Parasitic wind killing its host

Every now and then I read a report that makes me angry. This one
made my blood boil:

National Grid has confirmed that a record-breaking amount of clean electricity was generated by wind power in the UK today [29th November] – achieving more than 6 gigawatts (over 6,000 megawatts) for the first time.

Renewable UK’s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber said:

Wind energy is consistently setting new records and providing an ever-increasing amount of clean electricity for British homes and businesses. We’re generating from a home-grown source which gives us a secure supply of power at cost we can control, rather than leaving ourselves exposed to the global fluctuation in fossil fuel prices which have driven bills up. Wind gives us a way to make a smooth transition from old-fashioned fuels to a new low-carbon economy.

What they forgot to say, the day before 29th November, was flat calm across the UK and we were pretty well 100% dependent upon these old-fashioned fuels – nuclear, coal and gas, so derided by the renewables industry. Charts and facts below the fold.

Figure 1 The share of UK electricity generation in the UK for the month of November 2013. The “other” category sums inter-connector imports and exports, pumped storage and hydro. Wind power is expensive (Figure 3). And so it is not rocket science to work out that high electricity bills are in the main caused by giving priority access to the most expensive source. Data from the truly excellent Gridwatch.

Figure 2 The distribution of wind power generated in the UK for the month of November 2013. The erratic nature of the supply simply adds noise to the grid. The cost of smoothing out that noise is currently met by the operators of CCGTs and coal fired power stations. In return for providing and paying for this invaluable service these operators are rewarded with lower market share. Renewable UK’s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber regards the above configuration of electricity supply as secure.

Figure 1 shows where Britain’s electricity came from for the month of November and the record high amount of wind (in blue) on the 29th. I want to dissect some of Jennifer Webber’s statement:

We’re generating from a home-grown source

My understanding is that the majority if not all of the turbines have been imported.

which gives us a secure supply of power

Wind comes and goes with the N Atlantic weather systems, >6GW one moment <0.5GW the next. It is fundamentally dishonest to describe this as secure. The security of electricity supplies is provided by natural gas, coal and imports that are cycled up and down to balance for erratic wind.

at cost we can control

According to DECC, wind is the most expensive form of electricity currently produced in the UK (Figure 3), it may well be controlled but at a fixed high cost for consumers.

rather than leaving ourselves exposed to the global fluctuation in fossil fuel prices which have driven bills up

This statement is also fundamentally untrue. It is true that high natural gas prices have put upwards pressure on electricity prices, but this past year, coal has been dirt cheap. And the UK derives roughly 20% of its electricity from nuclear, largely immune to short term moves in fossil fuel prices. So where does the truth lie?

Figure 3 UK electricity prices attributed to DECC (£/MWh). When politicians  give priority to onshore and offshore wind, currently the most expensive form of power generation we have, they should not be surprised that electricity prices go up. Somewhat curiously, politicians are trying to blame everyone but themselves for this situation that has been created by Westminster.

What are the main factors that have pushed up UK electricity prices?

  1. An obligation to use wind electricity which is the most expensive source currently available to us (Figure 3)
  2. The cost of balancing services and loss of market share in gas and coal generators
  3. The closure of coal plant that currently provides the cheapest electricity
  4. The expansion of power generating infrastructure, essentially running two systems alongside each other, renewables and conventional generators. In addition, new power transmission lines are being built to transport expensive, unreliable wind to market
  5. And finally, elevated natural gas prices offset by the current low cost of coal.

The UK grid cannot currently run on intermittent wind that is dependent upon other, cheaper sources of electricity to provide balancing and grid stability. Wind is currently killing the power generation system it requires for its own survival and the high electricity costs this brave new energy world has created is crippling the British economy and spreading energy poverty. This is a problem made in Westminster. UK energy policy is built around the desire to reduce CO2 emissions and not to provide secure and affordable supplies of energy for its people. It is time to repeal or amend the 2008 Climate Change Act.

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74 Responses to Parasitic wind killing its host

  1. Ted says:

    Sounds like the current leadership elsewhere also!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Ted, C-H bonds are good, C-C bonds are bad;-) It seems like a bad time to be involved with coal in the USA. I will be following US nat gas production keenly over the next 12 months. My expectation is that it turns down and prices rise. That I imagine will be very popular with voters.

  2. Hi Euan,

    Thank you for a thoughtful post, particularly with respect to the parasite metaphor.


    • Euan Mearns says:

      Hi Dave, I hope you don’t mind me telling my readers that you are a Professor of Electrical Engineering at California Institute of Technology which according to this report is the world’s leading University. IMO, your opinion therefore carries a little bit more weight. It is curious for me to observe that Prof David MacKay from Cambridge University, also a brilliant man, and currently chief scientific advisor to UK government on energy matters, can lead us down this route. In occasional correspondence, MacKay points out that he is simply implementing legislation – The 2008 Climate Change Act.

      I see Cambridge has slipped to 7th – they’d better watch out.


      • Roger Andrews says:

        “It is curious for me to observe that Prof David MacKay from Cambridge University, also a brilliant man, and currently chief scientific advisor to UK government on energy matters, can lead us down this route.”

        Euan, it’s not curious at all. MacKay has been an environmental activist since he did his doctorate at Caltech, where he discovered that he “cared about green politics”, “realised that (he) didn’t want to live in a car society” and founded the Caltech Environmental Task Force, which “promotes understanding and conservation of our environment through education and environmentally responsible actions”.

        Then in 2009 he published his signature book “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air”, which received rave reviews from Friends of the Earth (who, incidentally, wrote the 2005 Private Member’s Bill that led to the 2008 Climate Change Act) and which starts off: “We have an addiction to fossil fuels, and it’s not sustainable …..”

        One reason the UK has gotten itself into such a mess with renewable energy is that policy is being dictated by “scientific advisors” like MacKay who may have impeccable academic credentials in their chosen fields but who are uncompromising zealots when it comes to energy policy. I don’t see this situation changing until you blokes on the other side of the Pond rise up and throw them out, but the way things are going it seems that a lot more people are going to have to freeze in the dark before that happens.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Hi Roger, this insight is really appreciated. In “Hot Air” MacKay pays lip service to energy decline / energy security in the introduction, but the book it is dominated by the environmental agenda. I have become more than a little concerned in recent years about the infiltration of the UK Civil Service, government and academia by Green thinkers. If you google around for a few seconds you’ll find a video of me introducing Lord Oxburgh at a conference I conceived and co-organised in Edinburgh earlier this year. I set out to organise a conference that focussed on energy and not CO2. Oxburgh went on to talk about Arctic sea ice retreat etc, whilst providing no evidence that man made CO2 has anything to do with it. In his talk Oxburgh vents frustration at sceptics and deniers and so I presume he (and MacKay) are not best pleased with what I am doing here. Tough!

          I do not doubt that MacKay and Oxburgh are brilliant – their CVs are certainly much racier than mine;-) But when I go over to Bishop Hill there is an air of desperation among some who quite simply cannot afford their energy bills. Intellectuals like MacKay and Oxburgh seem to have lost sight of the misery they are spreading among the lower income groups in Britain. In Hot Air, MacKay published a map with amongst other things gigantic wind farms in the N of Scotland, an area of natural beauty I imagine he has never visited – I’m not sure what “the environment” actually means to him.

          I’m not sure what you mean by this “I don’t see this situation changing until you blokes on the other side of the Pond rise up and throw them out” – which side of the pond are you on?

          Best E

          • Roger Andrews says:

            Euan: As I mentioned in a previous e-mail I live in Mexico. Right now I am in fact sitting under a waving palm tree on the shores of the tropical Pacific Ocean with the temp hovering around 30C contemplating my first libation of the day. I hope the weather in Aberdeen is nice too 😉

        • It is still strange though I read the MacKay’s entire book and he does know the numbers on page 164 of the online book he writes

          Fast breeder reactors, using uranium from the oceans

          If fast reactors are 60 times more efficient, the same extraction of ocean
          uranium could deliver 420 kWh per day per person. At last, a sustainable
          figure that beats current consumption! – but only with the joint help of two
          technologies that are respectively scarcely-developed and unfashionable:
          ocean extraction of uranium, and fast breeder reactors.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Roberto, Scotland used to boast the World’s only commercial breeder reactor at Dounreay. 250 MW, produced commercial electricity for 5 years. I’ve been told by engineers who worked there that the plug was pulled under pressure from Greens. So breeders consume nuclear waste – a good idea?

            Not sure why you want to go to seawater extraction of uranium? There are rumors that U is scarce. Personally I don’t think we would have to resort to seawater extraction of U for a very long time. We can have a nuclear progression following technology and sources of U already proven, then maybe add Th and breeders and if needs be at some distant point maybe add U extraction from seawater. But Clive Best, also posting here has worked on Fusion and sees that as a viable addition before the end of this century, precludes the need for seawater U.

          • on fast breeding technolgy there’s better than Dounreay already
            I must say that the Brits messed things up with the adoption of CGR technology to start with

            Beloyarsk-3, Russian Federation operational and working for more than 20 years

            Beloyarsk-3, Russian Federation
            Reactor Type Commercial Reactor
            Process FBR
            Commercial Operation 1 November 1981
            Capacity Factor Life 74.1 %

          • also on the same book withouthotair

            What about costs?
            As usual in this book, my main calculations have paid little attention to economics. However, since the potential contribution of ocean-uranium-based power is one of the biggest in our “sustainable” production list, it seems appropriate to discuss whether this uranium-power figure is at all economically plausible.
            Japanese researchers have found a technique for extracting uranium from seawater at a cost of $100–300 per kilogram of uranium, in comparison with a current cost of about $20/kg for uranium from ore. Because uranium contains so much more energy per ton than traditional fuels, this 5-fold or 15-fold increase in the cost of uranium would have little effect on the cost of nuclear power: nuclear power’s price is dominated by the cost of power-station construction and decommissioning, not by the cost of the fuel. Even a price of $300/kg would increase the cost of nuclear energy by only about 0.3 p per kWh. The expense of uranium extraction could be reduced by combining it with another use of seawater – for example, power-station cooling.
            We’re not home yet: does the Japanese technique scale up? What is the energy cost of processing all the seawater? In the Japanese experiment, three cages full of adsorbent uranium-attracting material weighing 350 kg collected “more than 1 kg of yellow cake in 240 days;” this figure corresponds to about 1.6 kg per year. The cages had a cross-sectional area of 48 m2. To power a once-through 1 GW nuclear power station, we need 160 000 kg per year, which is a production rate 100 000 times greater than the Japanese experiment’s. If we simply scaled up the Japanese technique,which accumulated uranium passively from the sea, a power of 1 GW would thus need cages having a collecting area of 4.8 km2 and containing a weight of 350 000 tons of adsorbent material – more than the weight of the steel in the reactor itself. To put these large numbers in human terms, if uranium were delivering, say, 22 kWh per day per person, each 1 GWreactor would be shared between 1 million people, each of whom needs 0.16 kg of uranium per year. So each person would require one tenth of the Japanese experimental facility, with a weight of 35 kg per person, and an area of 5 m2 per person. The proposal that such uranium-extraction facilities should be created is thus similar in scale to proposals such as “every person should have 10 m2 of solar panels” and “every person should have a one-ton car and a dedicated parking place for it.” A large investment, yes, but not absurdly off scale. And that was the calculation for once-through reactors. For fast breeder reactors, 60 times less uranium is required, so the mass per person of the uranium collector would be 0.5 kg

  3. George Hart says:

    You really nail this–

    “UK energy policy is built around the desire to reduce CO2 emissions and not to provide secure and affordable supplies of energy for its people.”

    There you have it, the conundrum. One could get the impression you are advocating burning cheap, abundant coal, to address energy poverty; but I don’t think that’s where you are going with this.

    Look forward to more of your thoughts about the best outcome to our energy predicament.

    Also wondering how Chris Nelder sees this. It seems like he’s coming at this predicament from a different angle, but you both stick close to very quantifiable measures.

    Concord, Massachusetts

    • Euan Mearns says:

      George, my heart tells me I should be a renewables enthusiast but when I look at data my head tells me that renewables are sinking our energy system and pushing up prices.

      Chris Nelder is a friend who seems much more enthusiastic about renewables than I am. But an important point that I keep making is horses for courses. Solar PV may turn out to be a great deal in Southern California but where I live it is cold out and the sun rises around 9 and sets around 3 at this time of year – barely gets above the horizon.

      My roots are from The Oil Drum and peak oil. This story has panned out very differently so far to that what many seemed to imagine (or want). But I think it is worthwhile recalling Hubert’s view of the world. Currently i believe the UK should follow the French electricity model. But I always reserve the right to change my mind.

    • Leo Smith says:

      No: Policy is not driven by a desire to reduce emissions, or they wouldn’t have picked wind. It is actually a mixture of ideology, greed and what actually amounts to pure fashion.

      And its not UK policy. It’s European policy. The EU has a ‘renewables commitment’ and the EU will e.g. block new UK nuclear using the pretext of state aid not being allowed.

      Using political regulation as a means of enforcing commercial monopolies or cartels is common practice in Europe, and renewable energy is no exception. Why else is the legislation couched in terms of ‘renewable obligations’ rather than ’emission reductions’?

      Massive political marketing then uses the green angle as a moral justification for the higher prices. The emissions are never actually measured.

      the UK has two rational energy policies depending on whether the objective is low cost or low emissions and high energy security.

      The first leads directly to coal, and a little gas for peaking. The second leads to nuclear and a little gas for peaking.

      Neither of them lead to renewable energy.

      Which is why EU legislation is used to block both of them and enforce renewable energy. Germany’s Energiewiende is already massively expensive and an albatross round the necks of German industry: unless other countries follow suit, she will be heavily disadvantaged economically.

      Hence there is a huge drive to ‘harmonise’ energy around ‘all renewables’ at political level. The problem is of course that this simply doesn’t work. Germany itself is being forced to construct coal stations and over 50% of its electricity is generated from coal. But it has no option but to try and impose its own disastrous mistake on everybody else, as with the Euro.

      The same techniques are being used in the USA, but the central government is actually less strong and slightly more democratic. But remember that the story of global warming as a political and commercial marketing angle, pretty much begins with Al Gore and Enron, and use of ‘pollution’ legislation to drive coal off the market and replace it with gas.

      Once you cease to view AGW as a mistake, and realise it was just one of many competing theories that was simply given funding and exploited, to, instead of fighting the environmental movement, actually subvert them into open support for rank profiteering and commercial corporate interests, the reasons why it has developed the way it has become clear, and if corporations are pouring billions into the marketing of the green meme, then its a free ride for politicians, or often a paid ride, to jump on board too.

      If you were a traditional gas company with existing interests and wanted to profit from them and not invest, what you want is:

      – removal of competition (coal, nuclear power) (nasty dirty polluting)
      – suppression of new competition.(new fracked gas and shale exploitation)(nasty dirty polluting)
      – misdirection away from your real motives (plug renewable energy, which looks like its competition, but actually is not).

      So you do a simple marketing job on the public – renewables good ‘(clean free fashionable, energy security, blah blah)’ coal and nuclear and fracking bad (dirty, dangerous, polluting, thousands of years of waste, invisible radiation poisoning, the world blah blah). and provide the marvellously spurious lie to the politicians of the Left, that you can spin the enormous cost and waste of manpower inherent in constructing a renewable grid that doesn’t actually work, into ‘green jobs’.

      If I have belaboured this point and bored you all, I apologise. What I wanted to emphasise is that after 5 years of unravelling how we actually got to be in such a complete mess, the ‘Occam’s razor’ hypothesis that seems to fit the facts pops into focus when we stop regarding AGW and the renewable revolutions as anything to do with science, good technology, or anything to do with actually solving honest concerns over the production of primary energy, or halting climate change, and regard it instead as an unholy mix of profit seeking and politics, designed to add weight to the bottom line, and catapult certain lobbies into political prominence.

      Years ago I coined a phrase to summarise this approach to marketing. It happened to be Microsoft that I was talking about, but the same applies to many other technological products.

      “Designed to sell, not to work” and “All chrome and tail-fins” (which harked back to the US cars of the 60s which were technically very crude, but highly styled to look ‘modern’ and appeal to a buying public in love with a certain sort of technological idea).

      And that gentleman, is the view of renewable energy and its USP – AGW – that to me makes most sense. These polices are not designed to work. They are designed to sell a mix of centralised command and control government, which politicians like because it makes them more important and nets them bigger pork barrels, and cynical profiteering by energy companies, who can wrap up higher prices and rank profiteering into the morally justifiable and supported-by-the left ‘cost of going green’. And the Greens themselves have jumped on board, because like any other political lobby, they love being centre stage, important and getting vast handouts to do someone else’s marketing for them, in a way that would get the real perpetrators in court on charges if they did it themselves.

      I actually referred a UK local government initiative the the advertising standards authority, on the grounds the the ‘facts’ being used to justify promotion of ‘community renewable projects’ were in either false, or grossly misleading.

      The response was curious. The ASA replied that they had no jurisdiction over ‘political (or religious) material’ which this was deemed to be. Nevertheless they had informed the originators of the piece that a complaint had been formally made. What I did notice was an enormous flurry of interest from clearly identifiable local givernment networks, to the story I wrote and published about this, and the withdrawal and replacement of the original document off the net.

      That was when the scales fell from my eyes. Political lobbies are not bound to tell the truth, or adhere to any but the most broadbrush standards of behaviours. Political lobbies can claim with zero justification that coal mining in MInnesota is killing polar bears in Alaska, and never be called to account for how.

      In short instead of the odd proposition that politics and money are behind green lobbying, as a radical concept, the de facto position becomes ‘why ever would they not be, and not always have been’ .

      When one finds oneself, as I did, fighting a war against man made processes that make no sense even on the basis of which they were being sold to one, it behoves one to probe a little to discover who actually one appears to be fighting…and its not immediately obvious…

  4. Ted S. Lundy says:

    I was at UK AERE for one year during 1965-1966. So I also have significant interest in what is happening now also. Within America we some of the same type of things happening also.

  5. Roger Andrews says:


    I put the following graph together by combining Charts 1.6 and 6.1 in:,-march-2013

    I think it puts wind power’s contribution to UK energy security in its true perpective.

  6. Ted S. Lundy says:

    Hip! Hip! Hurriah!

  7. Demetrius says:

    One of the longest “takes” in film history is the Doris Day, “Calamity Jane” song “Oh, I just blew in from the Windy City”. As an eco-freak who thinks the windmills are virtually useless, far too expensive, have serious maintenance costs potential and are just another whizz bang financial racket I can only agree. It is being pointed out elsewhere that a basic UK and Irish problem is the poor insulation of housing and properties.

  8. Roger Andrews says:

    Euan: Before you do you might verify the wind power energy numbers, which I estimated assuming that electricity fills only 30% of total UK energy demand (another important point that goes largely unrecognized). It won’t make much difference to the visual impact, though.

    You might also consider using numbers. For instance, if current trends persist then by 2020 the UK will be getting 5% of its energy from home-grown wind power and importing the other 95%. 🙂

    • Roger Andrews says:

      I guess I pressed the wrong button. That was intended to be a reply to your comment of 2.45.

  9. percy says:

    does anyone know where this brilliant Prof McKay lives?…Does he spend all his life in balmy Los Angeles? Is he a real person?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Percy, If you read his book “Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air” you’ll find that he lives in Cambridge. By many accounts an honest and and honourable and very hard working man. But one who has lost sight of the interests of the population in pursuit of an intellectual Green agenda.

      MacKay’s book is available for free on line.

    • Leo Smith says:

      Er David Mackay. Umm he lives in a small but nice little Edwardian brick house in Cambridge, where he cycles to the University that has just made him Emeritus professor of Engineering.

      David is not a bad chap. I was in fact responsible for getting his book published – I put him on to a publisher I know.

      So you can blame me for getting him into DECC too, if you like. BUT One thing David is, is relatively HONEST and relatively INTELLIGENT. His book, if you read it, can be read two ways

      1/ This is how much we will have to transform the whole nature of everything to go zero emissions or

      2/. This is why going zero emissions with renewables simply will never work and is totally unacceptable.

      Last time I saw him a couple of years ago at his publishers Xmas party, I managed to get 5 seconds with him ‘So David, where, after all this, is DECC going to go’ He glanced round furtively and whispered, ‘70% nuclear, 30% wind’ .

      You can say all sorts of rude words at a Cambridge party of generally Green and left of centre people, but ‘nuclear’ is not one of them 😉

      I could tell you a few more stories too: but suffice to say David honestly and sincerely Believes in Global Warming, and honestly and sincerely is trying to find ways to achieve his ideal of a carbon free society. And he is good in that alone of all the greens – well I think Monbiot has gone the same way, And Mark Lynas too – his honesty and sincerity have led him to accept that nuclear power is a necessary part of the mix. And a massively large part, too.

      I happen to think that Belief in Global Warming is a huge mistake, of course and David lets himself down by not analysing the actual data himself – he is well capable of it. But in the end, I do feel that David is a man who is overall a power for good, because global warming or not, we can’t go on burning fossils forever. The reserves may be there, but the cost of extracting them is already above what nuclear power could and should cost (but doesn’t).

      He also comes up with some lovely soundbytes. ‘A wind farm the size of Wales’ ‘enough nuclear material for the next 5000 years’ and because he is acceptably green, green people listen, and the smarter of them understand.

      In short he has created a division in the green movement between those that simply Believe unquestioningly in ‘Renewable Energy’ and those that believe in the need for low carbon energy but seriously doubt that renewables can deliver it.

      Which makes him more or less an ally, in that ultimately I too ‘believe’ that we will have to abandon fossil energy – just not for the same reasons. Its simply getting too damned expensive 🙂

      It remains to be seen whether David will abandon Green for Reason, or vice versa. Right now he is poised right on the horns of that dilemma…

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Hi Leo, it seems the problem with not being able to post long comments has some how miraculously cured itself 🙂

        If we are going to do 70% nuclear, why not 100% nuclear? I am getting around to posts on 2050 pathways, received some instructions from David on how to body swerve all the CO2 abatement stuff, built a pathway based on nuclear that turns out to be the cheapest among those published by DECC. More on that in a few weeks – maybe Christmas day 😉

      • clivebest says:

        Except there is still 200 years of cheap coal and potentially huge reserves of gas. The urgency for Europe to decarbonise by 2050 is political not physical. We are wasting huge resources in a futile rush for expensive renewables now instead of waiting for alternatives. Those resources would be better spent on R&D for nuclear fusion, energy storage and alternative nuclear plants like thorium and fast breeders.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Clive, interested to know where you think the 200 years worth of cheap coal is? No doubt that there is cheap coal around at the moment, brought about by a glut of shale gas in USA, much of it being produced at a loss. Dave Rutledge, also commenting here, reckons we may be running short of coal. Past experience of such polarised views is that reality lies somewhere in between. 50% of global coal production is in China, deep mines, with growing logistic problems getting stuff to market. A major component of coal cost is transport. A lot of booked “reserves” are in remote places. Its also quite important that transport is down hill.

          Very interested in your knowledge of fusion. Have you ever written a post on this? it would be great to have a post on history, present and future. I’m always puzzled by the problem of how you get the heat out to do work?

          • Clive Best says:

            The 200 years of coal figure comes from Dieter Helm’s book “The Carbon Crunch”. This is well worth a read as it summarises nicely the mess we are in. It is clear that the developing world will continue to burn coal while the price is less than gas. I am in Vietnam right now and they have huge reserves of coal and recent oil finds. They export much of it also to China. Cambodia has large oil and coal reserves. Peak oil is still someway off because as prices rise so less productive fields become more efficient.

            Helm’s main argument is to transition to gas until realistic low carbon sources become available towards the end of this century. Gas will halve carbon emissions. The massive policy mistake being made now it’s the rush for wind power egged on by rent seekers, NGOs and politicians with vested interests. It will all end in tears while the protagonists get off Scott free. Instead we should invest in realistic low carbon sources for the second half of this century – fusion, thorium, efficient solar and possibly geothermal.

        • Hi Clive,

          I could not find that the statement in Dieter Helms’ book that there are 200 years of cheap coal left. Here are the most relevant statements I could find, on p.48. “On the contrary, there are probably several centuries of reserves left.” and “Coal reserve data produced by international agencies and national governments tends to be conservative:”

          These statements are false and they show that the author has not made even the most cursory review of the literature. The current R/P ratio from the World Energy Council is 110 years and it has been declining, not rising. The history of coal reserves goes back a hundred years, and it is entirely a history of large over-estimates. The current US reserves are 16 times smaller than in 1913. The UK is down to 3 longwall faces now after producing only 18% of the coal that was thought to be minable in 1871. It is a similar situation in the Pennsylvania anthracite fields, the Ruhr, France and Belgium, and Japan and South Korea. The fact that the reserves have been over-estimates has been appreciated for many years, starting with Paul Averitt, director of the coal division of the USGS, in the 50s and Gunter Fettweis, in Austria in the 70s.

          You can get current estimates of future production if you follow my link.


          • Clive Best says:

            He quotes a US energy statistics report from 2012 that current US mining rates for coal can last for 222 years. He then states on page 150.

            In terms of reserves relative to demand, ther is enough coal to get well into the next century

            I am no expert so maybe he is wrong. However the whole thrust of his book is to get off coal and transition to gas to save the climate until something better comes along. He just accepts the IPCC figures for warming which I don’t.

  10. Kit P says:

    With the recent announcement in the UK of an agreement to build two large new nuke power plants, I have become more interested in the reasons. Like many industrialized countries, the UK gets a significant part of its power from politically unpopular nuclear. It is hard to beat the economics of a large well managed LWR. In the context of replacing a nuke plant with a new expensive nuke plant or a new expensive fossil plant, it is not going to be an easy choice or popular choice.
    I have worked in the power industry for more than 40 years, mostly the nuclear end. In the US we are fortunate to have many good choices, Here is a link that illustrates all the choices:

  11. Roger Andrews says:

    I think BPA would be happier if wind wasn’t one of them:

    • Kit P says:

      The point I am trying to make is that people make up silly reasons to be against something without looking at the whole picture.
      For example: “oversupply event in spring 2011 ”
      Everyday is an oversupply event. We call it reserve margin. The combination of low spring demand and high mountain runoff means there is always more supply than demand in the PNW. Long before the first windfarm, the nuke plant in Washington State would load follow in the spring or have a refueling outage. Many years ago I worked at that nuke plant and have had a sail boat on the river for 20 years. I know the wind blows and the water flows. Two out of a ten years there is a drought. On hot summer days when demand is the highest, there is wind.
      I can make a compelling reason for a diverse generating mix and a large reserve margins.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Hi Kit, thanks for your posts, its very interesting to get international perspectives. This is supposed to be an international energy blog. I’ll get around to the rest of the world some time 😉 I agree about “the large reserve margin” – but what source and at what cost, and how large? In the UK we have just closed over 10GW of old coal and oil fired plant (both disptachable) which has been “replaced” with intermittent renewables capacity. We still have an excess of dispatchable capacity against peak winter demand, much of it gas (CCGT) but with no clear picture about where that gas may come from. Post Fukushima, all “our” LNG is heading East and the North Sea continues to go down. And there is more than a spot of bother in Ukraine, across which much of “our” Russian gas imports must transit. The energy situation is MUCH worse in Europe than USA. You guys always have big friendly Canada to the North. Europe has Qatar (Suez Canal), Arab Winterised N Africa and Russia – on the other side of Ukraine. Best Euan

        • Kit P says:

          Are you sure ‘we have just closed over 10GW of old coal and oil fired plant’? Many years ago I was told that Washington State’s only coal plant was closed. I checked. Yes, indeed it had been closed. A Canadian company good at making power with bought it and refurbished it. The last announcement by the governor closes the plant in 2025. The plant will be 65 years old.
          My first commercial nuke startup in the early 80’s ‘replaced’ an oil fired plant. In 2006, that oil plant had a record capacity factor. Every large utility has a resource management plant. Mothballing an old power plant is cheap insurance for unexpected increases in demand.
          Just read that the UK stopped being energy independent in 2004 and now imports 42% of its primary energy. Like I said, I have just started gathering data on the UK. Too early to draw conclusions.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        How much does X megawatts of wind capacity adds to a utility’s reserve margin? Zero, if the wind isn’t blowing when you need the peak power.

        • Kit P says:

          Roger is correct. Wind farms were built to mitigate imports of LNG into the US. A wise policy of Governor Bush and later POTUS Bush. Before the the shale gas boom, the anti-coal and anti-nuke polices of Clinton resulted the cheap natural gas supply being used up for many new CCGT. Next came activation of mothballed LNG import terminals several new LNG terminal projects. Now they want permits to export LNG. Go figure!

          It would appear that we have stopped building wind farms in the US. My projection for the current generation of wind farms is the slowly go out of service as the cost to repair them increases.

          • Roger Andrews says:

            Wind power in the US actually got its start with the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act of 1978, which was enacted by the Carter Administration to beef up US energy security by bringing gigawatts of home-grown renewable energy on line in a hurry. But despite billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks wind power still supplies only about one percent of total US energy demand. People tend to forget that renewables have been subsidized in the the US for 35 years and still haven’t made more than a small dent in the market, although a number of green energy companies have gotten rich at taxpayers’ expense making it.

            And no, we haven’t stopped building wind farms in the US. 2013 was a slow year, but great things are still expected. By 2020 wind power might even be supplying 2% of US energy demand. 😉

  12. Kit P says:

    Roger-Every energy project is unique and needs to evaluated based on performance. Generalization that include Carter are a waste of time. I was in the navy during POTUS Carter and I have little good to say. I would not let the man teach my kids Sunday school.
    However, I know of many Carter era renewable energy projects that are still producing power 30 years later, mostly biomass and geothermal. The first generation of wind farms are now junk. Some of the current equipment is also junk but there are at least three companies that produce a quality product. Policies to encourage wind has worked. We will know have wait and see if the wind turbines work for 10 years or 20 years. If they last 20 years, it will be a good investment.
    The point is that there is logic and then there is drama. Wind farms built in the correct locations produce lots of power which is the goal.

  13. Kit P says:

    Euan provided a link to a directive to reduce pollution from older power plants. POTUS Bush push similar regulations as compared to the style of Clinton to misuse the courts and the EPA. It has nothing to do with ghg or wind. There are ramifications. For my family, the cost of power went up 30/month. For the 1000 people who worked at the aluminum mill, their jobs went to China or someplace like that. Currently Obama is trying to destroy the US coal industry to make the AGW folks happy. He will fail for the same reason Carter failed. His plan is inept.
    POTUS Bush first developed a sound policy for energy the prioritized AGW. Then the plan was implemented in the 2005 Energy Bill. Not only did we build wind farms but we also replaced old coal plants with new very efficient ones. If you want to reduce ghg emissions, help China build new nukes. When Clinton was running things we did not have a few thousand American engineers designing nuke plants in China. Four new nukes are now under construction in the US also. Look at the big picture.

  14. Kit P says:

    Why is a ‘Professor of Electrical Engineering at California…’writing about coal production? From his link, “In modeling climate change, the carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the most important factor.” Not so much important as easy to model since we sell coal for money, the uncertainty in the model is very small. Animal manure and biomass waste is a huge source of ghg and other environmental problems. There are numerous examples of proven engineering solutions that have been working for many years.
    It is not that California does have a diary farm manure problem or a forest health problem. It also has too many professors at prestigious universities who explain why coal miners in West Virginia should not work or Indiana farmers should not grow corn. They also explain why we should not use nuclear power. I am not against wind farms but do not try to build them where California professors live.

    • Hi Kit,

      “Why is a ‘Professor of Electrical Engineering at California…’writing about coal production?”

      The terms of my appointment do not restrict what I can write about. I have been invited to present on the research by the AGU and the GSA (twice), and to write a paper for the Journal of Coal Geology. The paper was available at the web site you visited.

      “the uncertainty in the model is very small.”

      Future fossil fuel carbon emissions in the IPCC scenarios (RCPs) vary from 5.2TtC to -0.1TtC (not a typo, CCS is assumed). Is that a very small uncertainty?

      “why coal miners in West Virginia should not work”

      My work is in models. I do not advocate for or against fossil-fuel use. To avoid possible conflicts of interest, I have not accepted outside research funding for this work.


      • Kit P says:

        Gosh Dave
        My father did some pioneering work in micro raves and my real job employer does restriction me from writing papers about microwaves. You might ask why I would write about a subject I know little about? I would it say it is because I have a phd. You know; the pile it high and deep kind.
        While I think modeling is very useful in some cases. What I know is that we have no problem producing power on a daily basis. If we run short of coal, we can make all we need with fission.
        As far as modeling ghg, this is the reason I am skeptical of the CAGW. Your model is only as good as the biggest BS factor.

  15. Clive Best says:

    Quote from Dieter Helm

    The political narrative takes as it’s starting point the assumption that climate change will get solved in Europe -at least initially. Europe will show the way so that others may follow their lead. As a result almost all the efforts are going into trying to reduce carbon production in Europe and none are going into reducing carbon consumption. Few politicians stand up and spell out that climate change is all about coal, economic growth and population growth. It is as if the three new coal power stations being opened every week in China and India don’t matter, as long as we open a few wind farms in Europe and install some insulation in our homes. It would be unkind to call it a ‘windmill and draft excluder strategy’, but there is a painful grain of truth in this characterization.

    Just about spot on!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      As I see it Clive we have Greenthinkers giving their wag on climate data and the same minds at work on our energy system. They have a logic and scientific frame of reference that is different to ours. I still favour nuclear medium term and using 2050 pathways it actually works out as the cheapest option.

      Simon Jenkins writing in the Guardian says:

      Is it fair for the chancellor to cut pensions for the poor while offering a million pounds a year to the Duke of Roxburghe for letting the wind blow? Is it fair to offer half a million to the Earl of Moray, a third of a million to the Earl of Glasgow, and a quarter of a million to the Duke of Beaufort, Sir Alastair Gordon Cumming and Sir Reginald Sheffield, the prime minister’s father-in-law? Is it fair to promise a reported £1bn to Charles Connell over the next 25 years?

      Never in the history of public subsidy can so much have been paid by so many to so few.

      • Clive Best says:


        Summary of Lord Stern’s Report: backed up by their lordships Deben, May and Roxburgh :

        Let the meek pay now so that the rich can inherit the earth !

  16. Euan Mearns says:

    @ Roberto, thanks for your post. The developments in extracting U from seawater are interesting but only become relevant when they become cost-competitive with mined U. The seawater resource argument is linked to the notion that conventional ores may be running scarce. It is difficult to get numbers on this since U mining industry is kind of shrouded in secrecy. But the bottom line is that U is so energy dense that we will be able to mine extreme low grades and retain vast energy profit.

    Yellow cake accounts for about 2% of the cost of nuclear power (roughly) hence even although U is imported by most countries nuclear accrues to indigenous primary energy. Energy security does provide one argument for seawater extraction, but since Australia and Canada both figure among the Worlds largest producers of yellow cake, most OECD countries will not be too concerned about the security angle in the medium term.

    • Exactly Euan. Once you know the details about nuclear energy it is the obvious choice because it is plentiful , provides power and energy on demand, the technology is already available and geopolitically it is the safest. There’s no need at all to push and subsidize wind and PV, none whatsoever.
      In the UK they are making a total cock up with new nuclear plants as explained by George Monbiot
      The farce of the Hinkley C nuclear reactor will haunt Britain for decades
      We need nuclear power. But the government has plumped for outdated technology at the worst price imaginable

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Roberto, I find the Hinkley C reactor deal very difficult to judge. In the UK the political risk associated with investing in nuclear is huge and there is close to zero common sense deployed in the political energy debate. My own view is that in the UK The Government should undertake to build and pay for roughly 30GW of new nuclear. In this way the Government takes on the political risk and discovers the true cost. At some future date, the assets may be sold on to public ownership (i.e. floated on market) so that pensioners can benefit from regulated profits. I am a capitalist, but also recognise that much of our legacy generating infrastructure was built by the state in an austere post-war environment. I reserve the right to be wrong.

        • I made the sums, here’s the copy paste

          A guaranteed strike price of 9.3 pence/kWh to rise with the cost of living when the current market price is about 5p/kWh cannot be of benefits to consumers even if the strike price will be reviewed in non specific terms over the years

          Hinkley Point C is said to be entirely financed by the private sector but the very nature of the strike price makes it effectively subsidized and it seems that the government is choosing the most expensive way to build new nuclear power plants.

          To prove this we need to crunch the numbers.

          The cost for 3.2GWe EPRs is said to be £16billion or 16bln/3.2GWe=£5bln/GWe which is equivalent to £5000/kWe and I will use this figure of £5000 to keep the estimate easier

          Nuclear power has a characteristic that is peculiar when compared to other forms of generation, the cost of fuel is much smaller than the capital costs therefore the way the construction of reactors is financed has a greater effect on the final cost of the kWh.

          Out of 1kg of mineral uranium (yellow cake) at the present costs of £50 and after fuel fabrication and burning we get 40~60,000kWh, the raw material fuel cost component is £50/40000kWh=0.12p/kWh or less (keep in mind that it is 6p/kWh when using imported gas, 50 times more!).

          Of course nuclear fuel and waste management add other costs but you can safely say that 2p/kWh covers all running costs (still 3 times cheaper than the 6p/kWh by using gas), from uranium extraction to final decommissioning after 60 years operating life.

          Let’s now consider the capital costs: £5000/kWe /60 years would mean £83/ year and with a production of 8000kWh/ year per kWe installed that would mean £83/8000kWh of annual production=1p/kWh to be added to the 2p/kWh running costs.
          Unfortunately this simple and naïve accountancy for the capital costs does not reflect reality (although there is a way round as we shall see) as EDF and associates have to spend a huge total amount of £16bilion upfront over the 10 years construction period and find that money and pay interest on it.

          Let’s assume a mortgage on £5000 for the duration on the strike price deal of 35 years. In this case the annual capital cost assuming a 5% interest rate would be £305 a year giving £305/8000kWh=4p/kWh , 4 times more than the hypothetical 1p/kWh worked out previously

          The total cost of the nuclear generated kWh would then be 4p/kWh capital cost + 2p/kWh running costs=6p/kWh and it is likely to be less probably between 4p and 6p/kWh. EDF will be receiving 9p/kWh with a profit of at least (9-6)/6 =50% on investment.

          And we can’t even say that if EDF fails with their estimates and construction costs it will be EDF’s problem because we will need that electricity and taxpayers would have to step in.

          Leaving aside better (in my opinion) alternatives to EPR such as the Westinghouse AP1000 at £4000/kWe or next generation reactors as suggested by pro nuclear environmentalist George Monbiot in his article in the Guardian “The farce of the Hinkley C nuclear reactor will haunt Britain for decades. We need nuclear power. But the government has plumped for outdated technology at the worst price imaginable” link the only sensible way to reduce capital costs would be consumers’ public shared ownership of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plan in the form of shares.

          £16bilion could be raised hypothetically over 10 years by say 30 million Britons of the 60 million living in the country would cost 16billion/(30milionx10 years) £53 per year per subscriber giving ownership of a power station capable of generating electricity at 2p/kWh running costs and selling it at 5p/kWh with a profit of 3p/kWh.

          That would mean £25 profit over £530 invested or a yield of 5% indexed to inflation anyway. Of course this hypothetical individual investment can vary from £0 to million of pounds. Furthermore if this investment in exchange of shares was spread over the 360TWh of annual consumption the increase on the price of the kWh would be of (£16bilion/10years)/360TWh=0.5p/kWh or 10 years when we are already paying green taxes to support unreliable wind and solar power which require by their very nature the back up of thermoelectric generation anyway..

          It is my opinion based on these simple calculations that building nuclear reactors as the government is currently thinking is a bad deal for British consumers and these questions should be raised and answered with hard numbers.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Roberto – I’m very interested in what you have to say. But I am not qualified to assess your numbers. Sent the limk off to some friends inviting them to join in the discussion. I agree with you when you say this could be a bad deal for UK consumers and nuclear – maybe it was designed that way?

  17. Euan Mearns says:

    @ Dave R, it would be great to have a guest post “Coal reserves myths and realities” at some point you have time updating folks on some of the hard truths about coal. I don’t think anyone knows the answer and I agree less with you now than I once did, but it would still be great to have your perspective. I know, for example, a lot of global reserves are in places where it is virtually impossible to mine and transport to market. And that historically, a lot of coal transport has been as electricity generated in mine mouth power stations.

    • Hi Euan,

      Be happy to when the schedule lightens up. Lots happening in coal. China looks like it will be down this year. One of the states with the largest US reserves, Illinois, is up. Daw Mill Colliery closed in the UK leaving 3 longwalls.


    • Roger Andrews says:

      Euan: At the risk of preempting the guest post let me add my ten cents’ worth.

      In the base and precious metals mining industry the term “reserve” defines material that has been drilled out to the point where tonnage and grade is established to a high level of confidence and which is known to be economically extractable at current and foreseeable market conditions. If the material doesn’t meet these criteria it isn’t a “reserve”, it’s a “resource”, and it doesn’t get included in the reserve base.

      In the coal industry, however, everything between the next bucket load of coal in an operating mine and a coal seam that no one has yet cast eyes on yet someone thinks might be there gets counted as a “reserve” of one type or another, and the impact is to generate enormous range of “reserve” estimates depending on how “reserves” are classified. US coal reserves are an example. Here are some excerpts from the November 2012 EIA a report entitled “Coal” (

      “As of January 1, 2012, the demonstrated reserve base (DRB) was estimated to contain 483 billion short tons … the DRB ….. is comprised of coal resources that have been identified to specified levels of accuracy and may support economic mining under current technologies.”

      “Because of property rights, land use conflicts, and physical and environmental restrictions, EIA has estimated that only about 50 percent of the DRB may be available or accessible for mining … (After) adjusting the DRB to reflect accessibility and recovery rates in mining. As of January 1, 2012, EIA estimated that the remaining U.S. recoverable coal reserves totaled over 258 billion short tons.

      “Recoverable coal reserves at producing mines represent the quantity of coal that can be recovered (i.e. mined) from existing coal reserves at reporting mines. These reserves essentially reflect the working inventory at producing mines. In 2011, the recoverable reserves at producing mines were 19.2 billion short tons.”

      So are US coal “reserves” 483 billion, 258 billion or 19 billion tons? If the recently-introduced EPA CO2 emissions standards are adopted they are likely to be a lot closer to 19 billion tons than to 258.

      • Hi Roger.

        Well put. Because of its external costs, coal production in all countries has been as much a social process as an economic one.


      • Euan Mearns says:

        Roger, this is well put – unprecedented uncertainty! Where does the truth lie?
        @ Dave – no hurry, but these end point perspectives are really helpful at trying to get a grasp on reality. The Green political overture makes it even more difficult to grasp at the truth. Will US Republicans allow US coal industry to be killed off? E

        • Hi Euan,

          “Will US Republicans allow US coal industry to be killed off? E”

          I don’t know. As Roger indicates, much depends on what EPA rules are actually adopted.

          ” these end point perspectives are really helpful at trying to get a grasp on reality”

          In the end game, no new deep mines are constructed. The UK has been in this position for decades now. And in the UK the reserves at the working mines have been a reasonable estimate of the remaining production for those mines. A few mines convert resources to reserves and exceed the earlier reserves, but at others there are unforeseen circumstances that stop them. For example, the Daw Mill Colliery had a fire earlier this year and shut down, stranding 15Mt of reserves.


  18. Euan Mearns says:

    @ Clive, Reserves over production (ROP) has been a popular metric to measure the duration of reserves, still popular with BP. This only has any relevance with flat linear production. Most resource development curves follow a logistic, rising to a peak and then fall. Hence, flat linear extrapolation is invalid. This is the essence of “peak oil.” On the up slope is the time of plenty and more. Past peak is the time of scarcity and less. One thing that wrong footed many peak oilers was our hunger for C-H bonds – we will go to the ends of the Earth (i.e. Dakota) to get at the stuff. An important dynamic is Energy Return / Energy Invested. The numbers I’ve been given show that even shale developments have large +ve values.

    The argument for burning C-H as opposed to C-C for CO2 emissions abatement only holds good if we never burn the coal conserved today. By entering the next slice of the resource pyramid, i.e. shale, we are theoretically introducing a vast new slab of carbon to burn.

  19. Kit P says:

    “There are rumors that U is scarce. ”
    One of the the largest uranium deposits in North America is just down the road from where I currently live in Virginia. The debate about lifting the mining ban will have to wait until the new governor is history. We will still keep mining coal to send to the UK.
    “largest US reserves, Illinois, ”
    What! ‘At the risk of preempting the guest post let me’ let me suggest that you skip BS from a California college professor who apparently has not traveled the US much. The US is an awesome place. While we may need to build some more railroads, supplying world demand for corn and coal is only limited by your ability to pay the freight.

  20. Kit P says:

    “decommissioning after 60 years operating life. ”
    The design life is 60 years. I see not reason that new plants will not operate for 100 to 200 years. We did not have the foresight 50 years ago to design nuke power plants for modular replacement of limited life components. All steam plants are similar. Containment buildings for nuke plants are expensive but they are cheap on a per MWh basis.

    • Kit P says:

      So what? California and Alaska are big states. I can recite random facts too. Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Wyoming, Alaska, and Montana are among states that have excess capacity to export coal.
      We have a California college professor who lives in a state that does not produce coal or make power with coal. I lived and worked in California for many years. The reason I do not work there anymore is politics. My point to readers from outside the US is that they should not be impressed with the like of California universities or MIT on the subject of Coal. There was a time that long in the past when science trumped junk science in California.
      Again, someone explain why a respected expert in one subject has the expectation to be respected when they BS about other things.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Kit, please keep your comments totally unpersonal. You are perfectly entitled to disagree with Dave. I agree with him less now than I once did. Dave has gathered a lot of data from a lot of countries and has cast some vital light on realities about national and global coal resources. Many issues are not black and white. I’m from the UK and there are still wildly divergent claims about the UK’s potential reserves and resources. Under current climate dictated regime new deep mines will never be opened. And even if they were, would we get miners to go back underground. And if we did, how would we get coal to market. Our power stations and cities are located where the coal once was, now empty and closed mines.

        Best Euan

        • Kit P says:

          Euan, you started this post by saying something made you angry. Is that not personal? It was people like Jane Fonda that worked to close the nuke plant that I worked at in California. More than a thousand families had their lives disrupted. It is personal.
          To Dave’s credit he replied that there is more to his resume.
          As far as being civil, so far I like posting here. What is the Brit term for saying things like ‘Many issues are not black and white’? I have learned the California jargon from my older sister, we are having a bonding moment Euan. Group huge!
          Of course the correct term BS. While I can articulate coal legacy, it is all BS because the issue is how do we produce power today and tomorrow.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Kit, you are more than welcome to continue posting here especially since a spectrum of informed opinion is vital, but please remember there can be 50 “of you” and only one of me to respond. It seems you are a little bitter about the way the prospects for coal and nuclear have panned out in your part of the world. No doubt, you are not alone.

            You’ll find here that I, and I hope my readers are concerned about the environment, but in an informed and measured way. And that I (we) are also concerned about the provision of affordable, secure and reliable energy upon which our society depends.

            But one of the most important messages I have is that there is no single solution for every state or country. The US has vast fossil resources per capita compared to W Europe. And southern California has vast Solar resources compared to Aberdeen, Scotland. My own preferred solution for the UK is 30+ GW of nukes. Other countries or states may have better solutions. Greenwashing energy policy is a bitch, but right now I’d bet little on the future of coal in the OECD and bet the family silver on nuclear power.

          • Ted says:

            Euan, A great set of words in response to Kit! “What is good for the goose is not always good for the gander.” is what we might say in the USA.

      • Hi Kit,

        “Again, someone explain why a respected expert in one subject has the expectation to be respected when they BS about other things.”

        It’s a fair criticism. I have been out of radio engineering for many years, but the answer is, in a new field, one starts at the bottom, like a student or a new employee, and works as hard as one can. I have had great encouragement from the Denver office of the USGS, where are our coal reserves are done. Without their support, I would not have continued. Sometimes people from a different field have less mental baggage or a different math background that can help. And they may have a paycheck. It appears that the Denver group has been dispersed. It might not surprise you that our government is not supportive of work in coal reserves these days

        I sympathize on the California politics. I am originally from Texas, and I do feel California politics can get pretty detached from reality in the energy area.


        • Kit P says:

          Understand that Dave. My career has turned into being a utility infielder. I can wear 10 hats but am not afraid to that I am ignorant of a subject. Not that it does me any good. I was tasked with writing a design guild for frequency and voltage variations something I was clueless about when I started. . Maybe we should design new power plants to not contribute to cascade failures. The new FERC commissioner at the time just happen to be from Texas.
          I went back to grad school in environmental engineering and developed renewable energy projects for a while. Learned a great deal of respect for the coal industry along the way. My current job is new reactors but that does not mean that I can not respect other ways of making power. Good ways of doing things are location specific.

  21. Clive Best says:

    More than 20% wind without energy storage may actually increase carbon emissions. We should call for a moratorium on further wind farms until energy storage is solved.

    Fine you say – all we need to do is to develop energy storage for renewables to iron out the intermittency. Note that this energy storage problem has already existed for 50 years. The UK builds twice the number of power stations that it actually needs simply to insure that the lights never go out on the coldest day in winter. We would already be saving billions if there was a simple solution to energy storage, but unfortunately there isn’t. The scale of the problem for large wind deployment is an order of magnitude worse.

    Furthermore running gas power stations in such a rapid stop and start mode is extremely wasteful in fuel. The efficiency falls fast. Leo Smith shows that the costs rise rapidly and that CO2 emissions also rise in the same way that driving a car through stop-go traffic increases fuel consumption. A grid with 50% load met by wind and 50% met by gas would cost over 3 times the current price for electricity and would lead to increased CO2 emissions. An analysis of these effects was done by Leo Smith . Figures are worse now as offshore subsidies have increased.

    Basic Deployment Costs

    Gas: 6.2p per KWh
    Onshore Wind: 12.5p per KWh
    Offshore Wind: 37.6p per KWh
    Nuclear 8p per KWh
    EXTRA fuel costs incurred by WIND-GAS cooperation 6-9p per KWh more than doubling the cost of gas.

    • last night

      “Energy bills have gone up by around a quarter in the past four years and politicians from all sides say they are determined to bring them down, but can they deliver? How does the need to rethink and renew our energy supply system, along with rising wholesale costs and ambitious green targets, square with the promise to cut bills? Tom Heap sorts the rhetoric from the reality in the politics of power”

  22. Kit P says:

    Euan, you mentioned coal plants in the UK. An American company, Pennsylvania Power and Light (PP&L), does a very good job of managing their local coal and nuke plants. PP&L has a traditional area where coal has seen better days. The nuke plants provided new jobs in an area of high unemployment and poverty. With deregulation, PP&L started operating coal plants outside of their service area.
    How is PP&L doing in the UK?

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