copy comments before hitting the post button!

    I’m expecting this post to raise a few hackles. I’ve not checked the numbers, but they have been checked by high authority and confirmed to be correct. That costs must be adjusted for capacity and life expectancy is non-negotiable. And Ed has chosen a 60 year datum since this is the life expectancy of new nuclear or coal. But I have a few questions that I hope Ed may answer.

    1) can you provide further details on the lifetime costs of gas and how this fits into the numbers
    2) is it the case that you have built in costs of total replacement of renewable devices over 60 years? If so, how many times are they replaced?
    3) if this is how it is done, then IMO we have not really made a commitment to do this since common sense may prevail and the policy gets abandoned
    4) how does the cost of nuclear stack up against gas.

    Some other comments:

    While we are awash in low price but expensive to produce gas today, it is not clear to me that this situation will continue into the future.

    And while €1 trillion sounds a lot (and it is a lot of miss allocated capital) it is at the same time not really that much spent over 20 years. But at the same time I feel that the Green electricity market is undermining european economies. I can’t prove it. But higher than needs be electricity prices are effectively a tax on everyone for which we get absolutely nothing in return. Even if government raises tax we all normally get something back by way of services. Imagine if Osborne were to raise income tax by a penny and announce that all of the proceeds would simply be burned?

    Can any well informed UK commenter say what the additional UK electricity price actually is. AC, Joe?

    • A C Osborn says:

      I have another question for Ed, do the renewable costs include Backup requirements?

      Eaun, I do not have the additional costs on the UK electricity.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        All these comparative values between Renewables and Gas-fired generation still ignore entirely the problems with the vagaries of intermittency and non-dispatchablility inevitably associated with weather dependent Renewable technologies.

        Ed stated the above, just before his Some Conclusions section

      • Leo Smith says:

        since renewables need 100% fossil backup, it us easier to calculate the opportunity cost of renewables, that is the additional cost over and above gas, less the cost of the gas (if any) saved.

        Divide that by the actual units generated and that is the true cost of renewables beyond what it would cost for gas alone

    • Doug M. says:

      1) The assumption of a 60 year lifespan for coal and nuclear is not supported in the article. The average coal plant in the US is 41 years old, but that reflects a surge in coal plant construction in the 1970s and 1980s; less than 10% of US coal plants are over 50 years old and only a small handful are 60 or older.

      The average commercial US nuclear plant is 35 years old, the oldest (Oyster Creek in New Jersey) is 47. (Note that the average *reactor* age is somewhat less than the average *power plant* age, since some older plants have been expanded with new reactors.) Most modern nuclear reactors are constructed with a design lifespan of no more than 40 years.

      So the “60 year” figure is a bit surprising. If the author can produce examples of modern reactors being constructed for a 60 year lifespan, I’d be interested.

      2) On the other side of the equation, the “20 year” lifespan for PV solar is also a bit baffling. The power output of third generation PV solar degrades consistently at around 0.5% per year, but otherwise the stuff lasts pretty much forever. The current average age of commercial PV solar installations is only around 12 years, but that just reflects the very rapid recent expansion of the technology. There are already a number of large commercial PV solar installations that are over 20 years old — the SEGS plant, in the Mojave Desert, went live in 1984 — and their number is only going to grow.

      Note that most major PV solar manufacturers are currently offering 25 year warranties on their panels. These normally include a reference to power outpot, most typically that the panel will still be producing at least 80% of its initial power rating.

      3) The “3%” maintenance figure for PV solar also seems well off. Over the last decade, long-term maintenance costs for large PV solar have been in the range of 1% to 1.5%, not 3%. To a first approximation, you keep the panels clean of leaves and dust, grease the tracker gears, check the wiring, change the inverter every few years, and you’re done.

      Doug M.

      • Peter Lang says:

        DougM,

        I think you are mixing apples and oranges. The average life of power plants is not an indication of how long they are viable. You need to get the average life of plants that have been decomissioned. Exclude all the plants still in operation because they are not relevant to the analysis.

        Also, the fact the power output degrades is not relevant to the analysis of the average life of power plants by type. It affects the capacity factor, but not the average operating life.

        Here’s a picture of some abandoned wind turbines and commercial PV plants:
        http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2009/05/04/10-abandoned-renewable-energy-plants/

        What was their life – pretty short I understand. When the Carter tax breaks stopped, they ceased operation.

        • Doug M. says:

          There are very few existing coal plants over 50 years old, and no nuclear plants over 50 years old (at least in the US). So when the OP claims “60 years” as his lifespan — without giving any cite or supporting evidence — that makes me sit up.

          But if you like, sure: here’s a list of all the commercial nuclear power plants in the US that have been decommissioned since 2000.

          Plant & location — Date of decom — age at decom

          Connecticut Yankee, CT — 2004 — 36
          Crystal River 3, FL — 2013 — 36
          Kewaunee Power Station, WI — 2013 — 39
          Rancho Seco, CA — 2009 — 34
          San Onofre (Units 2 and 3) — 2013 — 30
          Vermont Yankee, VT — 2012 — 42

          Average age of a decommissioned commercial nuclear power plant in the US since 2000: 36 years old.

          Doug M.

          • Peter Lang says:

            DougM,

            Yes, that is what I asked for. Can you give me the actual life of decommissioned coal, gas, wind, solar PV commercial and solar PV residential?

            I understand solar PV residential average life is about 12 to 15 years.

            Regarding the nuclear plants decommissioned, they’d be mostly or all Gen 1 and demonstrators. 36 years is damned good for the first generation, right? But the life of the Gen 1s is hardly relevant for the expected life of Gen III. I understand nearly all the US Gen II reactors have had licences extended to 60 years.

            Regarding “no nuclear plants over 50 years old”, of course there aren’t. The first demonstrators were built only 60 years ago.

            Many coal fired power plants have been operating for 50 years, a lot more for 40 years. I could dig the numbers out for Australia, (many perhaps most were commissioned in the early 1970s and have been operating for some 40 years, and have recently been bought so there is a lot of life left in them yet, unless the ideologues managed to shut them down) but have better things to do with my time.

            I am not exactly sure what we are arguing about. In most LCOE analyses, all technologies are given either the same life of 30 years for all technologies (for ease of comparison) or:
            nuclear 60
            Coal 40
            gas 30
            Wind 25 – 30)
            solar 20-25

            I maintain the nuclear, coal and gas are reasonable estimates for the purpose, but wind and solar are optimistic. On average, they don’t last this long and are not likely to, for whatever reason.

        • Doug M. says:

          There are very few existing coal plants over 50 years old, and no nuclear plants over 50 years old (at least in the US). So when the OP claims “60 years” as his lifespan — without giving any cite or supporting evidence — that makes me sit up.

          But if you like, sure: here’s a list of all the commercial nuclear power plants in the US that have been decommissioned since 2000.

          Plant & location — Date of decom — age at decom

          Connecticut Yankee, CT — 2004 — 36
          Crystal River 3, FL — 2013 — 36
          Kewaunee Power Station, WI — 2013 — 39
          Rancho Seco, CA — 2009 — 34
          San Onofre (Units 2 and 3) — 2013 — 30
          Vermont Yankee, VT — 2012 — 42

          Average age of a decommissioned commercial nuclear power plant in the US since 2000: 36 years old.

          Once again, If someone can provide a cite or other evidence for “60 years”, I’d be interested.

          Doug M.

          • Peter Lang says:

            I’ve already addressed all that where you said much the same in an previous comment.

        • Doug M. says:

          Several attempts to reply eaten by the comment system. Euan, any prospect of a fix?

          Doug M.

        • Doug M. says:

          Since 2000, six commercial nuclear power plants have closed in the US. The youngest was 34, the oldest was 42, and the average age at decommissioning was 36.

          Doug M.

        • nukie says:

          Wikipedia counts the “abandoned” Windfarm as operational: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_California
          For the similar old alamont pass wind farm, which is also often declared abandoned, I find a constant yearly production of about 1,1TWh/year. Which does not exclude broken turbines on the sites, with several thousand small turbines installed there.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        I think these are all good points Doug. But the unstartable, unbuildable Hinkley does have a design life of 60 years. It sounds like for solar, variable and degrading capacity is more appropriate than replacement. I’m sorry the author has not shown up to answer questions.

        • Doug Muir says:

          The degradation issue is fairly minor — 0.5% per year is not very much. It’s also improved a bit over time (it used to be more like 1% back in the 1990s).

          Also-also, it varies with the type of PV cell, and also varies a bit by manufacturer. And finally it tends to be more in the first few years, then to slow down a lot — so a PV solar panel installed in 2007 might have lost 3% in its first four years, but then only 2% in the five years since then.

          Doug M. — hoping this posts clean.

      • Doug M. says:

        Digging a bit deeper: here’s a list of all the commercial nuclear power plants in the US that have been decommissioned since 2000.

        Plant & location — Date of decom — age at decom

        Connecticut Yankee, CT — 2004 — 36
        Crystal River 3, FL — 2013 — 36
        Kewaunee Power Station, WI — 2013 — 39
        Rancho Seco, CA — 2009 — 34
        San Onofre (Units 2 and 3) — 2013 — 30
        Vermont Yankee, VT — 2012 — 42

        Average age of a decommissioned commercial nuclear power plant in the US since 2000: 36 years old.

        Once again, If someone can provide a cite or other evidence for “60 years”, I’d be interested.

        Doug M.

        • Peter Lang says:

          DougM,

          You keep posting the same comment I’ve already answered.

          Once again, If someone can provide a cite or other evidence for “60 years”

          That’s just silly. The first plant was commissioned about 60 years ago. Of course the first generation were not as good as later generations.

          Now, please tell us the same data for residential solar PV.

          • Doug Muir says:

            You said above that “nearly all the US Gen II reactors have had licences extended to 60 years.” Can you give a cite for that?

            Doug M.

          • Doug Muir says:

            Okay, I went and did some digging on my own. The standard license period for a commercial nuclear reactor in the US is 40 years, with an option for a 20 year renewal. (In theory a second 20 year renewal is possible, bringing total lifespan to 80 years, but nobody has done this yet.)

            There are currently about 100 commercial nuclear reactors in the US. About 80 of them have applied for and received license extensions. In most cases, the application has been submitted well in advance of the 40-year deadline — typically we’re looking at reactors that entered service around 1980 getting a license extension in the early 2000s to stay open until around 2040. So we won’t actually see any 60 year old reactors in service until around 2030 or so.

            Note that getting a license extension does not mean the reactor will actually stay open. For instance, the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey got its 20 year extension in 2009. But then, just a few years later, owner Exelon decided to close Oyster Creek anyway in 2019. A number of plants have closed before even reaching their 40 year license span. I noted San Onofre, Rancho Seco, and Connecticut Yankee, above; all of those were closed long before age 40. Shifts in consumer demand, changes in the market, competition from cheaper sources, regulatory issues… there are many reasons a nuclear plant may not last to the end of its regulatory life.

            Right now about 80 of the US’ 100 reactors are shooting for 60 years, while the other 20 are going to close at or before age 40. Okay, say that 70 of the 80 make it to age 60, while the other 10 do an Oyster Creek and close early at an average age of 50 — market conditions, whatever. At that point, sometime around 2040, the *average* lifespan of the current fleet would be (20 x 40) + (10 x 50) + (70 x 60) / 100 = 55 years. The average won’t hit 60 until and unless a large number of reactors get that second extension and keep operating into their seventh decade. We won’t see that until around 2050 at the earliest.

            So the idea that the *average* lifespan of a nuclear power plant will be 60 years? That has to be considered aspirational right now. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. We’re not going to know for a while yet.

            Doug M.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Mostly irrelevant. The point is that when estimating LCOE for policy analysis we need a life for the plants we are building now – i.e. Gen III.

            You have shown that the average life of the Gen I’s that have been closed so far is around 35 years (roughly, I haven’t analysed it). Other Gen I’s haven’t been closed yet. So once they’ve all been closed, their average life will be higher than 35 years. Gen II design life was 40 years and clearly some (probably the majority) are being extended well beyond 40 years. So, longer than 40 years.

            Gen II have design life of 60 years for initial ammortisation purposes with expectation that many will be extended to 80 years.

            I am comfortable with the generally accepted 60 year life expectancy for Gen II nuclear power plants.

            I am also comfortable with the actual life expectancy of wind turbines of around 15 years a residential solar of 12 to 15 years.

            So far, I’ve seen nothing authoritative to persuade me to change these figures.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Typo corrections in my previous comments. Gen II should read Gen III in these two paragraphs:

            “Gen III have design life of 60 years for initial ammortisation purposes with expectation that many will be extended to 80 years.

            I am comfortable with the generally accepted 60 year life expectancy for Gen III nuclear power plants.”

          • Greg Kaan says:

            Aside from San Onofre (which had issues with replacement steam tubing), the reasons for early closure of those nuclear plants was due to either scaremongering by anti-nuclear lobbyists or the economic distortion of subsidies to the renewable generators, along with the order of merit priority they receive making them unprofitable – there was no technical issue forcing their closure.
            Both of these factors also contributed to the closure of San Onofre, which could have been fixed.

            The CANDU reactors also have the potential to run to 60 years. They have a Life Extension program specifically for this..
            http://www.candu.com/en/home/ourbusinesslines/default.aspx

          • Peter Lang says:

            Greg Kann,

            Thank you. I agree with all that. The four units of the 8 CANDU’s at Pickering were built in the early 1970s. The early ones had problems with hydrogen embrittlement of the zirconium alloy pressure tubes. Two of the units have been permanently shut down. Two others were refurbished. They’v been operating reliably for 40 years and getting life extensions to 60 years. (all this from memory, not checked).

            Doug Muir has not answered the questions I asked, so there’s no point discussing diversions. just to repeat (restate): what is needed is the actual life of renewable energy plants (wind turbines, commercial solar plants, residential PV installation). Nuclear has a full list of the relevant dates for all reactors constructed in the world (IAEA PRIS data base). Where is the equivalent data set for renewables?

          • Doug M. says:

            “we need a life for the plants we are building now – i.e. Gen III.”

            And we don’t have that. Right now, it’s entirely speculative.

            “You have shown that the average life of the Gen I’s that have been closed so far is around 35 years (roughly, I haven’t analysed it).”

            Pretty much all the commercial Gen Is are closed now. I believe everything on the list I gave above was Gen II. So, we already have a lot of Gen IIs that won’t reach the 40 year mark.

            “Gen II have design life of 60 years for initial ammortisation purposes with expectation that many will be extended to 80 years.”

            I believe that’s incorrect, unless you’re using some very special definition of “amortization”. Banks in the US will not finance a nuclear power plant for more than its licensed lifespan, and for accounting purposes depreciation is calculated using 40 years, not 60 or 80.

            As to Gen IIIs, the oldest Gen III in the world is Kashiwazaki (1996) — and it’s a scandal-ridden, painfully underperforming financial black hole. The odds of it reaching 60 years don’t look very good at the moment.

            Doug M.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Doug M

            Pretty much all the commercial Gen Is are closed now. I believe everything on the list I gave above was Gen II. So, we already have a lot of Gen IIs that won’t reach the 40 year mark.

            Please provide the figures (for the world, not USA), not unsupported assertions. Please go to the IAEA PRIS database and find out the numbers or don’t comment.

            You still haven’t provided authoritative figures for life of solar and wind.

            I’ve already corrected the typos; Gen II was supposed to be Gen III..

      • Doug Muir says:

        Since 2000, six commercial nuclear power plants have closed in the US. The youngest was 34, the oldest was 42, and the average age at decommissioning was 36.

        Not seeing “60 years” here.

        Doug M.

        • Doug Muir says:

          I’m sorry about the multiple postings, gang. It kept showing up as not posted. Euan, please feel free to eliminate the redundant ones!

          Doug M.

      • I´m only refering to the nuclear part, i don´t know that much about coal.

        In the article its Advance nucelar. Most of the powestation in the US is gen II nuclear, they have shorter live span. About 20 years or so.

        Also, average life is not the same as life expectancy. Most of the closed down one (its really just a hand full out of 100) is by political reasons, not technical.

        ” The power output of third generation PV solar degrades consistently at around 0.5% per year”
        That might be true. But then you talking about gallium cells. The one that been used on mass market to day is silicon cells, they degrade quite a bit faster. Gallium cells is still really expensive.

        ” These normally include a reference to power outpot, most typically that the panel will still be producing at least 80% of its initial power rating.”
        No not most, just some, Quite a few of the one that offered warranty went bust a few years a go when it was obvius that they would have to replace just about all of the cells the sold.

        ” To a first approximation, you keep the panels clean of leaves and dust, grease the tracker gears, check the wiring, change the inverter every few years, and you’re done.”
        Yea… you don´t have a clue…. what about weed killers?

        • Peter Lang says:

          Mattias,

          Most of the powestation in the US is gen II nuclear, they have shorter live span. About 20 years or so.

          Can you please provide a reference for that figure of 20 years life for Gen II nuclear? Are you saying the average period of operation of Gen IIs so far is 20 years (which may be correct) or the life expectancy of Gen II is 20 years (which is incorrect)?

  2. Peter Lang says:

    Comparing LCOE of dispatchable and no dispatchable technologies is not valid. The comparison has to be done on the basis of full system cost. This recent report by EPR explains why and how they’ve done it for GB and the results (its an excellent analysis IMO and well worth analysing and digesting the report):
    Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity Systemhttp://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-Flex-Man-Full-Report.pdf

    The author of the report gave a short explanation of the key points he want to emphaise:

    To those who think you can decarbonise with intermittent renewables alone: You can’t.

    To those regulating or planning the grids of the future: Don’t forget the value of grid (ancillary) services – they need markets or regulation to deliver.

    To those tempted to use simple metrics like LCOE to compare technologies: You can’t. You have to do holistic modelling as value is a function of grid mix.

    However, there is another important conclusion that he does not endorse:

    The results presented in the ERP show all or mostly new nuclear capacity and no new weather dependent renewables is likely to be the cheapest way to decarbonise the GB electricity system to meet the recommended 50 g CO2/kWh target. The ERP analysis used the central estimates from the DECC commissioned Parsons and Brinkerhoff reports (17 July, 2013) here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/energy-generation-cost-projections.

    This interested can read about this here:
    Is nuclear the cheapest way to decarbonise electricity?https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/

    The figures from the ERP report show:
    31 GW new nuclear would achieve the 50 g/kWh target
    32 GW new nuclear would achieve the same emissions intensity as France, i.e. 44 g/kWh

    For GB to achieve the recommended 50 g/kWh CO2 emissions target, the cost of electricity would have to increase by more than £70/t CO2. It cannot be done with weather dependent renewables.

    From the figures in the ERP report, the CO2 abatement cost would be:

    Generator Technology Abatement Cost (£/t CO2)
    Nuclear 74
    Onshore wind 85
    Offshore Wind 158
    Solar PV 133
    Coal-CCS 750
    Gas-CCS 556

    Nuclear is the cheapest option.

  3. Willem Post says:

    Ed Hoskins,

    Below is an article using Germany’s historic ENERGIEWENDE capital costs, and historic production of energy, and future projections. The combined numbers are much greater than published in the mass media.
    http://www.theenergycollective.com/high-renewable-energy-costs-damage-germanys-economy/

    It appears the RE MIX has a subsidized cost of about 19 – 20 eurocent/kWh, which is slowly decreasing, mainly due to reductions of PV solar feed-in tariffs.

    I think enough data exists for all of Europe to make a similar analysis, as I did for Germany.

    The more one relies on historic data, the greater the credibility.

    Peter Lang is entirely right about the ADDITIONAL cost imposed on the entire electrical system by:

    – Variable, intermittent energy for peaking, filling-in and balancing, and
    – The augmentation of grid systems to ensure high-quality, reliable energy everywhere, and at all times.

    Those additional costs usually get “socialized” by the political system to make RE look good.

    In Texas about $7 billion of transmission was put in to bring Panhandle wind energy in west Texas to population centers in east Texas; the cost shows as a surcharge on electric bills.

    Another element of RE imposition is the lack of the often claimed 1 to 1 REDUCTION in CO2 and fuel consumption, due to the rest of the electrical system having to perform in a less efficient manner.

    This article shows how that works out in Ireland, JUST FOR FUEL AND CO2; there are many OTHER costs due to inefficient/modified electrical system operation.
    http://www.theenergycollective.com/reducing-us-primary-energy-wind-and-solar-energy-and-energy-efficiency/

    • robertok06 says:

      “In Texas about $7 billion of transmission was put in to bring Panhandle wind energy in west Texas to population centers in east Texas; the cost shows as a surcharge on electric bills.”

      Still goiing, Willem!

      http://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-department-announces-participation-clean-line-s-large-scale-energy-transmission-1

      300 million dollars from public sources… with the “assurance” that there will be no ratepayers’ additional charges… I think they said the same when the same DoE signed an “historic” agreement with Solyndra, which then went bankrupt and brought with it in the coffin several 100s million dollars as well.
      We’ll see.

      • Willem Post says:

        roberto,

        That 4000 MW, 705-mile, HVDC line will cost about $5.6 billion, at $8 million/mile, another “socialized” cost to make wind energy LOOK cheap.

        Here are some interesting numbers regarding cows and wind turbines.

        Vermont is part of the NE electric grid, which has emissions about 0.950 lb of CO2/kWh. Vermont utilities buy about 6 billion kWh/y. CO2 emissions 6 x 10^9 x 0.950/2204.6 = 2,585,503 metric ton of CO2/y, or 7,084 metric ton/d; this is only for electricity. The rest 8.37 – 2.59 = 5.78 million metric ton/y is from buildings, vehicles, etc.

        The methane* (CH₄) emission of one cow due to belching and f…ting (not the methane contained in their manure) is about 750 g/d, plus due to breathing about 3000 g/d, for a total of 750 x 25 + 3000 = 21,750 g/d, or 0.02175 metric ton of CO2 equiv/d. Total emissions of Vermont’s cows is 150,000 x 0.02175= 3262.5 metric ton of CO2 equiv/d.

        * Methane is a 25 times more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.

        Daily production of Vermont’s 10 + 63 + 6 + 10 = 119 MW of wind turbine is 119 x 24 x 0.30 = 857 MWh, which at the very most offsets 857 x 950/2204.6 = 369 metric ton of CO2, equivalent to 369/0.02175 = 16,975 cows. See attached spreadsheet.

        Vermont would need, at the very least, 150000/16975 = 1,052 MW of wind turbines to offset Vermont’s CO2 emissions from cows.

  4. Jonathan Madden says:

    Ed, thanks for this analysis. As per Euan’s previous post, One Step Closer to Blackouts, the cost of an idealogically driven push for renewable power may become much greater if large scale grid instability results, even if progressive blackouts occur rarely. A severe area-wide loss of power lasting a week would represent a 2% reduction in annual output, even ignoring ancillary factors such as people’s health in winter, etc.

    I do not, however, think that gas fracking will become widespread in the UK and Continental Europe. There is substantial opposition to the prospect of heavy vehicles making their way down inadequate roads, at least in England, as well as increased noise, night-time light and smell. So the future source of gas as balancing power would in this instance have to be established. Russia has been a reliable supplier for more than 30 years and I trust this will continue.

    • nukie says:

      Russia is reliable as long as you have one or two options to switch to immediately, and as long as they need your money. But then you’re really dangeling at the end of a 4000km pipeline….

    • A C Osborn says:

      But they are happy to put up with
      “There is substantial opposition to the prospect of heavy vehicles making their way down inadequate roads, at least in England, as well as increased noise, night-time light and smell”
      When wood chip or Bio mass are used, which use a lot more vehicles per day/night.

    • Nial says:

      http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2016/3/24/the-silence-of-the-wells.html

      Not one noise or nuisance complaint when a well was drilled and fracked in Lancashire.

  5. michael hamilton says:

    Apologies if I read this incorrectly, but are you Assuming here that a coal plant and a solar plant have equivalent running costs (3% O&M)?

    Similar to Euans comment, what are the assumptions on the replacement required for solar (I think every 20 years), do you build in cost savings similar to the sharp decreases that have been observed over the past decade?

    The assertion that German CO2 levels are rising seems to contradict the chart on a per person basis? It is also the case that Germany took a rather curious decision to close their nukes and continue burning brown coal which would have clear implications on overall CO2 levels.

  6. gweberbv says:

    This article is about numbers. How much does it cost, how long will it last, how much has to be spend on O&M, etc. To have any meaning these numbers should be fairly realistic, right?

    Now watch this: Figure 1 tells us that the cost to install 1 GW gas plant capacity is roughly 1 billion. Alright. Let’s go to to figure 6 and we learn that the costs to install 1 GW of PV should be 2.3 billion (factor 2.3). But today you can get your 10 kWp rooftop PV installation for 1200 to 1400 Euro/kWp in Germany. Whoops! And if I do not order 10 kWp but 100000 times more, the price tag per GWp will for sure not get more expensive.
    So, this number (costs for PV installation) is completly off. Not by an insignificant factor of maybe 15% but at least by a factor 2 (the costs at given region may vary a lot depending on if there is already a well-developed local infrastructure of PV installers, suppliers, etc. or not).

    Next point: The O&M costs per annum for PV are stated in figure 2 as 3% of the investment costs (which we now already know are about a factor 2 to high). But the only equipment that needs to be exchanged regularly is the inverter (rule of thumb: every 10 years) which costs roughly 100 Euros/kWp. What else needs to be done is cleaning the modules from time to time and preventing the green to grow above the PV cells (for a ground-based system). You also would like to have an insurance against destruction of the installation by weather phenomena, etc. Thus, for utility-scale installations, you might end up with O&M of 1.5% of installation costs and less.

    Last but not least: The lifetime for PV installations is stated as 20 years. Why? A PV module is basicly a plate of glass with a thin silicon layer and some electronics on the backside. The conversion efficiency is degrading each year with typical values of 0.5% – that’s it. In addition, you can have all kinds of production failures that lead to malfunction of individual modules, of course. But a properly assembled module can last as long as a double glazing roof window. It fails, when significant amounts of moisture can enter. So, do not be suprised when a lot of PV modules will last 40 to 50 years. Thus, a lifetime for a PV installation of 30 years seems more reasonable to me. Even though we have to wait 20 years to gain real life experience with this issue (mass production of PV modules ramped up less than 10 years ago).

    Do not get me wrong: I do not claim that PV as a source of electricity is cheaper than this or that alternative. But it is far more cheap (and will get even more cheap in the upcoming years) than what is stated here.

    • Peter Lang says:

      Gwerpy,

      I do not claim that PV as a source of electricity is cheaper than this or that alternative. But it is far more cheap (and will get even more cheap in the upcoming years) than what is stated here.

      For a while, solar costs will continue to decrease by around 20% per capacity doubling. That’s the learning rate. But this rate cannot continue indefinitely for two reasons: 1: the gird can accommodate only a small proportion of electricity from weather dependent renewables, 2) ERoEI of renewables is too low for them to be sustainable at high penetration over the long term.

      Conversely, nuclear has very high ERoEI and fuel is effectively unlimited. Furthermore, when anti-nukes, like yourself, take off the blinkers, open their minds and then become enthusiastic advocates for renewable energy, nuclear could once again achieve the 30% learning rates demonstrated up to about 1970. https://judithcurry.com/2016/03/13/nuclear-power-learning-rates-policy-implications/

      • Peter Lang says:

        gweberbv,

        My apologies for misspelling your name.

      • michael hamilton says:

        Peter, what is your assessment of the small proportion that a grid can accomodate from weather dependent renewables?

        a basic point in this whole argument is that regardless of the previous cost of these installations, they exist, they have been built and they are not going away. So regardless the grid needs to accomodate them and then changes that they will bring (some good, some bad).

        Rather than discussing the merits of previously made sunk costs, surely we should begin to move to how best to integrate different technologies.

        Just ask Eon and RWE if they think wind and solar are going away.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Michael Hamilton,

          Thank you for your question:

          Peter, what is your assessment of the small proportion that a grid can accomodate from weather dependent renewables?

          There is much discussion on that coming at it from different perspoectives:

          1. land area required for renewable to power the planet in the futrure as total energy demand continues to increase

          2. resources, mining, transport, etc needed for the continuing replacement of renewable technologies is much greater than for nuclear

          3. ERoEI of renewables including storage means they are not sustainable: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/

          4. Cost. They are a very high cost to supply electricity and to reduce GHG emissions (se the links in my first comment on this thread). So it is economically irrational to provide any suebsidies or incentives to encourage them.

          5. This http://bravenewclimate.com/2015/11/08/the-capacity-factor-of-wind/ and other research approaching from a different perspective but reaching a similar conclusion suggests the upper limit for renewables is about equivalent to the average combined capacity factor for weather-dependent renewables. I understand recent capacity factors for Germany were 23% for wind and 14% for solar, there fore total penetration of both would be less then 20%. Add more and too much has to be dumped.

          Rather than discussing the merits of previously made sunk costs, surely we should begin to move to how best to integrate different technologies.

          Please note: I was not suggesting dumping what’s already been built. They will die of their own accord in short time. I am suggesting we should stop subsidising and stop all incentives that encourage uneconomic weather dependent renewables.

          You say “surely we should begin to move to how best to integrate different technologies.”
          Why? Surely what we should be doing is advocating for polices that meet requirements at least cost. Weather-dependent renewable do not and are never likely to do so because of physical constraints.

          • michael hamilton says:

            Hi Peter,

            My feeling is that 20% is pretty low, but given that there are very few examples that have significantly more coming from wind & solar (I think denmark and spain are perhaps the two examples and they are very well interconnected) then I’m ready to go with that until better data is available.

            Land areas is I believe much less of an issue, putting aside for a brief moment storage, you would need to panel Spain to meet global energy requirements. (I’m sure the Spanish would be non too pleased with this)

            http://www.techtimes.com/articles/92543/20151008/ever-wondered-how-many-solar-panels-are-needed-to-power-up-the-world-heres-the-answer.htm

            Germany does indeed dump significant amount of power when it is too windy. This is not however an inherent problem with wind per se, rather the system it has been deployed into. If Germany priced power using a nodal system rather than insisting that the entire country should have the same price, the true value of MWh from wind would become very clear, leading to the construction of much needed internal transmission lines from north to south.

            Integrating these technologies is important as they could, given the cost curve decrease you rightly point out, provide a significant amount of power around the world.

            Because they (particularly solar) are very quick to and easy deploy, they are often chosen by individuals as a solution while grander projects (Hinkley Point anyone?) flounder.

          • Peter Lang says:

            I suggest you crunch some numbers before stating unsupported beliefs. It seems you don’t understand and you’ve completely ignored the most important issue – the economics!

            Denmark, Germany, Spain, etc are irrelevant on their own. You have to consider the whole interconnected grid. Germany is already causing trouble for ts neighnours.

            Land areas is I believe much less of an issue, putting aside for a brief moment storage

            You can’t put aside storage. if you want to decarbonise you have to have impossible amounts of storage. This alone makes a high proportion of renewables impossible. Your belief that area is not an issue is, how else can I say it, uninformed. Calculate the total global power demand now and in 2100 (project forward using the rate of increase of per capita energy consumption humans have been following for the past 200,000 years for example; that will continue although their will be “pauses”). Once you’e calculated the power demand, calculate how you would deliver it and what area you’d need; include the amount of mining required for materials and land area needed for food.

            But the most important issue that sums it all up is the economics. If you don’t address that, all else is irrelevant and distraction.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Michael,

            Here’s an example of how to estimate the demand in 2050. It’s intentionally “big picture”, so just use it as an example rather than getting into getting to arguing about the details, inputs and assumptions: http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/10/11/tcase3/

            More background here: http://bravenewclimate.com/renewable-limits/

          • robertok06 says:

            @michael:

            concerning the feasibility land-wise of full or large scale implementation of intermittent REN like wind and PV, you are coompletely off the mark!… this issue has already been debunked with proper studies, like this:

            https://www.google.ch/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.eis.uva.es/energiasostenible/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/solar-energy-draft.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwjO87uRrOvLAhUkSJoKHcjWDMkQFggbMAA&usg=AFQjCNEbWc5t6XrOmp_c1MymmtguDV1whw

            The surface of the earth which is technologically exploitable, considering all physical/meteorological/human/etc… constraints is too small. There is not enough POTENTIAL for storage, either not enough space for valleys to be flooded for pumped-hydro (for Europe that’s a FACT, plenty of studies on that) and not enough lead for lead-acid batteries… not enough lithium for lithium-ion batteries, and even if a new technology will be found for batteries I’m afraid that Coulomb’s law will always have as a consequence the fact that the amount of batteries and their costs (not only monetary costs) will be too large for these hypothetical technologies to be applied on a global scale.

            It is time for “green” cheerleaders (I’m not talking about you, let me be clear) to face physical reality: intermittent renewables are, and will never be an option for solving the global energy problem of mankind. Only the thing with the “n” could potentially do it, the only ad-libitum scalable source of energy on this planet.

            Cheers.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Robertok06,

            Thanks for that link.

            “Although some uncertainties can not be avoid, our estimations for the global potential
            of solar electrical power are 1,75-4,5 TWe, which implies a hard techno-ecological of
            solar power potential, much lesser than other assessments. ”

            That it, the maximum achievable from solar electric power is about 5-10% of projected global primary energy demand in 2050.

        • robertok06 says:

          “Just ask Eon and RWE if they think wind and solar are going away.”

          Michael: wind and solar in Germany will not go away only because of one reason… “incentives/feed-in tariffs”.
          If you remove that, and they will soon be removed because they are unsustainable, and wind and solar are only going to last until the last day of “incentivization”.

          No big company would in its sane mind use highly intermittent and/or seasonal sources of electricity… that is a totally crazy idea that only scientifically-dyslexic minds could conceive.

          Cheers.

          • gweberbv says:

            Roberto,

            you can argue that without incentives very few PV installations would be built. However, once they are built, what should stop them from operating? In Northern Europe they might need 20 to 30 Euros/MWh to cover M&O costs, with better insolation in the south maybe 15 Euros/MWh or even less. These plants will operate until they fall apart.

          • Peter Lang says:

            However, once they are built, what should stop them from operating?

            Without incentives they will not be replaced. They’ll die out within 20 years and on average will be disused or removed within about 12 to 15 years.

    • Leo Smith says:

      1GW of gas plant will run at a capacity factor of at least 50% to make it economically justified.

      1GW of solar panels will run at best at a capacity factor of 10%. In N Europe

      So the solar is massively more expensive. in terms of electricity actually generated per annum.

      Now if you look at lifetime of those solar panels…

      Green lies and distortions, of which the above is a classic example, abound.

      The reality is that most ‘renewable’ energy is non dispatchable and has a very low capacity factor (around 10% PV and around 25% windmills) and a short lifetime (around 12yr for windmills, before being BER, and similar for PV, with a steady decline in output as they age) as compared with 40-60 years for spinning heat engines in a nice secure turbine hall where they can be serviced cheaply and easily..

      If you actually do the sums to try and construct some sort of levelised costs, and include all of the above, and indeed the cost of the backup, you come fairly quickly to the conclusions that renewable energy of the intermittent sort is a total and utter economic disaster.

      Which is why no one ever does those calculations.

    • robertok06 says:

      @gweberbv

      “But today you can get your 10 kWp rooftop PV installation for 1200 to 1400 Euro/kWp in Germany. Whoops! ”

      US PV costs are much higher than Germany’s, that’s a well known fact, guenter.
      One recent example, and I’m talking about large ground installations:

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topaz_Solar_Farm

      “Topaz Solar Farm is a 550-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic power station in San Luis Obispo County, California. Construction on the project began in November 2011 and ended in November 2014. It is one of the world’s largest solar farms. The $2.5 billion project includes 9 million CdTe photovoltaic modules based on thin-film technology, manufactured by U.S. company First Solar. ”

      2.5 billion dollars for 550 MWp… it’s almost 5dollars/Wp!

      Cheers.

      P.S.: I really like the moronic statements like “PV is good because it creates jobs”…

      “According to First Solar, it created about 400 construction jobs.”

      … excuses me??…. 400 construction (read “carpenters”) jobs for “only” 2.5 billion dollars? C’mon!

      P.S.2: another moronic statement that I often read from anti-nuclear “green” propaganda is that “nuclear takes too long to be built, just look at the EPR in Finland, 10 years!”… here we have a 550 MWp (i.e. equivalent to 150 MWe, even without considering intermittency) which took 3 years to be built… scaling with the energy produced it corresponds to almost 30 “EPR-equivalent” years. I rest my case. 🙂

      • gweberbv says:

        Roberto,

        as construction of this plant started in 2011, the contracts (and prices) might got fixed in 2010. Prices were MUCH higher at that time compared to now.

        See here for German price level: https://www.solaranlagen-portal.de/images/solaranlagen-portal/photovoltaik-preis_pro_kwp_2006_bis_2014.png
        And here for US: http://1t2src2grpd01c037d42usfb.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/08/graph.jpg

        In case of this specfic plant in California the long construction phase might indicate that also the grid connection needed to be establish, which might increase the price tag significantly. If you are near to an powerful grid – as it is the case in dense-populated areas – grid connection is much cheaper. (On the other hand, with PV prices melting like snow it would also be a clever strategy to delay the construction as much as possible.)

        I do not know, what causes the higher price level in US. Compared to Germany the US market might be less mature. But this should not play such a big role for utility-scale installations. Anyway, recent auctions indicate that also in US installation costs cannot be much higher than 1000 bugs per kWp. Otherwise one would have a really hard time to make profit from feed-in tariffs of less than 50 Dollar/MWh. See here: http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/austin–texas-to-procure-up-to-300-mw-of-solar-now–another-300-mw-later_100021334/

        • robertok06 says:

          “If you are near to an powerful grid – as it is the case in dense-populated areas – grid connection is much cheaper.”

          It is never the case in SW USA… California, Nevada, Arizona and the like… it’s always some desert area in the middle of nowhere.

          Coming to Austin/TX… the reason for these low prices of the kWh (but only during daylight and much less in winter than summer… the difference will be filled in by natural gas coming from fracking…)… the reason is this:

          “Approval of the first set of contracts should allow these projects to be completed before the drop-down of the U.S. Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to 10% at the end of 201”

          None of these projects would come to like without some form of “incentive”… same for wind… a couple of years ago the installations in the US fell to an historic minimum because Congress had not voted an extension of a similar tax credit.
          Again… it is time for green cheerleaders to face the truth: without some form of incentives intermittent renewables go nowhere, not even in countries with very high insolation and/or wind… they are simply not affordable as means of generating the kind of electricity that modern industrialized countries need.

          The evidence is here already, it is enough to open the eyes.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Robertok06

            Again… it is time for green cheerleaders to face the truth: without some form of incentives intermittent renewables go nowhere, not even in countries with very high insolation and/or wind… they are simply not affordable as means of generating the kind of electricity that modern industrialized countries need.

            Dead right. In inland, high ionsolation Australia, renewables are not viable, even with the huge subsidies. It’s cheaper to pay very high prices for diesel and gas than to rely on renewables. In the of grid and fringe of grid areas in Australia (which consume just 6% of Australia’s electricity), only 1% of electricity is supplied by renewables. Renewables are a joke.

            Only 2 per cent of Australia’s population live in
            off-grid areas, however over 6 per cent of the
            country’s total electricity is consumed in off-grid
            areas. Around 74 per cent of that electricity is
            generated from natural gas and the remainder
            is mostly from diesel fuel; making it Australia’s
            most expensive electricity due to the underlying
            high gas and diesel prices in the remote areas.
            However, due to lower levels of coal
            generation, the off-grid market has the lowest
            average emission intensity of all of Australia’s
            electricity markets despite only 1 per cent of
            electricity is generated from renewable
            sources.

            http://www.arena.gov.au/files/2014/12/ARENA_RAR-report-20141201.pdf

            The renewables ideologues should get rational and stop ignoring and denying the relevant facts.

            Let’s see how gweberbv dodges, ignores, or avoids addressing the substance of that one.

  7. Does the analysis take into account that wind turbines are turning out to have a very rapid degradation of output and most will have to be replaced after as little as 10-12 years rather than the advertised 20 year productive life. If this is actually the case then turbines would have to be replaced 5 or 6 times over the 60 year time horizon of the anlaysis and the costs of this should be included.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      The article states expected lifetimes of 25 years for Onshore and 15 years for Offshore turbines (and 20 years for grid connected PV). Renewables advocates will argue for longer lifespans while you obviously believe the lifespans are shorter. The article takes a safe middle ground.

      If you have examples to back up your expectation of 5 or 6 turbines needed to cover a 60 year period, could you present this information?

      • steve says:

        The wind energy website reported that the Swedes are taking down their offshore turbines after 20 years- and these are relatively sheltered compared to the 600ft turbines ordered for the Dogger Bank and other sites. These figures must even make politicians think.

        The graph at the end of Ed’s piece shows how the UK emissions/head dropped from 1975 in the dash for gas and continued to drop to below the Chinese level. This points to the fact that the UK could continue to reduce to French levels simply by replacing coal with CCGT, as they close. We would then have 30 years to develop sensible nuclear, without the ridiculous decisions we have at present. Possibly save some money by sacking all the green incompetents at DECC and selling it with planning permission for a hotel.

        I am emailing the article to my greenwashed offspring.

        • robertok06 says:

          “This points to the fact that the UK could continue to reduce to French levels simply by replacing coal with CCGT, as they close”

          Sorry, but this is NOT true, it is not possible to go below few 100s gCO2/kWh with gas, while France is at 45 gCO2/kWh, globally (i.e. all sources included).

          • steve says:

            The graph is in Tons/head and the difference is 0.7. It would give time to order 10 nukes that worked and at a more reasonable cost. I note that Sweden has an even better gCO2/kWh and is determined to go in the other direction, closing nukes and importing from Poland using dirty coal. What a strange place the EU is.

          • robertok06 says:

            “note that Sweden has an even better gCO2/kWh and is determined to go in the other direction, closing nukes and importing from Poland using dirty coal. What a strange place the EU is.”

            It’s not “europe” per se… it is “the green intellighentsia of euope”… in fact the ridiculous decision to tax to death the existing swedish reactors in favour of intermittent renewables has been forced on the new swedish government by the green party, which would otherwise have not supported government.
            This is not the first time that the green parties of some EU country do this sort of political blackmailing, it all started in Germany back then in RFD/DDR times (with the excuse of the nuclear missiles) and it was behind the demise of the Superphenix fast-neutron reactor in France, around 2000.

        • It is even worse than that. In Sweden most windturbines are dissmanteled after 15 years, due to the subsidies being removed when the turbine reaches that age. They can be sold on and used elsewhere for the remainder of their technical lifespan and it has been done.

          We have som offshore turbines (offshore as placed in the big lakes so not salt water) that stopped producing after less than 10 years of operation. Harsh environment was perhaps not the only explanation in that case though…

          • Peter Lang says:

            Mattias Devlin,

            . In Sweden most windturbines are dissmanteled after 15 years, due to the subsidies being removed when the turbine reaches that age.

            Thank you for that information. Not only does it confirm that their life is much shorter than claimed it also confirms they’d have no life at all if not for the subsidies – and that’s in a country that is near ideal for wind power because it has a high proportion of electricity generation from hydro (which is the perfect back up for wind power).

            It’s interesting that even after the capital costs have been sunk, the wind turbines are still not viable without subsidies.

            Could you please provide a link.

          • Only in Swedish I’m afraid.
            http://www.svt.se/nyheter/lokalt/norrbotten/sma-vindkraftverk-saljs-utomlands

            The interesting thing is the fact sheet at the end;
            “-I någon mening kan man säga att livslängden är 15 år eftersom affären blir betydligt sämre när certifikaten uteblir, säger Bosse Andersson, vice vd i branschorganisationen Svensk Energi.”

            Roughly translated:
            “To some extent you could say that the life expectancy is 15 years as the business case becomes drastically worse when the certificates are no longer awarded, says Bosse Andersson, vice president Swedish Energy association.”

            In Sweden wind energy recieves “certificates” for each produced MWh, the price of these certificates used to be ~$25 /MWh, I noticed now that they are about $16,5 /MWh. No wonder nobody has ordered a new windturbine in Sweden since early spring last year…
            Other subsidies include, but not limited to, property tax breaks, mandated quotas (~50 cents/MWh), “free” grid connection ($370’000 – 490’000 /MW installed capacity), subsidised planning fees and so on. The true installation cost is impossible to calculate due to a plethora of hidden grants and discounts in the process.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Thank you. Excellent information. When people go digging they find equivalent huge benefits and incentives (such as ‘must take’ provisions) in most of Europe, UK, Canada, USA, Australia.

          • Inspite of all the subsidies, currently all windpower in Sweden are making huge losses. In the region of $37’000 – 92’000 /MW installed capacity and annum (back of the envelope calculation and 6% interest/profit margin).

            Wind companies are starting to go bust over here…

          • Peter Lang says:

            I wish you could explain this to the new Australian Prime Minister. He is throwing our money at them.

    • yt75 says:

      Which part gets degraded that fast? The mechanical/electrical/rotor parts, or the blades ? And if the blades how is that so ? (also for the rest)

      • Peter Lang says:

        gwerberbv,

        The output of 282 wind farms is accurately estimated using public wind speed data.

        Your choice of citation shows selection bias. It also provides another example of how we can no longer rely on peer review for quality control – academics and students can get just about any rubbish through peer review.

        Why don’t your cite the references to the analyses by engineers of the failure rates of >4000 wind turbines in UK and the recent study showing average life of wind farms to replacement is 14 years in Europe (my recollection, up to you to cite authoritative objective, rigorous studies). I don’t have the references to hand, but an ‘expert’ like you should know them well.

        Here’s one

        “The normalised load factor for UK onshore wind farms declines from a peak of about 24% at age 1 to 15% at age 10 and 11% at age 15. The decline in the normalised load factor for Danish onshore wind farms is slower but still significant with a fall from a peak of 22% to 18% at age 15. On the other hand for offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalised load factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10. The reasons for the observed declines in normalised load factorscannot be fully assessed using the data available but outages due to mechanical breakdowns appear to be a contributory factor.

        the structure of contracts offered to wind generators under the proposed reform of the electricity market should be modified since few wind farms will operate for more than 12–15 years.”

        http://www.ref.org.uk/publications/280-analysis-of-wind-farm-performance-in-uk-and-denmark

        • gweberbv says:

          Peter,

          do not trust me, but please do trust Paul-Frederick Bach. This guy provides extremely valuable data and very good insights – in particular on the topic of wind energy.

          See here, what he has to say about the REF study: http://www.pfbach.dk/firma_pfb/news_2012_5_e.htm

          For onshore installations the picture is less clear, but for offshore the methodology of the REF study was just very, very bad. To understand is, just look at this graph: http://www.pfbach.dk/firma_pfb/graphics/offshore_degradation_450b.jpg
          One sees that the first Danish offshore installations had capacity factors in the order of 25% and that this performance decreased towards 20% over a time span of nearly 20 years. But recently installed offshore turbines start with a capacity factor of 40% and more. That’s progress! But the REF study just states that the average CF of an offshore turbine a few years after commissioning is something like 30% to 35% and after roughly 15 years it is more like 20%. Huge decrease! But this analysis is simply bullshit. The offshore wind turbines that are now nearly 20 years old did not start with a CF of 30% or more.
          If you group the wind turbines by the year of commissioning (therefore accounting for the fact, that a turbines from the early ninties have simply lower CFs than the most recent turbines), you find only a small degradation. See the right graph from the link above.

          I guess that the REF study suffers from a similar effect regarding onshore installations. However, here the difference in CF of old turbines compared to the newer ones should be much less significant.

          Have you more to say on ‘selection bias’?

          • Peter Lang says:

            gweberbv

            If I could spend my life showing you your selection bias, and it still wouldn’t get through to you. I gave you the REF because it is the first reference in your link, because it is at least as reliable as the material you quote continually and because there is no point me looking for other references – you could do that yourself if you were interested; but your comments until now show you are not interested in the relevant facts. Once of the important relevant facts is that life expectancy of wind turbines is around half what the advocates claim and use in their cost analyses.

          • gweberbv says:

            Peter,

            the degradation stated by the REF study is not an issue of being reliable or not. It is just the methodology these guys are using that is useless. Look again at this plot: http://www.pfbach.dk/firma_pfb/graphics/offshore_degradation_450b.jpg

            Every school boy can understand, why even without any ‘real’ degradation the REF study will find a huge degradadtion of the offshore wind performance. If you follow this methodology you will find that the number of jet engines is increasing when an airplaine is getting older. Or that the horse power of cars is decreasing with their age. Simply because at the time when the airplaines, that are today 20 years old, were comissioned the average (big) airplane had four engines, while the average airplane comissioned in the last years has only two of them. And the average car that was produced 20 years ago had less horse power than a model build today.

          • Peter Lang says:

            gweberbv

            Please provide a link to an authoritative study which gives the start date and last production date for all the wind turbines that have ceased operation, in countries such as Germany, Denmark, Spain, UK, USA. I am interested in the historical record, not the beliefs of wind energy advocates.

          • nukie says:

            @peter, this would not tell anything, because the turbines are by lare not phased out by damages but because there are much bigger and more efficient ones available. The old ones are sold to Africa, Russia, and other countries: http://www.wind-westerwald.de/angebote/fh_angebote.html
            http://www.moellerwindenergie.com/windkraftanlagen-gebraucht.php http://www.pjwindpower.de/verkauf/ohne-standort/
            This was also standard for thermal power stations in thimes of fast developments some more decades ago : http://www.stadtentwicklung.berlin.de/denkmal/denkmale_in_berlin/download/industrie/industriekultur_12_ort_kw_uw.pdf – with your argumentations you’d come to the result that thermal power stations have a maximum lifespan of 10-20 years if you use data of systems closed down because of overall technical improvements of the same kinds of systems. All you can get are lower limits for the lifespan which are well below real lifespan, which is of little use for practice.

          • Peter Lang says:

            nukie,

            No. You’ve got this wrong. Most of the US nuclear plants now have life extensions to 60 years. Coal plants often run for 50 years and more. Hydro plants are over 100 years old.

            However (for some examples), residential solar PV has a fleet average life of around 12 to 15 years. This is because houses get refurbished, upgraded or replaced The original solar system is often not replaced.

            Wind turbines (I understand from authoritative sources) are being shut down after about 14 years on average in Germany, Denmark, Spain and UK (all this is from memory so some details may be wrong, but you get the big picture). It doesn’t matter what the reason is, they are being shut down after about that time. If they are being replaced, that is a totally new investment. It needs new foundations and the whole works. That’s equivalent to decomissioning a nuclear plant and replacing it.

            So, average life expectancy is roungly:
            – coal – 40 years
            – nuclear – ?? don’t rally know yet (but only 73 of about 500 originally built) have been shut down so far in 60 years)
            – Residential solar PV – about 12-15 years (on average)
            – Wind – I understand many are being shut down at around 14-15 years in Europe

          • nukie says:

            Peter, so you don’t understand the business. Conventional power stations when being closed down are wrecked. The parts fit nowhere else usually. Wind turbines and PV Systems are serial products, and transportable, with older wind turbines this also includes the tower, only the foundation can not be moved to another place.
            This is why there is no second hand market for conventional power stations, but ther are second hand markets for Wind turbines and solar equipment, as beinng shown.
            If you sell your car after 2 years because you want to have the new model, this does not mean that a car has just a lifespan of two years. Sine the car is not wrecked after you sell it, just someone else is driving it.
            And Houses in most countries have a design lifespan of >100 years. Accordingly the roofs are not changed every 10-15years. And usually the housowner have some brain, so they don’t install solar and then repair/change the roof, but do it the other way round.
            Without correct numbers at the input, the result is also not correct, and will not have any effect on anybody.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Sorry Nukie, but apart fro you comment being nonsense, whether or not there is a market for scrap and some second hand parts is irrelevant to the discussion about the average life of power plants.

          • Doug M. says:

            Nukie is right — one big difference between wind and most other power sources is that there’s a large and growing market for second-hand wind turbines.
            We’re not talking dinky lttle backyard plants, either. The second-hand market runs up to things like the Vestas V90, which nameplates at 3 MW and stands over 100m tall. The second-hand market is over a billion dollars a year now, and growing like crazy.

            To give a very specific example — Denmark, as we all know, has a lot of wind turbines. But almost all the best sites have been built out. And the Danish government has decided that while it loves windpower, it doesn’t want to encourage the building of new wind turbines. So the Danes are building up rather than out: they’re taking down their older turbines, selling them to customers in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, and replacing them with bigger, more modern ones with higher nameplate.

            So when you talk about “life expectancy of wind turbines”, that’s a very different thing from “time to decommission”. A wind turbine can be decommissioned out of Sweden on Tuesday, and joining a farm in Hungary a fortnight later.

            Doug M.

  8. Gaznotprom says:

    More so, the bastions of new age tech are at this time generating 270mw of useful power, wow…

  9. auralay says:

    Ed, thanks for an informative article.
    Do the total costs include the cost of demolishing each installation and returning it to a pre-construction state?
    I would imagine this to be straightforward for a gas turbine plant.
    Do we have any figures for removing a wind turbine, including foundation, and restoring the site to it’s natural condition?

    • Grant says:

      That’s a good question auralay.

      I have never once seen any reference to site restoration costs in any report or documentation.

      Nor have I ever had an answer when I have asked the question.

      I doubt anyone is considering restoration of a site – certainly not a Disturbine Farm site with 250 tonne concrete and steel bases to be removed and replaced.

      I wonder what the plan is when the 25 year (optimistic?) replacement cycle starts?

      Presumably most site, having been carefully selected, will continue to be the locations of choice. But if ever larger and taller units are being installed will the existing bases (assuming they are still sound for re-use for another 25 years …) be viable? If not will they be replaced or will additional base volume be created around them some how?

      One simple way to consider the costs of this technology is to look at the claims for employment. The suggestions I recall seem to be that using “renewables” for electricity generation will create 100,000 NEW jobs. Presumably that means ADDITIONAL jobs compares to the existing electricity generation workforce. o produce the same or, with demand management in place, less energy.

      I doubt these will be minimum wage jobs and many will need to be paid at well above the “average” rate simply because of what they require and where they are deployed. The job support infrastructure (plant and equipment) is also likely to be higher cost than most workers would need.

      So the recurring cost of 100k employees at, conservatively, £100k per employee per year total employment cost may need to be taken into account.

      Unless, of course, the employment claims are not, shall we say, “entirely accurate”.

      Or, to put it another way, they might be untruths given an airing for political purposes.

      Would that surprise us?

      The sites will never be effectively restored until the next ice age passes through.

      • gweberbv says:

        Grant,

        the first two meters of the foundation will be removed and the hole filled with soil. That’s it. If the land is not used for agriculture, then maybe only the first 50 cm will be removed.

        • nukie says:

          I do not know how it is handeled elswhere, in the standard rent contracts in germany for renting the ground for a wind turbine, a suitable sum is set aside before construction starts on a special account for the removement of construction, to ensure the owner of the ground he gets his ground back after use as it was before. This sume is a part of the construction cost of the system. It’s naturally different if someone builds on his own piece of ground.

          • Grant says:

            As I wrote above, I have yet to see anything like this described for UK installations on land.

            Obviously anything offshore will just be abandoned as usual ….

          • nukie says:

            Well in germany also money is set aside for the decomissioning of offshore farms, as far as my information is, and show up as a part of the construction cost.

        • Grant says:

          I have never seen any reference to that in the UK documentation. If the location was to be abandoned at some point I doubt whoever had ownership of the installation by that time would feel any responsibility for restoration. At best they might throw down a few cms of topsoil. In a remote location, as many “farms” are on land, I suspect they would just be left. Restoring wold moorland, having already wrecked it’s ecology, is hardly a worthwhile investment.

          We may find that the final “owner” goes out of business before the question arises.

          That would be one way of socialising the costs and making the entire project seem less expensive for reporting purposes.

          • gweberbv says:

            In Germany, the obligation to restore the site after it is no longer in use is part of the building permission. But of course not the complete foundation will be removed.

      • Peter Lang says:

        Grant,

        Here is an OECD report that gives the estimated decomissioning costs for various electricity system technologies:

        4. IEA, 2010, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity, 2010 Edition

        9. WNA, 2014, ‘Decommissioning Nuclear Facilities’ (“0.1 to 0.2 cents/kWh”)

        10. DECC ‘Offshore Renewable Energy Installation Decommissioning’

        See IEA, 2010, Tables 3.7a and 3.7d (at discount rate used in AETA, i.e. 10%), and p43:
        “Where no data on decommissioning costs was submitted, the following default values were used:
        – Nuclear energy 15% of construction costs;
        – All other technologies 5% of construction costs.”

        Footnote #8: “In the median case, for nuclear plants, at 5% discount rate, a cost of decommissioning equivalent to 15% of construction costs translates into 0.16 USD/MWh once discounted, representing 0.2% of the total LCOE. At 10%, that cost becomes 0.01 USD/MWh once discounted, and represents around 0.015% of the total LCOE”

      • robertok06 says:

        “One simple way to consider the costs of this technology is to look at the claims for employment. The suggestions I recall seem to be that using “renewables” for electricity generation will create 100,000 NEW jobs. Presumably that means ADDITIONAL jobs compares to the existing electricity generation workforce. o produce the same or, with demand management in place, less energy.”

        There are at least 2 studies I’ve seen about this job creation thing… in reality the much touted hundreds of thousands of new jobs due to RENs are much less, because they are funded mainly by “incentives”, which then depress the economy and kill a bigger number of jobs in other sectors, not only energy ones. One study was by the RWI university about Germany’s RENs, the other one by a spanish university in Madrid, about Spain’s.

        The first one should be this (can’t open it now and look at it, but the author, Frondel, is the correct one):

        https://www.google.fr/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.rwi-essen.de/media/content/pages/publikationen/ruhr-economic-papers/REP_09_156.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwi8p6yelvDLAhXBXhoKHRXGB54QFggaMAA&usg=AFQjCNHky1EJxl50n5aVT7hfe2s05mMKNQ&sig2=CdrEHWNVpWYN9omMMPRo2A

        The second one is discussed here:

        http://www.speroforum.com/a/18796/Spain-Every-green-job-destroys-22-jobs

        “… a new study documents that every renewable job created by the Spanish government destroyed an average of 2.2 other jobs.
        Also, each “green” megawatt installed in Spain destroyed 5.39 jobs in non-energy sectors, the study found.”

  10. renewstudent says:

    A recent Carbon Trust/Imperial College report says, a ‘combination of fast (and affordable) energy storage with renewables is more cost effective than gas CCS in providing base-load supply’: http://www.carbontrust.com/media/672486/energy-storage-report.pdf

    • Richard says:

      Indeed it was rather irresponsible to subsidise intermittent renewable technology without first subsidising large scale storage technology. Better late than never I suppose.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      energy storage with renewables is more cost effective than gas CCS in providing base-load supply

      That would be excellent news except the storage cost estimates in section 7.2.7 are ludicrous (assuming the £/kW is actually £/kWh) and most of the technologies mentioned have NEVER been deployed at a utility scale and some of those which have (eg the Vanadium Redox battery at King Island) have failed. The efficiencies are also questionable and the only storage that is actually proven (pumped hydro) has limited deployment opportunities due to geographic limitations (read David MacKay’s excellent “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air” – http://www.withouthotair.com/)

      The discount rates for fossil fuel, hydro and nuclear generation vs renewables in section 7.2.8 are similarly ludicrous so all the conclusions drawn are invalid. The study is another piece of hopeful fantasy like the Mark Jacobsen reports

    • Peter Lang says:

      a ‘combination of fast (and affordable) energy storage with renewables is more cost effective than gas CCS in providing base-load supply’:

      The verb “is” is dishonest, because affordable energy storage at the scale required does not exist and probably never will.

      By far the cheapest way to reduce emissions and meet all essential requirements of the electricity system is with a high proportion of nuclear – like France has had for the past 30 years (since 1985, average 76% of France’s electricity has been generated by nuclear.)

      If not for the anti-nukes success at disrupting progress, capital cost of nuclear would now be 1/10th of what it is: https://judithcurry.com/2016/03/13/nuclear-power-learning-rates-policy-implications/

  11. Ajay Gupta says:

    Is there a reference to the LCAs at Carnegie Mellon that I missed? Without using them, the assumptions can be way off, as one commenter already noticed.

  12. Euan Mearns says:

    Ed asked me to make his spread sheet available which can be downloaded here.

  13. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #221 | Watts Up With That?

  14. The cost analysis, per se, is useful but hides two possibe facts: a) that the cost of “renewables” is added on the cost of overall electricity supply without necessarily substituting or saving another corresponding generation cost and b) a piece of “renewable” hardware could never be actually manufactured from all the other “renewables” in existence. The high cost of “renewables” is therefore just a “tax”, or rather a “capital tax”, or a wealth or liquidity tax. Or a tool to reduce/destroy the extraordinary liquidity amassed after many decades of monetary easing. Purveyors of “renewables” hardware are the only net beneficiaries of such tax. Also, countries with a large installed nuclear base as they acquire a trade competitive advantage.

    The last graph showing historical CO2 emissions is indicative of what might really be happening: 1) nukes are reducing CO2 emissions (so is gas, albeit not obvious from the graph); 2) CO2 rises and falls with overall economic activity and the 2008 crash was quite effective in that respect; 3) an easy way to reverse China’s export driven growth is to impose Greening

  15. Grant says:

    I cannot see a “Reply To” Doug Muir’s post …

    http://euanmearns.com/estimating-life-time-costs-for-renewable-energy-in-europe/#comment-17771

    So I will attempt a response here.

    If wind turbines are being removed, replaced and sold on before their natural “end of life” one has to wonder about the economics and whether or not the “investors” are simply chasing subsidies across multiple opportunities.

    It is an interesting subject – but not one that necessarily supports the concept that wind turbines are cost efficient in the absence of some form of financial “support”.

    As for the life spans of electricity generations sets …. I very much doubt the “raw” numbers tell the full story.

    I live in a place that is near a major river and has a large coal fired power station about 3 miles away in a direct line.

    Until about 17 years ago there was a smaller but significant station right next to the village and another one about 4 miles away. They reached somewhere around 50 years of production and were closed as part of the UK’s “dash for gas”.

    Apparently the local plant was removed and sold to China before the buildings were demolished and the then owner, Powergen, attempted to put in place a lucrative development of the 190 acre site for “retail distribution”.

    As I write that dream is only partly delivered but the gross industrialisation is still under way.

    The old coal plant would easily have helped the extension of China’s industrialisation.

    Politically there was a move to eliminate Coal mining in the UK. Smaller, older plants would not have been viewed as viable for a life extension if they were coal powered – especially in the aftermath of privatisation and the with the new owners keen to consider what options they might have for for doing “deals” with businesses from outside the UK (AKA “Inward investment”) that might attract some benefits – bonuses and “honours” spring to mind.

    Moreover much of the workforce that had the knowledge to run the plants effectively and reliably (more or less) were in a position whereby the privatisation allowed them to retire on generous terms at age 50 or thereabouts. In other words the owners would be in a position to lose their skilled employees as part of the privatisation. Closing the plants suddenly looks very sensible.

    Taking all of this into account the lifespan of “traditional” plants or newer technologies is never going to be totally accurately analysable based on the lifespan of old plant or attempts to work out whether some old equipment had somehow found a “new life” in another location.

    To believe that such numbers can be derived correctly from apparently comprehensive records based on political dealings is extremely naive, but not entirely without precedent.

    Grant

  16. michael hamilton says:

    Euan, Thanks for including the spreadsheet. I know the thread is a bit old, but after seeing this file the model assumptions just don’t make sense;

    A 1GW gas plant running at 87% would produce 7.6 million MWh (1,000 * 8,760 * 0.87) at a 60% efficiency, this mean you need to buy 12.7 million mwh gas.

    Today, TTF gas costs € 13/MWh so your fuel cost is €165m. The model is assuming €37m………

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Michael, I suspect many of the numbers presented here are deeply flawed. And unfortunately Ed has not turned up to defend them. I was attracted to the simple facts that capacity factor and engineering life expectancy must be factored into any calculation of life cycle costs. It is of course open to debate what numbers to use here. And I have suspected that gas fuel costs were grossly under estimated.

      I am also interested in the economic contrasts between capital intensive and fuel intensive energy production. We had a series of posts on this on The Oil Drum many years ago. This is highly relevant to Hinkley where we now want to build 4 reactors to last 60 years but it all has to be paid for today.

      If you wish to expand upon your critique, please fell free to do so.

  17. michael hamilton says:

    While I appreciate many of your articles, I humbly submit that this one is not worthy of detailed critique.

    It’s a shame that commentary is not focussing on the merits and validity of the presented argument.

Comments are closed.