Hinkley Point C or solar; which is cheaper?

Blowout week 105 linked to a recently-completed study from the Solar Trade Association which reached the following conclusion:

…. solar together with storage and flexibility would cost roughly half that of (Hinkley Point Unit C) over the 35 year lifetime.

And a comment posted by robertok06 had this to say about the Solar Trade Association study:

I have hardly read more BS in one single document…

Here we take a closer look at these contrasting viewpoints.

With a capacity of 3,200MW and at the 91% capacity factor assumed by the Solar Trade Association Hinkley Point C will generate a constant 2,912 MW of power and 2,912 * 8760 = 25,509,120 MWh in a year of operation. So to compare solar directly with Hinkley we need 25,509,120 MWh of annual solar generation. What does the annual solar generation curve look like at this level?

We begin with Figure 1, which plots hourly embedded solar generation in UK during 2014, the last year for which complete records are available and one which I assume will be representative of solar output in coming years. The data are from the “UK Grid Graphed” data base and were supplied by Neil Mearns:

Figure 1: UK solar generation, 2014, hourly data

Solar in UK generated only about one-seventh as much power in 2014 as Hinkley will generate in a year, so to match solar to Hinkley output we have to factor 2014 solar generation up by seven. Then another adjustment is necessary. Figure 1 is right-skewed because installed solar capacity doubled from 2,691MW to 5,131MW between the beginning and end of 2014, as reported in solar PV statistics. To remove this skewness I normalized all the 2014 generation data to 3,911MW, the average installed solar capacity in that year. Figure 2 compares the solar generation curve after application of these adjustments with the baseload generation from Hinkley (note that all the solar peaks are separated by nighttime periods of zero generation, although this is difficult to see at this scale):

Figure 2: UK solar generation factored up to match annual generation from Hinkley Point C and adjusted for the increase in installed solar capacity during 2014, hourly data. Approximately 27GW of installed solar capacity is needed.

The question that now arises is how to compare the baseload generation from Hinkley with the highly irregular solar generation, which varies over day/night ranges approaching 20GW. The Solar Trade Association assumes that with storage and “flexibility” the solar curve can be flattened out to the point where it can be considered dispatchable , but because no specifics are given I have had to make my own estimates of what would be needed to flatten it. I did this by calculating how much energy storage would be needed to convert the solar generation into baseload generation at the same level as Hinkley, which is the only way I could see of making an apples-to-apples comparison. I ignored potential contributions from “flexibility” partly because I had no way of estimating how large they might be and partly because I doubt they would be significant.

First I estimated the amount of storage needed to remove the diurnal variations. Figure 3 plots the data for July 24, 2014, which having the largest day-night generation change can be considered the worst case. Average generation during the 24-hour period is 7,100MW, and storing the surplus power generated in the day for re-use at night to obtain 24 hours of continuous 7,100MW output requires 3.4GWh of storage capacity. This isn’t a prohibitive amount, and because demand is higher during the day than at night the actual storage requirement would probably be lower. So we can reasonably assume that diurnal variations in solar output can be smoothed out without a large cost penalty.

Figure 3: UK solar generation on July 24, 2014, showing the storage and release requirements needed to smooth out diurnal variations, half-hourly data.

But after removing the diurnal variations we are still left with the daily solar generation curve shown in Figure 4. The large variations between winter and summer generation must also be smoothed out to convert solar into year-round baseload generation, and a substantial amount of energy storage will obviously be needed to do it:

Figure 4: Average daily UK solar generation needed to match Hinkley annual generation, 2014

To estimate how much would be needed I calculated the daily solar surpluses and deficits relative to a constant 2,912 MW baseload level. These are shown in Figure 5:

Figure 5: Daily solar surpluses and deficits (GWh) relative to the constant 2,912 MW baseload level.

Then I accumulated the surpluses and deficits to calculate how much energy would have to be in storage at any time to obtain 2,912MW of constant output throughout the year. The results are plotted in Figure 6. There is a requirement for 7 terawatt-hours of storage, roughly the equivalent of eight hundred more Dinorwigs, or if you like two hundred and thirty Coire Glases.

Figure 6: Energy in storage needed to maintain a constant 2,912MW of baseload solar output throughout the year

How much will this 7 TWh of storage add to solar costs? I didn’t bother to make an estimate because the question is academic. There is no way this much additional energy storage capacity could possibly be installed in UK by the time Hinkley begins operations, if ever.

Yet the Solar Trade Association comes up with cost numbers that allow for storage. How much seasonal storage do they allow for? None. They simply assume that seasonal solar variations will be “complemented” by wind, which blows more strongly in the winter, to the point where they “more closely match electricity demand”:

“Our analysis does not include inter-seasonal storage to match Hinkley’s winter output. The storage and balancing aims to both smooth and shift the solar output to more closely match electricity demand. From a broader renewable energy perspective, solar generation can be complemented by wind power whose output peaks in the winter months.”

Now let us see what adding wind to solar does. I began by taking daily wind generation data for 2014 (again from UK Grid Graphed), factored them by 0.9 to make annual wind generation equal to annual solar generation and combined the two. Figure 7 shows the results in a stacked bar chart. Adding wind to solar indeed reduces the winter/summer range but the daily generation curve is now much more erratic than before, which will make it more, not less difficult to match generation to electricity demand:

Figure 7: Solar generation plus an equal amount of wind generation, 2014 daily averages.

And how much difference does the reduced summer range make to storage requirements? Using the Figure 7 data I accumulated the surpluses and deficits to calculate how much energy would have to be in storage at any time to maintain 2,912MW of baseload solar output (plus an equal amount of wind) throughout the year. The results are shown in Figure 8. Combining solar with wind halves the storage requirement from 7 TWh to 3.5 TWh, but 3.5TWh is still more than 100 times current installed UK energy storage capacity and the equivalent of roughly four hundred more Dinorwigs:

Figure 8: Energy in storage needed to maintain a constant 2,912MW of baseload solar output throughout the year with wind contributing.

So what to make of the Solar Trade Association’s claim that solar is cheaper than Hinkley nuclear? Well, robertok06 was right, it’s BS. Barring miraculous breakthroughs in energy storage technology within the next few years or a populace that is willing to freeze in the dark when the sun doesn’t shine it is simply not possible to replace baseload generation from Hinkley with intermittent solar power.

A final point. The UK Solar Trade Association is in the business of selling solar systems, and its claim that solar is cheaper than nuclear is clearly designed to help it sell more solar systems. This I believe makes its report a marketing document subject to UK Advertising Standards regulations, one of which is:

“You must describe your product accurately. This means if you make a claim about your product, you must be able to prove what you say.”

In this case the Solar Trade Association is unable to prove what it says. Does this put it in violation of UK advertising standards? Feedback is requested.


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116 Responses to Hinkley Point C or solar; which is cheaper?

  1. Roy Ramage says:

    I am a big fan of solar and wind energy. But they can not as yet be anything more than assistance to current power generation. There is ample evidence that farms and houses can go off grid and do well with battery storage but the mass deployment of panels and turbines serves primarily to boost current power needs. In South Australia mass take-up of panels has seen the closure of one coal fired plant. But the older plants are still needed when the seasons change and when the weather is bad. Perhaps the answer is in smaller micro grids with a broader mix of power sources. As a side note energy demand continues to fall as global economies contract.

    • Peter Lang says:

      Roy Ramage,

      As a side note energy demand continues to fall as global economies contract.

      Per capita energy demand has increased exponentially since humans first controlled fire and domesticated animals to do work. There are fluctuations in the long term trend of course, but growth will not stop. There will be ever increasing energy demand per capita. For example, humans want to explore other planets, the solar system, other galaxies, this universe and go through black holes to explore other universes and return safely to Earth – perhaps not all this in 2016, but you get the idea 🙂 Per capita energy demand will continue to increase exponentially for as long as humans exist.

      In South Australia mass take-up of panels has seen the closure of one coal fired plant.

      Is that a good thing? Why? if your argument is that you want to reduce GHG emissions, then why advocate for weather-dependent renewables? What objective comparison have you done of the options?

      I am a big fan of solar and wind energy. …

      … Perhaps the answer is in smaller micro grids with a broader mix of power sources.

      Why? Is your support for wind and solar based on rational, objective options analysis or ideology?

    • heavyweather says:

      For 32TWh storage built a 2000m-diameterx500m “hydraulic rock storage” or four 1000mx500m for ~8TWh.
      A 5GW KiteGen plant @70%CF would cost 1.5b-2b€.
      You should talk to the Italians and Germans.

  2. Peter Lang says:

    This is an excellent analysis and very interesting. Thank you.

    Could you please tell me what capacity factor the pumped storage would have to operate at to supply the same output as Hinkley Point C, with a) solar PV only and b) solar PV and wind as per your analyses?

    Could you please tell me:

    – The total energy generated from storage for the year
    – the peak power generated from storage during the year

    I’ve done a quick estimate by eyeballing from your charts.

    Total energy generated from energy storage I estimate from Figure 6 as roughly 3,500 GWh per day x 365 day/year = 1,277,500 GWh

    Peak power generated would have to be be the same as Hinkley Point C’s nameplate capacity (because it generates this power most of the time) = $3,200 GW

    Therefore, capacity factor = 4.6% (1,277,500 GWh / ($3,200 GW x 8760 h)

    Once we have an estimate of the capacity factor, we can get a ball park estimate for the LCOE of the combined renewables plus pumped hydro energy storage system to replace Hinkley Point C.

    • Peter Lang says:

      I think my estimates above are nonsense. Please disregard all that follows: “I’e done a quick estimate by eyeballing from your charts”.

    • Peter:

      My daily averages don’t allow for the storage releases necessary to smooth out daily fluctuations in wind and solar input, so to get the right answer to your questions I would have to do separate reservoir balance analyses for wind, solar and wind+solar using hourly or maybe even 5 minute grid data. As you can imagine this would involve quite a lot of work, and I frankly can’t see the point of doing it because a wind/solar storage system of this size has zero chance of ever being built, meaning that any LCOE estimate we came up with would be of purely academic interest. So I’m afraid I can’t help you on this one.

  3. sod says:

    solar PV is actually following demand rather well. So you are flattening the curve, when in the real world the higher output during day is benfit instead of a problem.

    • Solar follows UK daily demand fairly well during the summer when there’s lots of power to go around, but in the winter when power tends to run short the sun goes down well before peak demand. And solar delivers five to ten times more power in summer when demand is low than in winter when demand is high. These seasonal variations in output are what make it so difficult to match solar against demand, not the day-night variations. It’s depressing that so few people seem to realize this.

      • heavyweather says:

        Ad more transmission to Norway, more onshore wind, more gas plants and you are set.
        Have you honestly tried to calculate the lowest cost combination of all the available options? I don’t think so.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Have you honestly tried to calculate the lowest cost combination of all the available options?

          Try this for starters


        • Peter Lang says:


          Try this too:
          Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity System’ http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-Flex-Man-Full-Report.pdf , analyses the technology options and costs for decarbonising Great Britain’s electricity system. It shows that all or nearly all new nuclear power (no weather dependent renewables or CCS) is the cheapest way to decarbonize the GB electricity system.

        • robertok06 says:

          @”Atomic power? No thanks!”

          Try reading this…


          … and then, after you are 100% sure you’ve understood it, come back and discuss, OK? 🙂

          And you probably consider yourself an “environmentalist”, right? So, let’s see… a small excerpt from the paper linked above:

          “Because nuclear power is an abundant, low-carbon source of base-load power, it could make a large contribution to mitigation of global climate change and air pollution.

          Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented an average of 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent (GtCO2-eq) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning.

          On the basis of global projection data that take into account the effects of the Fukushima accident, we find that nuclear power could additionally prevent an average of 420,000-7.04 million deaths and 80-240 GtCO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels by midcentury, depending on which fuel it replaces.

          By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of unconstrained NATURAL GAS USE would NOT mitigate the climate problem and would cause FAR MORE DEATHS than expansion of nuclear power.”

          Question to the “Atomic power? No thanks!”-know-it-all guy: what would you use to balance the intermittency and seasonality of PV and wind?… let’s see… in YOUR OWN words… (capitals are mine, for enphasis)…

          “Ad more transmission to Norway, more onshore wind, MORE GAS PLANTS and you are set.”

          Q.E.D… quod erat demonstrandum… you green guys invariably fail the self-consistency test… you are the best enemies of the planet you claim to be saving… what a total joke you are.

          Cheers, and have a nice reading.

    • Leo Smith says:

      fsvo ‘fairly well.’

      in reality daytime demand is constant from dawn till dusk, and the solar is peaky around midday. peak demand is at dusk and shortly thereafter.when solar is completely absent.

      frankly the only load solar matches quite well is hot country aircon. In the UK all it does is increase the load and cost on CCGT stations.

      why so many people are apologists for solar is beyond me.perhaps they have panels on their rooves and are feeling guilty..

      • I have solar panels on my roof but don’t feel in the least guilty about it. They save me money, but only because the Comisión Federal de Electricidad is kind enough to let me use their grid as a storage battery free of charge.

        • ducdorleans says:

          although we all know that every solar panel installed adds to the total cost of electricity for all and to the difficulty of stabilizing the grid, we condone them on the roofs of pensioners, because Mario and Janet are ravaging their savings at first … :-))))

  4. David B. Benson says:

    Yes, send this to whatever part of the government enforces truth in advertising.

  5. edmh says:

    Thank you for this careful and well thought out comparison.

    I would be interested in any approach to question the validity of this report as a Marketing document
    with the UK Advertising Standards Authority.

    If further evidence were needed, I have run the numbers for the major Europen Renewsable Energy adherents using values quoted by Renewable Energy industry sources across Europe and see:


    These capital and running cost comparisons strip out all the positive profitability effects of government regulation and subsidies that are being applied to Renewable Energy, those being the only things that still make Renewables a viable business proposition.

    Accounting for the capacity factors, (the actual electrical output as compared to the Nameplate capacity of European Renewable installations is about 18% overall), as they are reported by the Renewable Industry, and combined with comparative costings from the US government Energy Information Administration, the overall capital cost of all European Renewable Energy installations (Solar and Wind Power) averages out at about €29billion / Gigawatt.

    This on average amounts to at least 29 times the cost of a conventional gas-fired installation conservatively at about €1billion / Gigawatt.

    That overall capital value accounting for the capacity factor applicable to Renewables in each European country is €29billion / Gigawatt. It is derived from the combination of:

    Capital Costs
    Onshore Windpower ~€14.2 billion/GW
    Offshore Windpower ~€41.4 billion/GW
    On Grid Solar Power ~€48.5 billion/GW

    Overall running costs in eluding costs of fuel, which are still diminishing, can be compared and
    On Grid Solar Power times across Europe about 14 times.

    And of course the UK being a Northerly country has the worst solar capacity figure of only 8.6% compared with the European average of 12.1%.

    According to Renewable Energy supporting sources by 2014 European Union countries had invested approximately €1 trillion, €1,000,000,000,000, in large scale Renewable Energy installations. This may well be an underestimate.

    This expenditure has provided a nameplate electrical generating capacity of about 216 Gigawatts, nominally about ~22% of the total European generation needs of some 1000 Gigawatts.

    But the actual measured output by 2014 reported by the Renewable Energy Industry sources has been equivalent to 38 Gigawatts or ~3.8% of Europe’s electricity requirement.

    Accordingly the whole approximately 1000 Gigawatt fleet of European electricity generation installations could have been replaced with dispatchable, lower capital cost Gas-fired installations for the €1trillion of capital costs already expended on Renewable Energy in Europe.

    However Renewable Energy production is dependent on the seasons, local weather conditions and the rotation of the earth, day and night. The Renewable Energy contribution to the electricity supply grid is inevitably erratic, intermittent and non-dispatchable, (not necessarily available when needed). Renewable Energy is therefore much less useful than dispatchable sources of electricity, which can be engaged whenever necessary to match demand and maintain grid stability.

    So that 3.8% Renewable Energy contribution to the grid is often not available when needed. Obversely as its use is mandatory and generators have feed-in obligations to take Renewable Energy whenever available this can cause major grid disruption if the Renewable Energy contribution is suddenly over abundant.

    The Renewable Energy industry could not exist without the Government mandated subsidies and preferential tariffs on which it depends. Therefore it never be a truly viable business proposition

    Viewed from the point of view of the engineering viability of a nation’s electrical grid, Renewable Energy would never be part of the generating mix without its Government mandate and Government market interference.

    The burden of these additional Renewable costs is both imposed on consumers via the increase in their utility bills and the cost hugely damages the viability of European industries.

    So the Green thinking especially in the UK in its enthusiasm to save the world from an indefinable but probably minimal threat in the distant future, will destroy Western civilisation long before the world fails from excessive overheating from CO2 emissions.




    Cost comparisons are have been clearly made by the US EIA

    US EIA electricity_generation.pdf 2015 Table 1

  6. Michael hamilton says:

    I agree with your analysis, but I’m far from sure HP is the right answer for the UK.

    In a high latitude country, solar inevitably suffers from a massive summer winter variation that no one can currently solve.

    That said, in the time beteween now and HP start date ( let’s be generous and assume it will be on time and on budget ) solar is likely to have increased efficiency and reduced cost significantly. Likewise for batteries.

    That won’t fix seasonal variation, clearly you need thermal in the winter.

    HP looks to me like an extremely expensive piece of kit that stands a strong chance of being obsolete in the summers. Those load factors of 91% may happen, but it will be very expensive for the UK as this is under a CFD.

    Whatever your view on solar, this is the biggest bet in the electricity world, 35 years fixed price with an inflator………

    • Leo Smith says:

      Ah. A concern troll.

      One glance at Gridwatch will show you that in the summer we overwhelmingly depend on nuclear power.

      One glance at any technical paper on photoelectricity will show you are are not far off theoretical efficiencies .

      One glance at any study of intermittency will show that even if solar panels were 100% efficient and cost nothing to make, they still wouldn’t be a complete solution, and the cost of the rest of the solution would outweigh the costs of conventional plant. Well it would BE conventional plant. Plus extras grid connections.

      I want to repeat that.

      even if solar panels were 100% efficient and cost nothing to make, they still wouldn’t be a complete solution, and the cost of the rest of the solution would outweigh the costs of conventional plant.

  7. I suppose a complaint to the ASA depends on whether the STA study is considered to be advertising/marketing. I think it is. The ASA says that ads must be legal, decent, honest and truthful. I could find nothing in the STA study that showed how the costs of storage/flexibility had been calculated – it seemed to be a number plucked out of the air – the Technical Annex explained nothing.

    I think you need to put in the costs of 400 Dinorwigs (or equivalent) into your article, come up with a revised cost for comparison with Hinkley, and send it off to the ASA as a complaint. No harm can come of doing this.

  8. Jim Brough says:

    The Solar Trade Association needs to demonstrate how solar, with its variable output can provide the electricity needed to run the London Underground at the same cost as Hinckley.

  9. Euan Mearns says:

    Roger calculates the need for 800+ Dinorwigs or 230 Choire Glas’s storage for solar alone. Roughly half that number for solar + wind. Choire Glas has a price tag of £800 million. So the rough cost of storage would be £800 * 115 = £92 billion. Cost of Hinkley is roughly £25 billion.

    Of course we don’t have sites for 115 Coire Glas’s, maybe a handful at most (setting aside the Loch Ness Monster for the time being). And the environmental harm would be immense.

    Need to add cost of PV panels and power lines everywhere.

    • PhilH says:

      Cost of Hinkley Point C is 92.5 £(2012)/MWh x 3200 MW x 24×365 hr/yr x 35yr = roughly £90G (or proportionately less to the extent that it doesn’t work flat-out all the time).

  10. Euan

    I am not aware of the study.

    These studies will usually have a disclaimer stating that the results may nee to be corrected or updated. If there is such, your legal case would be against this and that would be a protracted affair.

    The other issue to is what is it advertising? Industries do not tend to advertise as a whole but rather products or companies tend to advertise themselves. Here the trade associating is advertising its industry but it could probably argue that it is not gain specifically except by the unproven and future benevolence of that industry. I am not sure what traction you could gain that the face of that. Essentially it boils it down to “some crank on the internet said”…

    However it changes a bit if the study is being charged for. It seems to be free so therefore it is not necessary to consider this.

    • robertok06 says:


      the “study” is here…


      … link in ref.[1].

      They first claim that PV+storage would be competitive (~2x cheaper) than HPC’s 35-year CFD… then they claim (note 4) that they have not considered storage at all!… while in the text they claim that wind and its complementary daily/seasonal production profile could be used as an alternative to storage (bogus/wrong argument, that’s well known already from existing data and analysis, here and elsewhere…):

      – “..we made allowance for significant additional investment to match solar’s output with electricity demand through the use of storage and other balancing mechanisms.”

      – “4: Our analysis does not include inter-seasonal storage to match Hinkley’s winter output. The storage and balancing aims to both smooth and shift the solar output to more closely match electricity demand. From a broader renewable energy perspective, solar generation can be complemented by wind power whose output peaks in the winter months.”

      – “The results show that solar together with storage and flexibility would cost roughly half that of HPC over the 35 year lifetime.”

      This “study” of Solar Trade is a real scandal, a poorly written joke, should be withdrawn immediately, with apologies to readers.

      • It may be a candle but several of your quotes highlight the very things that give them the get out of jail card i.e. not doing winter months…

        But the question is not the quality of the study (which is garbage) but how it relates tot he legislation raised. You might be able to get a case going but I doubt you would get very far, and not very quickly.

  11. stone100 says:

    Is there any possible way to get nuclear power for the UK at the ball park cost that France managed in the 1980s (perhaps £1B/GW at todays prices)? Is it clear why nuclear costs today are so much higher?

    I totally agree that renewable advocates need to come up with season to season scale energy storage solutions. Pumped storage is the currently up and running energy storage system but it is totally unsuitable for season to season scale storage because (as you say) the volume requirements are so large. My guesstimates for energy storage volume requirements were:

    Wood pellets 3200kWh/m^3 then perhaps 33% efficiency of conversion to electricity but better to space heating.

    liquid air 80kWh/m^3

    Water at the top of Dinorwig pumped storage facility:- 9GWh from 7million m^3 =1.3kWh/m^3

    I guess this explains why UK pumped storage is hard to apply for covering anything other than the briefest lulls in renewable energy supply. The size of the reservoir needed would become immense. It can be switched on very fast (unlike woodpellet burners) but soon runs out.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Why new nuclear is so expensive is a good question. Hinkley was pushed through by Ed Davey who I guess is not actually pro-nuclear. Bureaucracy and excessive safety specs are oft quoted.

      In the tropics, solar PV gets by with diurnal storage. At high latitudes its simply impossible to cover seasonal storage. Same with wind. Pan-European wind lulls of 7 days or more – simply impossible to store anywhere close enough at reasonable cost and environmental impact. hence wind and solar have to be backed up by FF – which is ironic if your aim is to eliminate CO2.

      Pumped storage is the only game in town in terms of energy efficiency and cost. But it still pulls up order of magnitude short. How do you convert liquid air into electricity?

      The site has a good search facility. For example search on “solar PV” and you’ll get about a dozen articles. Same with a search on “energy storage”.

      • stone100 says:

        I’m really wondering whether the case could be made within the Green movement, that if we were to embrace nuclear rather than obstructing it, then costs could be brought down to being more in line with what they were in France in the 1980s. Government funding at gilt borrowing rates could also make a dramatic cost saving.
        I feel that at the moment it is a hurculean task to move Green Party policy on nuclear. Last time there was a policy vote in the England and Wales Green Party, it was 20% pro-nuclear, 80% against. If the costs for new nuclear were more like French 1980s costs, then it might seem a lot more possible.

      • Euan: Hinkley point C doesn’t strike me as all that expensive. Yes, the Russians and Chinese are building them cheaper, but at the 2015 “official” capital cost of 18 billion pounds Hinkley is considerably cheaper than the ~30GW of solar capacity needed to replace it, which would cost well over 20 billion pounds to install and also take up about 1,000 sq km of space, not that much less than the area of Greater London.

        • robertok06 says:

          “Euan: Hinkley point C doesn’t strike me as all that expensive. ”

          I totally agree with you, Roger.
          HPC’s CfD is set to start 9 years from now, right?… so the REAL question one should ask is “what will the cost of electricity be in 2025″… will the average MWh (where average means 24h/24, whenever needed) cost more or less?… will wind, on- and off-shore, in 2025 deliver the same kind of on-demand electricity as a couple of EPRs? (or any other reactor model, for that matter)…
          The answer, based on the present knowledge and cost escalation caused by “incentives” of all kinds (feed-in tariffs, tax credits, etc…) is a sound “NO”.
          Once storage and distribution costs of additional intermittent renewable sources are factored in, it is clear already now that the cost of UK’s average MWh will be more than what the CfD for HPC asks…. but anyway, 9 years will (sadly) go by very fast… I don’t know you guys but for me 2006 looks like yesterday… 🙁


    • Bernard Durand says:

      @stone 100, could you , for poorly informed people like me , explain here how a liquid air storage is working, and calculate its energy efficiency ( the ratio of amount of electricity put on grid to amount of electricity needed for that)

      • stone100 says:

        Bernard, I’m the poorly informed one around here. I don’t have the expertise to tell whether liquid air is as good as it looks. My source was http://www.liquidair.org.uk/about-liquid-air
        “provide strategic levels of electricity storage: a single gasometer-style tank of the capacity currently used in the LNG industry could store sufficient energy as liquid air to compensate the loss of 5GW of wind power for 3 hours – equivalent to almost 10% of peak UK electricity demand.”
        Also http://www.lowcarbonfutures.org/sites/default/files/potential-guide.pdf
        Basically electrical or mechanical power is used to drive compressors to liquify air (as currently used by liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen industry). The liquid air is stored in cryogenic containers. When needed it is evaporated to drive a turbine. That is more effective if a source of waste heat (or low grade heat such as seawater etc) is available.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          So you use energy to compress / liquify air but then to get that energy back you have to heat the liquefied air – more energy in to get the energy back.

          Second law of thermodynamics says that every time you convert energy from one sort to another you lose some of it as low grade heat that cannot be recovered. You do enough energy conversions, you end up with nothing.

          Compress air and it heats up. Let it sit around for a few days and it cools to ambient. When you release the pressure, your container will cool down like a refrigerator. If the air was moist it will all freeze up with ice, unless of course you add energy. Remember all this surplus energy has to be paid for including the subsidy.

          Best ways to store energy based on efficiencies are 1) pumped hydro for diurnal storage of nuclear (or solar) maybe 90% round trip 2) batteries 90% round trip and 3) as low grade heat, ie < 100˚C used for space heating, 90% round trip. I'm sure someone is going to correct me 😉

      • stone100 says:

        Bernard, the wikipedia section on liquid air energy storage claims that 70% round trip efficiency is possible. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryogenic_energy_storage#Efficiency
        So, if that is anywhere near true, it looks a lot more hopefull than the electricity-to-gas-to-electricity route.
        Might liquid air also provide a way to make nuclear power more effective at providing CO2 free power? Nuclear is a source of waste heat that might be harnessed using liquid air. It might eliminate the need for gas peaker power stations???

        • Euan Mearns says:

          That wiki source looks like BS to me. You don’t calculate a process efficiency by not counting the heat you add.

          • stone100 says:

            I guess it is a bit like using heat pumps for electrical heating. Very low grade heat such as ambient sea water could be viewed as an essentially unlimited source of very low grade heat. If that energy gets tapped into and converted into a useable form then the economic efficiency might be good. I suppose any hopers such as me will have to wait until/if a genuinely useful liquid air energy storage system proves itself in action.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            I guess it is a bit like using heat pumps for electrical heating.

            Quite the opposite. Heat pumps have +ve efficiency, sometimes way over 100%. They upgrade low grade environmental heat – they break the second law ;-).


            If you haven’t already got one, get a copy of MacKay’s book – without hot air. It is available on line for free.

            then the economic efficiency might be good

            This is the correct line, not to confuse economic and energy efficiency. I am a great fan of CHP, but am equally aware that the level of CHP penetration in the UK is risible.

      • oldfossil says:

        Euan, I’m confused when you say that extra heat is needed to complete the gasification part of the cycle gas-liquid-gas. When I attach my LP gas bottle to my barbeque I just open the tap and out it comes.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Your liquid gas is made by cooling it. It is then kept as liquid by keeping it under pressure. When you light your BBQ you let the gas out very slowly so there is enough ambient heat to heat the bottle and keep the gas flowing. If you took the top off you would get extreme rapid degassing and cooling of the gas and cylinder. The cooling would eventually kill the evaporation and you’d be left with slowly simmering liquid gas.

          With compressed air, same thing happens apart from it will obviously not turn liquid. But if their is moisture it will freeze.

          • stone100 says:

            I’m still struggling to understand why you foresee a significant cost for evaporating the liquid air. The boiling point of air is so low that ambient heat (ie sea water or air at say five degrees centigrade) does the trick and there are ample sources of such cost-less heat (ie all the oceans and our atmosphere). When driving a turbine using evaporating liquid air, energy from the ambient surroundings (eg sea water or air or waste heat from a power station) is being tapped into, but that is heat that otherwise would have gone to waste. In that sense it does seem to me very much like the principle by which heat pumps gather ambient heat and convert it into useful energy.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Liquid air, what temperature is it at?

          • stone100 says:

            -194.35 °C according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_air#Properties
            It is basically 78% liquid nitrogen, 21% liquid oxygen, 1% liquid argon.
            My impression was that it is just what it says on the tin:- liquified air kept in cryogenic tanks at atmospheric pressure.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            And so remind us how this gets converted into electricity. You may want to look up the cost of cryo storage while your at it.

          • stone100 says:

            Am I right in thinking that the best guide for large scale cryostorage costs probably comes from the LNG industry? I only managed to get sketchy indications from a google search. This link http://www.arcticgas.gov/liquefaction-plant-single-largest-cost-alaska-lng-project said that a huge LNG tank for Singapore was projected to cost US$500M and this link http://www.tokyo-gas.co.jp/lngtech/ug-tank/ said that the biggest LNG tank holds 2×10^5m^3.
            Liquid air energy storage can store 80kWh/m^3. So that 2×10^5m^3 tank would store 16GWh. If it costs US$500M to store 16GWh then storing 7TWh (the storage challenge from intermitent wind for UK) would extrapolate to a cost of US$220B.
            My impression though is that liquid air wasn’t viewed as a way to cover such prolonged lulls but rather shorter term energy storage and balancing and that biomass would be the renewable energy way to cover prolonged lulls.
            I really appologise if there is some abject blunder in this.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Stone, you are right to go the route of LNG looking for commercial scale analogues. I wouldn’t call it an abject blunder, but you seem to be missing a key point. To recover energy from liquid air it needs to expand very rapidly under pressure to drive a turbine – if I’m not mistaken. That very pressure stops it evaporating and expanding requiring the addition of vast amounts of energy to drive the process, if I’m not mistaken.

            The whole system is driven by the latent heat of evaporation. Energy is used (stored?) to cool air at atmospheric pressure or to compress it, creating in the process a large amount of waste heat. The only way to recover some of that energy is to force the phase transition liquid to gas under high pressure to drive a turbine.

            I could be wrong, this would need input from a physicist (I only have physics to first year uni – actually was taught by RV Jones in Aberdeen.) but the whole idea seems totally bonkers. Its like trying to store energy in ice.

            A more sensible idea (though still bonkers) would be to build a gigantic vacuum chamber. Pump it out to store energy and generate while releasing the vacuum.

            Another idea would be to build a dam and to pump water up a hill. A good exercise for you would be to imagine building a 2 m deep tank above your house or flat and to work out how much energy you could store by pumping from ground level. Check this out:


          • stone100 says:

            Sea water is sometimes used as the heat source for evaporating LNG before transmitting it as gas to the gas network. Presumably sea water could also be used as the heat source for evaporating the liquid air to drive turbines for liquid air energy storage. If we needed to recover energy from liquid air at a rate of 1GW, then that would entail 200m^3 of water being cooled by 5 degrees centigrade each second. I’d hope that a heat exchanger exposed to the sea would be capable of that water exchange/exposure.

          • gweberbv says:


            every day the typical Northern European uses about 50 liters of warm water. This needs roughly 2 kWh of energy to be warmed up. For UK this amounts to roughly 100 GWh (plus losses) just for warming up water for private purpuses each day. Insulated tanks for hot water combined resistive heaters are not that expensive (compared to everything else which is discussed to ‘store’ energy) and easily scalable from a single household up to large housing areas. (Using heat pumps will increase efficiency by a factor of maybe 3, but capital investment is much higher. So it does not make sense, when it is used only occasionally.)
            In addition, we have the industry which needs a lot of heat each day.

            So, when we really do not know what to do with all that electricity being procuded by wind farms, PV, NPP and whatever, we could just stop burning gas to generate hot water. And when there is a lack of electricity, we use that ‘stored’ gas to generate it.

            From my point of view, we are far away from having the need to really store energy.

          • stone100 says:

            gweberbv, I suppose the bind is that, as you say, heroic energy storage doesn’t seem to make much sense whilst there is still plenty of gas use for heating and electricity generation. BUT the only point of increasing renewables is as a move towards entirely replacing fossil fuel use and that only becomes possible if we can get energy storage sorted and perhaps that can only be achieved by learning by doing. There is little point in say replacing 30% of fossil fuel use with renewables if that only means that there is a delay in the CO2 being emitted and the climate gets wrecked anyway -all be it a decade later or whatever.
            Perhaps much of the justification for current renewable use is as a learning by doing exercise. If that is the case, then perhaps the focus should be on the weak links in the chain and so perhaps the renewable effort should try and be a complete system at a small scale and then roll out as an increasing scale of a complete system rather than ever simply penetrating into (and being dependent on) a predominantly fossil fuel based system.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            If that is the case, then perhaps the focus should be on the weak links in the chain and so perhaps the renewable effort should try and be a complete system at a small scale and then roll out as an increasing scale of a complete system rather than ever simply penetrating into (and being dependent on) a predominantly fossil fuel based system.

            Very well said. Let the RE enthusiasts discover the laws of thermodynamics at small scale.

    • Bernard Durand says:

      Safety concern is a reason for increasing cost of nuclear, but the main reason is the high interest rate on the money market, combined to an increased length of construction. The Greens know perfectly that constantly accumulating obstacles which lengthen the construction results in higher costs, and uncertainty for capital investment. Furthermore, after decades of sleeping in the nuclear industry, know-how has decreased because experienced engineers have not be replaced in due time by young ones.
      In such conditions, capital goes preferably to renewables, which offers very good returns garanteed by feed-in-tarifs., ie by the governments.
      This also creates difficulties to coal and gas utilities.
      Such things did not exist when France launched the construction of its nuclear fleet, and EDF could borrow at low rates, garanteed by the French government. This has been so far a great success story.
      A renaissance of nuclear in Europe will then be difficult without governmental help. This is against the present European Commission dogma, which in the same time has no problem to strongly favorizes governmental help to renewables. However, this can change soon now. As we say here,” nécessité fait loi” ( necessity makes law)

      • Leo Smith says:

        Safety concern is a reason for increasing cost of nuclear, but the main reason is the high interest rate on the money market, combined to an increased length of construction.

        But Bernard, the high capital cost and the length of construction are all down to the regulatory regime, and as many have noted, extra regulation does not actually improve safety beyond a certain point, just impose cost.

    • The EPR is a very complex and large design extrapolation from 1960s Westinghouse technology with a lot of German and French added systems. Add in the extra UK regulatory requirements and you have an overly complex design that costs a fortune. I suspect (without any evidence) that Ed Davey, who is anti-nuclear, thought that giving the go ahead for this dinosaur of a design at a massive price would kill off the nuclear industry in the UK. My feeling is that Hinkley won’t go ahead, but the alternative AP1000 and ABWR designs, that are currently going through the regulatory process in the UK, will get the go ahead – and then possibly a SMR.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        So you really think Hinkley will be shelved? It would be a good thing IMO, but then the government really needs to get its finger out to clear the way for sensible designs.

        • I hear rumours to that effect.

          • garethbeer says:

            I don’t actually know, I can see it myself. Especially if we have another financial crisis, very likely let’s be honest…

            Greenies (amongst others) have bled this country & the west White!

            ‘An essential point in the social philosophy of interventionism is the existence of an inexhaustible fund which can be squeezed forever. The whole system of interventionism collapses when the fountain is drained off: The Santa Clause principle liquidates itself – Ludwig Von Mises’

      • Bernard Durand says:

        Phillip, EPR is indeed very complex, but awfully costful with regard to its electricity production, I am not sure. Nevertheless, EDF is ,as far as I know, already designing 1 GW simplified reactors.
        In ten years from now, Europe will likely face a serious decline in its fossil fuels supply, while renewables will have shown clearly their limits.This will be “l’heure de verité” ( time for truth).

        • robertok06 says:


          if Europe (and especially France) waits 10 more years before the merits of, and need for nuclear are recognized it will be too late!… the know-how will be gone, there will simply be not enough nuclear engineers and/or nuclear-trained personnel to keep the EDF/AREVA machine running.

          On the other hand, the Chinese versions of EDF/AREVA will be up and running… BTW, the chinese have just started 4 reactors in the last 2 months, and taken the decision to start 6 new inland, which had been put to a halt a couple of years ago.

          The tally for 2015 is: 10 reactors started, 8 reactors stopped (worldwide)… not counting the 2 (or are they 3?) reactors in Japan which have been put back in action… and more are in the pipeline. Add to that the re-start of 3 belgian reactors which were down for several months, and I’d say that, barrying accidents, the production of electricity should increase slightly… not something to uncork champagne bottles for… but much better than the hopes of the likes of our new friend “Atomic power? No, thanks!” here… 🙂

          Anyway… it is clear that if it’s not nuclear it is going to be coal and/or gas… intermittent renewables will always remain in the “also ran” category, and hydro is limited in its potential… there’s nothing anybody can do.

          • gweberbv says:


            if one supplier can bring down the costs for NPPs again then this are the Chinese companies. Simply by building/completing a few NPPs each year (with having a pipeline of serveral dozens of projects) they should be able to largely decrease the costs compared to building maybe two or three plants every 10 to 15 years what is currently been done by EDF/AREVA.
            Why not buying from the Chinese if you really want NPP that hard?

    • Leo Smith says:

      Is it clear why nuclear costs today are so much higher?

      Yes. Although there is a resident nuclear expert lurking here, read this book – doesn’t take long..


      The short answer is ‘massive and ineffective over-regulation’.

  12. Graeme No.3 says:

    Solar PV panels lose efficiency as they age and 35 years is a rather long lifetime, although possibly feasible in the UK as they avoid exposure to strong UV.

    Thank you for all your work but I agree with robertoko6.

  13. Rob Slightam says:

    Regarding the exponential growth of energy use, I think this was pretty much demolished on the ‘Do-the-Math’ wed site a few years ago

    • Peter Lang says:

      Primitive humans consumed 8 MJ/d. Technological man consumes close to 1000 MJ/d. Steps at: primitive man, early agricultural man, advanced agricultural man, industrial man, technologicl man. A 200,000 year trend, and suddenly that’s going to stop?

      • Bernard Durand says:

        Peter, going to stop, no, but begining to decline, may be. I guess you are aware of the work of The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and gas (ASPO), which predict peak of total fossil fuels ( in toe), making up more than 80% or primary energy so far, around 2025 for geological reasons, ie 10 years ahead !

        • garethbeer says:

          Aspo – are unlikely to find peak oil not peaking at some point, kinda the business they’re in… IMHO, they shouldn’t even be called FF, hydrocarbons is much more descriptive.
          Running out of above has been the narative for the last 30-40 – same people saying it as well…

          How about the cost of Coal v Solar – reliable, storable, despachable, safe, that’s safe, clean (with scrubbers), cheap cap ex and op ex! Dirt cheap! Ok let’s build solar – what a f”””ing joke!

          • Bernard Durand says:

            This is the classical and not serious answer! ASPO could not make any comment 40 years ago, because it is only 20 years old . Concerning its predictions, ASPO founders predicted in 1998 in a paper still available in Scientific American that cheap oil ( more or less what we call now crude) would peak within ten years. It peaked in 2005 , as you can check yourself! ASPO also predicted the North Sea peak for 2000. Look at the production history !
            Fore some years now, the ENERGY CONTENT or the ALL LIQUIDS petroleum production has no longer be really increasing, and it is decreasing when reported by inhabitant of the earth.
            You should select more carefully your information.

          • Graeme No.3 says:

            I once tried to find the start of “the oil will run out soon” prediction. I got as far back as 1862, 3 years after commercial production started in the USA, but that turned out to be someone repeating an earlier prediction.
            It seems that the prediction about the coming end of oil has some years to go.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Bernard Gerand,

          Peter, going to stop, no, but beginning to decline, may be

          I think you are talking about supply and I was talking about demand. Supply will meet demand eventually by fuel switching. So it is the long term trend of energy demand per capita I am talking about.

          Although supply can be curtailed and prices jacked up to reduce demand temporarily (e.g as a result of ‘Progressives’ blocking progress as they’ve been doing for the past 50 years or so), per capita demand will continue to grow indefinitely over the long term. Since there is no shortage of energy (nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited), meeting the ever increasing demand as fossil fuel supply declines, is simply a matter of fuel switching.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Bernard Durand,

          Sorry for spelling your name incorrectly in my previous reply to you

      • Rob Slightam says:

        Humans do not consume energy, we just extract useful work/heat as energy goes from hot to cold, if you have exponential growth in energy use on a finite planet then soon the planet temperature will rise until the radiated heat to space matches the waste heat generated, see the web site I mentioned for how long it is until the planets temperature reaches 100C. I think we have got to use energy more efficiently, with the UK housing stock being 1st in line, lots of low/medium tech jobs to get 25 million dwellings up to ‘passivehouse’ standards.

  14. michael hamilton says:

    It’s interesting that in this debate about the cost of solar vs nuclear that neither the referenced link from the STA or this article actually show their estimate of the…… cost of solar.

  15. I’ve been doing a little more research into the legal aspects of filing a false advertising/marketing complaint. I find that the governing legislation is the “Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008”


    Which has this to say:

    Misleading omissions

    6.—(1) A commercial practice is a misleading omission if, in its factual context, taking account of the matters in paragraph (2)—

    (a)the commercial practice omits material information,

    (b)the commercial practice hides material information,

    (c)the commercial practice provides material information in a manner which is unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely, or

    (d)the commercial practice fails to identify its commercial intent, unless this is already apparent from the context,

    I think the Solar Trade Association report fits all these. It goes on:

    and as a result it causes or is likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision he would not have taken otherwise.

    And who is the “average consumer”?

    (5) In determining the effect of a commercial practice on the average consumer—

    (a)where a clearly identifiable group of consumers is particularly vulnerable to the practice or the underlying product because of their mental or physical infirmity, age or credulity in a way which the trader could reasonably be expected to foresee,

    (b)where the practice is likely to materially distort the economic behaviour only of that group,

    Here I identify the people who formulate UK energy policy as the clearly identifiable group of consumers, and based on past performance it’s reasonable to assume that they might be credulous enough to distort their economic behavior on the basis of the Solar Trade Association report. At least, that’s what the Solar Trade Association would like them to do.

    • Jonathan Madden says:


      Thank you for this analysis. It’s clear that PV and wind cannot provide an alternative to Hinckley’s dispatchable base load at a comparable cost.

      The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has a webpage for advertising complaints along with guidance. The underlying theme is self-regulation by advertisers and the ASA recommends contacting the advertiser in the first instance with the complaint.

      As this is pretty technical compared to soap powder or toothpaste I doubt they will consider getting involved unless you can demonstrate that buyers are being directly misled. Are they getting what they thought they bought at the advertised price? Publishing an upbeat and perhaps disingenuous technical report that pushes their product but which does not invalidate their primary advertising will be difficult to criticise.

      Here are the links:



      • Jonathan: Thanks for your comment. I’ve been into the ASA website and find that they are in fact a self-policing organization financed by the advertising industry. I will say no more about that.

        As I see it the basic question here is, when does a supposedly scientific report become a marketing document? I think the STA report crosses the line. Some of the other reports published by the renewables industry, in which I include NGOs and some branches of government, probably do too. I certainly don’t remember ever seeing one that didn’t paint renewables in a favorable light whether the facts justified it or not.

        • cafuccio says:

          Fun is that EDF just lost against “Sortir du Nucleaire” french network concerning the COP21 campaign. EDF claimed its electricity is 90% CO2 free which was found to be false since they didn’t mentioned the CO2 generated by mining! The french ad agancy seems to be more “a cheval” (tight)

          • robertok06 says:


            strange… because on the web site of the sect “Sortir du Nucleaire” there is no trace of this…


            Just to make things clear and there is no misunderstandings: are you one of them?


          • robertok06 says:

            “they didn’t mentioned the CO2 generated by mining! ”

            By the way… the CO2 generated by mining uranium is minimal… just look at any Environmental Product Declaration for the generation of 1 kWh of electricity with nuclear… this one is for Vattenfall’s Ringhals reactors:


            Click on the download pdf…, then page 5… “greenhouse gases” in gCO2-eq for 100 years…. the value for the “upstream” part, i.e. mining operations, is 3 grams/kWh.

            Nice try Cafuccio, though!

          • Roger Andrews says:

            All I can find out about this is that sortir du nucleaire decided that EDF was a “super liar” and went to EDF’s office to deliver a “diploma” to that effect in December. The intellectual level of the group can be gauged from this video:


          • robertok06 says:


            You claimed that…

            “EDF claimed its electricity is 90% CO2 free which was found to be false since they didn’t mentioned the CO2 generated by mining!”

            … and I finally found the news on the web site of SdN:


            … problem is that EDF does NOT say what you claim they did, what they say is (copy-paste from their web site, in french):

            ” L’entreprise fournit aujourd’hui en France une électricité à 98 % sans émission de CO2 1.
            Nos Solutions pour le climat sont développées pour aider nos clients, particuliers, entreprises et collectivités locales, à consommer mieux et à réduire leurs émissions de CO2.

            1 Emissions directes, hors analyse du cycle de vie (ACV) des moyens de production et des combustibles”

            … see?… 98%, not 90%! … and this means that they consider not only the emissions from nuclear, but from all sources, like hydro, wind, even photovoltaics, even coal, oil, and gas… and that in this estimate they do not include “les moyens de production des combustibles”… the production of the fuel… so, what exactly are they talking about the guys at SortirduNucleaire, cafuccio? Explain it, please, if you know it.

          • robertok06 says:

            @roger andrews

            “The intellectual level of the group can be gauged from this video:


            Yes.. they are one of the French branches of the GreenPiss sect… together with the other non-habens faction CRIIRAD… which. at least, does some service to science by keeping up and running a parallel (“shadow”) network of measurements of environmental radiation… which inevitably confirms the lack of any contamination of the French population, which as a matter of fact has the same life expectancy, cancer rate, etc… of other similarly developed countries which do not have nuclear power stations… in spite of the contrary being said by them and other anti-nuclear sects.

            If you really have difficulties in getting asleep, try looking at this one:


            … sample document/study here:


            Result? “Rien a signaler”… everything’s in the norm. 🙂

          • Bernard Durand says:

            cafuccio, there is indeed a strange story concerning an advertising by EDF, but I don’t think it concerns the real value of CO2 produced by nuclear. It is much more on the form of he advertisement. Anyway, Sortir du Nucléaire is one of the best specialist for production of rotten data I know. I believe they could be more credible to sensible people if they had a minimum of honesty, but may be is it impossible for them to produce honest arguments when you choose such a systematic bashing.

          • cafuccio says:

            Let’s reply to myself: I just mentioned this story in order to show roger that sueing an industry for an ad they made is possible. Especially in France where nuclear energy has such a bad support…

            And to make things clear, I actually work at CEA, so not really support SDN BS!

          • robertok06 says:


            “And to make things clear, I actually work at CEA, so not really support SDN BS!”

            OK… understood… sorry… I’m a bit “trigger-happy” towards greens… I must admit it. 🙂

            Welcome to the club, then.

    • Leo Smith says:

      It is useless to attempt to use trading standards or advertising standards legislation against green lies – I tried once and the response was more or less ‘this isnt and advertisement or a claim made by a company selling a product, its a statement made by a trade lobby, and they, like political parties, journalists expressing an opinion and religious institutions are ultra vires of legislation designed to protect you from false commercial advertising.

      So Vesta can’t claim their windmills are brilliant without issues, but Renewable UK can and so can Ambrose Evans Pritchard in the Telegraph, writing as a paid journalist to create an advertorial, and the greens can say any nonsense they like, but politics are exempt from censure.

      In short the game is simple, dont tell lies on your own behalf, tell them on somebody elses and you are protected.,

    • Ah but you have to ask if a trade association is a commercial practice necessarily? In many cases, the answer will be no actually. I am not sure for the solar trade association.

      • From the Solar Trade Association’s website

        Since 1978, the Solar Trade Association (STA) has worked to promote the benefits of solar energy and to make its adoption easy and profitable for domestic and commercial users.

        A not-for-profit association, we are funded entirely by our membership, which includes installers, manufacturers, distributors, large scale developers, investors and law firms.

        The STA is the UK’s leading solar industry voice, with a proven track record of winning breakthroughs for the UK’s solar industry.

        On your behalf, and drawing on expertise from right across the solar industry, we undertake in-house policy development and provide advice and analysis to Government departments, politicians, agencies, regulators, NGOs, the media and other stakeholders.

        The STA engages in policy areas which significantly shape the expansion of the solar industry.

        If this doesn’t make the STA a “commercial practice”, what does?

        • Jonathan Madden says:


          It is the CAP code that applies in the UK for non-broadcast advertising and promotion. I expect you have found this already:


          It comes with all the right-sounding noises of truth and honesty etc., but is wide in its scope and would cover the STA report. Note that CAP and the ASA have the same address, however, in Holborn. Might be worth approaching them.

          • Roger Andrews says:

            Jonathan: No, I hadn’t come across that – thanks for the link. It will take a while to go through it all but it does seem to cover the STA press release:

            The Code applies to:

            Section 1.h. Advertisements and other marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control, that are directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities …

  16. Luis says:

    I don’t think it will substantially change your conclusion, but I have the feeling that a less adverse solution can be found overscaling generation (solar, wind or both) in order to reduce storage needs. That means effectively lowering the capacity factor of generation (some installed capacity disconnected for some time when generation is in excess) but as far as generation seems cheaper than storage, the optimum is to be found in that direction.

    • A less adverse solution can be found overscaling generation (solar, wind or both) in order to reduce storage needs

      That’s correct. But the STA analysis allows only for 30GW of solar, just about enough to match Hinkley generation. It makes no provision for overcapacity.

    • Leo Smith says:

      I calculated the cost of an ‘overscaled’ all wind grid once. £9.78p per unit of electricity IIRC and not a square meter of the country out of sight of a windmill. Or a grid pylon.

      Adding solar would just be even more expensive., There is no guarantee the wind will blow at night.

      This is sheer nonsense – more desperate attempts to make renewable energy look remotely like a real world solution. It isn’t,. Its all cosmetics, political engineering and rent seeking profiteering. Wake up, smell the coffee, move on.

      Renewables are dead. Long live Nukes!

  17. I wonder if the fact that you need 9000 MW of storage capacity to absorb all the surplus solar power has been properly allowed for. Only 7000 MW of this is needed to actually prop up the system.

    At the very least, Hydro pumped storage costs about $2500/kW so you need $22 billion just for this. Then you have to deal with the fact that hydro pumped storage can’t meet the requirements for long term storage.

  18. Roger Andrews says:

    Re Sortir de Nucleaire vs. EDF. SdN did in fact file a complaint with Le Jury de Déontologie Publicitaire, details here:


    As far as I can tell from my limited French the “Jury” decided among other things that EDF had not supplied enough information to support its 98% CO2-free claim and was therefore in violation of articles 1.1, 3.3 , 3.4 and 6.5 of the Recommandation Développement durable de l’ARPP. This decision was handed down on January 5. I don’t know what has happened since.

    • robertok06 says:

      “This decision was handed down on January 5. I don’t know what has happened since.”

      Not much… judging from the fact that today you can still go on EDF’s web site and find exactly the same statement…

  19. That’s a very interesting and useful analysis. Last year, I did something similar when Tesla announced their Grid scale storage options. Mine was much more of a “wet finger guesstimate” but it reached the same conclusion that at the moment nuclear baseload can’t be matched by renewables+storage. http://jimll.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/energy-storage-and-nuclear-power.html

  20. nonegiven says:

    This is the same argument that comes from the EDF’s own guidelines on criticizing alternative energy, highlight solar and poke holes in it.

    When you prod the nuclear industry you find so called facts such as fly ash being more radioactive than spent nuclear fuel are all sourced from the American Energy Department, hardly what you can call unbiased stuff.

    Anyway if nuclear is the best option 100 percent then subsidizing it to the hilt with masses of public money is the height of stupidity especially when we have reactor designs built in britain that are proven from previous subsidization that work just as well.

    I dont care about the plans of the united states or the united states of europe, or their cold fusion dreams. Whats wrong with improving on our AGRs?

    • stone100 says:

      nonegiven, I don’t understand why it would be sensible for the UK to use AGRs. The wikipedia page says ” …the AGR design proved to be over complex and difficult to construct on site.” and “Former Treasury Economic Advisor, David Henderson, described the AGR programme as one of the two most costly British government-sponsored project errors, alongside Concorde.[8]”.
      To my mind what we (ie the world) needs is the simplest, safest, most robust and quickest way to get off of fossil fuels. Wasn’t the success of the nuclear programs of France and Sweden in the 1980s due to standardization using technology that they knew worked and that could be rolled out in a simple way at scale?
      I don’t know anything about this but is the AP1000 PWR now the best hope if we are going to build a new generation of nuclear power plants? Let’s not let jingosim get in the way of us doing what we need to.
      I’m happy to be put straight on any of this. Like I say, I know nothing about this subject.

  21. sod says:

    I like the graphs, especially figure 2 and 4.

    If you look at the numbers, even 5 years ago (and definitely at decade ago), most people would have called it sheer insanity, that solar PV could be a relevant factor in the UK.


    And before the Tesla powerwall revelation most people would have dismissed the idea of storage all together.

    So i would say that it is pretty big news, that we are even discussing whether solar PV can replace Hinkley or not.

    And basically this boils down (figure 2) to how to fill the gap in winter.

    And the most simple solution to that problem obviously will for a long time be small cogeneration plants, basically producing the electricity for free (from an environmental perspective).

  22. Nicolas Huillard says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you tried to compare nuclear apples to PV oranges, and everybody know they do not work the same way.
    1) the 91% capacity of the nuclear reactor is simply flatenned over the whole year, but everybody know it does not work like this: most of the year, there is 100% output, which drops to 0 for at least a month per year… This hole must be filled with something, just as you filled it for the PV part of the equation : a second nuclear plant, or massive storage, or… the existing system which is not 100% nuclear, far from it…
    2) you’ve proven that adding wind to solar reduces the storage need by half, which is a really good point; adding other renewables and existing plants could also add resilence to the whole systtem, and drastically reduce the storage need.
    3) why insist on trying to flatten PV/wind/whatever output over the whole year. After all, the demande curve is not flat. By trying to flatten, you simply place PV in the nuclear playing field, which is not at all relevant when the final goal is to match demand… You may try to add storage to Hinkley Point in order to match the PV production curve. That would be a valid enough thought experiment, just as valid as adding storage to PV in order to match the nuclear curve…
    We all know that the solution to the problem is much more than just “all PV” or “all nuclear”: diversifying is in my opinion the key. This also include influencing demand to facilitate the integration of more renewables, ie. drastically reducing the storage needs.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong

      You’re wrong. The whole point of this post is to highlight the dishonesty / incompetence of the Solar Trade Association who made the original comparison between melons and prunes.

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  25. sod says:

    The situation seems to be changing fast. Solar PV is getting cheaper much faster than we thought and will have a much higher penetration at a much earlier time than the IEA says.


    (20% of electricity at a global level in 2028)

    At the same time, Hinkley is facing further delays, as EDF denied to make the decision:


    Actually the delay of a decision for the Flamanville reactor is making it more and more liekly, that Hinkley will never be build.



    If we assume 20% (annual average) solar PV for the UK in the year that Hinkley goes online (so 2028), it will have huge problems selling any electricity during daytime in summer.

    With the price guarantee, that will make such a huge subsidy paid by consumers, that we could get enormous amounts of storage (still not enough to support winter nights with PV solar though).

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Solar power costs are tumbling so fast the technology is likely to fast outstrip mainstream energy forecasts. That is the conclusion of Oxford University researchers, based on a new forecasting model published in Research Policy. Since the 1980s, panels to generate electricity from sunshine have got 10% cheaper each year. That is likely to continue, the study said, putting solar on course to meet 20% of global energy needs by 2027.

      Thanks for the link to the Guardian article. We can add another example of misleading marketing to the list.

  26. sod says:

    Greenpeace just has a new study out, which claims that wind and wind gas are cheper than Hinkley: (I am sorry, but the study is in german language. I hope you can get something from the graphs)


  27. hfrik says:

    Well Hinkley Point will not runn 100% of the time, if its extremely good it will run 90% of the time, in longer periods avccording to experience from many reactors 80% is also not unlikely.
    Calculate as option a 3 GW power line to Spain via France. This allows to export surplus wind power from UK to france and spain (and the rest of europe) , to export surplus solar and wind power from Spain to UK and France, to import Wind and solar power from Germany etc. via France to UK. This will cost something around 5 billion Pounds, tendency dropping since the market becomes bigger which increases the economy of scale for such systems.
    install about 12 GW of solar Power in southern Spain which costs at lokal market Prices today about 10 billion Punds. Install another 3 GW of turbines at the existing spanish water storages (hydropower) to smoothen output of solar power, and throw away the last percentage of solar power output in extremely sunny days, so no more than 9 GW is ever produced. Sell excess power produced, and buy missing power when needed on the market.
    And calculate the storage costs for hinkley point – if you want to power the whole country with power plants like hinkley point, you need to store the excess power of the night for the day, and the excess power from summer for the winter.
    Or you accept that renewable power needs some remaining adoption to the power needs of the country as a hinkley points power output does too – just at different times.
    The bigger the grid is, in which you want to supply yourself with renewable power, the easier the task becomes. And no, nobody found a occasion yet when in whole europe there was no wind for 7 days, also there is no period of 7 days of complete darkness in whole europe.
    if it is difficult to imagine how it works, imagine for a start a global grid of infinite transportation capacity. It is obvious that photovoltaic power, attached to this grid delivers perfect baseload power. As well as Wind. And combined consumption is also a practical perfect baseload, with just few deviations based on the distribution of continents on earth.
    so in this ideal Grid there is practically no storage needs, existing water power storage exceed needed storage multiple times. From this point you can think how small a grid can become to supply renewabe energy in a economical way. If you don’t like renewables, it’s usual to shrink the network considered as much as possible, e.g. to the size of a single country or smaller. But only for renewables, astonishingly it is always possible to trade uranium, coal, gas, oil etc accross the border, but never electricity. Althou already today, if DRAX goes offline due to a major fault, the coal power station around shanghai regulate some kW upwards to compensate for the loss. The grid is the cheapest storage you can get – if you allow to think across borders. (there are plenty of studies supporting this, one of the most basic ones is the one of gregor czisch, but it’s in german as well, like most of the relevant literature to the topic as it seems.

    • sod says:

      While i agree with your main position, i have a few small points to add.

      Hinkley (as planned) will arrive in a UK grid desperate for electricity. so it should run at a high capacity factor, possibly around 90-95%.

      Lower capacity factors, for example in france, are often caused by demand problems (in the US with low nuclear penetration, nuclear has a very high capacity factor, in France with high penetration is is much lower).

      I would also be much more cautious about assumptions on storage.

      And final point, i doubt that we can sell spanish solar as replacement for the Hinkley plant even to the most extreme british solar supporters.

    • hfrik says:

      Well here is the important work of czisch about electicity supply in europe, and the lack of necessity to build storage if you can build a real grid. https://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwizndqE2urKAhUK8XIKHflvAlQQFggfMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fkobra.bibliothek.uni-kassel.de%2Fbitstream%2Furn%3Anbn%3Ade%3Ahebis%3A34-200604119596%2F1%2FDissVersion0502.pdf&usg=AFQjCNE6ofStFto-VqTAeMMyVnBdgR3oWA&sig2=2Pv3MjY4jB5RMGcJ4SnJMA&bvm=bv.113943665,d.bGQ

      @sod – well due to maintenace works and similar, load factors above 90% are extremely rare for nuclear power stations.

      And sometimes I hope for the old british merchand tradition, which enabled the people in UK in earlyer times to buy spanish wine if it was better and cheaper than british wine. With solar power it could and should be the same. Spain is a example here, it could as well be distributet in italy and greece as well. So far south there is always a huge amount of unused land due to dry and stony ground. perfect for solar power.

      in the other direction, it is always possible to extend the icelink further to greenland, which has abundant wind and hydropower nobody uses.

      • sod says:

        “@sod – well due to maintenace works and similar, load factors above 90% are extremely rare for nuclear power stations. ”

        the US average was nearly 92% in 2014.


        I am not a fan of nuclear power, but the technology is basically made to reach high capacity factors. (though this sometimes includes some cheating, like plants performing over 100% and clever manipulation of what plants to count as being in use. )

        I do not think that capacity factor is an important metric and mostly it is causing more confusion than doing good.

        On this topic, i agree: either we should evaluate Hinkley with 90% capacity and include the price of backup or we should take a reasonable look at the amount of backup needed to replace Hinkley IN THE CURRENT GRID with renewables. And in that scenario, we might not need any new backup at all. While some clever mixture of good interconnections with other countries, storage and use of other renewable technologies might actually provide a much more stable grid than Hinkley will give at a lower price (and an earlier time, which also matters!).

        • hfrik says:

          this is quite sure. Especially since each of these connectors make it more easy to supply the countries with renewables in all counties linkend by these interconnections. And countiies connected to the countries which are linked by these interconnectors.
          E.g. if power is low in central europe, and if UK is just fine with it’s production, the interconnectors can still be used to transfer some GW from Norway, Ireland and Iceland to central europe – same the other way round if there was little rain/snow in Norway for a year, and they will be happy to keep their reservoirs full and use german wind power or irish wind power instead.
          As well as new powerlines from germany to belgium and the netherlands, or from spain to france can help to supply UK when it is needed.

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