Green Mythology and the High Price of European Electricity

The price of residential electricity in the EU is correlated with the level of renewable energy installed on a per capita basis. The data shows that more renewables leads to higher electricity bills. The notion that renewable energy is cheap is one of five Green energy myths discussed.

A few weeks ago Willis Eschenbach posting at WUWT and Jonathan Drake posting at Paul Homewood produced a chart showing a relationship between European residential electricity prices and the installed renewable energy (RE = wind + solar) per capita for a number of European countries that I have reproduced below. I thought this was one of the most interesting charts I’d seen for a while and wanted to write a post on it, but Dave Rutledge posting at Judith Curry beat me to it.

So why do I think this is important and why do we need another post? Well, the notion that RE is cheap is one of a number of Green energy myths that has become engrained in the public psyche. President Obama evidently believes that renewable electricity is cheap and expanding RE supplies was part of the medicine recommended by the IMF / EU to cure Greece’s economic woes. I have been told many times by those who make their living peddling renewable hardware that RE has brought down European electricity prices. I’m afraid there is little evidence to support that notion in Figure 1. So where does the truth lie?

Figure 1 The Y-axis shows residential electricity prices for the second half of 2014 from Eurostat. The X-axis installed wind + solar capacity for 2014 as reported in the 2015 BP statistical review normalised to W per capita using population data for 2014 as reported by the UN.

There will most certainly be more than one variable at work in determining electricity prices in the various countries. However, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that countries with highest level of renewable penetration have the highest residential electricity prices and that it is highly likely that these high prices are caused by, to a greater or lesser extent, the high level of RE penetration. These and related data are discussed in greater detail in the second half of this post.

Green Mythology

The notion that renewable electricity is cheap is one of a number of Green Myths that have been woven into a gigantic Green lie that is undermining our society, our welfare, our institutions and the way that we think about and rationalise problems.  Exposing this Green lie is part of the core raison d’être of Energy Matters. Green mythology is a theme that I will return to in the months ahead. Below is a very brief summary of some prominent Green energy myths. If readers want to add to the list, feel free to do so in the comments. A ubiquitous feature of Green myths is that all have a grain of truth running through them. In Green mythology, this grain of truth becomes elevated to the whole truth and used to make false arguments either in favour of renewable energy (RE) or against the alternatives.

Myth 1 – Nuclear Power is Unsafe

As far as I am aware there has yet to be a radiation related death in a civilian nuclear power station (note that Chernobyl was a military reactor). Normalised for power produced, nuclear power is the safest form of power generation on Earth. And yet the peddlers of Green mythology have managed to create an aura of fear around this safest form of power generation.

Like flying, nuclear power is a high risk high reliability industry. Hundreds die in air accidents all the time, but we carry on flying. Civilian nuclear power has an impeccable safety record, and yet many countries have turned their back on it, which is surprising since it is the only form of low carbon electricity that could actually power our society as it is currently configured. Business as usual is not part of the Green agenda.

Myth 2 – Fossil Fuels are Heavily Subsidised

Yes it is true that in certain countries the price of gasoline and natural gas are subsidised by governments, this happens throughout OPEC. These governments are subsidising prices of fuel, electricity and often food, shielding their poorer citizens from high prices struck on international markets.

Subsidies paid by governments to fossil fuel production companies are minimal to non-existent. In fact, the FF companies are normally paying high taxes and subsidising the host governments quite heavily, the exact opposite of what the Green myth asserts.

Throughout the OECD it is in the renewables generators that are heavily subsidised via consumer paid levies that are tantamount to taxation on energy use. We are therefore talking about two totally different mechanisms that CANNOT be compared. Reality is the exact opposite of this green myth. [1]

Myth 3 – Geographic Dispersion Smoothes out the Intermittency of Wind and Solar

It is undoubtedly true that The Sun is always shining and the wind is always blowing somewhere. And it is also true that geographic dispersion, connected by high performing, rather expensive HVDC cables, may help smooth out the intermittent supply. But real data demonstrates that on a reasonable geographic scale, like continental Europe, smoothing created by geographic dispersion is trivial. In reality, in general terms, when the Sun shines it is daytime over the whole of Europe and when the wind blows it can be blowing everywhere creating vast RE surpluses that have to be paid for but which cannot be used. [2, 3, 4, 5]

Myth 4 – Combining Different RE Sources May Smooth Supply

Again in cases this can be true. Wind in the morning followed by midday Sun followed by a high tide in the afternoon may create a pseudo continuum. But equally likely is a strong sea breeze at midday, coincident with a solar peak and a midday high tide producing a vast uncontrollable spike in RE that would have to be curtailed.[6]

Myth 5 – That RE (wind, solar and tidal power) is Cheap

I don’t know how many times I have been told that RE is bringing down the price of European electricity. This is a myth born out of the market mechanism that dumps electricity spot prices at times of RE over-supply. Expensive RE dumps the price of all electricity that is subsequently sold at a loss.

This myth has been peddled with such great success that even President Obama appears to believe it.

Economics is not my strongest point and so I am unsure how exactly electricity pricing and billing works in practice. One thing I do know is that it is important to distinguish between cost and price. The RE generators are guaranteed their cost+profit regardless of spot price and this is paid for by consumers, regardless of spot price. Someone has to be left chewing losses. I’m guessing this must be the large energy companies that we all know are in deep trouble. Putting them out of business does after all lie at the core of the Green anti-capitalist plan.

The High Price of European Electricity

This is where I feel the chart shown in Figure 1 is so important as a very simple portrayal of the link between RE penetration and electricity prices in Europe. I can already hear the Green Mythologists arguing that correlation does not necessarily mean causation, which of course has a grain of truth running through it. But what they forget to point out is that more often than not a correlation is caused by a physical co-variation of the two variables plotted, in this case higher levels of renewable penetration leads to higher electricity prices. This should not come as a surprise to anyone since there are several known factors that cause the price of renewable electricity systems to rise:

  1. High capital cost per GW of installed capacity compared with gas [7]
  2. High maintenance costs of equipment
  3. Low load factors
  4. High cost of subsidies
  5. High cost of maintaining 100% back up
  6. High cost of load balancing
  7. High cost of grid up-grades
  8. High cost of storage

These costs are offset but not cancelled by the low recurring cost of fuel and the net impact is clear. High renewables penetration causes high electricity price. Ed Hoskins provides a clear picture of how these costs stitch together in his excellent report.

One may often hear the argument that wind will soon be competitive with gas and the price of solar panels is coming down. But claims such as these focus only on the installation capex and performance and ignore all of the added system costs detailed above.

Figure 1 The Y-axis shows residential electricity prices for the second half of 2014 from Eurostat. The X-axis installed wind + solar capacity for 2014 as reported in the 2015 BP statistical review normalised to W per capita using population data for 2014 as reported by the UN.

In Figure 1 the PIIGS countries are highlighted in red and it is an interesting observation, also made by Dave Rutledge, that these countries have high debt (unsustainable) and struggling economies. It is a gross oversimplification to suggest that RE may have contributed to the stagnant economies of these countries, especially since Germany and Denmark have two of Europe’s most successful economies. I think we can conclude that a strong economy can withstand the pressure of high RE penetration. I think we can also conclude that high electricity prices in the PIIGS is like a tax or surcharge on the use of energy and that this will be detrimental to economic growth. We have likely witnessed a vast misallocation of capital. Money that could have been spent promoting economic growth has instead been spent on grid destabilisation and penalising the populations of the PIIGS countries with levies.

Dave Rutledge suggested that the intercept of this plot would give the electricity price in a system with zero renewables which in Figure 1 suggests €cent 12.3 / kWh. I wanted to try and estimate what a 100% RE system might look like and have replotted the data looking at wind + solar consumption as a percentage of total electricity consumption (Figure 2). Assuming a linear relationship, which is unlikely to be valid, a price of €cent55 / kWh is projected. This is 4 times more expensive than a low RE system today. I’d suggest the reality could be much higher as the proportion of cheap CCGT balancing services diminishes the price of an RE system may increase exponentially.

Figure 2 This plot is a variant of Figure 1 where wind+solar consumption as a proportion of total electricity consumption is plotted on the x-axis. Linearly extrapolating to 100% indicates a price of €cents55 for a 100% renewable system. Germany stands out as an anomaly on this chart, no longer alongside Denmark. This is perhaps due to German wind having a lower load factor. It could also reflect German wind exports and or curtailments.

Figure 2 reveals an anomaly in that Germany no longer sits beside Denmark. Part of the explanation lies in the wind data where Germany lies on a low-performance trend. Denmark and the UK lie on a much higher performance trend (higher load factor) (Figure 3) that may reflect the higher proportion of offshore wind in those countries. This of course is also higher cost wind, but this is a story for another day. Another part of the explanation lies in the higher deployment of solar PV in Germany that has a lower load factor than wind. Whatever happened to German obsession with efficiency?

Figure 3 Wind consumption versus installed capacity for selected European countries. The trends are time series 2000 to 2014. Denmark and the UK, both with significant offshore wind, are on a higher load factor trend compared with Germany. The differences are quite substantial, approaching double output in the former compared with the latter. The recent history in Germany may indicate curtailments or exports since BP are reporting consumption, not production.

Finally, we are repeatedly told that in addition to being dangerous, nuclear power is also expensive. Is this another Green myth? In Figure 4 I have plotted the per capita nuclear generation against electricity prices. High nuclear France, Sweden and Finland have some of the lowest electricity prices in western Europe while low Nuclear Germany has the highest. Enough said!

Figure 5 Analagos plot to Figure 1 but for nuclear. There is no correlation between the level of nuclear penetration and price although high nuclear France, Sweden and Finland have significantly lower prices than low nuclear Germany.

In conclusion, the various Green energy myths detailed above are woven into an energy narrative that is tantamount to a lie. The surprising and worrying thing is that this lie has been accepted and adopted by the UK government, the EU and the UN. They seem to believe it is founded on science and engineering. It is not. What has happened to the checks and balances that our Lords and scientific advisors are supposed to provide?


[1] The Appalling Truth About Energy Subsidies.
[2] Wind Blowing Nowhere.
[3] Decarbonizing UK Electricity Generation – Five Options That Will Work.
[4] The Difficulties Of Powering The Modern World With Renewables.
[5] How Much Wind And Solar Can Norway’s Reservoirs Balance?.
[6] A Trip Round Swansea Bay.
[7] European Renewable Energy performance and costs: 2014.

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199 Responses to Green Mythology and the High Price of European Electricity

  1. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, please send those graphs to that nice young lady in the DECC to open her eyes.
    You may find this website interesting (posted by Ben Vorlich over at NALOPKT) which shows real time Energy production.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Tks AC, that’s a tremendous post, worth cross posting here.

    • Peter Lang says:

      I like this web site by RTE. It shows real time electricity generation by technology. You can run your mouse over the are chart and see the pie chart change to show the proportions by technology. You can pick a previous date or select a period of time from the calendar. It also shows real time electricity exports and CO2 emissions. And more

      • Willem Post says:

        Thanks for this great site. Jasper, please add it to your collection. Eirgrid also published 15 minute data, as does SEMO

        • Peter Lang says:

          A point often not mentioned is that wind and solar avoid virtually no emissions in France because the emissions intensity of electricity is so low, thanks to nuclear and hydro. Therefore, the CO2 abatement cost with wind and solar is extremely high, perhaps approaching infinity, or perhaps negative!

          • Willem Post says:


            Any little balancing is mostly done with hydro, i.e., little, if any, measurable CO2 emission impacts.

            For France, wind and solar is just a waste of money.

          • Leo Smth says:

            France is committing to getting rid of nuclear.


          • Peter Lang says:

            Leo Smith. I agree. It’s irrational.

          • roberto says:

            “For France, wind and solar is just a waste of money.”

            … in particular PV is a waste of CO2 (the pollutant gas, as EPA would like to officially call it) whenever PV is installed as an alternative to nuclear (which is what the moronic french greens would love to do), since the CO2 emitted during the fabrication of the modules/panels IN CHINA will never, ever be recouped in a country where 92% of the electricity production is CO2-free already.

            And this brings me to one more myth which is not yet included in the excellent list of Euan’s…

            Myth 6: Intermittent PV and wind sources are 100% CO2-free.

            … which is blatantly, almost offensively, totally wrong.


        • Todd De Ryck says:

          fuel mix for Midcontinent Independent System Operator (USA and Manitoba Canada)

        • Flocard says:

          I would like to point out something which I find nice with the RTE site “eCO2mix”.

          It allows to check “postdicting”.

          Somebody said that RTE also provides convenient files to test the quality for “predicting” the wind production. (It is in general poor. The error on predicting power gradients increases as the gradient increases. but that is not the point here)

          Indeed something that comes as a surprise to any physicist is that data for any production is given without any error bar, sometimes even when it corresponds to five significant digits for powers in MW. (Note that for oil production, BP database does not hesitate to gives it with more than 8 significant digits which is an accuracy that only be superseded by atomic clocks.)

          If one takes into account that solar producers are now numbering more than 300 000 in France (above a million in Germany I would guess) any person who has performed measurements during his career may wonder how it is possible (as on geraman “eex” or belgian “elia” site) to give a production value on line every quarter of an hour.

          RTE allows one to do some checking on the error in all the curves we are generally using and to figure out the accuracy of the values.

          Indeed, as every other grid it gives a production chart which one may call “instantaneous”. It comes with a nicely colored daily production chart.

          Then on the 15th of each month N, it publishes a file named “consolidée” which gives production data for the month N-1

          Finally by the mid (June or July) of year N, it publishes a file named “Définitive” which is their final version of the production of Year N-1. When the “Définitive” data is published (available for 2012,13 and 14) the other data files are erased. For instance the files for the previous years only exist on the hard disks of those who extracted it when it was still on the website.

          The time resolution is 1/2h

          I never really work on instanteneous data when I can avoid it as it is generally of poor quality as far as renewables are concerned (of course for most countries this is the only data available). My suspicion is that my evaluation (poor quality) is true for other countries although the relevant corrected data remain buried in the archives of the grid.

          I made comparisons of “Défintive” and “Consolidée” data files for several years. Differences exceeding 100 MW (as high as 800MW on one hour) can be found.

          The only production for which the difference is systematically zero is the largest: nuclear production.

          It appears that collecting the very dispersed ENR thermal production seems to take more than 15 days. The difference between the two files can be very large it is much larger than that for wind and

          Of course since each file ensures that consumption is equal to production, the production system used for short time balance Fuel (it provides 1 % of the electric energy and 18 % of the balancing) is also significantly corrected from “consolidée” to “définitive”.

          When you see these figures, you are not surprised to find that sometimes the wind production exceeds the nominal power of the wind parks. I found some examples in the belgian Elia database for which both instaneous installed power and production is available.

          • Peter Lang says:


            Thank you. Very interesting.

            Another issue with wind and CO2 emissions, is that the quantity of emissions avoided by wind is substantially less than assumed. In Ireland in 2011, wind generated 17% of electricity but avoided only 53% of the emissions that would have occurred in the absence of wind generation.

            Similarly, in Australia in 2014, wind generated 4.5% of electricity but avoided only 78% of the emissions that would have occurred in the absence of wind generation.

            Most analyses assume that 1 MWh of renewables avoid the average emissions intensity of the grid. This is not the case and it gets worse as the penetration of renewables increases.

            The analyses were done by a physicist, Dr Joseph Wheatley. They are ground breaking, IMO.

            Danniel Kaffine et al. has done similar analyses for ERCOT 2007-2009, published 2013. He got similar results for ERCOT for 2007-2009 as Joe Wheatley got for Australia for 2014.

      • Leo Smth says:

        Gridwatch has a french section.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Leo Smith,

          I don’t find Grid Watch as easy to use and to explain a point I am making to others who are not familiar, do you? I use the RTE site to point out emissions intensity of France, what technologies are generating the power, that nuclear is often generating 80% of its power, they Frances’ huge energy exports (many NPPs worth), how pumped hydro works, and the tiny proportion of wind, solar and coal generation. It is a demonstration that we can have very low emissions form electricity generation in industrial countries. All we need to do is to remove the impediments that are making nuclear uncompetitive. The Greens should get on board if they are genuinely concerned about GHG emissions (which actually do not believe is their priority at all)

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Peter, if you are unaware, Leo is the developer / author of Gridwatch. A God in these parts;-) I find it very easy, simply select time range and all sources and it downloads a csv file that can then be saved as xl.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Oh, my sincere apologies to Leo Smith. I was not aware your are the master behind Grid Watch. I have had it booked marked for ages, but haven’t used it much. I will certainly look more closely at Grid Watch from now on.

            Right now I am deeply involved in the analyses of the CO2 abatement cost with wind power in the Australian National Energy Market (NEM) now that we have an excellent analysis of the CO2 abatement effectiveness in 2014 from a recently completed study by Dr Joe Wheatley. His report is available online here:

            It uses the empirical data from the 5-minute generation data from each generator and CO2 emissions data to determine which generators are cycling and ramping to respond to wind power changes (perhaps this is similar to the data Grid Watch has available). Perhaps Wheatley could do a similar analysis of the UK system (if funding was available).

            Wheatley’s web site contains other studies (e.g Ireland) (scroll down for other studies):

          • Peter Lang says:

            In case anyone is interested here is an op-ed I wrote in June about CO2 abatement cost of wind power in the NEM in 2014 using the Wheatley of CO2 abatement effectiveness in at the current wind energy penetration and at the wind energy penetration that will probably have to be achieved by 2020 to meet the Renewable Energy Target.
            What’s the cost of CO2 abatement with wind turbines

        • GeoffM says:

          Thanks very much for all your work on Gridwatch Leo. I look at it almost daily. Refreshingly no ads!

  2. Roy Ramage says:

    As always Euan, food for thought. In Australia power costs are primarily due to the grid which can be as much as 43% of any bill. The Grattan Institute (melbourne) has done some very detailed research on solar in Aus. This from their May 2015 report How to get Solar Right. “The (AEMC), the rule maker for electricity and gas markets, issued a determination that requires distribution network businesses to develop by 2017 electricity pricing that better reflects the cost of building the network16. If proper cost reflective tariffs are introduced, households will pay directly for the amount of network infrastructure they use — especially at peak times when the network is under greatest strain and is most expensive to run — while paying less for the overall amount of electricity they consume. Under this reform, households with solar PV would pay more to use the network than they do today.” I would be interested in your take on the report.

    • Peter Lang says:

      Roy Ramage,

      You may have already seen the Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) Discussion Paper: “Who Pays for Solar Energy”

      In short, households who have solar power are going to have to pay a great deal more to be connected to the grid in the future.

      Also see this paper by Graham Palmer:
      “Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power?” It explains the many hidden costs that are should be charged to the renewable energy supplier but are not yet. It’s inevitable that it is coming.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Roy (and Hugh)

      Beschaffung, vertreib = procurement , sale
      Netzentgelt = network charges
      Steuren, Abgaben und Umlagen = taxes, charges and levies$file/150409%20BDEW%20zum%20Strompreis%20der%20Haushalte%20Anhang.pdf

      The source goes into some greater detail about the breakdown of charges for German electricity. I was surprised to see that network charges are equal to procurement costs which together make up about half of the total cost. So Roy, yes, simply looking at the installation cost of PV ignores other costs like network charges and load balancing services provided by others.

      • Willem Post says:


        Of that about 50%, about how much is taxes and how much is energy system related charges, fees, etc?

        May be your graphs could be changed reflect deleting taxes to address the point made by Hugh.

        It would partially take away an argument of the RE folks.

      • heavyweather says:

        I don’t know who does this graphs but nobody is paying anywhere near 29ct/kWh in Germany.
        If you shop around you pay around 18ct/kWh.

        People don’t really care and industry rates are cheap anyways.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          I provide links to bdew and Eurostat who both seem to agree that the price in Germany is about 29cents. You are correct that industry rates are much lower. The Eurostat link has industry rates.

          If you want to claim that people don’t really care about their electricity bills in Germany, then you need to back that up with evidence.

          In the UK poor people and politicians are always up in arms about high electricity bills.

        • roberto says:

          Myth No; 7: German “People don’t really care and industry rates are cheap anyways.”

          “Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

          Trouble Paying the Bills

          When Stefan Becker of the Berlin office of the Catholic charity Caritas makes a house call, he likes to bring along a few energy-saving bulbs. Many residents still use old light bulbs, which consume a lot of electricity but are cheaper than newer bulbs. “People here have to decide between spending money on an expensive energy-saving bulb or a hot meal,” says Becker. In other words, saving energy is well and good — but only if people can afford it.

          A family Becker recently visited is a case in point. They live in a dark, ground-floor apartment in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood. On a sunny summer day, the two children inside had to keep the lights on — which drives up the electricity bill, even if the family is using energy-saving bulbs.

          Becker wants to prevent his clients from having their electricity shut off for not paying their bill. After sending out a few warning notices, the power company typically sends someone to the apartment to shut off the power — leaving the customers with no functioning refrigerator, stove or bathroom fan. Unless they happen to have a camping stove, they can’t even boil water for a cup of tea. It’s like living in the Stone Age.”

      • Willem Post says:


        Here is an EIA graph of interest. It shows base rate and tax burden for many countries.

        Ireland households are being screwed big time with their wind turbine build outs.

        The NE rates were 16.54 c/kWh in 2013

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Can anyone translate the legend for the 2006-2015 part of the graph?

      • Willem Post says:

        The MwSt is the Value Added Tax
        EEG Umlage is the Energiewende surcharge. It slightly decreased in 2014, after many years of increases.
        Stromsteuer is the energy tax
        The 7.12 + 6.76 = 13.88 is the total of energy costs and running the utility business, then comes VAT, then comes all sorts of charges and fees.

        VAT and others used to be about 25% of the bill in 1998, it is about 55% in 2015.

        Another source for nice graph for each European country?

  3. Hugh Sharman says:

    Euan, the simple correlation between renewable energy penetration and consumer electricity price that looks so impressive for Denmark and Germany does not take into account that both countries tax electricity consumption very heavily. This is mostly for very good historical reasons, in order to suppress demand and therefore their dependence on importing energy commodities.

    In both cases, these taxes still far exceed the subsidies that consumers are forced to pay, although the subsidy element is growing.

    I only mention this because I made this (single but important) error when writing my Denmark Wind Report for CEPOS in 2009, see

    Unfortunately, my critics were able to discredit my effort for this error in Denmark. But I keep seeing the RE penetration – price correlation reported by various anti-RE campaigners.

    The oil price disruptions during the 1970s, when Danish electricity and district heating relied almost 100% upon oil, caused a protracted slump in the Danish economy. Denmark then set out, brilliantly and successfully to rid itself of its dependence on oil by converting all its oil-fired power stations to coal-firing. The residents of Danish cities are, for the most part, still profiting from that heroic effort. Unfortunately, it is this heritage that today’s Danish politicians are destroying by driving these power plants out of business in the name of “green”.

    Germany also has a history that I need hardly remind you of.

    Real life is not so simple!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Hugh, thanks for that. Removing Denmark and Germany we are left with the exact same result.

      I was going to discuss this in the text but decided to leave it for comments since omitting Denmark and Germany appears to make little difference. If the whole picture is painted by variable taxation then we are left with a hypothesis that taxation is correlated with RE penetration levels. Its possible but unlikely.

      My main complaint here is the repeated claims that RE is bringing down the price of electricity which if true should leave us with a negative correlation which plainly does not exist. Happy to concede though that the overall picture is not simple as you correctly state.

    • Dave Rutledge says:


      “does not take into account that both countries tax electricity consumption very heavily”

      Aren’t the taxes included in the electricity price statistics? The IEA series I use does include them.

      “This is mostly for very good historical reasons, in order to suppress demand and therefore their dependence on importing energy commodities.”

      Are there really German politicians that say, “Let’s double the price of electricity with taxes so we do not have to use Russian gas.”

      I would have said the opposite. Germany has been collaborating with Russia on expensive undersea natural-gas pipeline projects to help secure the future supply. The former chancellor Gerhard Schroder has been a major advocate of the pipeline.


      • Willem Post says:


        A reliable, long-term, low-cost, LARGE, Russian gas supply is a major benefit to Germany’s huge industrial empire.

        Schroder was very clever to push to have Nordstream built, which will have an ultimate capacity of 110 bcm.

        The pipe line capital cost is chicken feed compared to its energy transmission over 40 years. Do the math.

    • Jesper Hansen says:

      The coal plants were build to replace Denmarks dependency on oil in the early 1970. But nothing really happened the following 10 years. They were still discussing nuclear. Wind mills were small and inefficient and solar panels had so little yield that they were a waste of time on a national scale. My point is, it was the matter of dependency that forced the renewable revolution in Denmark, but it was technology that caused it.
      The High energy price is intentionally. The country uses less energy now than it did in 1980 dispite 100% production increase. Wind and solar power is just a part of the “green” future. Recycling, Waste disposal, central distributed heating, house insulating, heat pumps, geothermal heating adds to the story. Anyone claiming that Danes pay a high price for Electricity are misinformed, we pay a high price for energy, (It does generate a lot jobs though, so it is not a total loss. Wery lucrative high paid jobs in an ekspanding market for years to come.

      • roberto says:

        “Wery lucrative high paid jobs in an ekspanding market for years to come.”

        Maybe, although the cost-per-kWh-delivered of these “high paid jobs” is certainly very high… fact is that this works only because DK has the advantage of being placed in front of two huge hydroelectric countries, SWE and NO, and of having a small population and no large heavy industry… so it is a (good for you) coincidence of situation, impossible to extend to many other countries in Europe.

  4. Aidan says:

    You are doing a great service here, but to the middle-of -the -roader like myself, it is a bit like watching a tennis-game. First the renewables enthusiasts make their point then I swivel around to hear your opposing viewpoint and end up feeling a bit dizzy and confused.

    It seems difficult to take past/current price comparisons and extrapolate them into the future. One of the advantages of renewables seems to be that the costs are known because, apart from maintenance, they are all ‘up-front’ . Nuclear is similar in that fuel costs are relatively small, but the capital costs are so high that the contracts to build Hinkley Point are based on an electricity price around double of what it is today. Whether or not the assumed electricity prices take into account the costs of decommissioning and safely storing the nuclear waste is unclear.

    Most of the claims I have seen about subsidies on fossil fuels don’t relate to actual direct subsidies, but to the fact that they use the ‘commons’ (the atmosphere, rivers,oceans etc) as a cost-free ‘dump’ for their pollution – a cost which the rest of society and future generations have to absorb. I am personally not sure that this is a ‘subsidy’ and I am not sure where this fits in alongside other producers of the same greenhouse gases and other environmental toxins (cement manufacturers, airlines etc). In road transport, I suppose that cyclists are the equivalent of renewable energy producers and pay no taxes, while (at least in the UK) the more CO2 a car produces and the more fuel it uses, the more tax it pays. The renewables-enthusiast would no doubt say that,transferring the same road-vehicle logic to electricity production, generators using fossil fuels should be taxed on their CO2 emissions and that the absence of such taxes amounts to a subsidy.

    As I said, it is fantastic that you are promoting this debate, rather than the usual shouting – match between climate science deniers and naive ‘greenies’ who have no concept of the energy demands of even a fairly simple Western lifestyle.

    • Peter Lang says:

      the capital costs [of nuclear] are so high

      That’s another myth. The capital costs for renewables per average watt delivered are many times higher for renewables than for nuclear.

      Whether or not the assumed electricity prices take into account the costs of decommissioning and safely storing the nuclear waste is unclear.

      It’s always made clear in the reports whether these are or are included or excluded in the LCOE. But it is irrelevant anyway because the costs are negligible compared with LCOE of the plant, LCOE of the grid attributable to the plant, and the expected monetary value of the risk that renewables wil not be able to do the job claimed by their proponents. Here are some figures (in $/MWh):

      Renewables: 0.15
      Nuclear: 0.01

      Waste management:
      Renewables: 0
      Nuclear: 1

      Grid at 50% penetration
      Renewables: 37
      Nuclear 4

      Risk that the technology cannot do the job in 2050:
      Renewables 54
      Nuclear: 3

      If you want references, state which particular figure you need explanation of. If you want it all explained, it would need a post on its own or a very long comment.

      The costs of decommissioning and waste disposal are a red herring continually raised by the RE proponents and continually refuted. These are another myth to add to the list of nuclear myths.

      • roberto says:

        “The costs of decommissioning and waste disposal are a red herring continually raised by the RE proponents and continually refuted. These are another myth to add to the list of nuclear myths.”

        I totally agree with you, this is utter nonsense… one just needs to take as an example France: 410 TWh/year, multiply by 40 years (even without bothering to extend the lifetime of the reactors to 50 or 60) it makes 16400 billion kWh. Even at 50 billion Euros for construction of a deep-level storage, and 1 billion Euro decommissioning cost for each reactor, it adds up to 110 billion Euros… divide that by 16400 one gets the “high costs of decommissioning and waste disposal”… 0.66 EuroCENTS/kWh.

        And this brings us to a corollary of Myth 7: “the high costs of securing the waste sites for eternity”… as if the pharaohs had left a fund to pay for the security of their pyramids/tombs for the past 4000 years after they had been covered by sand dunes.

        More green myths to come, stay tuned…

        … sorry, here it is already number 8… “the high pollution of the uranium mines”… vs a yearly operational report of any modern mine, like Rossing or Olympic Dam.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Thank you Roberto. That’s a good quick reality check.

        • Günter Weber says:


          How much of that 110 billion € were collected and put on a bank account in the last 30 years?

          • roberto says:


            You will find here…


            … the report of the French “Cour des Comptes”, which has looked in detail at all past, present and future costs of the nuclear chain in France.

            For example, page 177, EDF has put aside, as of 2010, 26.5 billion Euros, of which 1.6 billions in 2010 alone, in the face of a charge (diluted over the long times of the decommissioning phase), of 59.6 billions.
            So… just to put things in perspective… assuming that the difference 59.5-26.5 billion Euros will have to be covered (in a time span of decades!) by the French taxpayers… 33 billions… it corresponds to LESS than & year and a half of Germany EEG levys… which already amount now to MORE than 22 billions/year.

            Concerning the waste management, about 28 billion Euros are covered by EDF, AREVA, CEA and other nuclear players.

            Does this answer at least partially your question, Günter?


            P.S.: the 110 billion was MY estimate made for the sake of a calculation under the worst conditions/costs…. 50 billions for the deep repository is certainly exaggerated, as well as 1 billion per reactor’s decommissioning.

            P.S.2: just for comparison… Italy, which is certainly not the best economy of the continent, has committed herself to paying more than 130 billion Euro in “incentives” to 18.4 GWp of PV (the so called “Conto Energia”, which ended in July 2013)… 6,7 billion Euros/year will come out of the electricity bills of the italian people (and commerce/industry) for TWENTY years… and all this to produce an almost aneddotic amount of electricity, 23.4 TWh in 2014… for that amount EDF generates 120 TWh at 5.5 cEuro/kWh… 24 h/24, 365d/year… while Italian PV never generates at night and very little during the 4 consecutive months of Nov-Feb.

          • Günter Weber says:


            thanks for the numbers.

            About the costs of the deep repository, I agree. But decomissioning costs of 1 billion per reactor looks extremely optimistic to me.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Gunter, why don’t you look up the figures from authoritative sources, instead of making assertions based on guesses?

          • Peter Lang says:

            Yankee Rowe,

            Gen I power station. 185 MW. Built 1958 to 1960 at a cost of $39 million

            Operated for 31 years (1961-1992).

            Produced 44 TWh of electricity at a lifetime average capacity factor of 88% (excellent for a Gen 1 plant)

            Decommissioning completed in 2007 at a cost of $608 million.
            (watch the header of the decomissioning in the header here: )

            All the nuclear waste from 44 TWh of electricity generation is sored in 15 canisters and all the high level waste from decomissioning in one canister:

            Decommissioning costs for nuclear power plants, including disposal of associated wastes, are reducing and contribute only a small fraction of the total cost of electricity generation.


            Decommissioning costs are estimated to range between $450 million and $1.3 billion.

            Since this occurs 10 years or more after reactor shut down the cost has to be discounted over 50 to 70 years depending on reactor life. Thus the cost is negligible.

            Although there are many factors that affect reactor decommissioning costs, generally they range from $300 million to $400 million. Approximately 70 percent of licensees are authorized to accumulate decommissioning funds over the operating life of their plants.


            It seems Roberto was being generous with his $1 billion estimate for decommissioning.

          • gweberbv says:

            Roberto & Peter,

            sorry, I was wrong. Just realized that the nuclear power plant Greifswald (which had decommissioning costs of about 4 billion €) consisted of 4 running reactors and 1 in commissioning phase. So, 1 billion $ or € in todays prices is a reasonable erstimate.

          • Peter Lang says:


            Thank you for that. Your comment led me to look up the numbers and post them so that is helpful as it explains it to more people if they are still following the thread.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Aidan, thanks for thoughtful comment. My main complaint in this post is what I consider to be the dishonest way that renewables are promoted. And I’m concerned that similar dishonest standards are applied to the way climate data is analysed and presented to the public.

      If we were told that renewables were going to make electricity more expensive and that overcoming intermittency was a huge challenge that we may never overcome without using gas to balance the grid then I would not have to write this post. If the public and politicians were told that then I very much doubt we would be on the current path.

      The arguments are indeed many shades of grey. The future cost of gas – who knows? A couple of years ago this would have been used as a major argument. But I suspect European gas prices will soon tumble in response to Japan switching nukes back on and the fall in oil prices. In the past, when we had a market economy, as opposed to this Green supremacy, if gas prices went up the market would react by introducing more cost competitive alternatives.

      An argument can be made that wind parks also pollute the commons. They do not impact me directly, but there are a growing number of concerned letters in the local press that foreign tourists are being driven away because of the blots on once fabled Scottish scenery. Small businesses may actually be losing money today.

      There is so much spin around the costs, impacts and safety of so many forms of power generation it does become extremely hard to work out where the truth lies.

    • Willem Post says:

      Here are some facts for guidance.

      Below is a table of federal subsidies for traditional and renewable energy for 2013. Some of the “As Published” values are from the references, and do not agree with the “As Calculated” values. RE received 72.5% of the subsidies, but produced only 13.1% of all the energy. Wind subsidy was 3.522/0.67 = 5.3 times greater than gas. Solar subsidy was 23.121/0.67 = 34.5 times greater than gas.

      Source………………Subsidy…..Production….As Calc’d…As Pub’d
      ………………………….million $…billion kWh…….c/kWh……….c/kWh
      Gas + Petro Liq…….890…………1141……………0.060………..0.067
      Total Trad…………..3251………….3536…………..0.090

      Solar, Utility/Distr….4393…………….19…………23.121………23.121
      Other RE………………594
      Total RE…………….14929…………..533…………..2.191
      Trad + RE………….16113…………4069

  5. Peter Lang says:

    Slide 10 on this presentation is a chart of emissions intensity of electricity versus electricity price for selected sample countries with a high proportion of renewable energy or a high proportion of nuclear power. It makes very clear that renewable energy is very expensive and relatively ineffective at reducing CO2 emissions.

    Slide 14 is also interesting. Note the irony. Most country’s governments are doing the opposite of what they should be doing.

  6. Joe Public says:

    Hi Euan

    Another great posting, thanks.

    “Myth 1 – Nuclear Power (and Fracking) is Unsafe” I’m always amused by those who use the ‘safety’ arguments, as it shows they have no real idea about modern lifestyle’s comparative ‘risk’.

    The following data usually closes any discussion:

    1. Low voltage electrocutions and fatal electrical burns in GB from low voltage electricity supplies (2010 data) – Total: 28

    2. Electric shocks:

    People receiving a mains voltage electric shock per year (15+): 2.5 million
    Of whom received a serious injury: 350,000

  7. Rob says:

    Googling this can show how widespread these myths are A systematic and cynical attempt to mislead to promote the 100% renewable ideal.

    Another idea pushed heavily is that we no longer need base load in this new world of electricity generation we will have smart grids curtail supply. Also that the future will rely on community based decentralised generation and not large scale power stations.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Thanks Rob, the biggest joke here was in my Loch Ness Monster of Storage post, I came across what was probably the worlds largest centralised power station located in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. Decentralised is good when Greens want it to be but no problem with it being vast and centralised if it fits with the Green narrative.

    • roberto says:

      “Another idea pushed heavily is that we no longer need base load in this new world of electricity generation we will have smart grids curtail supply. ”

      … I just read last week an interview on the status/future of the Energiewende. The interviewee was Bruno Burger, of the Fraunhofer Institut ISE.
      He basically maintains that everything’s fine for the Energiewende, no big problems in view… and, staying to your comment, NO NEED AT ALL for baseload power in the future of Germany’s electricity… in fact baseload goes against the need of large scale intermittent renewable sources: what they need, Biurger’s analysis, is fast-ramping backups. He claims that even coal-powered stations are better than nuclear, because the modern coal stations are designed to cycle up and down faster than the old/existing ones, while nuclear can’t cycle sufficiently fast.

      I think this one explains well what I think about this interview: 🙂

  8. Dave Rutledge says:

    Hi Euan,

    “This myth has been peddled with such great success that even President Obama appears to believe it.”

    Even? He is the chief peddler.

    Great post.


  9. Richard Miller says:

    “Green Mythology”? What happened to balanced, non-partisan research? By all means disagree with specific green arguments, on a factual level, but that title is just mud-slinging.

    “Nuclear power is unsafe”. Your metric is “radiation related death in a civilian nuclear power station”. That rules out military deaths, civilian delayed radiation deaths, and future cancer deaths from past and future environmental and food chain contamination. It rules out deaths from the re-processing, enrichment and military activity associated with nuclear power. It rules out all non-fatal dangers, contamination and disruption. I don’t accept your metric. But I do agree that nuclear power has to date directly killed far fewer than the coal, oil or gas industries. Whether radioactive pollution is less or more dangerous than global warming is an interesting question.

    “Fossil Fuels are heavily subsidised”. You state, “Subsidies paid by governments to fossil fuel production companies are minimal to non-existent.” The IEA’s latest estimates indicate that fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $548 billion in 2013.

    “Geographic Dispersion Smooths out the Intermittency of Wind and Solar”. Agreed, adequate geographic smoothing is probably impossible, but has anyone said otherwise? Complete smoothing seems to require some energy storage too, and why not? Don’t let the best become the enemy of the good – something is often better than nothing.

    “Combining Different RE Sources May Smooth Supply”. As you say, it can, but sometimes it won’t. Is that a good enough reason to continue emitting more CO2 than we need?

    “RE (wind, solar and tidal power) is Cheap”. It’s getting cheaper all the time, but it isn’t there yet. And yes, there will be extra costs for running intermittency fill-in generation from fossil/nuclear. But no-one except Stern counts the cost of the pollution from fossil fuel plants. When you or I buy the cheapest power, we get all the benefit, while the pollution cost is spread amongst all 7 billion humans on the planet. Where’s our incentive? That’s the cost greens are trying to get below, and are you so sure it isn’t there yet?

    Price is not everything, there are other values (pace Oscar Wilde). My particular green viewpoint (other green viewpoints are available) is that the world’s direction of travel at the moment is towards a very nasty place indeed, because each step we take personally is the cheapest. It leads to more pollution, more consumption, greater wealth gaps, higher environmental risk (including higher mortality) and a steady degradation of the non-monetary pleasures that make life worth living. One purpose of a government is perhaps to take the longer view. Individuals will not take a step of short-term self-sacrifice until everyone else does; government in this instance may be able to get us all to move roughly together, towards long term benefits that include reduced global warming. That seems to me a goal worth a bit of subsidy.

    • Willem Post says:


      The IEA’s latest estimates indicate that fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $548 billion in 2013.

      Total world generation was about 22,000 TWh , or 22,000 billion kWh in 2012
      548/22,000 = 2.5 c/kWh.

      Looks to me not excessive.

      In the US, traditional generation received 0.09 c/kWh
      In the US, RE generation received 2.91 c/kWh

      See my above comment Aug 17; 2:52 pm comment to Aidan.

    • Euan Mearns says:


      Subsidies: Many African and OPEC countries subsidies energy prices and food prices. If you are Algerian or Egyptian do you really think its unfair that government should sell the people’s gas to the people at rates below market rates set by the global economy. Your line of reasoning here would also set you against winter fuel payments in the UK. Let Africans eat cake and UK pensioners freeze in the dark. I know you are fairly deep Green Richard, but is this what you really want to espouse?

      The geographic dispersion and RE technology employed arguments ARE important. They offer partial solutions to intermittency, perhaps 10%, and so they are not solutions at all.

      Energy Storage: – another myth until there is a breakthrough in thermodynamics.

      Whether radioactive pollution is less or more dangerous than global warming is an interesting question.

      I’d agree, but given that fatalities that can be attributed to either are both unmeasurably low and uncertain, is this really where our focus should be? If we are interested in human safety there’s a hundred other things to be concerned about. If we’re interested in eco-system integrity then there’s probably at least 10 other things to be more concerned about.

      Price is not everything….

      I’d agree there. My objection here is not that FF alternatives may be more expensive – and that may include nuclear. It is the way that RE is presented as being cheaper and that politicians adopt (or as Dave R suggests propagate) as a reason for deploying them.

      • Richard Miller says:

        Hi Euan,

        Long time no see.
        My comment on FF subsidies was just a riposte to the statement, “Subsidies paid by governments to fossil fuel production companies are minimal to non-existent”, because subsidies are apparently extensive. They include tax-free fuel for shipping, manufacturing, agriculture or aircraft, tax breaks for producers, free coal for miners and their widows (my ma-in-law) or the UK winter fuel allowance (me soon), besides cheap oil/gas for the citizens of FF-producing states. You ask if it’s unfair to provide cheap gas in Egypt. I’d ask, if it’s fair to subsidise gas in Egypt, why is it unfair to subsidise photovoltaics in UK? I think such FF subsidies are not unfair, but perhaps unwise. They are terribly hard to withdraw, as Nigeria, Jordan and Indonesia have discovered, so what happens when your supply runs out, or the budget is in such crisis that the gas simply has to be sold globally in order to keep the country’s hospitals running? And how do you stop your citizens becoming ever more firmly welded to a FF economic model which must be doomed when FF runs out? I’d be inclined to give the citizens the monetary value instead, and let them choose. The winter fuel allowance at least permits some choice over energy providers, being cash based rather than a metaphorical drum of oil.

        As you say, energy storage equates to energy expenditure, and TD doesn’t allow full energy recovery. I’d suggest that some storage of green energy, albeit at an energy cost, is better than no storage and a consequent burning of FFs.

        You state that fatalities attributable to climate change are unmeasurably low and uncertain, and that does rather pin me squirming to the floor! I’m reminded of the Lance Armstrong case, when it was asked how many and which races he won due to doping. Who knows? It seems highly probable that he won more races – but how many, and which? With climate change, I suspect it has already significantly raised deaths from weather extremes and related hazards of all descriptions – but I have no idea which, and I can’t prove a thing. We’re in the same boat though, because you can’t prove climate change has been harmless to date, and will prove harmless in future (relative to other crises).

        Regarding human safety and eco-system integrity, the latter seems to me in more need of help. I don’t regard people as the only important entities on the planet, and there are things I would not sacrifice in order to save or create one more. I’ll defend that point of view, but here may not be the forum.

        And finally, the cost of RE. I think we agree that today it isn’t as cheap to produce as other energy, and that politicians sometimes exaggerate its cheapness. Well, not the current crew of politicians, of course, who seemingly measure every policy solely by its short-term cost, value and/or profitability to industry. I repeat my concern that climate change and other forms of air pollution form a longer-term cost which is almost never included in FF cost calculations. We’ve seen some such small costs already – miners’ lung diseases and white finger (my pa-in-law) for example. The future costs are unknown but have been predicted by sober and thoughtful scientists to include many kinds of weather events and climate-related problems on vast scales. I don’t think it’s wise to wait until such costs have demonstrably occurred before doing something about it.

        Keep up the analyses!

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Richard, there are some things we will unlikely ever agree on. But its good to have an exchange of views.

          I think it is important to clearly distinguish between subsidies paid to energy producers (i.e. many RE producers) from those paid to consumers (poor folks and old folks). Unfortunately in this debate the impression is often given that BP are being subsidised by the tax payer when the exact opposite is true.

          Food is a good example. The EU has a fabled system of subsidy for food production that lines the pockets of agri business. Egypt I know has a system of subsidy for food consumption where they buy the world’s most expensive food from Europe and subsidies it so that Egyptians can afford to eat.

          And I’m not going to accept that an absence of tax is a subsidy. The most famous case is commercial jet fuel. But I wouldn’t put it past Jeremy Corbin to set the UK up as a poster child for future air travel by slapping 25% tax on fuel. This would solve multiple problems, the need for a 15th runway at Heathrow being one of them 😉 I know you will have a different take on this.

          A point where we can probably agree is that systems of taxation and subsidy distort markets. And in the case of food in Egypt this may have in the past led to more Egyptians, and if it becomes necessary to unwind these subsidies this could undoubtedly cause major problems in the future.

          On energy storage, I’m a fan of pumped hydro and do believe we should have a lot more of it. But it only works economically on the diurnal cycle – storing base load for peak supply the next day. To try and store renewable surpluses for use at times of renewable scarcity just doesn’t work since the time scale is weeks and the TWh scale is monstrous.

          Ironically this leads to concepts for the biggest centralised power station in Europe in a world of supposedly distributed generation.

          On the risks associated with CC, I think it is impossible to model these with any certainty. And I believe there are a large number of more pressing and certain environmental issues that should be addressed with some urgency but which unfortunately are being exacerbated by single minded focus on CO2. For example, deforestation and over fishing, esp North Sea sand eels by the Danes.

          What’s more, the action taken so far to combat CO2 emissions has been a 110% failure but has real negative consequences for European citizens.

          And so I probably sit close to Bjorn Lomberg and Lord Lawson on these matters. Lets protect what is known to be at risk and what can be protected. And prepare to mitigate for CC as and if these risks emerge. If there is some out of control exponential feedback at work then it is probably already too late. But I very much doubt that is the case.

          On your final paragraph, I’ll simply cut to the quick (sp?). Anyone genuinely concerned about CO2 emissions AND the welfare of humanity would be strongly pro-nuclear.

          Best, Euan

        • Peter Lang says:

          Richard Miller,

          I’d suggest that some storage of green energy, albeit at an energy cost, is better than no storage and a consequent burning of FFs.

          Why did you mention “green energy” rather than be technologically neutral?

          If you wanted to mention a technology, why didn’t you say “nuclear” instead? Nuclear is far superior to renewables in meeting all the key requirements.

        • Peter Lang says:

          [Repost to correct formatting]

          Richard Miller,

          I’d suggest that some storage of green energy, albeit at an energy cost, is better than no storage and a consequent burning of FFs.

          Why did you mention “green energy” rather than be technologically neutral?

          If you wanted to mention a technology, why didn’t you say “nuclear” instead? Nuclear is far superior to renewables in meeting all the key requirements.

    • roberto says:

      Military use of nuclear (i.e. bombs) is to civil nuclear (production of electricity for the masses) as military use of PV panels (on military satellites used for guiding military warheads on civilian targets) is to solar PV panels for the masses.

      So, if you include deaths by atomic bombs (250 thousand summing up the only two cases of actual use on inhabited areas) you should include also, for instance, the 170 thousand people killed by hydroelectric dams accidents… 152 thousand alone in one case, in the 80’s.

      Reactors are NOT bombs… not even breeder reactors running primarily on plutonium… which brings us to TWO more Green Anti-Nuclear Myths:

      Myth 9: “Nuclear reactors can explode like bombs”

      Myth 10: “Plutonium is the deadliest substance ever created”

    • Agreed, adequate geographic smoothing is probably impossible, but has anyone said otherwise?

      Here are a couple. I’m sure there are more:

      European Wind Energy Association: The wind does not blow continuously, yet there is little overall impact if the wind stops blowing somewhere – it is always blowing somewhere else. Thus, wind can be harnessed to provide reliable electricity even though the wind is not available 100% of the time at one particular site.

      Fraunhofer Institute: The study evaluated whether a closer integration of the power network in the CWE region could reduce weather-related power fluctuations for all countries, as differences in weather across Europe cancel each other out.

      • Richard Miller says:

        Hm… yes, fair enough, could have been better worded. The first is actually true but then draws a false conclusion, short of wiring the world to a single grid. The second talks of reducing rather than eliminating, but does invite misunderstandings.

        • If you consider the world as your oyster you can in fact flatten out solar variations, but you would have to connect Europe with New Zealand to do it. Either that or install the space-based solar systems that Phil Chapman espouses.

          Wind, however, is stochastic, and while adding more generation from larger areas will indeed tend to reduce variance you will still get spikes and troughs regardless of how large your area gets and how many wind farms you add.

          Tidal power, incidentally, can’t be flattened out by combining output from different installations because spring and neap tides occur at the same time everywhere. Combining output to smooth out diurnal variations, which in areas of semidiurnal tides give you four separate energy spikes each day, could theoretically be done but would probably be unachievable in practice.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Richard Miller,

          Regarding distribution of wind and solar to get reliable power supply to meet demand, why even bother? Why not just go nuclear and get reliable, dispatchable power supply near the demand centres. The grid costs for renewables at high penetration are huge. So why advocate for renewables? Most renewabes advocates have a cult type belief. They haven’t objectively compared the alternatives, e.g.
          Renewables or Nuclear Electricity for Australia – the Costs

  10. Ed says:

    ‘Renewables’ are fossil fuel extenders. They take fossil energy and multiply it by a factor greater than one. In effect, you are investing energy (money) now to recoup more energy (money) later. It’s called investing in you future. I’m with you, Euan; I don’t give a ***** about future generations, I want lower energy bills NOW.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Ed, not sure if this is a satirical slap or not? The first part of your comment I can agree with in as far that what we produce in the UK from wind and solar doesn’t need to be produced from imported gas leaving that gas for someone else. But then I think its a mistake to extend that argument to wind and solar improving our energy security since the benefit of indigenous supply needs to be balanced against the erratic nature of that indigenous supply. Nuclear could replace all UK FF based generation and not be erratic.

      On your second point I know that many would like to have lower energy bills. I’m kind of neutral on that point. What I am complaining about is the dishonesty of claims that RE brings down the price of electricity when there is a mass of data that argues against it.

      On future generations I think we do need to take quite a bit of responsibility to pass on forests and fish. But I think energy planning platforms like the 2050 calculator can be abused as systems of control. Future generations will need to work out how to supply their own energy needs.

      • Ed says:

        I naturally bristle when I read articles espousing that investing in future energy infrastructure is a waste of money. If you were to argue that nuclear is a better way to spend our money(energy) than ‘renewables’ then I could accept that as a valid point of view. Either way, energy bills would be higher whatever your choice..

        You also like to label certain people “Green”. Again I naturally bristle when I read this. This forms barriers between people and is profoundly unhelpful in discussing issues such as energy, population and the economy.

        Lets be honest to your readership. There is a big picture out there. How much fossil fuel will the planet be extracting in 2100? What will the carrying capacity of the planet be in 2100? I have a fair idea and the answer is not pretty.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Ed, I haven’t labelled anyone as Green and from my experience Greens don’t mind being labelled as such. They are quite proud of the badge that I find increasingly distasteful. But I’m also pleased that a couple have showed up for the debate with comments that actually enable a discussion to take place.

          You are entitled to be pro-renewable without wearing a Green badge.

          This post is really about the manipulation of public psyche by Green thinking, media – MSM and social, politics, policy formation, science and where truth lies.

          There is a big picture out there. How much fossil fuel will the planet be extracting in 2100? What will the carrying capacity of the planet be in 2100? I have a fair idea and the answer is not pretty.

          You say you have a fair idea but based on what? I’d rate deforestation, over fishing and water resources as the main resource constraints we face today. I haven’t a clue what the situation will be in 2100. Energy is only a constraint if we follow the current path that is designed to fell humanity.

          But I’ll bet ya that population in 2100 is 7 billion, falling and incredibly old.

          • Ed says:

            Not a chance. Lets take the UK as an example. The last time the UK (and Ireland at the time) was self sufficient in food was in about 1820 before the corn laws were repealed. The population stood at 20 million. We are now at over 64 million UK and N.Ireland. and soon to be home to half of Africa. One third of our food is imported and the other two thirds is heavily dependant on fossil fuels for their yield. Nuclear or ‘renewables’ will not feed us in the absence of fossil fuels. I notice that you completely ducked the question on how much fossil fuel the planet will be extracting in 2100. My guess: zero.

            And for the record, most of the ‘Greens’ that you so despise don’t get it either. They live in a anti-austerity la-la land. The Conservatives in 1820 got it but the repeal of the corn laws spit the party.

          • roberto says:

            Reply to Ed:

            ” I notice that you completely ducked the question on how much fossil fuel the planet will be extracting in 2100. My guess: zero.”

            Nonsense. If with FF you meant oil and its derivatives then in 2100 there will be certainly less oil dto extract from the ground, but “FF” includes coal, and coal there is some for centuries to come… the US Energy Information Agency in the 70s had made a (more than) educated guess about the amount of oil which would have been extracted in the following 30 years in contiguous US: come 2013 an amount equal to 3 times their prediction had already been extracted, and there is ” a bit more” left underground.

            FF will be, for the good and the bad, with mankind forever… worst case they will become so rare and expensive that their extraction rate will be similar to gold’s… for niche applications maybe?… but saying “zero” to me is pure nonsense.

  11. William says:

    You are right that there is much misinformation put about (probably by all sides). But I don’t understand why residential prices are the metric of choice. If aluminum smelters are migrating to Germany for the cheap electricity, why is the price paid by Frau Merkel to run her toaster more important? A more useful metric would be the cost of electricity averaged over all users (total consumption / total price paid). Is that information available?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      William, this is a good point. I’ll cut to the chase of what I think is important here. Does Germany understand better than most that cheap industry prices help German industry to be competitive? And this leads to more successful German industry and more jobs and more money in workers pockets? Who can then afford to pay higher residential prices?

      The Germans are both very clever and clever at propaganda. Lets face it. The Green power house of Europe turns out millions of Mercedes Benz, BMWS, Audis and Porsches.

      I chose the metric of residential electricity prices because others did and it shows an amazing correlation. And there are multiple reasons to believe as detailed in the post that renewable electricity systems are going to cost more money. The complaint is about claims that they will not.

      I’ll happily retract when provided with evidence that new renewables lower the price of electricity systems.

      • William says:

        German and Danish medium industrial consumers pay less than 10c per KWh. The same holds for most of Europe. Plotting domestic prices alone gives results that can be used to oppose renewables, so I can see why it is attractive. However, it paints a misleading picture.

        Even for this restricted data, I’m not convinced that the correlation the graph shows is either amazing or significant. Per-capita is an odd basis to use. Plotting relative to GDP or total consumption (as you did later) seems a more natural measure and the correlation then disappears if Denmark is excluded. And we don’t know how comparable all of those countries are, whether they all have privatized generators and grid, whether the same degree of regional coverage exists and if all grids have the same very high reliability as the German grid (of course they don’t). The plots imply they are directly comparable, but I’d bet it is all much more complicated.

        And even for domestic users, you have presented nothing that shows whether electricity prices have increased more rapidly in countries that installed more renewables and have not always been high.

        I can’t give you proof that new renewables (in general, not just wind/solar) make electricity cheaper – I’d be rather surprised if they did at the moment (although hydro probably does, but there’s not much scope for new hydro). So no danger of having to retract anything, although you might add “Domestic” to the title.

    • Peter Lang says:

      Averaged and normalised electricity IEA prices across all users is what is plotted in Slide 10 in the “Canadian Energy Issues” site I mentioned in a previous comment. However, the site appears to be down at the moment.

    • Dave Rutledge says:

      Hi William,

      The IEA 2015 Electricity information shows (Table 3.5) German industrial electricity prices quadrupling between 2000 ($41/MWh) and 2014 ($179/MWh)


    • Joe Public says:

      Hi William

      “But I don’t understand why residential prices are the metric of choice.”

      Because it’s the public who are / should be concerned about the price *they* are paying. It’s the public which votes.

      The public who apparently find their own electricity bills ‘confusing’.

      If industrial / averaged prices were introduced, imagine explaining ½-hourly Maximum Demand Charges*. And how they impact upon bills.

      *Coming to a Smart Meter any time soon. [Maybe not ½-hourly for domestic customers, but Time-of-Day charging will happen.]

  12. Owen says:

    This is perhaps the best post yet on RE on the internet. Well done.

    It shows that we are in a period of world history distinguished by wild euphoria and mass hysteria about RE. Our descendants, who will be using almost all nuclear power, will see us in the same light as 15C witch-hunters.

    • Ed says:

      Sorry to deflate your optimism, Owen. Nuclear is totally dependant on fossil fuels for its deployment, maintenance and decommissioning. Nuclear can only extend the fossil fuel age, not replace it. Nothing can replace fossil energy and the world’s population has grown to 7.4 billion people because of fossil energy.

      Over to Euan et al. to persuade me otherwise; and I do want to be persuaded, believe me.

      • Peter Lang says:


        “Sorry to deflate your optimism, Owen. Nuclear can only extend the fossil fuel age, not replace it.”

        Sorry to deflate your pessimism, Ed. Your statement is not correct. Nuclear power can provide all the World’s energy needs with 10 billion people using that today’s average USA per capita energy consumption for thousands of years. It can produce unlimited petrol, diesel, jet fuel and other hydro carbons (without contaminants) from sea water (zero CO2 emissions over the long term). These fuels are not yet economic, but no new technologies were at first. The key point is that we have effectively unlimited energy supply with nuclear energy.
        John Morgan “Zero emissions jet fuel from sea water”
        You can read much more on the US Navy’s research on this. Also read Audi’s development of diesel. Both estimate it can be produced for $3-6/gallon with existing well proven, commercially available technologies.

        I suggest you open your mind and challenge your beliefs.

        • Ed says:

          Average person in the USA consumes 200 kWh of energy per day (conservative figure)

          10 billion people x 200 kWh = 2.0 x 10^12 kWh per day. (for 10 billion to consume energy like US citizens do now)

          If an Nuk produces 1 GW. This is 2.4×10^7 kWh per day

          Therefore you would need 83,000 or so 1 GW Nuks.

          At $5000 per kW, this would cost 83,000 x 5000 x 10^6 = $415 Trillion.

          This is equivalent to over 5 years of gross world produce.

          ie All the energy available in the world for 5 years would have to go into building these nuks.

          I don’t need to say anything more !!

          • Ed. Interesting. Do you have an estimate of how much it would cost to do the same thing with wind turbines, solar panels, biomass, CSP, tidal lagoons, biogas, smart grids, small hydro, wall-mounted storage batteries etc.?

          • Willem Post says:

            Solar panels have useful service lives of about 25 years. They last longer, but produce less and less.

            Throughout their life they lose about 0.5%/y in output, so at the end of 25 years, that would be about 12% less.

            During the first 7 – 8 years, the system is generating to offset the energy that went into it.

            It is much better with wind turbines. Their capacity factors are higher.

            It takes about 1.2 – 1.5 years for onshore wind turbines to offset the energy that went into it.

            A coal plant, base loaded at a capacity factor of about 0.85, and lasting at least 40, 50, even 60 years, does NOT spend a good part of its useful service life offsetting the energy that went into it.

            Here are some numbers:

            EROI = Energy returned/energy invested, years:

            Nuclear……..50 – 75; with centrifuge enrichment

            PV System…..6.8

            The last four are in a class by themselves! With enough subsidies, they will continue to exist.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Willem Post,

            Three point you might be interested in:

            1. Although solar panels have useful lives up around 25 years, the average life of residential solar panel installations is around 12 to 15 years (I understand). This is because houses get renovated and the original installation is not reinstalled. Also houses get sold, the installation fails for some reason or other and the new owners don’t realise or are not interested in fixing it. Also average capacity factor of the residential PV installations is much less than the optimum for many reasons – less than optimum orientation, increased shading through life as new buildings and trees nearby grow higher and create more shading, system outages that are left unrepaired for long periods, less cleaning, etc.

            2. I am not sure that the EROEI figures in the Wikipedia report are the most reliable. It is a very complex subject. An excellent post based on an extensively reviewed, critiqued and debated German paper is here: This explains why renewables are not sustainable. A long comment by the author, John Morgan, near the end of the thread and comments by Cyril R a UK engineer are also very interesting.

            3. Although ERoEI is around 75 for Gen II nuclear, I understand (but may be wrong), it is potentially up to around 7500 for breeder reactors (Gen IV).

          • Peter Lang says:

            Roger Andrews,

            I missed this comment until now. Thank you for pointing out the obvious. It’s amazing how many people do calculations like this but don’t do the same calculation for the alternatives so they don’t do a proper comparison. There are a very large number of analyses showing the comparison and nuclear is really the only one that can power the world for thousands of years after the fossil fuels are all used.

            Long before that we’ll be travelling around the universe in ‘sailing ships’, using gravity waves and tacking to and fro to go hither and thither 🙂

            Before that we’ll be mining hydrogen on Jupiter to run fusion reactors so we can travel through black holes to other universes and return safely to Earth – having plundered some goodies from other places.

          • roberto says:

            “I don’t need to say anything more !!”

            Good decision… so far what you’ve written has been painful to read.

          • Willem Post says:


            Addition to my August 18, 10:03 am comment:

            Here is a site, which has a RECENT summary of EROIs based on a survey of prior articles listed at the bottom. See table 1, which indicates:

            – Mine-mouth……27 – 80
            – Natural gas……20 – 67
            – Nuclear…………..5 – 15; gaseous diffusion
            – Nuclear…………50 – 75; centrifugal enrichment
            – Hydro……………..100+
            – Wind……………….18
            – PV solar…………6 – 12; depending on location
            – Bio diesel………….1.3

            NOTE: The values for wind and solar would be lower, if adjusted for support items such as:

            – Back up generating capacity adequacy, MW.
            – Back up flexible capacity adequacy, MW, for inefficiently ramping up and down at part load to balance variable energy and to provide energy when wind and solar are insufficient.
            – Transmission and Distribution system adequacy.
            – Energy storage.

            A modern society needs a minimum EROI of 7 to function at a basic level.

            Anything below that number is not sustainable from a modern society viewpoint.

            To take from society resources to subsidize what is unsustainable is ludicrous.

            It would be similar to having the world’s regular Olympics morphing to become a worldwide Special Olympics.


          • Ed says:

            Thanks, Roger, Willem, Peter, and Roberto for replying. My views are very fluid and I’m on the long journey to trying to get my head round our predicament where energy meets economics meets population meets limits. Currently reading stuff from Nicole Foss from the Automatic Earth. She is a little further on in this journey than myself.

          • Peter Lang says:


            Thank you for that comment. It’s always good to hear someone’s self appraisal of where there at on this journey. We are all on it, except those who have made up their minds.

            I found this Testimony by Professor Judith Curry to the US House of Representatives “Hearing on the US President’s UN Climate Pledge” very interesting. The summary is just one page. You can decide for yourself if you want to read further or even watch the video of her testimony.

            Written testimony:

        • Willem Post says:


          Thank you for pointing me to the Catch-22 article.

          “But the idea that advances in energy storage will enable renewable energy is a chimera – the Catch-22 is that in overcoming intermittency by adding storage, the net energy is reduced below the level required to sustain our present civilization.”

          That statement about sums it up.

          Mankind has been living out of a trust fund, called fossil fuels, as if there were no to-morrow, and slowly but surely, the chickens are coming home to roost.

          RE folks, using their Myths, will continue to deceive the lay people, and claim RE is the future, whereas, in fact, the build-out and continuation of their RE systems will use up so much resources, and produce so little expensive energy, that the letdown, when it finally hits the about 10 billion people in 2050, will be enormous; a slow-moving, steadily unfolding apocalypse.

      • roberto says:

        “Nuclear is totally dependant on fossil fuels for its deployment, maintenance and decommissioning. ”

        This is myth no:11… congratulations Ed!

        How more wrong than this can you be, Ed?

        Come to the land of nuclear, France, and you’ll see by yourself that what you’ve said here above is nonsense.

        – All enrichment, fabrication,and downstream nuclear cycle of the nuclear fuel is 100% from nuclear itself (Tricastin and La Hague, with satellite factories around them);

        – Transport is mainly via train, which is in turn 75% from nuclear and 17% from non-FF sources (hydro, wind, biomass, and traces of PV);

        – Construction of the reactors and buildings is about 50% FF-driven, but the entire energy expenditure of a nuclear power plant amounts to 4-6 months of the energy it eventually produces in a year… meaning that this step of the cycle is absolutely NOT “totally dependant” on FFs;

        – The two extremities of the cycle, site decommissioning and mining are mainly FF-driven, but their weight in the nuclear energy budget is very minimal, just look at any Environmental Product Declaration of the nuclear kWh…. easy to find.

        Next Green Anti-Nuclear Myth to debunk? 🙂

      • Richard Miller says:

        Ed – nuclear, as we do it today, is dependent on FF, agreed. But suppose we lived on a planet with little FF. I think it unlikely we would be unable to work out how to do nuclear; indeed, the very fact that we had so little else might incentivise us to find a way. And so I do not accept that nuclear is inevitably dependent on FF to make the concrete, mine the pitchblende and feed the staff. But a lot would have to change in order to succeed, no doubt.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Richard Miller,

          nuclear, as we do it today, is dependent on FF, agreed.

          But Renewable energy is much more dependent on fossil fuels than nuclear, do you agree?

          If not see this “Catch 22 of energy storage”. Renewables are totally dependent on fossil fuels because they are not sustainable without them. But nuclear can be sustainable without them, and with breeder reactors sustainable indefinitely. Nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited if used breeder reactors. And with unlimited nuclear power we can produce unlimited petrol, diesel, jet fuels and any other hydro carbon fuels we want (without contaminants) from sea water. Are you aware of all this?

  13. jacobress says:

    About fossil fuel subsidies: in many oil and gas producing countries (eg. Saudi Arabia) oil and gas are sold to the local market at prices below international prices. Some call this a subsidy but it is not exactly so. The Government does not pay the companies some money (taken from treasury, from the “rich”) to sell the oil cheap. They force the production companies (most are government owned) to sell oil cheap, not at a loss (relative to production costs), but at a lower profit than the one that could be obtained abroad. This is not a subsidy but rather a wealth sharing scheme between the oil producers and local population.

    So, another green myth is “fossil fuel subsidies”.

    • Willem Post says:


      In the Middle East, that oil is a “set-a-side”, to be used only by the locals for a small fee. The locals are also given some money to buy their necessities, usually imported.

      The rest of the oil is sold abroad at whatever price can be obtained.

      With the money, desalinization plants are built, and power plants, and all sorts of infrastructure, and weapons are bought, and various other goods and services.

      That was the ideal world, until various factions went at each other in multiple civil wars.

      Those wars predated the finding of oil, and will not end, even the Middle East runs out of oil.

      • jacobress says:

        Oil is sold cheap to locals in many oil producing countries also outside the Middle East (eg. Venezuela). The oil producing companies (gvmt. owned) – rather than being subsidized by Government (like wind and solar) are forced to **pay** a subsidy (forgo profits) to the local population.

        On the other hand, in most countries, especially Europe, gas is heavily taxed (by more than 100%), so the oil pays more than it’s fair share for the “freeloading” pollution it causes.
        So – another myth is busted: that fossil fuels are “freeloaders” that pollute the commons for free.

    • Richard Miller says:

      Good try, but unconvincing I think. As you say, the government does not buy the oil/gas and give it away, it makes the company do that (sometimes the company is part of the government, of course). But the company does not pay, otherwise it packs up and does something else. If the government requires the company to give up some profit by subsidising the citizens, then the other contractual terms must effectively reimburse that money, or else the company ceases trading. Thus, to compensate for giving away oil/gas, less money will leave the company and flow to the government in the form of taxes, royalties, licence fees and so forth. Ultimately the government makes less money from the industry than it could, and the citizens have more oil/gas – or money – than otherwise. By a circuitous route, the end result is exactly the same as if the government did buy the stuff and give it away. It is a subsidy, called something else.

      What is your answer to the IEA’s estimate of FF subsidies exceeding $ half a trillion annually, the IEA being not famously green?

  14. [i]Green Mythologists arguing that correlation does not necessarily mean causation, which of course has a grain of truth running through it. But what they forget to point out is that more often than not a correlation is caused by a physical co-variation of the two variables plotted, in this case higher levels of renewable penetration leads to higher electricity prices.[/i]

    As my supervisor recently wrote as a review comment in my thesis: bollocks. [b]Scientists understand[/b] that correlation is not causation. End of. Nothing to do with “Green Mythologists”. Without some other form of analysis i.e. an independent set of data, an analysis of how renewable actually contribute to electricity prices, how domestic/industrial/commercial prices vary, how electricity prices change with time and whether or not these changes are in step with renewable penetration or change at a threshold, etc. then the nice correlation is nothing more than that. It says absolutely nothing about whether one variable is dependent on the other. All that one can say about your graph is that [i]higher levels of renewable penetration are coincidental with higher electricity prices[/i]. One cannot conclude that one leads to the other based on this graph alone, and I see no other data presented here (or in your links) which would strongly indicate causation. Your conclusion is, therefore. invalid.

    I also think you should consider how meaningful any use of “expensive” or “high” is in relation to energy prices. Expensive compared to what, exactly? You don’t say. Germany and Denmark may have the highest energy prices, but compared to their standard of living they may be much lower than, say, the UK. “High” is not the same as “unaffordable” or “onerous”.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Kit, as I detail in my post, correlation does not necessarily mean causation unless one can argue independently that the correlation is spurious. I detail 8 points in the post that show why an RE based system is likely to be more expensive:

      High capital cost per GW of installed capacity compared with gas [7]
      High maintenance costs of equipment
      Low load factors
      High cost of subsidies
      High cost of maintaining 100% back up
      High cost of load balancing
      High cost of grid up-grades
      High cost of storage

      Not only have you over-looked this but you seem to disagree with it. So the ball is on your park to demonstrate why an RE based system should not be more expensive since you have challenged my view but provided no alternative model of why and RE system should be cheaper.

      I also think you should consider how meaningful any use of “expensive” or “high” is in relation to energy prices. Expensive compared to what, exactly? You don’t say. Germany and Denmark may have the highest energy prices, but compared to their standard of living they may be much lower than, say, the UK. “High” is not the same as “unaffordable” or “onerous”.

      This is a fair argument. But how do you make an argument to deploy RE in Algeria based on this? Instead of them using their abundant natural gas? And you need to consider this:

      It is a gross oversimplification to suggest that RE may have contributed to the stagnant economies of these countries, especially since Germany and Denmark have two of Europe’s most successful economies. I think we can conclude that a strong economy can withstand the pressure of high RE penetration.

      I think you need to close read all of my posts before commenting.

      • Kit, as I detail in my post, correlation does not necessarily mean causation unless one can argue independently that the correlation is spurious.

        Well, if you do, you dismissed it immediately by saying “…in this case higher levels of renewable penetration leads to higher electricity prices.” Your list of 8 reasons are hypotheses only; they are not analysed in any way to provide conclusive proof that the convenient correlation is nothing more than that. See my previous comment and William’s about what other factors may come into play, including time.

        Not only have you over-looked this but you seem to disagree with it. So the ball is on your park to demonstrate why an RE based system should not be more expensive since you have challenged my view but provided no alternative model of why and RE system should be cheaper.

        You’re the one making assertions that they’re ‘expensive’ but without numbers. What % of those domestic electricity prices are made up of renewables costs? If it’s >= than renewable penetration as a % then there could be a case for renewables causing high domestic prices. But you haven’t shown this, and you should, since you’re drawing these conclusions.

        But how do you make an argument to deploy RE in Algeria based on this?

        We’re talking about Europe, are we not?

        • Willem Post says:


          In 2014, Germany’s Energiewende energy was bought by utilities from various RE generators at an average of 20 c/kWh.

          They sold that energy on the wholesale market, often at negative prices, but on average at about 4.5 c/kWh.

          The difference is paid to utilities from a fund that collects the EEG charge on household bills (6.24 c/kWh), and the bills of others.

          The effect is to increase electric bills to have an expensive RE program and RE generating capacity, MW.

          As Germany works more and more of that program and capacity into its economy, that economy will become less efficient than it would have been, will grow less than it would have, all other things being equal, per Economics 101.

          But that is not all. It took capital to set up the program and to build the capacity.

          About 200.2 billion euro in capital cost. The 200.2 b euro does not include the capital costs of additional balancing capacity build-outs, MW, and grid build-outs, estimated at about 40 b euro, which Germany should have made, but largely did not. As a result, Germany has to frequently use the grids of nearby nations to balance its variable wind and solar energy.

          The total EEG surcharge on electric bills was about 111.6 b euro, for the 2000 – 2014 period. About 1.5 million ratepayers (households, etc.), with PV systems, avoided buying some of their electricity from the grid, but the other 30 million households, without PV systems, mostly less well off, bore the full brunt of the surcharge.

          Note the growth of biomass energy:

          This article, which has had more than 50,000 views on THE ENERGY COLLECTIVE, describes all in detail.

          • gweberbv says:


            I cannot see any significant damage to Germany’s economy.

            – Capital sucked into renewables (and then missing for other invesments) is a non-issue (in Germany). The country is flooded by capital. If you are going to buy or build a house, you can get money for an interest rate of less than 1.5% for ten years. If you take into account inflation and administrative costs, you basicly get money for free from the bank.

            – Electricity price for households is relatively high, but as electricity is rarely used for heating in Germany this is also not a major issue. If you pay 35 € or 55 € per month on your electricity bill is no game changer for 95% of the households.

            – Same situation for companies. For most of them, electricity bills play a minor role. And the heavy users do not contribute to renewables surcharge. On the contrary, these companies that have a huge electricity consumption massively profit from the fact, that the renewables are being pushed into a market that has now a vast surplus capacity.

            The only part of the economy that was severly hit are the owners of fossil power plants. They are trapped in a market where everybody is forced to sell electricity covering only the running costs of their plants. It is impossible to get the investments costs back for new plants that are not already written off. However, to me this is an inevitable cost of the Energiewende. In the future, the only objective for the owners of fossil plants is to act as a back-up for the renewables. Most of the plants will have just a few hundred operation hours per years. It is impossible to build new plants on that basis. So, the government will have to jump in and (directly or indirectly) take over the necessary plants. Not much space for a free market anymore.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Interesting comments. I have “forecast” that German and other FF generators will have to go into state ownership. The question really needs to be asked WHY? I’m now looking at CO2 emissions. Germany has the highest per capita emissions in Europe and it appears they have fallen the least since 2000.

          • gweberbv says:

            Euan Mearns,

            the Energiewende was started without any viable plan to phase out the fossil-fuel power plants. Somehow this was a blind spot for policy makers. Without Fukushima even the nuclear power plants would have gotten an extention of their operation time.

            As a result, Germany has a massive capacity surplus (at the moment) which result in electricity prices on the order of 3 cent/kWh. Probably the cheapest in central Europe. Look at the electricity exports. They are skyrocketing since a few years. During a significant amount of time Germany exports 15% to 20% of its domestic generation (interconnectors are in the moment limited to something like 10 GW).

            So, it is a no-brainer why German carbon emission are not going down: (Most of) its coal plants did not cease operation. Instead they are eliminating gas-fired power plants in throughout Germany and her neighbors (price war). As long as carbon certificates are cheap you may expect more of that in the next years as interconnectors are upgraded and the German offshore wind charger program kicks in.

        • Graeme No.3 says:

          in the 5 interconnected States in the east of Australia, the cost of electricity in South Australia is the highest. South Australia has the highest percentage of wind generation and the second highest percent solar PV generation.
          The highest % PV is in Queensland which has few wind farms (because of hurricanes) and the next highest electricity costs. Other factors may be there but renewables definitely cost more.

          • Willem Post says:


            Germany will eventually have a lesser economic growth rate than it could have had without the ENERGIEWENDE, all other things being equal.

            Low-cost money is due to worldwide low interest rates.

            Low ERoIE energy sources are replacing high ERoIE sources.

            Just consider the following:

            – Hydro………………….100+
            – Wind……………………18
            – PV solar………………6 – 12; depending on location
            – Bio-diesel………………1.3
            – Wood pellets………….1.46
            – Ethanol fr. corn………1.18

            ERoIE of Wood Pellets: This study shows the ERoIE of wood pellets is about 1.46, meaning it takes 11,266,413 Btu of various energy inputs to produce a ton of wood pellets having about 16,400,000 Btu. See page 18 of URL.

            ERoIE of Ethanol from Corn: This study shows the ERoIE of ethanol from corn is about 1.18. Energy invested to yield one unit as net energy = ERoIE/(ERoIE – 1) = 1.18/(1.18-1) = 6.55, i.e., about 7.5 liters of ethanol is returned by investing about 6.5 liters of ethanol* to yield 1 liter of ethanol as net energy.

            * The sum of the various energy components of the goods and services, facilities, equipment, etc., that is equivalent to the energy in 6.5 liters of ethanol to produce 7.5 liters of ethanol.

            NOTE: The only reason ethanol-from-corn is still feasible is because the energy components are from mostly traditional, high ERoIE sources. In the future, these energy components would be mostly from low ERoIE renewable sources!!

            NOTE: The ERoIE values for wind and solar would be lower, if adjusted for needed support systems, such as:

            – Back up generating capacity adequacy, MW, to provide energy when wind and solar are insufficient.
            – Back up flexible capacity adequacy, MW, for inefficiently ramping up and down at part load to balance variable energy.
            – Transmission and distribution systems adequacy.
            – Energy storage adequacy.

            A modern society needs a minimum ERoIE of 7 to function at a basic level, about 10 – 14 to function at a high, modern level. Anything below those numbers would be unsustainable from a modern society viewpoint, i.e., for starters, biofuels, wood pellets, and ethanol from corn would be unsustainable!! To take from society increasingly greater quantities of resources to subsidize what is unsustainable is ludicrous.

    • Peter Lang says:


      I also think you should consider how meaningful any use of “expensive” or “high” is in relation to energy prices. Expensive compared to what, exactly? You don’t say. Germany and Denmark may have the highest energy prices, but compared to their standard of living they may be much lower than, say, the UK. “High” is not the same as “unaffordable” or “onerous”.

      Depending on context, “expensive” or “high” energy prices may mean compared to what the prices could be with the system that is best able to meet requirements, taking into account all the constraints that apply to that country’s unique situation. Or it may be a comparison of prices between countries. Context counts.

      Why should Germany’s industries, businesses and residential consumers be penalised on the basis of irrational Green beliefs? Higher energy prices means the countries economy is less competitive than it would be if the prices were lower. That means the people have a lower standard of living than they otherwise would. There are less services, less ability to provide aid to other countries, less ability to manage environmental impacts, less public funding for services, and all the other things the Left advocate for. There is no valid justification for economically irrational policies.

      • Higher energy prices means the countries economy is less competitive than it would be if the prices were lower. That means the people have a lower standard of living than they otherwise would. There are less services, less ability to provide aid to other countries, less ability to manage environmental impacts, less public funding for services, and all the other things the Left advocate for.

        So you’re saying that Germany (and Denmark) should be the least able to do all these things: that they have fewer services, provide less aid, poorer environmental record etc. compared with, say Romania or the Czech Republic? I thought the market dictated the price people are willing to pay anyway – richer countries pay more for their energy because they can? To decide whether something is ‘expensive’ on the domestic market, one would need to a) set the criteria/threshold for ‘expensive’ and then b) normalise domestic prices for kWh (or something) and c) compare with the median wage. If I find time I might do this, unless it’s already been done elsewhere!

        • Peter Lang says:


          No, I didn’t say anything of the sort. You’ve misrepresented and/or misunderstood. Please re-read my comment.

          • As I understood it, you were saying that high energy costs = lowered standard of living. In Germany that does not appear to be the case. I didn’t set out to misrepresent, so clearly I’m not understanding something if you mean something other than what I wrote.

          • JerryC says:

            Higher energy costs do equal a lower standard of living. That’s painfully obvious.

          • Peter Lang says:


            As I understood it, you were saying that high energy costs = lowered standard of living. …so clearly I’m not understanding something

            Clearly you are missing something. Try again. Note the bold parts of the sentences:

            Higher energy prices means the countries economy is less competitive than it would be if the prices were lower. That means the people have a lower standard of living than they otherwise would.

            But it beats me how you can think that paying a higher price for a commodity can be better than paying a lower price for the same commodity (in this case the commodity is electricity). Do you think you be better off if you paid more for every good and service yuou bought?

          • gweberbv says:

            Peter Lang,

            I strongly disagree that a cheap commodity is always a good thing.

            Two examples:

            – Recently I learned that in Ireland households are not charged for their water usage. Instead, the water supply seems to be free (of course, some one is paying for it in the end). To me it is rather obvious that this is not of advantage for the country in general. If water is for free, it will be vasted. This does not mean that an unbearable price is a good thing. But probably the best thing is steering a middle course.

            – Compared to most European countries, gasoline is extremely cheap in the US (tax is much, much lower). Do people profit from it? Will, if the sheer fact that you are able to drive a vehicle that has a weight of more than 2.5 tons and a consumption twice as high as the typical European car counts as an asset to you. To me it is simply an example of wastefulness.

            In both examples the possibilites of people are not really extended by the low or even missing price of a commodity. Instead, people are simply incited to waste it.

          • Peter Lang says:


            I’ve been watching your comment. There is no point discussing basic rational economic concepts with you. I am just back from Ireland and watched some of the debate over the water. One professor said on TV: “Water is a basic human right and we shouldn’t have to pay for it”. Well so is food and shelter but you pay for them. Your understanding of economics is at the same level of silliness as that.

            You didn’t answer my question in a previous comment: “when looking to buy a commodity do you go searching for the highest price?”

            Of course the lowest cost electricity that meets requirements is what any rational person would seek.

    • roberto says:

      “One cannot conclude that one leads to the other based on this graph alone, and I see no other data presented here (or in your links) which would strongly indicate causation. Your conclusion is, therefore. invalid.”

      Try this:

      ” Intuitively it can be expected that the increasing renewable energy consumption
      causes decline of CO2 emissions. However, as mentioned in Section 7.3 on page 36,
      the Granger causality T-Y test itself does not provide information about the sign of
      causality and further tests are required.

      In general empirical evidence indicates that in Denmark during the period from 1972
      to 2012, consumption of renewable energy sources helped to mitigate CO2 emissions. It
      is of course difficult to predict whether future developments in the RE field followed
      by an increase in RE consumption would result in a further reduction of CO2 emissions,
      because as stated earlier in this paper, introduction of renewables (wind or solar)
      requires additional back-up capacity of conventional power stations to balance their supply.
      It is in particular crucial to acknowledge the importance of neighboring regions (Sweden and Norway) that help to balance the stochastic energy supply (coming from wind) in Denmark (see White, 2004; Inhaber, 2011).”

      … which breaks another Green Myth (not anti-nuclear this time)… i.e. that massively more RENs will lead to lower emissions.

      This part is also interesting, since it has been discussed already here above more than once:

      “Denmark has one of highest share of non-hydro renewables in its energy mix, as well
      as one of the highest energy prices in the EU. Therefore, it would not be a mistake to
      say that energy prices and the share of renewables in a country’s energy mix have some
      kind of positive correlation.

      All these macroeconomic effects clearly indicate the existence of a strong relationship between the investments, consumption of RE and economic growth. However, Granger
      causality tests performed in this study suggest absence of any statistically significant
      causal relationship between the variables. ”

      … in particular the entire section 8.2 “Renewable Energy Consumption and Economic Growth”… worth reading.


      • roberto says:

        … in particular this… sorry, hit “send” before finishing:

        “However, Meyer also argues that when it comes to the creation of additional jobs, the evidence is not so convincing.
        By examining full employment rates, he suggest that the wind sector creates no additional jobs in the long run, but rather moves them away from other sectors of the economy.”

        The last sentence is exactly the same conclusion which has been reached by other studies similar to this thesis… one on Spain”s RENs in particular, of 5-6 yearsa ago, I hope I’ll find it somewhere on my extgernal disc.

    • gweberbv says:


      for everyone who follows energy markets and (European) energy policies, it is absolutely obvious that the electricity prices (for households) in Denmark and Germany are significantly inflated due to the costs of renewables.

      Which is of course not an argument against renewables per se. Unless you see ‘electricity prices as low as possible’ as a general goal of energy polcies.

      And one can be quite optimistic that in about 15 to 20 years from now, the renewables in Germany will contribute to lower the electricity prices. Because after 20 years of high feed-in tarifs, wind chargers and PV can deliever electricity for their running costs (something like 2 Cent/kWh) probably for another 20 years (PV maybe even longer) before they fall apart. Only large scale hydro and lignite-fired power plants can compete with that – after their construction costs are written off (Ok, to be fair: nuclear power can do it too).

      Living in a world, where about 50% of the electricity is produced for 2 to 4 cents/kWh seems a nice future to me (I hardly believe that wind and PV can contribute more than 50%).

  15. theProle says:

    Euan – you mentioned your limited economics – have you ever thought to talk to Tim Worstall?

    He’s more into the politics and economics of things than your more technical analysis, but you both I think share similar worldviews (I.e. climate change may be happening – but that doesnt really mean the best response is the current dash for renewables makes technical or economic sense), and I’d imagine there could be scope for collaboration between the two of you (I first came across this site when one of Tim’s commentators posted a link on a comment under one of his blog posts).

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  17. now make a projection for the next 100 years.

  18. clivebest says:

    Myth 6: Renewables are sustainable.

    Let’s consider the energy cost of manufacturing solar panels. A large amount of energy is needed to produce high quality scilicon from sand and then slice it into wafers suitable for solar panels Lu & Yang 2010 looked at the energy required to make, transport and install a (nominal) 22 KW solar panel on a roof in Hong Kong (see Scienceofdoom for details). They found that the total energy consumed per meter squared of solar panel was:

    silicon purification and processing – 666 kWh
    slicing process – 120 kWh
    fabricating PV modules – 190 kWh
    rooftop supporting structure – 200 kWh
    production of inverters – 33 kWh
    other energy used in system operation and maintenance, electronic components, cables and miscellaneous – 125 kWh

    The total energy needed to produce one 22 kW grid-connected PV system is 206,000 kWh. So how long does it take for that solar panel to produce the same amount of energy as that consumed in producing it ? For Germany the payback time is nearly 13 years ! For the UK payback time is more like 15 years.

    At least they save CO2 emissions in Germany so they are still worth it ! Well most solar cells are manufactured in China using coal powered electricity. All that has hapenned is that the CO2 emissions have been exported to China.

    The payback time for Wind energy is better than solar, but there are new sustainability problems. To produce high quality steel you need coal. The base foundations need 1000 tons of reinforced concrete. The nacelle and the blades are made of high quality fiberglass. The turbines need copper coils and rare earths. To service a wind farm you need tarmac access roads and 1000. Each turbine needs replacing every 20 years or earlier.

    All the above rely on massive construction, mining and transport. These are currently all dependent on fossil fuels. Does anyone really imagine wind power could be self-sustainable in the future ?

  19. Euan Mearns says:

    Industrial and Residential prices are also correlated 🙂 High renewables Germany has second highest industrial rates in Europe. High nuclear Finland and Sweden have lowest industrial rates, closely followed by high nuclear France. High renewables PIIGS have among the highest industrial and residential rates.

    Note Denmark is an outlier and is excluded.

  20. Robert says:

    I think I am echoing a previous poster, probably badly

    I’m interested in this link to the price. When I see things that are cheap, they are usually not all they seem. Maybe people in Germany have a nice life and use good quality efficient appliances. Perhaps they can afford a bit more on the ‘lecky? They are still able to sell me a nice washing machine. The subtext of this article is ‘price is everything’

    This ‘low price’ focus is the world view of people who are the post war generation – not just people who have insufficient funds for whom it’s justified. It’s all about price. All about price is what makes the world a mess

    I can see the temptation. I can have ‘more things’ if we drive the cost down. But there’s no real basis for ‘more things = good’

    I don’t think we ‘have’ to be Green and hair shirted. Nuclear power has an important place and the UK was foolish to drop out of the game. But it is/will the be the case that carbon fuels will peak. Paying more for energy IF it were to bring forward better renewables would be right. Maybe the system set up is a total disaster, but that’s flawed implementation not concept

    This is a very interesting and thought provoking website. Thanks

  21. Euan Mearns says:

    This is using total per capita CO2 emissions from BP – imperfect, but will do for now. There is no correlation, but if anything the trend is positive and not negative. I think Neth, Belgium, Finland and Norway are high because they have large petrochemicals industries. Its possible the Czech rep does too.

    Showing time series would be interesting but time consuming to do.

    • William says:

      If there is no correlation, how can you discern a trend, +ve or -ve?

    • Willem Post says:


      Is it possible to have a CO2 emission reduction due to RE per capita (y axis) versus wind and solar capacity W per capita?

      How would the CO2 reduction be determined? For example a lot of biomass is not CO2-free.

      Ethanol from corn is barely a CO2 emission reducer in the US.

      Here is an excerpt from:


      A 2013 study, published in Environmental Research Letters, analyzed the CO2 equivalent emissions of exporting wood pellets from the US Southwest to the UK.

      A breakdown of the biomass lifecycle, according to GHG emissions, is as follows:
      See Table 4, which shows 5 of the 7 CO2 emissions components.

      – Pellet production accounts for about 48%
      – Shipping the pellets across the Atlantic Ocean accounts for about 31%
      – Burning the pellets accounts for about 10%*

      * Emissions due to combustion are about 1.8 kg of CO2/kg of pellets, or 1.8 lb CO2/lb of pellets.

      That means the A to Z process of getting wood from the forest, turning it into pellets, transporting the pellets from the US to power plants in the UK, and burning the pellets, would release about 1.8/0.1 = 18 kg of CO2/kg of pellets.

      If the power production is at an efficiency of 30%, then 7,750 Btu/lb of pellets x 2.2 lb/kg x 0.30/(3,413 Btu/kWh) = 1.5 kWh/kg of pellets would be produced, or 18/1.5 = 12 kg of CO2/kWh for the A to Z process, if CO2 sequestering by regrowth would be ignored.

      EVENTUALLY, 100% sequestering would, at the very most, offset about 2 of the 12 kg!!! Such an environmentally harmful way of having the UK, Germany, etc., meet their EU CO2 obligations should not even be allowed to exist by EU rules, and the US should not be aiding and abetting. However, some folks are making money.

      This is a far worse boondoggle than the US corn-to-ethanol program, which, on an A to Z basis, is about CO2-emission neutral, but is derided by the EU.

      The US Southeast exported to Europe about 1,650,000 ton and 3,250,000 ton of wood pellets in 2012 and 2013, respectively; likely 5.7 million ton in 2015.

      See URL, with photos, regarding the unsustainable clear cutting of US Southeast forests to enable Germany, UK, etc., to meet the EU CO2 emissions standards, because the EU declared biomass emissions to be CO2-free!! Germany, the UK, etc., are co-firing the pellets in their coal-fired power plants!!

      In the US Southeast many forests are managed. It takes about 20 – 25 years from harvest to harvest; in Maine about 35 – 40 years. One may wonder how long it would take to deplete the soil to significantly affect crop yields. If 3,250,000 ton were exported in 2013 (a lot more was harvested but not exported), that would be 1,300,000 cords/yr of wood being cut from a given area, and a same area being planted that has just been cut, etc. That means about 20 – 25 such areas are in various growth phases at any point in time; more area if more tonnage is exported.

  22. Javier says:


    Congratulations on the high number of responses lately. In your analysis of PIGS energy, highlighted in red in Figure 1 you are leaving an important point out. Those are countries that don’t have important oil, coal, gas or nuclear sources and thus are very dependent on imported oil for their energetic needs. That puts them at a distinct economic disadvantage as they are out of cheap energy alternatives. With the high oil prices of 2008 and 2009-2013 they did try to push for renewable energy sources as an alternative to oil. It simply did not work out in the short run, but in the long run it probably is a sensible approach as we know that they cannot continue being so dependent on imported oil. An indication that this is so, is the partial recovery in the economy of Spain induced at least in part by the reduction in oil prices.

    In my opinion the economic problems of the PIGS have a lot to do with their economies being most sensitive to the high energy prices environment that developed after the Peak Oil Exports that took place in 2005, and they are behaving as canaries in a coal mine. We are likely to see a lot more countries affected as oil exports continue to reduce in the future.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Javier, its a good point. I think Luis de Sousa made this point before in an old TOD post. Spain and Italy of course had little say in their oil, gas and coal endowments. But have made choices about nuclear. Its difficult to compare Italy and Spain with France, but the latter has cheap electricity coming out of its ears and TGVs whizzing everywhere. Portugal could ride piggy back on Spanish nuclear and Ireland on UK nuclear.

      • Willem Post says:


        “Portugal could ride piggy back on Spanish nuclear and Ireland on UK nuclear.”

        Could, but will they?

        Unless Brussels gets cleaned out of greens, Europe will not be turning to nuclear.

        The UK has to take the bull by the horns and form a French partnership, invest a few hundred billion euros in nuclear.

        Both could replace their existing units with standardized new units of about 1000 MW each.

        The Russians have standardized on 1000 and 1200 MW units and have sold about 66 of them in the past 18 months.

  23. Peter Lang says:


    With the high oil prices of 2008 and 2009-2013 they did try to push for renewable energy sources as an alternative to oil. It simply did not work out in the short run, but in the long run it probably is a sensible approach as we know that they cannot continue being so dependent on imported oil.

    This is not relevant because renewable energy does not substitute for oil. Oil generates near zero proportion of the grid’s electricity.

    • Javier says:


      It was relevant. The plan was to push simultaneously for renewable energy, EVs and charging infrastructure.

      The initial plan, called MOVELE, contemplated a million plug-in vehicles by 2012. The target was then moved to 250,000 plug-in vehicles by 2014.

      The idea of moving away from oil for transportation is correct, but it is too expensive, as everybody is finding out. But in the not too far future we either do it or go back to animals.

      Regarding the plan, it didn’t go too well. Having idealistic greens on power is a luxury Spain can’t afford.

      • Peter Lang says:


        That plan is totally unviable, as shown by recent posts on Energy Matters and many other web sites.

        • Javier says:


          Of course I know that. I even knew it would not work back in 2009. But the important aspect is that our past government then believed it was a viable plan and that is one of the reasons they promoted renewal energies to reduce the country’s oil dependency.

          Going back to the original question: To the 2008-2011 Spanish government, increasing PV and wind renewal energies was a strategy to reduce Spanish oil, gas and coal imports dependency. The fact that the strategy did not work is irrelevant to the causes of Spanish strong bet for renewal energies in the 2009-2011 period when it became one of the world leaders in PV and wind electric energy growth.

          It is easier now to understand why Spain has a surplus electrical energy production and a very expensive electricity bill. It has little to do with PIGS economies or debt and a lot to do with PIGS dependency on imported fossil fuels, which is one of the main factors that makes them PIGS in the first place.

          • Willem Post says:


            At least Spain had an early taste of what RE-dependent life would be like without some of the imported fossils.

            Did fossil imports decrease commensurate with RE increases (keeping real GDP constant)?

            If that were the case, it would be a miracle. It certainly was NOT the case in Ireland.

            Imagine ALL the fossils being absent.

            Take up serious navel gazing?

          • Peter Lang says:


            I now understand your argument is about what past governments believed rather than what you believe, however I disagree with you last sentence”

            It has little to do with PIGS economies or debt and a lot to do with PIGS dependency on imported fossil fuels, which is one of the main factors that makes them PIGS in the first place.


            No. They are PIIGS because they are badly managed, using economically irrational policies and being overly influenced by NGOs with left leaning ideologies. That’s why they are PIIGS. Many countries have no or negligible fossil, fuel reserves, but they can manage their economy successfully with economically rational policies.

            The mad rush to implement renewable energy policies is a symptom of the incompetence of the governments and the ignorance and gullibility of the voters. If the governments were genuinely concerned about CO2 emissions they would have followed the France’s lead (which has been demonstrably highly successful). It was well known in the energy industries and by economically rational policy advisers all along (since at least the 1990’s that non-hydro renewables are not viable and never likely to be as a main contributor to electricity supply. It was political idiocy to invest heavily in solar and wind and to incentivise production while effectively blocking the development and roll out – of nuclear by regulatory ratcheting its cost up by about a factor of 8 over 50 years.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Javier / Peter, there are a number of examples of countries with poor indigenous energy endowment who have done very well: – Japan, S Korea, France ± Germany. And others that have fabulous energy wealth that are basket cases: – Nigeria, Venezuela, Iraq and Libya.

            In Europe there is a N-S divide. And there is an E-W divide. A lot of it is rooted in history.

            Its not so long ago that Spain and Portugal were military dictatorships. Spain, is actually doing OK. N Italy, probably more like France than Malta.

            Its an interesting question why Italy is so anti – nuclear. Perhaps knowing the answer to that may explain a lot. Italy of course is volcanic and will be flattened by earthquakes one day soon, i.e. within the next 100,000 to 5 million years.

            In the Mediterranean its fun to sit out and eat fresh fish and drink Chablis. It’s more fun doing that than building BMWs.

            In the USA there is no impediment to money migrating S.

            Just thoughts. E

          • Add Singapore to the list of energy-poor successes. Chile is heading in that direction too.

            On the other side you might add Mexico. Another richly-endowed country that’s not completely a basket case but has never been able to get it all together. But drinking tequila under wavy palm trees is more fun than assembling Chevrolets.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            In Europe there is a N-S divide. And there is an E-W divide.

            It occurred to me later that Norway and Greece lie at opposite ends of that divide. And of course Norway is one of the most energy rich nations on Earth. Maybe if the Mediterranean was like the GOM with oil and gas then Europe may look very different.

            All the oil, gas and coal are in the N? The Alps are not much good for anything apart from Hydro, looking at and skiing.

  24. roberto says:

    Dear Euan,

    I don’t think that this statement…

    ” (note that Chernobyl was a military reactor)”

    … correctly represents the essence of RBMK-type reactors.

    At most you can say that such a reactor can be used for non-civilian purposes, namely extracting the fuel rods one at a time while the reactor is running, and therefore allowing the irradiation over short times of some rods in order to recover the plutonium generated by the fission of enriched uranium before unwanted Pu isotopes are formed in large proportions.
    The real military reactors are never connected to the electricity distribution grid… they even do not have steam turbines for that matter.

    Note that even factoring in the 51 persons killed by acute radiation syndrome, and the few more hundreds killed by radiation-induced pathologies, civil nuclear technology still remains by far the safest form of baseload electricity production.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      So was Chernobyl actually producing electricity? Its a bit of a grey zone. Dounreay produced 250 MW for several years, but was an experimental reactor.

      Perhaps the word conventional needs to be added to civilian somewhere.


      • roberto says:

        That particular reactor didn’t produce much, it was pretty recent, but the other 2 on site kept on producing for almost 20 years afterwards. More RBMKs were running in some Baltic ex-URSS countries, but the EU placed as a necessary measure for entering the EU that they stop them.
        As far as I know there are several RBMK-type reactors still running now, rather reliably. In fact, even with all their design problems and flaws, even RBMKs are pretty safe and stable in regular operation… sure, if one foolishly does all he can to make it run away and break, as it happened on that night of April 22, 1986, then it is possible to make a lot of damage… 🙁

        • Syndroma says:

          There are 11 RBMK reactors in operation right now on 3 sites: near St. Petersburg (4), Smolensk (4) and Kursk (3). Each one is producing a gigawatt of electricity. St. Petersburg ones are just 220 km away from Helsinki, Finland. Some of the reactors will be stopped this decade because of the old age and because replacement VVERs are nearing completion.

          All RBMKs were extensively modified. Fuel for them was modified too, they use erbium-doped fuel now. Erbium is a burnable poison which decreases reactivity early in the cycle.

          • roberto says:

            Thanks!… interesting.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Interesting. Do any of these have containment vessels? The lack of containment was one of the problems at Chernobyl.

          • Syndroma says:

            No, none of them have a containment vessel. It’s not possible to install one in an existing plant. Other safety mechanisms and strategies were implemented. Generally, RBMKs are deemed as safe as VVERs by Rosatom, but the bad publicity means they have no future.

            Kursk-5 is 85% complete, but was cancelled for good in 2012. Rosatom’s main reasoning was “all RBMKs are about the same age and will be decomissioned about the same time, Kursk-5 if complete will be operational for 30 years more, alone. We’ll have to preserve the supply chains just for the one reactor.”

  25. Martin says:

    Do you include taxes? If so, why? Wouldn’t it be more relevant to plot market price + cost of “green certificates” (or similar incentive scheme). The difference is hughe in some countries (see e.g.,_second_half_2014_(%C2%B9)_(EUR_per_kWh)_YB15.png). Perhaps your plot only illustartes correleation between countries with a high share of wind & solar in the mix and those that have high energy taxes?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Martin, If you look through comments you’ll see I have posted a number of other charts showing the breakdown of costs etc. I think the high taxes and levies in Denmark and Germany partly reflect charges for the Energiewende. And then they charge VAT on top of that. And if I do the plot without Germany and Denmark it shows the same thing. Vastly increasing the size of your generating base and adding noise to your grid is bound to add system costs not recognised if one only looks at the technology cost – e.g. the cost of solar panels.

    • Peter Lang says:


      “Do you include taxes? If so, why?”

      It depends on what the purpose of your comparison is. If you want properly comparable prices to consumers it has to include all the taxes and everything else the consumer has to pay.

      If you want wholesale prices you’d have to decide exactly want is included and excluded. It gets extremely complicated and sophisticated. Clearly, for a study like this, the comparison has to be on the basis of readily available data from an authoritative agency – e.g. IEA.

      • Martin says:

        I do not know how the situation is in other countries. In my home country (Sweden) the energy tax goes into the general government budget to finance social welfare etc. which makes this type of comparison erroneous, since the energy taxes is a significant share of the cost the consumer has to pay. The cost of the grid is high in Sweden but this has to do with low population density and new legislation that forces distribution system operators to reinforce or burry power lines.

        BTW. I agree with you (Euan) that increasing the size of generating capacity cost money. However, I’m not sure if the figure illustrates the size of that cost accurately.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Martin, I agree with that. The picture is rather more complex than portrayed in Figure 1, and actually quite difficult to get to the bottom of. But I’ve learned a lot from this thread including:

          1. Grid costs are about the same as generation costs, and will go up with more renewables as the grid has to be strengthened and expanded.
          2. Different countries have different systems of taxation and levies that can be variably skewed between domestic and commercial users of different size
          3. Looking just at the cost of technology, e.g. solar panels does not give an idea about the true cost of integrating variable renewables into the power supply. I think it is this point that includes grid costs that has been widely overlooked by politicians and media etc.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Hi Martin,

          I love Sweden. I’ve just finished a trip that including Sweden and spending a whole day with a senior manager and consultant in SKB. We were colleagues in the 1970’s.

          And I recognise there is a serious problem with the energy tax in Sweden, as there are with discretionary energy taxes and incentives in many other countries, However, it is enormously complex to separate the various levels of tax on properly comparable basis. They are even involved in LCOE, because LCOE needs a discount rate and that is based on the weighted average cost of capital. That can be without or without company tax, and investment investment taxes (such as Australia’s Franking Credits on dividends). It’s far too hard for Euan’s type of analysis to do on a properly comparable basis. It’s even too hard for the IEA.

          • gweberbv says:

            Peter Lang,

            I fully agree. In Germany there are is – on top of the energy tax – a “licence fee” that the grid operator has to pay to the local authorities. Simply to get the permission to operate the grid within the borders of the local administrative unit. This fee can be more than 2 Cent/kWh. And it is nothing else than an additional taxation.

            Any analyst will have a hard time to figure out such details for more than 30 European countries.

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  28. jaagu says:

    Nuclear energy generation is not competitive with onshore wind energy generation. That is why more wind energy generation is being built around the world than nuclear energy generation.

    • Peter Lang says:


      That statement is highly misleading, disengenuous. Wind is very highly subsidised and many incentives. In many case it is effectively mandated as “must take”. It’s nowhere near a level playing field.

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  31. gg says:

    “The total energy needed to produce one 22 kW grid-connected PV system is 206,000 kWh.”

    This is quite an outrageous number that can’t be possibly correct – for example, (complete) PV systems are being manufactured in Germany, where the cost for this amount of energy would be comparable to – or even higher than – the total price tag for installing such a system. If the charts posted here are believable, the 22 kW system, if it actually required 206 MWh to produce, would have to cost $30,000 just in energy inputs. That’s completely ignoring labor, plant depreciation, material inputs etc.

    Likewise, energy payback return time figures in low single digits of years are not new, they’ve been reported something like a decade ago. Surely the situation has improved and not worsened.

    “At least they save CO2 emissions in Germany so they are still worth it ! Well most solar cells are manufactured in China using coal powered electricity. All that has hapenned is that the CO2 emissions have been exported to China. ”

    I doubt that systems built in Germany use a substantial or even majority share of Chinese solar cells, when they have lot of their own, some strict regulations, and quite severe tariffs.

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