New Renewable Energy Targets for Scotland

The Scottish Government recently launched a consultation on a revised energy strategy. The existing policy is to produce the equivalent of 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The new policy is to produce the equivalent of 50% of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2030 – in 13 years time. Electricity currently represents 22% of energy consumption and we are now at 59% renewables, suggesting that 13% of all energy currently comes from renewable sources. The new plan calls for renewable output to increase approximately 4 fold. It is also planned that our two nuclear power stations will close in this time frame.

Space heating currently consumes 53% of energy and is predominantly provided by natural gas. The new plan calls for hydrogen derived from natural gas combined with CCS to sequester the CO2. Scotland is to become world leader in the hydrogen economy. I suspect we will find ourselves leading a group of 1 country that may quickly go to the wall should these proposals be implemented.

[Image is Whitelee wind farm just south of Glasgow is the UK’s largest onshore wind farm. 215 turbines have a combined capacity of 539 MW.]

The consultation report – Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland – is drenched in the language of fake Green science. But the report does contain an informative chapter on the current Scottish energy system that is to be the focus of this post. I have used 10 of the 13 diagrams from this chapter of the report but have provided my own narrative on what the data actually shows and the diagrams are not posted in order. This is the first of a number of posts on this subject where I hope to engage with well-informed and interested parties across Scotland.

The new policy is summarised in this statement from Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse:

A new 2030 ‘all energy’ renewables target is proposed in this draft Energy Strategy – setting an ambitious challenge to deliver the equivalent of half of Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity needs from renewable sources and drawing together the ambition for a full transition in each area of energy supply and use.

And it is worth documenting this passage from page 49:

146. Looking ahead to 2050, this Energy Strategy must consider a future after the current generation of nuclear electricity plants in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s policy is that these plants should not be replaced with new nuclear generation, under current technologies.

From which it is clear that Scotland aims to decarbonise its energy sector without using nuclear power, the one technology proven to deliver the stated goals of reliable, affordable and low C electricity. Hunterston B power station is scheduled to close in 2023 and Torness in 2030. The latter will likely be extended. Scotland therefore will find itself in the same absurd situation as Germany where expanding renewables cannot compensate for lost nuclear capacity and CO2 emissions rise.

Current Energy Use and Sources

Diagram 1 Primary energy supply in Scotland is still dominated by FF that account for 91%. But most of this is exported in the form of oil and gas. Note that this graphic is dated 2014 and coal production (7%) most probably went to Longannet power station that has since closed. Where renewables fit into consumption is not made clear but they are probably part of “electricity”. It is difficult to reconcile this graphic with Diagram 6 that shows 53% of energy consumed going to heating, which does not tally with 27% of consumption from gas. I suspect Diagram 6 is correct and that petroleum products and natural gas are transposed in Diagram 1.

Thanks to the oil and gas industry, Scotland already exports 74% of the energy produced (84% of 88%) (Diagram 1). There are a couple of interesting points from this graphic. Notably 12% of 860 TWh not consumed goes to conversion losses (power stations?) energy industry own use and distribution losses (power lines and pipelines?). These losses amount to 103 TWh, a non-trivial amount compared with the 169 TWh consumed.

Diagram 6 How energy is used in Scotland. See caption to Diagram 1. Natural gas is the main fuel used for space heating (Diagram 7) and consumption has declined as energy prices rose (Diagram 9). 

Diagram 6 (above) shows the current configuration of energy demand in Scotland. Heat accounts for 53% of all energy consumed, and 79% of that is provided by natural gas with a further 7% coming from oil (Diagram 7, below).

So if I understand correctly, Scotland is going to aim to replace the existing reliance on FF for space heating with renewable energy by 2030 amounting to half of 53% of 169TWh = 89.6 TWh.

Diagram 7 Mains gas accounts for 79% of space heating in Scotland. Rural communities that have no mains supply use either fuel oil or liquefied gas (propane?). “Other” will include coal and wood.

Diagram 8 shows that 74% of energy consumed in homes goes on space heating.  I’m not sure why renewables are included in this diagram.

In chapter 3, I found this on page 35 in relation to providing heat:

  • While more analysis will be required, there is some evidence to suggest that hydrogen can offer significant cost savings for customers compared to alternative low carbon heat sources such as electricity, or district heating. A recent KPMG report also found it more practical and more acceptable to customers.
  • Hydrogen gas at scale will most likely require natural gas (methane) as the source feedstock and as such in order to be low carbon, carbon capture and storage facilities will be a necessary system requirement. Scotland is therefore uniquely placed to support an emerging hydrogen economy.

Aiming to replace methane as the main source of heating with hydrogen derived from methane, produced using steam reformation, and combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS), strikes me as totally insane. Amongst other things, I can’t work out why methane + CCS should be considered renewable. I am working on the thermodynamics of this proposal that will be the subject of a forthcoming post. Steam reformation can be summarised as follows:

Steam-methane reforming reaction
CH4 + H2O (+ heat) → CO + 3H2

Water-gas shift reaction
CO + H2O → CO2 + H2 (+ small amount of heat)

CH4 + 2H2O  → CO2 + 4H2

Needless to say, this process, including the CCS, will use a lot of energy and money. Why not simply fit CCS to a CCGT?

Transport in Scotland accounts for 25% of energy used and is virtually 100% FF with only a small part of the rail network electrified (Diagram 6). The report gives no clear guidance how 50% of transport will be converted to renewable energy. Bio fuels, and their attendant problems, for example the use of crop lands to grow transport fuel, are mentioned along with electric cars.

Electricity accounts for 22% of energy demand (Diagram 6) and 59% of this already comes from renewable sources in a gross sense in 2015 (Diagram 4). In a net sense, Scotland still uses Peterhead CCGT and imported FF electricity from England to balance the grid and to back up when the wind does not blow.

Taking into account electricity from Scotland’s two nuclear power stations, our electricity system is already decarbonised.

Energy Trends

Diagrams 4, 11, 2, 9 and 12 all show trends in renewables production, energy consumption or price. In general terms, as renewables penetration rises so do prices and our energy use goes down. This is energy poverty manufactured in Holyrood (seat of the Scottish Government).

Diagram 4 The growth in renewables.

Diagram 4 illustrates the success of the current policy with Scotland on track to produce 100% equivalent of supply by 2020. What the report does not mention is that this is made possible by paying wind producers to not produce (constraint payments) and by Scotland being able to dump surplus power on England via the expanding array of inter connectors. The current system is also propped up by FF electricity imports from England. I don’t believe the consultation report mentions any of this. Notably “other” includes solar PV, an illustration of how totally useless solar is in dark and dreary Scotland. But this point is lost on the authors of the report who say this on page 41:

  • Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) capacity in Scotland is estimated to be enough to power the equivalent of approximately 50,000 homes.
  • Favourable levels of solar radiation combined with temperate climate is conducive to further solar PV investment – especially in Eastern Scotland and the Central Belt.
  • Combining storage with wind and solar assets presents the most valuable solution for the energy system as a whole, allowing demand to be managed locally.

Suggesting that Scotland has favourable solar radiation and that we can store wind and solar power locally is pure Green hogwash fantasy.

Diagram 11 shows how domestic gas and electricity bills have risen since 2005. While wholesale gas prices have risen in this period, politicians ought to look at Diagram 4 (above) and Diagram 11 (below) and ask to what extent the rise in electricity price is linked to government policy deploying expensive and unreliable renewable energy.

Diagram 11 Gas and electricity prices have risen, in part due to rising wholesale price of gas and in part due to the deployment of expensive renewables that incur costs in the devices themselves, in constraint payments and system costs for interconnection, additional load balancing service and backup.

Diagram 2 shows how nuclear generation has been flat, cheap gas and coal have been pushed out expensive renewables have grown in share of Scottish electricity supply.

Diagram 9 shows falling domestic gas consumption.

Falling domestic gas consumption may in part reflect improved energy efficiency by way of more efficient boilers (furnace if you are American) and better insulation. But it also in part reflects mounting energy poverty where households cannot afford to use as much gas as they once did. Once again, rising wholesale energy prices are partly to blame. But a government policy of making consumers use expensive and unreliable electricity will inevitably play a role.


Diagram 12 Electricity prices in Europe.

Diagram 12 shows electricity prices in Europe. Note that the large variations in tax  relate to how different countries treat subsidies. Denmark and Germany treat subsidies as tax while the UK does not. Politicians would do well to note that high renewables countries Denmark, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Ireland have the highest electricity prices while high nuclear countries Finland and France have the lowest electricity prices.

The Scottish government’s aim of providing secure and cheap electricity using renewables is simply a contradiction and denial of reality.

An Integrated View of Energy Demand

Diagram 10 Scottish gas (space heating), transport (oil) and electricity (nuclear and wind that powers appliances) 2013 to 2015.

I say in the introduction that Chapter 2 of the consultation report, Understanding Scotland’s Energy System was informative. While its narrative leaves much to be desired, the diagrams are very good and I’ve saved the best to last. This chart confirms that Diagram 6 is correct, heat ahead of transport ahead of electricity and that Diagram 1 must therefore be in error.

I believe this chart is plotting daily averages (the scale is GWh/day) which for electricity removes the large daily cycle. But we still see that maximum daily demand in winter is about 100 GWh and minimum demand in summer is about 50 GWh. The electricity supply system must be able to follow this demand pattern exactly. I will merely observe at present that peak demand is in winter when solar PV generation is all but zero, the exact opposite of a favourable level.

Transport energy demand shows no seasonal pattern and appears to be quite flat although there may be a weakly discernible upwards trend.

It is the cycle in natural gas demand (heating) that is eye popping. Peak winter demand is 300 GWh / day. Minimum summer demand is 50 GWh / day. At the moment this cycle is met by the oil companies opening and closing the spigots on gas wells in the North Sea.

This factor of 6 variation in natural gas demand will be nigh impossible to follow using renewable energy. And so enter the Scottish Government’s sleight of hand. They propose to continue to use natural gas, converted to hydrogen, in future and to make believe that this is renewable energy. Calculating the cost of this folly is currently high on my list of priorities.

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74 Responses to New Renewable Energy Targets for Scotland

  1. singletonengineer says:

    It’s not so much about the lack of quality of the energy debate, as the lack of a true debate.

    This article is brilliant, easy to follow for those with limited technical background, ie, seemingly, many populists for the Renewables cause.

    Maybe Scots would be more receptive to hearing about South Australia’s state-wide blackout and the reasons for same than about their own circumstances… that way they could learn the limitations of wind powered electricity systems without challenging their visions splendid.

    But I think not. Like the Spaniards, Germans and South Australians before them, they seem to be determined to pay the dual prices of high cost and unreliability and to rely on interconnectors with their neighbours.

    And that’s only electricity! The pure vision of a hydrogen economy will be sullied by cost, failures and shortages.

  2. Joe Public says:

    Hi Euan

    Great analysis.

    Regarding space heating, the enviros & politicos forget that that is not time-shiftable. And, their charts for natural gas & liquified petroleum gas (LPG) such as your Diagram #10 showing GWh/day mislead the unwary.

    To meet heating (& all other natural gas uses) via hydrogen, presumably means there’s got to be adequate storage facilities.

    In perspective, Scotland’s Foyers & Cruachan pumped storage store 16.3 GWh & are capable of 0.7GW.

    England (& Wales) however has natural gas storage of ~50,000 GWh & we can draw off at up to >75 GW

    Whilst the chart below is for the UK, Scotland’s relative instantaneous heating peak vs electricity will be similar (actually slightly greater – ‘cos you have colder weather than UK average)

    Another issue which can’t be discounted, is the Explosion Hazards of Hydrogen-Air Mixtures:

    I don’t know the date of the above publication, and presume it was prior to 2011, because there’s no mention of Fukushima Daiichi.

    It wasn’t a nuclear explosion which blew the roofs off the reactor containment buildings; it was hydrogen-air explosions.

  3. Thinkstoomuch says:

    For diagram 8 they are probably counting firewood.

    Doubling the energy cost in 15 years. How does that compare with income?

    For the rest …

    My head hurts,

  4. Dave Rutledge says:

    Hi Euan,

    Terrific post. My tutor at university was a Scottish power engineer, and he often used to say, “We could get away with anything, because there was always this infinite source/sink at the other end called England.”


  5. Alex Terrell says:

    Euan, I’ve looked quite a bit at steam methane reforming (SMR – not to be confused with Small Modular Reactors) and met the lead technical adviser at BEIS regarding this.

    His view was simple. Why bother electrifying heating or transport, when you can take natural gas (of which there is no shortage), reform it, sequester the CO2 (which he said is cheap, tried and tested), and send the hydrogen over the existing gas network to heat homes. It’s simpler and cheaper than building nuclear power plants or wind turbines and installing heat pumps, and the system is built to cope with seasonal variations. The hydrogen would be stored in natural geological formations.

    What’s not to like?

    For starters, the process is about 70% efficient. If you put in 1200MW of gas you get about 850MW of hydrogen out, and you still have to sequester the CO2 to make it worthwhile. And we can’t store enough hydrogen so would have to build the SMR infrastructure to cope with weekly demand.

    However, if you were to take a Molten Salt Reactor, and use it’s 600MW of thermal heat to drive the reforming reactoion, you can get 1450MW of hydrogen out. This would works out as cost effective if the cost of nuclear heat is below £40/MWh (MSRs are aiming to produce electricity at below this rate – heat would be about £10-20/MWh).

    From a Molten Salt Reactor point of view, if we burn the resultant gas in a CCGT, we get 780MW of electricity. The same MSR producing electricity would give 250MW.

    Steam Methane Reforming and Molten Salt Reactors could make sense, but both set of advocates say “our technology is so great, why would we need the other”.

    • singletonengineer says:

      Useful post. Thanks.

      I am not sure how well proven the CCS side of the business is, but that can be sorted out if the various parties would only agree to talk nicely to each other.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Alex, I want to do some detailed thermodynamic calculations on the steam methane reforming based on enthalpy. Are you able to help with this? I was going to ask Robert Rapier to assist. For starters:

      If you put in 1200MW of gas you get about 850MW of hydrogen out

      Where does the electricity used in the hydrogen generator appear in this calculation? The process runs at 850˚C. And what happens to the CO2 from the power station? Which is relevant if you are in England.

      I’ll be back with a flow diagram before lunch.

      • burnsider says:

        Depending on how much you want your brain to hurt:-

        The overall reforming reaction consumes energy (endothermic) and needs heat input to keep it going, hence <100% energy content of the hydrogen produced compared to the methane input. Plenty of experience reforming methane to give industrial feedstocks for ammonia, etc manufacture.

        As an aside, hydrogen is almost as bad as helium in terms of its propensity to leak, so putting it directly into current gas pipelines might be difficult. Also, it burns with an almost invisible flame and forms explosive mixtures over a very wide range in air

        • singletonengineer says:

          Add to that the probable need to replace every gas jet in the land.

          • Joe Public says:

            And at a stroke, the heat-carrying capacity of the entire transmission & distribution grid, all storage capacities (including line-pack), measurement capacity of all meters AND customers’ own pipework is reduced by over ⅔rds.

            Calorific values:
            Nat gas ~40MJ/m^3
            Hydrogen ~ 12.7MJ/m^3

        • Alex says:

          Northern Gas Networks claim that:
          1. The new polypropylene pipe network is fine for hydrogen transport.
          2. The appliances can be changed – similar with when the UK changed from town gas to natural gas.
          3. If hydrogen leaks, it escapes very fast, making explosions less likely than with gas.

          Not sure how true this is, but if you’re in a room and you find your voice going squeaky – open the doors and get the hell out of the place.

          • Joe Public says:

            Hi Alex

            “If hydrogen leaks, it escapes very fast, making explosions less likely than with gas.”

            See comment #2 above:

            “It wasn’t a nuclear explosion which blew the roofs off (Fukushima Daiichi) reactor containment buildings; it was hydrogen-air explosions.”

            As ‘Burnsider’ above mentions, it has much, much wider explosive limits.

            Nat gas: 5.3% – 15% v/v
            Hydrogen: 4% – 75%

          • Alex says:

            Fukushma was leaking hydrogen into an air tight space. I was told that only sealed houses were air tight enough to risk a gas explosion.

            It does raise a possibility. Reactors have been retrofitted with catalytic converters, who’s role I assume is to combine hydrogen before it gets to the 5.3%.

            I guess homes would have to have the same, and if you spot water condensate, you know you have a leak.

          • Alex

            “1. The new polypropylene pipe network is fine for hydrogen transport.”

            Can confirm that with onsite experience. However it is not as tight a NG in steel so could be an issue over a distribution network i.e. larger fugative.

          • Explosions with NG can and do happen. But they are rare as NG needs a fairly confined space.

            Hydrogen with its wider range does not really add much danger in my opinion as the aim will be to stay below the lower limit. You will probably end up having a similar smelly system for detection.

          • singletonengineer says:

            @ donoughshanahan, February 20, 2017 at 10:18 am:

            My experience with hydrogen is limited but includes the immediate aftermaths of 3 hydrogen fires. All nasty. Two with serious explosions due to pure hydrogen escaping to air. They were probably ignited by static electricity at the site of the leaks.

            Hydrogen is seriously difficult stuff to control, especially pure hydrogen. What were those explosive limits in air again? From memory, LEL 4% and HEL 75%.

            Is the proposal to dilute all H2 to, say, 20:80 blend H2:Air? In which case, there will be 5 times the volume to pump and to meter.

            Speaking of meters, like the gas jets and mains, they will also need to be replaced.

          • @ singletonengineer

            I did not see the problem despite the increases say against NG on LEL. That does not mean there won’t be problems just as there are with NG. The UEL may propose different issues.

            That said I did not think about MIE and hydrogen is about 1/10th of hydrocarbons. I did not realize but yes static would be enough to set it off. Especially leaking through some “orifice”. Plus any flames could well be invisible depending on what minor compounds are added. Learning something new.

            Choose the correct infrastructure and there is a chance. However, the big hurdles for hydrogen are
            1. Energy density is so low
            2. It is not normally economical (my experience) to upgrade a hydrogen rich gas as opposed to burning said gas).

          • singletonengineer says:

            @ donoughshanahan, February 20, 2017, 1:55 pm:

            Hydrogen burns with an invisible flame. It is really tricky stuff, best avoided if there is a choice.

          • @singletonengineer

            We don’t but I am not on that part of plant. Steelworks.

      • Alex says:


        I emailed the presentation I shared with BEIS. The best descriptions comes from Colorado School of Mines, and is the top link here:

        There are two methods of SMR. The traditional one runs the reactor at about 1000C, so that the constituents are almost all H2 and CO2, and no CH4. The newer “membrane method” runs colder (about 700C), meaning that a lot of CH4 is still present. But the hydrogen is drawn out through a membrane.

        Of course, without CO2 sequestration, it is completely pointless, unless you really need hydrogen (and even for rocket fuel, methane and kerosene are now preferred).

        Energetically, it works if you have nuclear heat to help out. But then why not go the whole way and produce the hydrogen from water? And of course, only a few weeks ago we were discussing ways of turning hydrogen into hydrocarbons, so why would we invest in the opposite?

    • “Euan, I’ve looked quite a bit at steam methane reforming (SMR – not to be confused with Small Modular Reactors) and met the lead technical adviser at BEIS regarding this.

      His view was simple. Why bother electrifying heating or transport, when you can take natural gas (of which there is no shortage), reform it, sequester the CO2 (which he said is cheap, tried and tested), and send the hydrogen over the existing gas network to heat homes.”

      All you need is a coke oven works already producing ~60% hydrogen enriched gas, upgrade it and build a new distribution system for the town stilling right beside said ovens. At least you have the opportunity to prove concept using mostly existing capital. And with the pipeline upgrade work in the area, the pipes line change out would be reduced.

      Now if you have a coke neutral site (no coke imports), you will be COG rich. Not many steel works to my knowledge upgrade their COG to get hydrogen but it is fairly common elsewhere. But the economics still seem to be favorable towards building a power plant and exporting the electricity, as the IJmuiden works and several TKS sties do.

      • rms says:

        Re “sending hydrogen over the existing gas network”. Hydrogen molecules are quite small and tend to leak. The existing gas network already leaks “large” natural gas molecules…is it really viable to use the network with a Hydrogen without the expectation that the entire network might have to be replaced?

        • Hydrogen over the existing network is a no go mainly because of small connections, iron mains and comparability of any equipment, particularly rotating.

          However the iron mains replacement program is stripping out a lot of pipework at the moment and is replacing them with plastic alternatives. These can be compatible with hydrogen. This program is required for many reasons, not least the age of the pipework.

          It is on such replaced sections that I would be aiming at.

          • singletonengineer says:

            Donoughshanahan, it is pretty much all or nothing within distribution areas. Eventually, the hydrogen economy will demand 100% replacement, in any case.

            So no “H2 mixed with CH4”.

            Besides which, a variable mix would provide issues for domestic and other appliances. So, all or nothing, or at least a fixed proportion, but that wouldn’t be a hydrogen economy, would it?

          • @ Singletonengineer

            It might not be clear but I think the H2 economy is a dead duck. I was just giving what I think to be a “realistic” option of how one should start out. The distribution issue is as key as the production issue.

            With a coke ovens you have a volume producer of hydrogen rich gas (60%) where the capital is already sunk, except for the upgrade requirements. If you would mess with H2 economy, surely you would start there (esp. given price of electrolysis)?

            We would not as it is cheaper for us to burn cog or generate electricity even if we were coke neutral and therefore COG rich.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Thanks to Joe and others for interesting commentary. To sum up: with H2 mixed with CH4 there may be enhanced possibility of H2 leaking from pipes. And there is a reduction in the heating value per volume so higher pressure would be required making this problem worse. And the explosion risk is enhanced so we want to ensure houses are kept drafty not warm……


  6. Jim Brough says:

    As a Scot who went to sunny Australia many years ago and with a long time interest in electricity generation I witnessed the failure of the grand experiment to run South Australia on wind and solar as 40% of output. Germany produces 15 % by wind and solar.

    Scotland’s plans renewables is a highland fling, an impossible dream.

  7. Nick Dekker says:

    I am a lifelong supporter of the SNP and independence. But I am astonished at what comes out of the Scottish Government’s so-called energy policy. I agree with much of what you say and I only wish it would get a bit more traction in Holyrood.

    Ever since Alex Salmond unilaterally came out with his ” 100% renewable electricity by 2020 ” I have wondered. Who is advising this lot?

    It must be remembered however that energy policy – electricity generation included – is reserved to Westminster. They are the body responsible for keeping the lights on in Scotland. It is Westminster that National Grid have to report to about the situation in Scotland.
    The Scottish Government can have as many aspirations as they like but they can initiate nothing. Planning permission has been given for a gas-fired station at Cockenzie to replace the base load lost from the closure of Longannet. The Scottish Government can do nothing to make that happen, and National grid and Westminster are not overly bothered that the Scottish Grid will become one sided and requiring large future doses of imports from South of the border. Maybe that scenario suits Westminster. They think they need Hinkley Point but they don’t think they need Cockenzie.

    The big mystery is the silence of the SNP in the face of the inevitable implications of adopting all the renewable nonsense from south of the border eg. Solar and Offshore wind, yet not complaining about the failure to build Cockenzie and what that implies.

    The irony also is that all subsidy costs are levelised, And the GB energy policy can be altered by the whims of the Treasury’s Levy Control Framework, another matter that Holyrood has no say in.

    But keep up the good work Ewan and one day the penny might drop in SNP Headquarters.

  8. Willem Post says:


    You may be interested in this study of the Swedish system.

    It looks like the Swedes giving up nuclear for wind and solar nirvana, is an expensive and complicated scenario, as if has proven to be in Germany.–epjp–i2016-16173-8.pdf

    You may also be interested in my latest article on the $33.3 billion cost of going 90% renewable of all of Vermont’s source energy by 2050 (not just electrical energy, which is about 35% of all source energy at present)

    Vermont utilities self produce and obtain by contract almost 50% of all their electricity supply from RE, about 35/(2 x average source factor) = 15% of Vermont’s source energy.

    As there is some difference of understanding regarding source and primary energy, I offer the following:

    Source Energy and Primary Energy Factors

    Embodied energy is the energy consumed in all activities to support a process during its lifecycle. For power generation systems, this includes the energy cost of raw material extraction, transportation, plant construction, energy generation, and the recycling and disposal stages following actual use.

    Embodied energy analysis is a crude method of estimating the environmental impacts and depletion of natural resources due to a certain process; the greater the embodied energy, the greater the GHG emissions, and the greater the depletion of natural resources.

    For renewable power plants (wind, reservoir hydro and run of river hydro), exploration and plant construction account for more than 90% of the total embodied energy.

    For the non-renewable power plants (coal, gas, oil, nuclear), plant operation and maintenance account for more than 99% of the total embodied energy of the power plants.

    Energy is obtained from various sources, such as mines, wells, forest, hydro, wind, solar, etc.

    Coal and Hydro: Coal energy has losses due to: Upstream (extraction, processing, transporting, about 5%); Conversion to electricity (about 60%); Transmission and distribution to user meter (about 7%). Thus about 26% arrives at the user’s meter. The source energy factor for coal could be defined as 100/28 = 3.57. For hydro 1.02 + 0.07, T&D = 1.09

    The primary energy ignores upstream losses. Thus coal at the power plant is set at 100%; less conversion, 60%; less T&D, 7% = 33% at the user’s meter. The primary energy factor for coal could be defined as 100/33 = 3.03. For hydro it remains 1.09

    Wind: Wind turbines produce about 18 times the energy it took to build them. Turnkey wind turbine plants, including site work, access roads, grid connection, etc., have embodied energy equivalent to about 1.5 years of their annual production.

    The source energy factor for wind could be defined as 18/16.5, plus T&D, plus inefficiency of balancing generators = 1.09 + 0.07 + 0.05 = 1.21; the balancing inefficiency increases as wind energy becomes a greater percentage of the energy on the grid.

    Solar: Solar panels produce about 20 times the energy it took to build them; in China that would be dirty coal energy. Turnkey solar plants have embodied energy equivalent to about 2 years of their annual production.

    The source energy factor for solar could be defined as 20/18, plus T&D, plus inefficiency of balancing generators = 1.11 + 0.07 + 0.05 = 1.23; the balancing inefficiency increases as solar energy becomes a greater percentage of the energy on the grid.

    • singletonengineer says:

      Willem has demonstrated that Sweden (and others) are killing their golden geese, which are nuclear and hydro.

      Nuclear by a combination of additional taxes and mandated early closure without replacement.

      Hydro, by overloading and complicating an already complex system and by stretching the environmental, irrigation, fishing, recreational and other operational limits, thus depleting a whole range of resources and benefits.

      If Sweden follows South Australia’s path due to ramping uncertainty of electrical supply, either by overcommitment of generation or by overcommitting interconnectors, then industry may suffer, as in SA.

      Vermont appears to be following a parallel path.

      Why does it take multiple failures to demonstrate what doesn’t work?

      • robertok06 says:

        “Why does it take multiple failures to demonstrate what doesn’t work?”

        It’s just the power of ideology becoming political power.
        The blame game will follow, just wait.
        In the end some “green” genius will say: “OK, green electricity is hyper expensive, but… Ehy!… we got rid of the nuclear monster!”… and everybody will be happy.
        If only I could find a one-way ticket to Mars…

    • Willem Post says:

      In the end paragraphs should read:

      Wind: Wind turbines produce about 18 times the energy it took to build them. Turnkey wind turbine plants, including site work, access roads, grid connection, etc., have embodied energy equivalent to about 1.5 years of their annual production.

      The source energy factor for wind could be defined as 18/16.5, plus T&D, plus the peaking, filling in, balancing and storage, PFBS, inefficiency = 1.09 + 0.07 + 0.05 = 1.21; the PFBS component increases as wind energy becomes a greater percentage of the energy on the grid and more storage, including peak shaving and seasonal storage, is required.

      Solar: Solar panels produce about 20 times the energy it took to build them; in China that would be with dirty coal energy. Turnkey solar plants have embodied energy equivalent to about 2 years of their annual production.

      The source energy factor for solar could be defined as 20/18, plus T&D, plus the PFBS inefficiency = 1.11 + 0.07 + 0.05 = 1.23; the PFBS component increases as solar energy becomes a greater percentage of the energy on the grid and more storage, including peak shaving and seasonal storage, is required.

      • Willem Post says:


        Wood burning: Wood energy has losses due to: Upstream (Harvest, process, transport, about 2.5%); Conversion to electricity (about 75%); Transmission and distribution to user meter (about 7%). Thus about 15.5% arrives at the user’s meter. The source energy factor for wood burning power plants could be defined as 100/15.5 = 6.45, i.e., the energy of 5.45 of 6.45 trees is wasted.

        • Willem Post says:

          I was somewhat hasty with my write up and made some errors.
          I hope the below is more correct.

          Source Energy Factors

          Energy is obtained from various sources, such as mines, wells, forest, hydro, wind, solar, etc.

          Coal Source Energy Factor: Losses = Upstream (extraction, processing, transporting, about 3%) + Conversion to electricity, including self-use (about 60%) + Transmission and distribution to user meter (about 7%) = 70%, i.e., 30% arrives at the user’s meter. The source energy factor for coal burning power plants would be 100/30 = 3.33.

          Hydro Source Energy Factor: Upstream 0 + Conversion, as self-use 0.04 + T&D 0.07 = 1.11

          NOTE: Primary energy ignores upstream losses. Losses = Conversion, 60% + T&D, 7% = 67%, i.e., 33% arrives at the user’s meter. The primary energy factor for coal burning power plants would be 100/33 = 3.03. For hydro power plants it remains 1.11

          Wood Source Energy Factor: Upstream (harvest, chipping, transport, about 2.5%) + Conversion to electricity, including self-use (about 75%) + Transmission and distribution to user meter (about 7%) = 84.5%, i.e., 15.5% arrives at the user’s meter. The source energy factor for wood burning power plants would be 100/15.5 = 6.45, i.e., the energy equivalent of 5.45 of 6.45 trees is wasted.

          Wind Source Energy Factor: Wind turbines produce during their 25-year life about 18 times the source energy it took to build them, or 18/25 = 0.72 source energy/y. Turnkey wind turbine plants, including site work, access roads, grid connection, etc., have embodied source energy equivalent to about 1.5 years of their annual production, i.e., about 1.5/0.72 = 2.08 years to offset the source energy.

          The source energy factor for wind would be 25/22.92 + 0.07 T&D + 0.05 Peaking, filling in, balancing and storage, PFBS, inefficiency = 1.21.

          Solar Source Energy Factor: Solar panels produce during their 25-year life about 20 times the source energy it took to build them, or 20/25 = 0.8 source energy/y. Turnkey solar plants, including site work, access roads, grid connection, etc., have embodied source energy equivalent to about 2 years of their annual production, i.e., about 2.0/0.8 = 2.5 years to offset the source energy.

          The source energy factor for solar would be 25/22.5 + 0.07 T&D + 0.05 Peaking, filling in, balancing and storage, PFBS, inefficiency = 1.23.

          NOTE: The PFBS increases as 1) wind and solar energy becomes a greater percentage of the energy on the grid, 2) more transmission build-outs are implemented, and 3) more storage, including peak shaving storage and seasonal storage is implemented.

  9. Euan Mearns says:

    This in my in box from Alex this morning. It shows the steam methane reforming process where the input energy comes as waste heat from a molten salt reactor (>20 years away). The energy balance sheet is shown below.

    Energy inputs

    Waste Primary heat from MSR 600 MWt
    Natural gas 1200 MW
    Electricity 30 MWe (net, 50 MWt at power station)
    Electricity 60 MWe (for CCS, seems low to me, 100MWt at power station)

    Total = 1890 MW (1950)

    Energy outputs

    Hydrogen gas 1450 MW gross (efficiency 1450/1890 = 77%)


    Electricity produced in CCGT (60% efficient) 780 MW net after losses (efficiency = 780 / 1890 = 41%)


    Gas supplement for home heat (90% efficient condensing boiler?) = 1450 MW * 0.9 = 1305 (efficiency = 1305 / 1890 = 69%)

    The electricity generation option brought a smile to my face. The input is 690 MW (ex nat gas) and the output is 780 MW but you burn and pay for 1200 MW of nat gas en route 🙂

    (I’m unsure about the 90% efficiency figure for a condensing boiler?)

    • Joe Public says:

      “I’m unsure about the 90% efficiency figure for a condensing boiler?”

      Yes, thereabouts.

    • Alex says:

      In the above diagram, it’s not really “waste heat”. It’s using the reactor to provide dedicated heat, and no electricity (Or just electricity and no high grade waste heat).

      Traditional steam methane reforming needs to take the waste from the hydrogen and use this to turn water into steam. Then they have to burn some of the hydrogen to put even more heat in.

      One advantage it has is that it produces a fairly concentrated stream of CO2 at high pressure, so sequestration is a bit easier.

    • Rob slightam says:

      CCS for a concentrated CO2 stream from A reformer is easier than the dilute CO2 stream that is the exhaust from a power station

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Yes. Well we could try a CCGT without CCS.

        I agree the C capture is easier from a reformer. But all the rest remains the same. The transport through steel pipes to a steel compressor to a steel offshore platform and all the energy for compression remains the same.

        • As Aha says:

          but in near future there could be Allam cycle stations which are CCS friendly

          • Euan Mearns says:


            I’m afraid this looks like Green BS.

            Unlike the combined cycle, the Allam cycle requires an air separation unit, to supply the cycle with oxygen.

            If the energy cost of O2 separation is included in the claimed efficiency of 59% then I’m interested. If its not, then the Wiki entry is a lie.

          • The efficiency is based on the lower heating value i.e and efficiency based on the fuel consumed. I would expect this then to reflect the efficiency of the cycle from boiler to turbine to condenser to feed pump to boiler.

            You can ignore the other stuff (conveyors, CAir etc) as it is small hat in the scheme of things. Pure O2 probably not included.

          • singletonengineer says:

            Page 4: “All commercial discussions of the Allam Cycle, including cost and performance
            figures, include the use of a cryogenic ASU as part of the overall plant design.”

            The 50MW demonstration unit will used piped-in O2 but the above clarifies that their cost and performance data will for cryogenic production of O2 on site.

          • singletonengineer says:

            See above, accidentally posted my comment below donoughshanahan’s. Thanks for the link. It is a very good explanation of the Allam Cycle demonstration. Here’s hoping that the current financial issues within Toshiba and their subsidiary CB&I don’t halt progress.

  10. Graeme No.3 says:

    As it is only a little bit late for the anniversary I suggest that Scotland rename this scheme as Darien Two, and we know how that worked out, and almost certainly how this will work out.
    If they are so concerned about CO2 and not at all about cost, why don’t they adopt the Shetland scheme and direct wind electricity into heating vast quantities of water for regional heating. Yes, they rejected that on economic grounds so it must be truly lunatic and therefore would appeal only to those gullible enough to favour this “plan”, e.g. the Scottish Nationalists. At least it would absorb the excesses of wind supply although more likely the failure of wind in winter will drive surviving Scots to emigrate. Perhaps if they heated Loch Ness they would have enough reserve?

    As for South Australia I recall a local suggesting compulsory drug testing of the local politicians on the grounds that “they couldn’t be that stupid naturally”. Are the Scots Nats. putting mushrooms into their whisky?

  11. Jim Brough says:

    Diagram 6 tells us that energy demand in Scotland is 22% electricity, 25 % transport and 53% heat.
    Scotland with a population of 5.4 million thinks it will save the world from global warming/climate change by going to renewables to avoid CO2 emissions from electricity generation.
    Forgets that transport and heat account for 78% of CO2 generation capacity, ignores the fact that nuclear electricity is probably the lowest CO2 emitter per kWh and wants to shut down its nuclear reactors.
    Madness !

    The bit about battery storage to overcome the intermittency of wind and solar reminds me of the university in Gullivers Travels which had spent many years trying to extract sunbeams out of cucumbers to warm the air during inclement summers.
    That was in 1726, nearly 400 years ago.
    If you want more batteries to solve the problem of energy storage, accept the fact that you will need more mines and more CO2 emissions.

    We have seen for at least 30 years claims about tidal, wave and geothermal promising to provide CO2 free electricity. International Energy Agency stats will give you the data, albeit for 2014.
    Interestingly, the dry continent of Australia produces about 2.5 times more hydroelectricity per capita than Germany but our Greens want no more dams.
    NSW built a desalination plant at Kurnell based on catastrophe predictions, fuelled by windmills and now in mothballs.

    Which brings me to the case of the South Australian politician who backed off from storing overseas nuclear waste to suggest that we could have nuclear electricity to run the state and he would look at options such as stored hydro. South Australia has negligible hydro and rainfall to support that.

    Its a mad world of expectations, global warbling,not reality.

  12. Well according to
    the ERoEI, Energy Returned on Energy Invested, for fossil fuel carbon capture and storage is not promising.

    Technology ERoEI

    Tidal range 115.9
    Wind 25.0
    Tidal stream 14.9
    Wave 12.0
    Nuclear 10.9
    Solar thermal
    Electricity 9.9
    Solar PV 8.3
    Coal no CCS 5.5
    Gas no CCS 3.5
    Gas with CCS 2.2
    Coal with CCS 1.5

    Even worse, my suspicion is that the CO2 “storage” claimed for typical CCS plans would not be guaranteed or proven long term storage.

    Instead, wishful thinking would present temporary storage as more reliable, less leaky, than it actually was.

    I suspect CCS schemes in reality would fail in practice with systematic leaks of CO2 to the atmosphere, out of sight, out of mind of the complacent political authorities.

    News of systematic leaks will be hushed up because CCS profits will depend on performance and be threatened if the truth about failures and leaks gets out.

    The only exception where another kind of “CCS” might be meaningful that I can think of would be gasification of biomass which does “capture carbon” – is carbon negative

    However, biomass gasification is NOT what is generally meant by “CCS” which MacKay describes as a “as-yet scarcely-implemented technology”
    which I believe that will always remain the state of the art of CCS.

    In my opinion, CCS will never be viable nor feasible in practice and so CCS gets no mention whatsoever by me in my renewable energy plans.

    “Scotland Electricity Generation – my plan for 2020”

    So I must reject the green credentials, the renewable energy claims of this Scottish government’s so-called “Energy Strategy” which is fatally flawed by founding upon CCS.

    What the ERoEI implications of FF CCS are perhaps Euan will explain for beginners and non-beginners alike?

    Scottish Scientist
    Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland

    • robertok06 says:

      “Nuclear 10.9”

      An EROEI of only 10.9 for nuclear? This is PATENTLY wrong.
      … it would mean that the 58 reactors in France, which generate of the order of 800 TWh/year, so 40×800=32000 TWh in 40 years, would need 1/10.9 x 32000 TWh of energy for their construction, operation, fuel cycle and decommissioning?…

      Whoever came up with this value must be either drunk, or under the effect of illicit substances, or… worse!… a member of GreenPiss.

      In fact 32000/10.9 TWh is a huge amount of energy, it is 10.6 exajoules… meaning that each reactor would need on average 182 petajoules.

      According to the world nuclear organization… tab.1 here…

      … the energy requirement per GWe are A LOT less.

      EROI for nuclear must be above 50, simply because it uses the highest energy density fuel, there’s no way it can consume that much energy to build a reactor, let alone the fuel cycle, mining included.

      So, please, let’s stop repeating this silly statements about EROI for nuclear.


      • burnsider says:

        Table 2 from is abstracted below. The individual values shown are fully referenced in the original

        R3 energy ratio – EROI
        Hydro 50
        NZ run of river 50
        Quebec 205
        Nuclear (centrifuge enrichment) 81
        PWR/BWR 59
        PWR 75
        PWR 46
        BWR 43
        BWR 47
        Coal 29
        black, underground 29
        brown,open pit, US 31
        unscrubbed 7
        Natural gas – piped 26
        – CCGT 28
        – piped 2000 km 5
        LNG 5.6
        LNG (57% capacity factor) 6
        Solar 10.6
        Solar thermal parabolic 9.6
        Solar PV rooftop 12-10
        polycrystalline Si 3.8
        amorphous Si 2.1
        ground 7.5
        amorphous silicon 3.7
        Wind 12
        Enercon E-66 16

        I saw an energy analysis for the Rossing Mine in Namibia years ago but can’t find the reference (it was a Vatenfall report). This suggested that the gross energy return on the mining of uranium was about 500

        • burnsider says:

          Sorry – the formatting looked fine but went to pot when I posted this!

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Many years ago I once posted in a comment on TOD an astonishing high ERoEI for yellow cake production at Rossing. Should be able to find it.

          • burnsider says:

            My recollection is that the mine was treated as a box, with essentially all of the energy input in the form of the diesel used to run everything on such a remote site. I’m pretty sure none of the embedded energy in any brought-in resources was included, though

        • robertok06 says:

          “I saw an energy analysis for the Rossing Mine in Namibia years ago but can’t find the reference (it was a Vatenfall report). This suggested that the gross energy return on the mining of uranium was about 500”

          Your memory is not far from the real value, burnsider:

          According to this paper…

          … the extraction and production of 1 kg of U3O8 at Rossing needs 1515 MJ of energy.
          Of this 1 kg 73.6% is uranium, the remainder oxygen… so 0.736 kg.
          Uranium 235, the fissile fraction of natural uranium, is 0.7% of this, i.e. 5.152E-3 kg.

          The specific energy content of U-235 is 24 million kWh… i.e. 8.64E+7 MJ.
          If we multiply this by 0.005152 we obtain 445132.8 MJ.

          Dividing this by 1515 one gets the ratio of energy in/energy out: 293. This, of course, relates to the total thermal energy… in terms of electricity only it would be approx. 1/3 of it, i.e. 100.

          This calculation agrees with the value reported in here:

          “Reactor operation: 8760 million kWh (8.76 TWh) of electricity at 100% output, hence 24 tonnes of natural U per TWh”

          1 TWh/24000 kg divided by 1515 MJ is exactly 100. Good.


          P.S.: it could be… too late to check, that this doesn’t take into account the further energy input from the fission of U-238 and the Pu isotopes generated in the reactor… I think to remember it amounts to an additional 10%???

  13. Leo Smith says:

    there’s no way it can consume that much energy to build a reactor, let alone the fuel cycle, mining included.

    Filling in a libraries worth of regulatory paperwork is very energy intensive, since all ‘experts’ are on generous expense accounts featuring luxury cars and hotel holidays in the Caribbean etc etc…

  14. Charles 16 says:

    Hello Euan, I realized there is no good way to contact you through email on your website. I found this article which I thought you might find interesting about Germany cutting all fossil fuels

    Thanks, Charles

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Germany will end support for fossil fuel heating systems at some point in the future, new economy and energy minister Brigitte Zypries said yesterday at a conference hosted by renewable energy association BEE.

      A phase-out of government support for systems such as natural gas heating would pave the way for a higher share of electricity in the heating sector.

      Is this not fake news? What support does the government give to Nat Gas heating in Germany?

      • robertok06 says:

        Well, Euan… if it is not fake news it silly news.
        The document linked by Charles 16 says, at one point:

        “Germany this year introduced auctions for new onshore wind and photovoltaic (PV) solar installations with a capacity of more than 750kW. Auction volumes for onshore wind capacity are at 2.8 GW/yr in 2017-19 and 2.9 GW/yr from 2020, on a gross basis, and at 600 MW/yr for PV installations. But the government will revise auction volumes higher if Germany advances the coupling of the power industry with the transport and heating sectors, junior energy minister Rainer Baake said at an industry event last week.”

        “.9 GW/y… let’s say 3 GW/y of offshore wind at 40% CF is equivalent to 1.2 GWy, or 10.5 TWh… or 37.8 PJ.
        The 600 MW/y of PV at 10% CF is almost negligible… 1.9PJ.
        The two summed together would add approx 40 PJ to Germany’s energy production or, better, could substitute 40 PJ of heating energy per year.

        This paper here…

        … says that …

        “German households consumed 2008 about 2 470 PJ of energy,
        excluding the consumption of private car-usage (Table 1). Natural
        gas (883 PJ) and fuel oil (635 PJ) are the most important fuels in
        the residential sector, followed by electricity with 469 PJ.”

        So, considering only natural gas, and leaving out fuel oil, it would be necessary to sustain the rate of installation of offshore wind and PV for 883/40=20 years.
        Problem is, one could not integrate the additional 60 GW of offshore wind and 12 GW of PV to replace household space heating, because a large chunk of the electricity would be generated when there’s no or reduced need for heating (all non-cold days, I’d say 6 months/year on average?)… so this “excess electricity” from offshore wind and PV would need to be converted and stored as burnable gas (H2 or CH4 and higher hydrocarbons)… which would entail large losses during the whole cycle… like a factor of 3-4 at least, I’d say.
        These are 2008 data, in addition… will go up in the future.

        My conclusion is: it won’t happen… as costs would be too high, too complicated… intermittent most of the time… seasonal… you name it.

        Mythical Energiewende, uh? 🙂

  15. TimC says:

    The Hydrogen Economy is an elegant dream that will not die soon. Then there’s George Olah and his dream of a Methanol Economy. And then there are folks out there who insist what we really need is an Ammonia Economy.

    What do hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia have in common? They’re all made from natural gas. So maybe what we really need is a natural gas economy. And, what luck, we’ve got one!

  16. Pingback: New Renewable Energy Targets for Scotland | UPPER SONACHAN WIND FARM

  17. stone100 says:

    Making hydrogen for heating from natural gas seems deranged. The one thing intermittent wind turbine electricity might make good sense for could be for heating since local, very long term, heat stores are feasible . IMO internationally traded liquid natural gas should be reserved for developing world electricity generation since they need the cheapest and easiest system and coal needs to be left in the ground. I agree with Euan’s points about fuel poverty. The Carbon Tax and Dividend described in the previous post does mitigate fuel poverty in that poor people tend to use much less energy and yet the dividend is paid equally to each person (all the Carbon Tax goes straight out as dividends) so poor people end up better able to afford to heat or insulate their homes than they would be without the Carbon Tax and Dividend scheme.

    • Grant says:

      One point that occurred to me many years ago is that at some point any “coal left in the ground” will once again attract the attention of people looking for low cost energy solutions.

      It’s difficult to predict when – very unlikely to be in my life time (Other than the known plans that have been presented publicly mostly in the Asian area). It’s also challenging to imagine a burgeoning population in Africa eschewing any opportunity it might be offered to make use of coal to accelerate development as 3 or 4 billion souls are added to the population count in the next 80 years.

      One assumes there might be a bit of trouble if anyone attempted to block African development. Mind you, if the trouble was big enough it might end up resolving a large part of the imbalance problem. Is it possible that is the long term strategy?

      I certainly don’t understand the final section related to poor being benefiting from being unable to afford energy and I rather suspect that living in a world full of Hydrogen filled gas pipes could be interesting for the survivors.

      But hydrogen is not a primary source of energy it is merely a fuel – energy in some sort of portable form that can be distributed (relatively easily, we imagine) to where it is needed. That, after all, is our expectation.

      Maybe that personal control should be taken away officially and the State be allowed to run our energy lives for us.

      After all it’s not as if doing that might stop us doing what we want to do when want (or need) to do it. Is it?

      Oh well, Africa would probably just revert to charcoal for cooking until there was no one left to stop them doing that they wanted to do.

  18. Tim says:

    This post is lengthy, but I’d like to add another question. Euan, have you produced a chart of Scotland’s electricity production from wind vs. demand? Or perhaps just it’s wind production. I’ve seen your graphs for Germany, Spain, etc showing that at times, wind production drops significantly. Is this true for the Scottish wind system as a whole? Thanks!

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