The Destruction of Scottish Power


  • The Scottish Government has set a target for renewable sources to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption by 2020.
  • This target is set without reference to economic and environmental costs and sound engineering practice. Industry and academia have set out to try and deliver the goal, rarely stopping to ask if this strategy is wise or beneficial? Government funds are not available to challenge government policy.
  • The intended consequence of this policy has been the closure of Cockenzie coal fired power station with Longannet to follow this year with a total loss of 3.6 GW dispatchable capacity. Can Scotland keep the lights on?

  • The analysis presented here suggests that the Scottish electricity system, underpinned by nuclear and hydro, will most likely survive the closure of Longannet and supports the government position: “there remains a low probability although credible risk that during periods of low wind and hydro output combined with low availability of the large thermal plant, the winter peak demand may not be met.” [1]
  • In the early 2000s Scotland’s electricity supply had near 100% redundancy and was absolutely secure. It has been converted into a fragile system, dependent on England, which is ironic for a government that seeks independence.
  • The more important question is what happens to Scotland’s electricity supply post-2023 when both of our nuclear power stations are scheduled to close. If these are to be replaced by new nuclear then action is required today. If they are not replaced by nuclear then what? It appears the only show in town is inter connectors with Iceland and Norway. The Scottish people need to have a debate as to whether they wish to become reliant upon expensive and intrinsically insecure electricity imports and see their energy jobs go overseas? Or do we wish to continue producing our own electricity using nuclear power. A self contained 100% renewable dream is unattainable.


Scotland is a World leader in setting Green energy targets. The Scottish Government policy [2]:

46. The Scottish Government’s targets are for renewable sources to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption by 2020. A target has also been set for renewable sources to provide the equivalent of 11 per cent of Scotland’s heat demand by 2020. Within the electricity generation target, a target has been set for “local and community ownership of 500 MW electricity by 2020”.

In November 2013 I wrote [3]:

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.

And in July 2014 [4]:

One casualty of the massive expansion of wind power will have to be Longannet coal fired power station which I imagine will close before 2020. The plan is, after all, to get rid of fossil fuel powered generation even although coal is likely to be the cheapest form of power production for many decades.

The energy chickens are now coming home to roost for Scotland, with utility Scottish Power announcing last year that the 2.4 GW Longannet coal fired power station will close in 2016. Will the lights and laptops stay on? This post charts the extraordinary rapid evolution of the Scottish electricity system and aims to answer this fundamental question.

Once Upon a Time in the Early Noughties

The configuration of Scotland’s electricity generating assets in the early 2000s are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 The centralised power generation system of old, designed by engineers. Base map source.

The map shows the locations of the 5 main population centres and 5 large centralised power stations that are located close to the population centres. The population centres and cities are joined by the high voltage grid. In addition to the 5 big generators, there is a suite of hydro dams that are very small compared with other countries and two small pumped hydro schemes designed specifically to store surplus night time nuclear power and to feed this into the day time peak. This is how the engineers designed the grid to provide secure, low cost electricity, minimising transmission losses. Dounreay had ceased operation by the early 2000s but is shown to emphasise the fact that in the twentieth century Scotland was a word leader in twenty-first century generation technology.

The Grid

Scotland is joined to England by 2 * 400 KV power lines and to Northern Ireland by a 250 MW inter connector. As we shall see, Scotland had large surplus-generating capacity and these inter connectors were normally exporting power. Note, there is on-going confusion about the power transfer rating of inter connectors that I am reliably informed can only be used safely at about 60% of their power rating. When power ratings are quoted, it is never clear whether it is the gross nameplate capacity or net safe operational capacity that is given. A Scottish Parliamentary report says this:

Having undertaken a review on the Main Interconnected Transmission System, it was concluded that the existing transmission system can support a transfer in the winter months of approximately 2.65GW from England and Wales to Scotland [1].

Utility company National Grid operates the whole of the electricity grid in England and Wales but not in Scotland creating additional uncertainty in power transfers across the border. In Scotland there are two grid operators. In the North, Scottish and Southern Energy and in the South, Scottish Power that is a subsidiary of Spanish company Iberdrola.

The January 2006 model

Figure 2 shows how the generating assets shown in Figure 1 could easily meet Scottish demand.

Figure 2 Stacked chart of theoretical supply back in January 2006 where all assets are run continuously. The X-axis marks days of the month. The black line electricity demand / consumption.

Demand data is from National Grid [5] where the total for England and Wales is deducted from “indo” to provide Scottish demand. I’m assuming this provides a profile for Scotland which in this case looks rather ragged but appears perfectly adequate for this purpose. Demand is discussed further in the Appendix.

Demand in the UK and Scotland is always highest at around 6 pm, on a weekday in winter (DJF). I don’t have hydro production data for 2006 and data for January 2014 are used instead for illustrative purposes. Note while hydro has 1.6 GW nameplate it rarely gets above 1 GW [6]. It is run as base load in winter with minor load following adjustments. Nuclear, coal and gas all have capability to run continuously as shown. Doing so provides close to 100% surplus and all power stations would clearly not be run in this mode.

Figure 2 shows how total Scottish demand could be met from hydro, Hunterstone B, Torness and Longannet. Cockenzie and Peterhead were there as contingency. Nuclear power stations do require occasional refuelling and do occasionally trip and back up is required. Just 10 years ago, Scotland had belt and braces electricity security from diversified dispatchable sources. Let us now role the clock forward 12 years to 2017.

The January 2017 model

Figure 3 The brave new world of distributed generation designed by politicians results in power stations and power lines everywhere. There seems to be a form of cognitive dissonance among those who believe that covering the countryside in infrastructure is somehow better than having a handful of centralised generators. The Green notion that distributed generation is somehow good, repeated over until it is accepted by many, as far as I am aware is not underpinned by any scientific or engineering evidence. It is simply dogma.

In 2017 the Dounreay fast breeder reactor has been decommissioned and replaced by several wind farms. Cockenzie coal has already closed and been demolished. And Longannet will close, barring government intervention, this year. That leaves Hunterstone B (de-rated to 1GW), Torness and Peterhead CCGT. The dispatchable capacity of Cockenzie and Longannet has been replaced by wind farms everywhere – well not quite. In drafting this map, which is schematic, it became obvious that the wind farms are located along the existing transmission network.

There are two significant changes to the grid. The first is the 400 KV Beauly-Denny Power line running S of Inverness. This power line is now operational and designed to transport wind and hydro power S and to relieve congestion on the lines that run S of Peterhead. The second is the Western submarine HVDC line running from Hunterstone to N Wales. Ostensibly built to export surplus green energy to England this has a dual purpose of keeping Scottish lights on when the wind does not blow. The western HVDC is under construction.

Figure 4

The model for January 2017 has the following elements:

  • Hydro production based on actual UK production for January 2015
  • Hunterstone B running continuously at 965 MW
  • Torness running continuously at 1190 MW
  • Peterhead running continuously at 1400 MW
  • Wind based on UK metered wind production, January 2015, pro-rated at 41.1% Scotland based on installed capacities [7]. 2017 production may well be higher.
  • Demand based on National Grid data “indo” minus England and Wales = Scotland for January 2015 [5]

A surprising outcome is the observation that for most of the month, demand could be met from hydro, nuclear and Peterhead CCGT. Only in the four day period 19 to 22 January when demand was high and wind fell close to zero is there a need for extra supply that could easily be met from pumped hydro and / or imports. Virtually all of the wind produced is surplus to requirements. And hydro + nuclear + some gas provides a system that is to large extent already decarbonised.

But this of course is not how the grid is operated. Peterhead would normally be cycled to follow load and wind has priority in the merit order resulting in the new “real world” model shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5

Figure 5 is the same as Figure 4 apart from wind and Peterhead CCGT are switched in the merit order and Peterhead follows load when there is a supply deficit. There remains a tiny deficit in the period 19 to 22 January owing to high demand and low wind output that is easily met from pumped storage or imports.

Two features of this outcome: 1) 0.294 TWh of wind are consumed in Scotland (24%) and 0.919 TWh are exported or curtailed (76%). 2) Peterhead is only needed for four days producing 0.072 TWh out of a maximum possible 1.042 TWh. That represents 7% capacity factor. This is for a cold winter month and demand in Summer is likely to be even less. I don’t see how the power station can possibly be profitable at that level of utilisation and it may well join Longannet on the FF scrap heap thereby destroying the life support for the renewable system that killed it.

A nuclear trip model

Finally I want to examine the outcome of nuclear base load tripping. Our nuclear reactors under the stewardship of EDF have become much more reliable than before, they do however occasionally trip. The 6 EDF sites that include Hunterstone and Torness each have two reactors and one day in November I noticed that 5 of these 12 reactors were down. It would be interesting to know why.

Figure 6 shows the impact of a reactor trip at Hunterstone B from 16 to 22nd January and a trip at Torness from 19 to 25th January. These trips overlap during the period of high demand 19 to 23 January. Peterhead is ramped to maximum capacity to compensate but this still leaves a yawning gap that cannot be met by indigenous supply or from storage.

Figure 6

Figure 7 The electricity import requirement created by hydro + nuclear + wind + Peterhead gas not managing to meet demand when 50% of Hunterstone B and Torness are both tripped (see Figure 6).

The 2017 nuclear trip model scenario creates a maximum import requirement of 1517 MW on the 19th (Figure 7). Current interconnection capacity with England is more than adequate to meet that eventuality (Figures 1 and 3). But that is not the real issue. The real issue is whether England will have the reserve capacity, equivalent to two CCGTs, to switch on to satisfy Scotland’s needs? This scenario takes place when it is cold and calm and past experience shows that during pan-European wind lulls wind generation can fall close to zero everywhere [8]. England may be contemplating blackouts at this time and may quite simply not have spare capacity to send north.

A broader question here is why English consumers should pay to keep dispatchable capacity at the ready in order to meet shortfalls in Scottish production? Scotland will be helping the UK meet renewable targets, but there are already signs that George Osborne is growing weary of throwing money at this policy. Scotland’s electricity supply will quite likely become a political football.

In 2006, Scotland’s electricity system was amazingly robust. We had about 100% redundancy and ability to stand alone through almost any scenario – nuclear trips, drought, coal or gas shortages. Come next year Scottish Government policy has created a fragile system and one where we may be dependent on others to keep the lights on. The probability of pan-European cold and calm weather occurring in any winter is high, I’d guess close to 1. I do not have the data to estimate probability of nuclear trips, that is perhaps a question to be answered in comments. But the Scottish Government are aware of the risks their energy policy has created [1]:

However, there remains a low probability although credible risk that during periods of low wind and hydro output combined with low availability of the large thermal plant, the winter peak demand may not be met.

It is astonishing that the Scottish Government is taking risks with the well being of the Scottish people and economy in pursuit of renewable energy dogma.

No Nuclear Future

Scotland’s ageing reactors are both due to be decommissioned in 2023. History tells us that these advanced gas cooled reactors outlast their design life and gain license extensions. But if they are to be replaced, a change in nuclear power policy is required soon and the process for procuring replacements begun. The Scottish government also has a ‘no new nuclear’ policy.

It is not clear to me what the plan is beyond 2023. The government surely cannot believe in a 100% dispatchable renewable system built around failed wave, theoretical tide and fantasy hydrogen and pumped storage schemes [9].

I am left to speculate that the no-nuclear fall back position is the Ice Link inter connector to Iceland and the Scotland – Norway inter connector:

Ice Link

The interconnector will be over 1000km long, 800 – 1200MWHVDC transmission link connecting Iceland to GB, and offering bi-directional flows


IceLink is a project in a feasibility stage, designed to deliver renewable, flexible generation to Great Britain from 2024 [10]


NorthConnect is a commercial Joint Venture (JV) established to develop, build, own and operate a 1400 megawatt (MW) High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) ‘interconnector’. The interconnector will provide an electricity transmission link between Scotland and Norway. The interconnector will allow electricity to be transmitted in either direction across the North Sea.


The aim of the NorthConnect project is to install the HVDC cable connection between Norway and Scotland by 2022 [11]

I will not at this point argue against the construction of either of these inter connectors, paid for by foreign capital and designed to provide energy jobs in Iceland and Norway. But I will most certainly make a case against replacing Hunterstone B and Torness, indigenous primary energy supply providing jobs in Scotland, with expensive and intrinsically insecure electricity imports.

The Scottish people need to debate our energy life beyond 2023 since decisions that will settle that future need to be taken today. With Scottish parliamentary elections to take place on 5th May 2016, what better time to begin that debate?

Appendix – A note on demand

I am unsure that the National Grid demand data I’m using is correct. But at face value, Scottish electricity demand has dropped significantly between January 2006 and January 2015. There are a number of reasons why this may be true:

Figure 8 Demand for 2006 and 20015 compared.

Figure 9 The difference between 2006 and 2015 shows that night time demand has fallen the most. This may reflect policy change.

Electricity demand follows daily, weekly and annual cycles. Daytime always higher than night time. Weekdays normally higher than weekends. Winter always higher than summer. Peak demand in any given year, when blackout risk is highest, will always be on a weekday in winter around 6 pm. Because of this, comparing January 2006 and 2015 is not straight forward. 2015 has been offset by +4 days to align the days of the week between these two years in Figure 9. Another two days have been chopped off the chart to remove New Year demand effects. The residual shows how demand in 2006 was much higher than in 2015, especially at night. Some possible reasons are detailed below.

  1. Local unmetered wind farms and solar PV do not appear in production data but are embedded in demand data showing up as negative demand giving the impression of demand reduction.
  2. Measures have been taken to reduce electricity demand such as energy efficient devices and improving home insulation.
  3. Energy prices have sky rocketed during this period with a natural effect of spreading energy poverty and reducing demand.
  4. The financial crash has wounded economies, reducing demand.
  5. The weather, in particular temperature, affects demand. I’ve not investigated whether January 2006 was colder or not.

[Note added 8th January: I received this via email from an engineer today:

I read you blog about The Destruction of Scottish Power.   As usual you do some very interesting calculations but I was surprised that you came to the conclusion:
‘ The analysis presented here suggests that the Scottish electricity system, underpinned by nuclear and hydro, will most likely survive the closure of Longannet and supports the government position: “there remains a low probability although credible risk that during periods of low wind and hydro output combined with low availability of the large thermal plant, the winter peak demand may not be met.” [1]’

I think that ‘will most likely survive the closure of Longannet’ is much too optimistic.   Later in the blog you write ‘Come next year Scottish Government policy has created a fragile system and one where we may be dependent on others to keep the lights on’   That is much better.  It is worth noting that advice from  power system engineers is not to rely on imports at peak demand.  You note the risk of capacity not being available from England and Wales when urgently needed in Scotland.  The risk of such a situation has, as far as we know, not been quantified.  And then there are the operational probems that have not yet been adequately modelled – and the black start situation that could be a horrendous problem for Scotland in the absence of Longannet.  We need to call for the system to be properly engineered.]

[1] Security of Electricity Supply in Scotland
[2] 7th Report, 2012 (Session 4): Report on the achievability of the Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets
[3] Energy Matters: Parasitic Wind Killing Its Host
[4] Energy Matters: Scotch on the Rocs
[5] National Grid Data Explorer
[6] Energy Matters: UK Grid Graphed
[7] Renewable Energy Foundation: Energy Data
[8] Energy Matters: The Wind in Spain Blows….
[9] Energy Matters: The Coire Glas pumped storage scheme – a massive but puny beast
[10] Ice Link
[11] NorthConnect

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

139 Responses to The Destruction of Scottish Power

  1. mark4asp says:

    There’s a triplet of beliefs among renewable energy supporters:
    * renewables have (or will soon have, e.g. by 2020) grid parity with other sources. Only huge government subsidies to nuclear and fossils make renewables seem expensive.
    * renewables are zero carbon, but nuclear power is high carbon. Fossil support to solve intermittency should not be counted in the GWG output of renewables.
    * intermittency is a myth. Grid interconnectors, “the grid network”, and cheap energy storage will solve intermittency.

    Not every renewable energy supporter believes in all three myths, but they generally believe it’s akin to “climate denialism” to explain they are myths. In his talk “New Energy Landscape”, IET Mountbatten Lecture, 3 Nov. 2015,, Dieter Helm said that: by 2020, Miliband, Huhne, and Davey all believed that renewables would cost less than nuclear and fossil electricity.

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      Well, with extra charges and disruptions to their output for nuclear and fossil, the three Ed’s made sure that renewables had a chance of being cheaper.

  2. Bernard Durand says:

    Euan in France, we already have in Brittany the situation which the Scottish Government is apparently aiming to : no fossil fuels and no nuclear plant to produce electricity. Brittany is 3 times smaller, than Scotland, but the population is 3,1 millions (5,3 for Scotland).
    The case for Brittany is analysed in this study by Flocard and Le Gorgeu
    May be should you sent it to the Scottish Government ?
    At the moment, Brittany is producing roughly 15 % of its electricity needs and imports the rest from other regions. There is a plan to produce approximatively 30 % of the needs thanks to renewables, but the realization looks very problematic.
    Of course, green parties and independantists claim that reaching 100 % would be easily possible if lobbys and non green politicians were not paid to make it impossible.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The imported electrons need to be identified and counted to ensure they are nuclear free. It is ethically unacceptable to admit nuclear electrons without sharing the risks and responsibilities of their creation.

      A corner stone of Green propaganda is to blame non-Greens for all the miss demeanours Greens themselves survive on. Green energy and Green advocacy is I believe well funded by Tech billionaires, UN, EU, UK and Scottish governments. Many millions are simply poured into the pit and scoffed. Non-Greens are also systematically accused of bias, lacking objectivity and analytical skills.

      As far as I am aware it is incredibly hard to raise funds to support the non-Green, pro-nuclear case. Being pro- or anti-nuclear is one diagnostic feature of Greenery. I will spend significant time this year trying to raise significant funds out of necessity. If the non-Green lobby will not support the non-Green case then they deserve to perish.

      • mark4asp says:

        Green anti-nuke funding goes back to 1969 with $200k that began anti-nuke “Friends of the Earth”. Donald Gibson documents some of this funding in chapter 6 of his book “Ecology, Ideology and Power”. I’ve noticed that many foundations donating to anti-nuke causes also donate to big Democratic think tanks such as: Center for American Progress (CfAP),, and, I guess, its blogs :- Think Progress:, Climate Progress: Look at the roll call here: “Ford Foundation” and “Rockefeller Foundation” are perennial anti-nuke funders. I wonder whether CfAP funder Bill Gates knows that CfAP has been solidly against nuclear power since forever? Someone should ask him. I don’t think Tech billionaires knowingly fund anti-nukes. They fund renewables.

      • Willem Post says:

        The instant energy, as electromagnetic waves, is fed into a grid, the mix changes ALL OVER THAT GRID and the grids connected to it.
        What everyone consumes is a European mix.
        Ireland has an island system; its mix is affected in a minor way by the European mix.
        Spain has an island system as well.
        Electrons do not move; they vibrate in place at 60 Hz.

        • robertok06 says:

          “Electrons do not move; they vibrate in place at 60 Hz.”

          Sorry Willem, but this is not correct.
          If this were true, what would happen along HVDC cables, where there is no frequency “vibration”?

      • garethbeer says:

        I’ve heard ‘Greens’ are really ‘Watermeloons’ shall we say Red on the inside…

        As history shows us, those type of people love (Artificial) scarcity – gives them power as the saviours (although they created the problem in the first place).

        Bread lines, skoda’s, trabants and black-outs (before & future) are all examples of their engineering (problems) expertise!

        Keep saying it, sad to say, it’s deliberate – Stalin would say the unaware are ‘Useful idiots’!

        • mark4asp says:

          “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” – this aphorism is called Hanlon’s razor. Bernard Ingham wrote a nice version of it too: “Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.”

          We already have evidence that energy ministers: Miliband, Huhne, Davey were all seduced by propaganda of the renewables lobby :- that RE would be cheaper than fossil by 2020. So too the Scottish Nationalists. The current Labour front bench of McDonnell and Nandy are likewise besotted with the renewable energy dream.

      • Leo Smith says:

        Miss Demeanours? I went out with her once…

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    “if lobbies and non green politicians were paid to make it impossible”.
    Surely no business would pay out money for something that has all ready been achieved (except in the minds? of the green parties).

  4. roberthargraves says:

    Will Scotland become like Delhi? Whenever there’s a hiccup in the electric supply, thousands of privately owned gasoline or diesel generators snort to life across the city, spewing noxious exhaust.

  5. Doug Brodie says:

    I wonder if the SNP manifesto for the Scottish parliamentary elections in May will admit that their energy policy is to allow our two aged nuclear power stations to be closed without replacement, possibly within a decade, and thereafter to rely on tenuous international interconnectors over which they will have no control to keep Scottish lights on when the wind stops blowing.

    I doubt if many people realise that Scotland’s “green energy transition” is a change within less than a couple of decades from the comfortable situation of being a net exporter of electricity to being an almost totally dependant, precarious importer of electricity. The alleged benefits of this change have never been credibly explained.

  6. PhilH says:

    Regarding the substantial fall in electricity demand, at least from large generators, between Jan 2006 and Jan 2015:

    I checked the Weather Underground website for the average temperature for the two months for Stirling, being my guess of the centre of gravity of population for Scotland, and the best it came up with was Glasgow airport, where both months’ average temperature was +4C, if I understand it right. So they are quite comparable months.

    PV production from Scotland’s small capacity, as people here are usually quick to point out, will be utterly negligible in January, especially at night.

    I suspect the reduction comes from: small, embedded, unmetered generators, to the extent that they are not included in the generation/demand data used; energy-efficient lighting (effect mostly at night); energy-efficient refrigeration; other energy-efficiency; and a move away from night-storage electric heaters to cheaper gas heating (effect entirely at night).

    A more interesting speculation is how much further does this demand reduction trend have to go? DUKES shows the UK’s electricity demand to have been reducing about 1.25%/yr since the peak in about 2005 (NB: before the c2008 crash). Obviously this will make minimal difference to the 2017 scenario above, but if it continues through the 2020s? A move to electric road transport and heat pumps will dampen, or even reverse, this trend.

  7. robertok06 says:


    “The 6 EDF sites that include Hunterstone and Torness each have two reactors and one day in November I noticed that 5 of these 12 reactors were down. It would be interesting to know why.”

    Try this:

    … and the link to REMIT at the beginning, in the Legal Disclaimer section.


  8. robertok06 says:


    … on the number of unplanned trips in the nuclear fleet of EDF UK:

    0.45 per 7000-hour operation time in a year… in 2013… not very probable indeed.

    The “download centre” of EDF’s web site is not very easy to use… but if you go to this…

    … and type “monthy report november 2015” in the search field, you come up with some documents.
    The one for Hunterston B says:

    “Station output
    Unit 7 was returned to service on Friday 4 December, following its planned statutory outage. Unit 8
    was operating throughout the month of October.
    • The station had no lost time incidents (LTIs) for EDF Energy staff during the reporting period and
    has achieved 2,815 LTI free days up to 30 November, that’s more than seven years.
    • The station had no lost time incidents (LTIs) for contracting partner staff during the reporting
    period and has achieved 2,803 LTI free days up to 30 November, that’s more than seven years.
    • The station had one emergency service call out during November. An Ambulance attended
    Hunterston ‘B’ Power Station to transport a contract partner employee to hospital who had become
    unwell. The person’s condition is not work related
    • There were no medical treatments during the month
    • The station had no environmental events during the month and has gone 2,237 days without an
    environmental event, that’s more than five years.”

    Unfortunately I have no time now to look for all other NPPs.


    • Euan Mearns says:

      Thanks Roberto, so the data is available, just a pig to compile it, but its easily done. But beyond scope of what I’m prepared to do for now.

      I think Erica knows where she is, just having a rant in general 😉


  9. Diesel generators are, based on capacity auction prices, 18 pounds per kW per year. 2000 MW of diesel back-up would therefore be 36 million pounds per year. A 2 GW nuclear power plant for the same purpose would have a capital cost of 6000 pounds per kW, coming in at 12000 million pounds. Fuel costs for the diesel would be an eyeballed 2 days at 1.5 MW or 3*24 MWh, at 1 litre per 3 kWh, say 24 million litres or around 24 million pounds (with a lot of taxes etc. assumed, crude oil is currently at 25 pounds per 159 litre barrel, or around 16 p per litre).

    In other words, the back-up cost is trivial for Scotland, certainly when compared to investing in a new nuclear plant.


    A few links:

    King’s island in Australia, live performance data of their grid (aim 65% renewables, island grid)

    Pellworm island in Germany, live data of their grid

    It is an interesting list. Canada and Brazil are two large countries with similar or higher hydro as Uruguay. These should be able to go 100% renewable relatively easily. Uruguay is actually rather impressive, even though it is small.

    These very small island grids above suffer from the fact that there is no geographic wind smoothing. This is painfully obvious when watching the Kind’s island data a little bit, where huge fluctuations happen in minutes. Even on the UK scale, geographic smoothing is already very significant making wind integration into the grid much easier.

    I calculated some data for the UK, weather and demand January 2015. With 150 GW wind and 150 GW PV I find 40 TWh of renewable generation (34 wind, 6 PV), compared to 28 TWh of demand. Demand could always be met by 0.55 TWh of battery storage, plus 15 GW of interconnection to Norway, which would draw 1.4 TWh around the 20th of January for a few days. (Norway storage hydro is

    84 TWh for comparison.

    The surplus of 12 TWh could be used for space heating, some by heat pump and the absolute peaks with resistance heating, using heat storage.

    A further back-up of 20 or 30 GW of diesel generators or natural gas / biogas / hydrogen engines to be used for very rare occasions when lots goes wrong, would of course still be advisable.

    • robertok06 says:

      “(Norway storage hydro is … 84 TWh for comparison.”

      Is there a limit to the silly things you can write, Heiko?

      84 TWh is the total energy stored in all of Norway’s hydro reserevoirs, NOT the pumped-hydro ones!… you need a substantial reality check! C’mon!

      • gweberbv says:


        you probably know that also the ‘normal’ hydro schemes can store energy to a certain extend by simply holding the water back. You just need a dam. Of course, this is rather limited compared to a hypothetic stored hydro scheme of the same size. But you cannot neglect it.

        • robertok06 says:

          “You just need a dam.”

          No. Pumped hydro needs a pump to reverse the direction of the water flow… if you simply hold the water with a dam you delay the production of the energy.

          • gweberbv says:


            the delay of the usage of other ressources is in most cases the best way to make use of renewables production. Only if it is not possible, you will think about ‘real’ storage.

    • GeoffM says:

      The January(s) we are looking at here weren’t particularly wind-free. Could you please repeat your calculations for 31 Aug- 23 Sep 2014, and also for all of 2010.

      By supporting diesel STOR in para 1 and your last para, are you admitting that an all-renewable, fossil-free future is never going to happen? If so, could you persuade your green friends to admit this too?

      You claim “Even on the UK scale, geographic [wind] smoothing is already very significant “. Can you prove this?

      You seem to be saying that 150 GW of solar would give 6 TWh in January. Are you sure it would give that much during what is a cloudy, dark month, with panels often covered in snow/frost?

      Have you calculated the cost of 0.55 TWh of battery storage? Leighton Buzzard cost £19m for 10 MWh. So your batteries will cost 1,045,000 million pounds, correct me if I’m wrong. That already exceeds your claim of £15 per person per year.

  10. garethbeer says:

    Goodness some thought has gone into this nice one!

    150GW of nameplate wind against our current fleet of 12GW now, imagine the view out the window, in the house, in the car, out to sea, up the mountain in any direction, they’d be everywhere – no landscape or area of outstanding natural beauty unspoiled!

    150GW of Solar against 8-10GW now, the sun (when & if it shines) wouldn’t touch the ground, farms gone (that’s where they grow food) interspersed between the wind-turbines!

    15GW interconnect to Norge, how much would that cost and have they got the ‘spare’ capacity anyway? How big and how many cables for HVdc would it need, I guess it would ‘land’ in Scotland – getting and dispersing it to the South another Grid challenge!

    Wind-soothing – a new adjective, I presume you mean ‘it’s always blowing somewhere (in the world or Europe)? Done, sorted this, on this very site by mssrs Mearns/Andrews – differences are too minute to make any difference it would seem!

    Ouuuu my head hurts…

  11. 150 GW of PV would easily fit onto roofs.

    15 GW of interconnection to Norway would cost around 15 billion Euros. Additional turbine capacity in Norway should be around half that cost. Could be done in less than a decade.

    These costs are not huge. Over 20 years, about a billion a year or maybe 15 pounds per year per UK resident.

    I calculate peak residual demand ( demand less wind and PV) as nearly 50 GW. You could take that as prima facie evidence that geographic smoothing in the UK does next to nothing.

    But that actually is not so. The mistake there is in thinking that capacity in GW is critical, when actually storage requirements in TWh are the key hurdle (and in small island grids also the wind ramping rates, which are like 10% per minute, while at UK level that would be 10% per hour).

    Euan does demonize imports. Coal gets imported, nuclear fuel is imported. The UK is self sufficient regarding virtually nothing these days. So, what is wrong with getting a bit of renewables / storage imports from Norway / Iceland. These countries are stable reliable democracies. I just do not see the difference to say nuclear fuel imports from Australia.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Yes, well UK is basically bankrupted by debts and trade deficit and I don’t appreciate being preached to by a German that we should simply borrow and spend more. And U yellow cake represents about 3% of the cost of nuclear power and you are either so ignorant or are incapable of distinguishing between 3% and 100%.

      Looking at your other comment about H that you are simply blabbering rubbish. Sorry Heiko you don’t seem to have anything worthwhile to say so I’m putting you to comment moderation.

      • I am sorry for the tone of my posting. I know that sounding preachy is one of my weaknesses.

        I am well aware that nuclear fuel is a minor cost component, and that, if need be, decades worth of imports could be stored. I am not anti nuke.

        Regarding hydrogen, I have not thought that through in great detail with implications regarding capital cost for example, yet, I have myself been guilty in the past of too readily dismissing the potential for this storage technology on efficiency grounds.

        I am also well aware that Canada cannot simply copy Uruguay. Distances are huge in that country, so transmission investment would be correspondingly larger, and also the amount of wind turbine investment would be so large relative to total world wind turbine production, it could certainly not build as quickly as Uruguay.

        As requested by you (at least I interpret your statement this way), this shall be my last post here.

    • robertok06 says:

      “150 GW of PV would easily fit onto roofs.”

      In which country?… UK? No way.
      In order to properly exploit the potential of PV panels on roofs, one must have the right-orientation of the roof, a clean view of the sky from the area where the panels are installed (means NO chimneys, or trees, or other neighbouring buildings casting their shadow on the said panels), and of course a sufficient number of hours with the sun shining.
      One must remove from the total surface available the “protected” buildings, like those in historically-sensitive old towns.
      This has been done and is documented in peer-reviewed journals for some cities in Europe (will try to find the articles on my laptop), and the result is that only a fraction of the available roofs are suitable for the installation of PV panels.
      In order to get to the 150 GWp you’ve mentioned, and assuming 30 million buildings, one would need 5 kWp/bulding… or more than 30 m2/bldg under the “good conditions” mentioned above.
      It’s a mission impossible.


      • PhilH says:

        Most of the proposed installation would be with panels of future efficiency. Later this year one company will start production of 23 point something % efficiency panels, and this has been increasing about 1 percentage point a year, so let’s assume 25% efficiency.

        There are about 27M homes in the UK, if half of them are suitable for fitting 16 1.5m2 panels (like many in the suburbs near me), and half aren’t suitable for any, that’s 80GWp (ie peak; 8GW avg output).

        I’ve repeatedly come across the statistic that there’s 250,000 ha of south-facing roofs on commercial buildings, which at nearly 1% of the UK land area seems improbably large to me, but let’s go with it. Assume they’re flat roofs, and so like a solar farm – David Mackay gives 5W/m2 avg output for solar farms using old, low-efficiency (say 12%) panels, which gives 100Wp/m2, and thus a total of 250GWp. If the figure for the roof area is too generous by a factor of two, that’s 125GWp.

        There’s already 10GWp of solar farms, and then the opportunity of covering car parks, and other less-traditional surfaces, such as walls of buildings, noise-shielding barriers on main roads, etc.

        So 150GWp (producing 15 GWavg; a third of UK demand) looks quite feasible from a logistical point of view; how much sense it would make is, of course, another question.

        • ristvan says:

          You are confounding cells with panels. The best monoSi lab cell is now 25%, but in commercial production the best monocrystalline silicon panels are 21.5 percent, and it is unlikely they will ever get much higher. And this is using antireflective coatings, grooved surface, microtrace conductors, all the quite expensive tricks. Those panels sell for $2.15/W. The best polySi panels are about 15.6%, selling out of China for about $1.10/W. The lower efficiency is inherent in the polysilicon grain boundaries. The lower cost is inherent in themproduction difference between polycrystalline silicon (cast) and monocrystalline silicon cut from round boules grown from seeds in a molten silicon bath.
          It is very unlikely on a number of technical grounds that monoSi single junction cells will ever get above 25% efficiency, or 80% of the Shockley-Queisser theoretical quantum limit. They have been about 25% (best lab cells) since 1999 according to NREL.

        • mark4asp says:

          Why do solar advocates never discuss seasonal output? They always seems to obfuscate by ignoring the problems of solar: its dependence on the seasons and weather, AKA intermittency. As I understand it, the ratio of summer : winter capacity utilization is about 4 : 1 at best. Suppose your 250GWp panels delivered 50GWe in the summer. Too much, so I guess you’d claim Tesla storage or some other hypothetical system would mop up the excess. We could expect 12.5GWe, at best in winter (but only for part of the day). Nothing at all when peak demand must be met, which is mid-winter 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

          Please explain to us your proposed RE system is for meeting British peak winter demand.

          • ristvan says:

            The only places solar makes any possible sense ever is in high insolation, relatively weather free areas where peak demand is summer daytime due to air conditioning. Parts of the US southwest meet those criteria. San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque… Neither the UK nor Germany does, and the amount of solar in those countries is just daft. Low insolation, much weather (clouds, rain, snow), winter evening peak load. What could not go wrong?

          • PhilH says:

            As I was trying to imply with my comment’s final “how much sense it would make is, of course, another question”, such an amount of PV in the UK isn’t of much practical use, at least in the forseeable future. I was just showing that Heiko’s hypothetical 150GW on UK roofs, which Roberto was sceptical of, was indeed possible, though I’m not sure about “easily”.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            If everyone had PV then the sense of subsidy would disappear. There would be an exponential decline in incentive to install it as everyone’s electricity prices went through the roof.

            Market distortion and partial “solution” is the name of the RE game.

          • robertok06 says:

            “If everyone had PV then the sense of subsidy would disappear. ”
            That is exactly right, Euan!… there are two examples of this effect… Spain and Italy… as soon as the “incentives” have been zeroed the new installations have practically come to a halt… Italy 2011 with “incentives”?… 9.4 GWp… Italy 2015 without “incentives”?…. 300 MWp.

            ’nuff said. 🙂

            Anyway, if PV is suuuuuch a wonderful technology… why don’t all its supporters simply “talk the talk, and walk the walk”… and go 100% PV (with storage of any kind they’d like, I don’t care at all….) and show us the way?… instead of PREACHING the GREEN MANTRA and impose ON OTHERS their ridiculous, unphysical, moronic (sorry…) way of viewing the world?


        • robertok06 says:

          “Most of the proposed installation would be with panels of future efficiency. ”

          Multi-crystalline silicon has gone from 17% efficiency to 21% betweern 1993 and 2015, mono-crystalline silicon from 23%

          • robertok06 says:

            (continue previous message which I’ve sent inadvertedly by mistake, sorry…. )

            … from 23% to 26% between the same years (1993-2015)… so this means that the “future improvement” of the efficiency is not a feature of large-scale development of PV technology, and very likely never will be.
            It is just one of the many urban legends spread out in green-land.

      • gweberbv says:


        for the overall system it is much better to have not all PV installations oriented in the ‘best way’. Total yield will be slightly lower, but the peak is smoothed. And the latter is crucial when integrating dozens of GW nameplate capacity into the grid. Thus, requiring all PV plants to have the optimum direction and tilt angle for maximum yield is a very bad idea,

        Moreover, as you know Germany has already nearly 40 GW of PV installed. And by no means we are running out of space (UK is not much smaller).

        • robertok06 says:


          “Moreover, as you know Germany has already nearly 40 GW of PV installed. And by no means we are running out of space (UK is not much smaller).”

          Well, you are not running out of space because your 40 GWp produce virtually nil… 10% or a bit more capacity factor on any year, and most panels are new, so their output will necessarily decrease… but I maintain my statement… find the data for the number of detached buildings in your country, then add to each of them 3-5 kWp and then you’ll have the amount of PV which will generate, basically, the electricity used up by households, which is 20-25% of the total… so here you have it your “80% REN electricity”, right?

          You can turn it the way you want, guenter!… mother nature has decided differently… there is no way to power a modern industrialized country with intermittent renewables, plain and simple.


          • gweberbv says:


            you make many claims and when one is turning out to be simply wrong (not enough ‘potential’ for something like 100 GW of solar in UK), you simply jump to the next claim.
            But ok, let’s follow your argument just for the fun of it.

            In 2011 Germany we had about 19 million houses (buildings with living rooms inside – in addition you have a few million buildings for other purposes). If we put 3 to 5 kWp on each roof, we end up with a ‘potential’ of roughly 60 to 100 GWp. Now, we are at around 40 GW installed capacity – so we should already find a PV installation on every secong building, right? (I assure you, there are still whole villages where you will have a hard time to find any PV rooftop PV installation.)
            But, in total we have only about 1.5 million PV installations. This means, the avarage size of a plant is not 3 or 5 kWp but between 20 and 30 kWp. And only a few percent of the buildings in Germany have a rooftop PV installation right now.

            As Germany is not be totally different from UK, France, etc., you can conclude that in each country it would be possible to install much more than 100 GW of rooftop PV capacity without having problems with space. In addition, you can install non-rooftop systems.

            A completely different question is, if it makes sense to install a PV capacity several times the peak demand. Here the answer is clear: no, it makes no sense at all (at least with the technical infrastructure we right now).

          • Peter Lang says:


            I’d suggest it makes no sense to install any more wind or solar capacity. Why do it? What’s the objective?

            If the objective is to reduce GHG emissions intensity of electricity in Europe, at least cost, then building more weather dependent renewables is clearly the wrong way to go about it. The cheapest way to get the greatest reduction and ensure reliability is to follow France’s example – increase nuclear to 75% to 80% proportion of electricity generation.

          • robertok06 says:



            you make many claims and when one is turning out to be simply wrong (not enough ‘potential’ for something like 100 GW of solar in UK), you simply jump to the next claim.
            But ok, let’s follow your argument just for the fun of it.”

            1) I do not run this blog;

            2) Even if I ran this blog, I would not be in any way obliged to respond to all your funny claims, or those of other supporters of the ridicuous intermittent sources.

            3) Your data on the number of buildings in Germany, households, is clearly wrong, cannot be only 19 millions.

            4) PV in Germany will and will always remain, whatever the number of installations, a secondary source of energy… there’s nothing you, me or anybody else can do it about it… it’s a fact of nature… just look at the data on the Fraunhofer Institut web site and extrapolate it to the future… it’s an easy exercise.


            P.S. my claim about the “not enough potential” for 100 GWp on UK’s rooftops is valid.

          • gweberbv says:


            what is the problem with having 19 million houses (buildings that consists of at least one appartment/living room) in Germany? The population is about 80 millions. In fact, I was surprised by the fact that on average every house has just 4 people living in it.
            Maybe you mixed houses/buildings with appartments/households. Within the 19 million buildings, there are about 40 million appartments/households. But you put a hypothetical PV installation on the roof of a building. Not on the roof on an appartments/household.

            “PV in Germany will and will always remain, whatever the number of installations, a secondary source of energy.”
            I agree with that. But not because there is not enough space for building more of it.

          • gweberbv says:


            I agree that for avoiding emissions from fossil fuel power plants, having nuclear power plants is the least complicated way to go (unless you are in the splendid position to have loads of hydro or geothermal ressources at your disposal).
            But at least for the case of Germany it is for political reasons impossible to build new NPP. And in general NPP projects in Europa suffer from a vicious cycle of increasing costs and small numbers of plant being build. At the moment, NPP seem to need higher subsidies than compareable renewables projects that are backup up by already existing conventional plants. On top you have costs to (nearly) eternity to take care of the nuclear waste (which are mostly created by the inability of politics to find a rational solution).

            Thus, expanding wind (and to a lesser extend also solar) is from the German perspective the only way to reduce the usage of FF power plants.

          • Peter Lang says:


            I didn’t say “for avoiding emissions from fossil fuel power plants, having nuclear power plants is the least complicated way to go”. I said it’s the cheapest. It’s also the safest and most reliable.

            “expanding wind (and to a lesser extend also solar) is from the German perspective the only way to reduce the usage of FF power plants”

            But’s it’s not reducing GHG emissions intensity of electricity by much. And it is greatly increasing the cost of electricity and therefore retarding economic growth. That’s why Germany’s emissions intensity of electricity is about 10 x frances and its electricity prices about 2x France’s. Pretty damned clear if you take the blinkers off. (and please don’t try to argue that increasing energy cost does not damage the economy or try to make ridiculous “broken window” arguments).

    • robertok06 says:

      “just do not see the difference to say nuclear fuel imports from Australia”

      Well… it’s ONE TRUCKLOAD to “refill” one nuclear reactor for one year with enriched uranium, or ONE SHIPLOAD before enrichment for 10 reactors…. if that doesn’t explain it I can make a small drawing. 🙂


      • Peter Lang says:

        The choice is between 20,000 ship loads of coal going out through the Great Barrier Reef or one ship load of coal from Darwin. Which would the Greenies prefer?

  12. One more thing, I have noticed that hydrogen is not as bad as appears at first blush. See the losses are in the form of heat, so with cogeneration they could be put to good use. The 12 billion kWh surplus could be converted to enough hydrogen to replace the Norwegian interconnector for long term storage, again very rare peaks would have to be battery stored / curtailed or used for resistance heating.

    Again even the UK wide smoothing is crucial, both to reduce the TWh of hydrogen required and to increase the capacity factor of the electrolysers.

    • Heik

      And what volume of hydrogen would that be?

    • robertok06 says:


      when you put 1 kWh of electricity (wind, PV or whatever) to make H2 by splitting water (hydrolisis) you loose at least 30% of it… i.e. you are left with 700 W… so if you need your 12 TWh back you’ll have to start with 1.3x more electricity.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        And remind me how much we lose converting the H2 back into water? We start with water and we end up with water but spend about 65% of our energy making water from water. Its much easier to simply heat the water in the first place, use it for home heat, and lose maybe 10%.

      • GeoffM says:

        A pro-renewable company/organisation states in an article that conversion of electricity to H2 involves losses of 58% (a link from this website took me to that document recently). Add to that losses (which I assume to be 50% according to DECC data) converting that gas back to electricity when there’s no wind/sun; and 2 lots of transmission losses totalling maybe 10%, giving overall energy loss of approx 81% round trip. That would be ludicrous!

        • gweberbv says:

          What I consider even more problematic than the efficiency losses is the fact that one needs to have a huge synthesis infrastructure to be able to store the excess energy in the very moment it is produced. A plant that is able to convert GW of electricity into H2 will be very expensive. And it will be used for only a few hundred hours per year.
          To me the H2 storage scheme is a pipe dream.

          • robertok06 says:

            “And it will be used for only a few hundred hours per year.”

            No way!… it would be used THOUSANDS of hours/year… just do the math.
            In a country like Germany where for 4 full months PV basically generates zero (and zero multiplied by any number gives zero) you would need to store electricity as H2 for at least 4 sunny months (and there you have already >2000 hours).

            That was easy, uh? 🙂

          • gweberbv says:


            could you please stop with your straw man argument? Nobody – I repeat: nobody – is seriously considering to store solar production during somme for the winter in Germany, UK, etc.

          • robertok06 says:


            “Nobody – I repeat: nobody – is seriously considering to store solar production during somme for the winter in Germany, UK, etc.”

            Are you kidding me? Every, I repeat… EVERY “plan” for a future 80 or 100% electricity or energy demand coverage via renewable sources in Germany IMPLIES storing the excess production of future PV installations!… what are you talking about, Guenter?????


          • robertok06 says:


            “Nobody – I repeat: nobody – is seriously considering to store solar production during somme for the winter in Germany, UK, etc.”

            Nobody? Sure?

            ” EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger in an interview with the newspaper FAZ (2 April 2013) said:

            “We must limit the escalating PV capacity in Germany. In the first place, we need to set a tempo limit for renewable energy expansion until we have sufficient storage capacity and an energy grid that can intelligently distribute the electricity.””

            Nobody is thinking about storing surplus PV energy, right Guenter? Who’s this Oettinger guy? Nobody? 🙂

          • robertok06 says:


            Nobody, right Guenter?

            “Study by Agora Energiewende finds Germany’s electricity system can easily support four-times as much solar PV as currently installed, provided affordable battery storage of 40 GW is integrated into energy mix.

            Read more:–150-gw-pv-capacity-viable-with-just-40-gw-storage_100021742/#ixzz3wehonM18


          • gweberbv says:


            you realize there is a difference for storing electricity for a few hours (to transfer production from daytime to consumption during nighttime) and to store it for months? Of course you do, aren’t you?

            But still you confront me with the Agora Energiewende study discussing a hypothetical 40 GWh storage capacity. You don’t even need to read the study, you just have to look at this number: 40 GWh. What do you think is the point with storing 40 GWh of PV production (about 3 hours of PV production on an average sunny day in Germany) in the summer to consume it during the winter (slightly more than half an hour of peak demand in winter)? Of course, this is complete nonesense. The study is about storing PV production during daytime and to consume the energy during night time. And to repeat this day by day during the whole summer.

            If you really want to store electricity in summer (for what crazy reason ever) that is to be consumed during the winter (or the other way around), you need to come up with a proposal of something like 40 TWh storage capacity. And that is such a rediculous number that nobody seriously considers it. Even the 40 GWh of battery capacity of the Agora Energiewende study is just a pipe dream.

            Roberto, I summarize: This is just another one of your straw men. I regard this as intellectual dishonesty from your side.

            And your citation of Mr. Oettinger just demonstrates that you have no idea who this guy really is. He is not a greeny, that’s fur sure.
            So, Mr. Oettinger is not proposing to build storage decives for PV production. In contrary, he is demanding to stop PV until storage capacity is available (which will never the case).

            Finally, I repeat my statement: Nobody is seriously considering to store solar production during summer for the winter in Germany, UK, etc.

            Got it?

          • robertok06 says:


            “Roberto, I summarize: This is just another one of your straw men. I regard this as intellectual dishonesty from your side.”

            Been labeled “intellectually dishoinest” by someone like you is a compliment, thanks Guenter!

            Talking about the subject at hand, storage of summer-generated PV electricity in Germany for later use, guess what… Guenter?… looks like I am not the only one “intellectually dishonest” around!…

            “Instead, large amounts of electricity are here exported to Denmark/Norway in periods with overproduction, and stored in Norway’s large hydro storage magazines.

            –> This is reimported in seasons when Germany lacks renewable production. <–"

            Then you have babbled this nonsense here:

            "… you need to come up with a proposal of something like 40 TWh storage capacity. And that is such a rediculous number that nobody seriously considers it."

            … and guess what, Guenter?… the document linked here below talks about…

            "The reimports are estimated to 76 TWh.
            This corresponds to almost the total storage potential of the Norwegian hydro power magazines, and equates to 60 percent of the total electricity production
            in Norway (2010)."

            … see?… 76 TWh, vs the 40 that you thought were already out of question.

            So, who's dishonest (or willfully ignorant, which is worse, in my opinion), guenter, uh?

            Enjoy this one (and if you need more do not hesitate to ask, I have plenty for those like you):


          • Euan Mearns says:

            Gunter, can you remind us what your profession is. I’m guessing perhaps economist? Roberto is a respected physicist working at a premier European institution. That of course doesn’t make him a God since he has at least one colleague that predicted a massive melt in Arctic this year that didn’t happen – wish now I’d taken up the bet.

            When arguing with someone, you need to compare their expertise with your own – IMO.

          • robertok06 says:


            “But still you confront me with the Agora Energiewende study discussing a hypothetical 40 GWh storage capacity. ”

            By the way… the GWh is only in your mind, Guenter!… the document I’ve linked talks about 40 GW… GW period… no “h” after it.

            Got it? 🙂

          • robertok06 says:


            “That of course doesn’t make him a God since he has at least one colleague that predicted a massive melt in Arctic this year that didn’t happen – wish now I’d taken up the bet.”

            Wait a sec, Euan??? I’ve missed that one… what bet is it, and who said that? One of my colleagues? Are you sure?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Concernclub? If he is a colleague I’ll try find the comment.

          • robertok06 says:

            “When arguing with someone, you need to compare their expertise with your own – IMO.”

            Bingo!… problem is in the world of renewable resources everybody is the king and knows everything… just read one article on a green blog site and that’s it… instant knowledge acquired.

            One example: does Guenter (or any of the other greenies who have participated/given an input to this discussion) knew of the existence of this VERY RELEVANT paper on storing vs curtailing intermittent sources?… let alone understand it?

            “The energetic implications of curtailing versus storing solar- and wind-generated electricity”


            Fig.5… clearly shows why surplus PV electricity MUST be practically always (i.e. under most conditions in terms of storage technology) stored rather than curtailed… contrary to what happens to wind power, which should rather be curtailed under most conditions instead of stored.


          • robertok06 says:


            “Concernclub? If he is a colleague I’ll try find the comment.”

            Ah!… him!… I remember that conversation… but no, he’s not an employee, he’s simply a user, i.e. someone who comes to use the facilities and do research… it’s very different.

            The number of employees of the lab is ~2400… but at any time when the machines and experiments run there are 3-4 thousand more… just think that one of the big experiments, like ATLAS or CMS, have more than 4000 contributors/scientists/technicians, that at one time or another come to work on the detectors or data.
            That guy is from the ETH, the polytechnic university in Zurich, if I remember correctly.


          • Euan Mearns says:

            Your comment was blocked because it contained a forbidden word 😉

    • ristvan says:

      See essay Hydrogen Hype in my ebook Blowing Smoke. It does all the math you apparently have not. As for using it as a chemical storage medium for intermittent renewables (because of the H2 storage problem, hydrolysis followed by synthesis into methane using captured CO2 over iron catalyst, the Stuttgart experiment), see my comments to Roger Andrews on a previous thread here. Ruinous 30% round trip efficiency. The Stuttgart pilot plant claims 50% net synthesis efficiency. CCGT is at best 61% efficient. 0.5*0.6 is 0.3. Ruinous.

  13. Peter Lang says:

    Euan (or Roger),

    I have a question I hope one of you might answer for me. It’s regarding capacity factor of pumped hydro if pumping is powered by weather-dependent renewables at various penetration levels.


    I understand from previous posts you and/or Roger have all the generation for GB data for 2013. Roger estimated the wind generation if wind’s generating capacity was scaled up to supply an average 25 GW to the GB grid . He then calculated GWh of storage needed to supply a constant 25 GW power. He found 3,100 GWh could supply 25 GW power (just) through the worst month of 2013, i.e. February. Installed capacity of wind would be 100 GW. However, there was no reserve capacity. None of the five scenarios considered give secure, reliable 25 GW baseload power supply (i.e. with sufficient reserve for secure supply).

    The ERP report section “The Value of Storage in Solving Curtailment Issues analyses the amount of storage required to supply 100% of GB’s electricity demand (2012 demand profile) from variable renewables. The report says, p19:

    To see why extending storage from 6 to 48 hours increased its effectiveness the pattern of daily renewable energy production from the calculation was examined. Figure 10 above shows for each day the amount curtailed (light green) and the amount of fossil generation (dark green) that could be displaced if stored energy was available for the 100% renewables scenario. …

    Figure 10 shows that maximum storage required would have been 7.9 TWh in early 2012 and 6.5 TWh in late 2102.

    My question: Could you please tell me what the capacity factor of the pumped hydro storage system would be if it was as described in the text and in Figure 10. Also, what would the capacity factor be if the penetration of weather dependent renewables was 80% and 50%? Assume weather dependent renewables means wind for simplicity.

    The reason I am asking is to back up my assertion here that the capacity factor of pumped hydro would be much less than 15% if pumping is to be powered by weather dependent renewables:

  14. cgh says:

    Euan, I thought all you Scots were supposed to be hard-headed and practical. What a shambles the SNP has made of a well-functioning system. I suggest that it’s the price being paid for the SNP to retain power by partnership with the Greens. What will be interesting will be to see if the revenue flows in the post-2017 system are sufficient to retain capital investment in the transmission system on which the renewables depend. In Ontario with free grid connection for renewables, they have not, and the system is in need of large investment to retain function.

    As to Heiko’s comment, “Canada and Brazil are two large countries with similar or higher hydro as Uruguay. These should be able to go 100% renewable relatively easily”, anyone with the slightest understanding of Canada’s climate, geography, and population and industrial distribution knows that this is utter nonsense.

  15. garethbeer says:

    Gotto say, its interesting to hear the likes of Heiko on here, it can be amusing too.

    More so, this is how many think, ‘it’s so simple to this problem out’ they say.
    Everything is ‘scalable’ and ‘renewables are cheap or free’ or ‘oil, gas, coal are all running out’ – all myths that have been repeated ad hominem since the industrial revolution – that gave these types the ability to sit around trying to piss on their own chips and kill the goose…

    For many it’s a fantasy football arena for saving the planet, doing Gods work..

    We should be cautious, preaching to the choir and allow the debate to widen including hearing impossible plans in financial, engineering and ironically environmentally destructive plans above (imagine 150gw of wind or solar, all the power lines – madness!) and we still won’t have a reliable grid for the industrial society we need to have ANY wealth!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Gareth, I agree being on moderation means Heiko can still post, needs to give the content and volume of commentary some greater thought. I have about 30 Heiko’s on moderation. Without that we wouldn’t have a blog.

      • garethbeer says:

        Agreed Euan, you’re da boss!
        A neighbour across the road has got some North facing PV installed – wonder how they’re doing, mine are South facing, and they ain’t doing to good this time of year???

  16. Euan

    Sorry for not donating yet, waiting on cash flow.

    What I find astonishing is that on the very left of figure 4 shows that Scotland would be using only a third of its generation. Can the UK even accept this much exports?

    I ask because in the link to a previous post of your below, exports from the Scottish grid are going up but not so dramatically. Does the Scottish government have an assurances that this level of export can be maintained? Or is it a whim?

    PS link also shows electricity use in Scotland declining due to increased exports.

  17. PhilH says:

    As has been pointed out several times on Energy Matters and elsewhere, electricity generators whose output doesn’t follow the demand profile (renewables and nuclear) put an extra burden on the more flexible generators to make up the difference, for which ‘balancing services’ the latter may be insufficiently compensated, so the former should be financially penalised to help subsidise the latter.

    If Scotland is indeed to produce, on average, the equivalent of 100% of its consumption from renewables, then it is effectively becoming a large generator of the former type, with the rest of the UK providing the balancing services. So Scotland should be financially penalised to help subsidise the rest of the UK.

    Somehow, I can’t see this playing well in Holyrood, however strong a logical consequence of their official energy policy it may be.

    • Leo Smith says:

      Phil. There is a place for baseload nukes, and indeed nukes can load follow too, its just that that is not an economically efficient way to utilise them.

      Renewable – intermittent renewables – are in a different class altogether for the simple reason they are not throttling back release of stored energy, – if you throttle them back you permanently lose what they might have produced.

      If you do the sums it works out that little more than ‘nightime in summer’ demand met by a nuclear fleet, with as much hydro and pumped as is reasonable with CCGT subsidised to be profitable in between and meet peak demands, is probably the best way to run the grid.

      No (intermittent) renewables are desirable whatsoever.

  18. Jack Ponton says:

    I see that you have assumed that Peterhead can in fact run at it’s original rating of 1.4GW. It has been constrained to 450MW and I am not sure whether it still has the ability to run the higher output. It is certainly not economic for it to do so for the same reason that Longannet wants to close – competion from subsidised wind. I understand that it is only operating at all because it has a special contract from NG for voltage control.

    The loss of Longannet has another potentially serious consequence for network security. At present it and Cruachan are needed for a ‘black start’ of the Scottish grid following a major network failure, the possibility of which is increasingly likely due to the preponderance of intermittent wind generation reducing network stability. Nuclear, wind and imports cannot be restarted until these two sources have re-established the grid. Without them it could take nearly two days to cobble together enough resource from all the hydro stations, leaving us without any electricity supply for that time. Mr Ewing has been made aware of this but presumably is happy just to blame it on Westminster.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Link 1 in my post discusses black start:

      Scotland is a single Black Start contracting zone and currently the SO has Black Start contracts with ……………….. with each TO having 1 LJRP to manage. If Longannet or Peterhead remain open the SO is able to use them with the hydro and pump storage stations to Black Start and provide skeleton restoration in the SP Transmission and SHE Transmission areas within 12 – 18hrs. If Longannet and Peterhead close then the SO will adopt the alternative strategy, which is based on energising from England and Wales transmission system, in conjunction with hydro and pump storage generation in Scotland providing a skeleton restoration in 24+hrs.

      Having copied this from the link I see that the redacted part has come alive 🙂 If anyone wants to read simply copy and paste from pdf. Its like saying if Euan has a heart attack and all the Scottish hospitals are closed we’ll rush him in an ambulance to Cardiff. The cognitive dissonance and delusion really seems to have overwhelmed the politicians and electricity industries. One has to suspect political mischief at heart.

      On Peterhead I took my lead from Wikipedia since SSE is one of the most secretive companies around.

      The power station was refurbished during 2015, and returned to service in November 2015. The station is now configured for flexibly and efficiently generating between 240 MWe and 400 MWe, with a Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR) contract for an additional 750 MWe to provide occasional back-up over the winter period.

      From which I now see I either read it wrong or it has been changed since I read it. I guess it should be 1150 MW and not 1400 MW. I was never sure how CCS was to be bolted on here.

  19. Another Ian says:


    With a bit of allegiance to Scotland I visited and collected a copy of “Scotland Bloody Scotland” by The Baron of Ravenstone.

    By the sound of this he could add a few more chapters in support of his thesis.

  20. garethbeer says:

    Black start was mentioned a few times on the 19/20 subsidy auction – I’d say they are positively planning it…

  21. Peter Lang says:

    New pumped hydro schemes are rarely viable if the intention is to power them with weather-dependent renewable energy. Here is a recent proposal for “World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?


    • Generating capacity: 255 GW
    • Energy storage capacity: 6,800 GWh
    • Flow rate: 51,000 m3/s [the equivalent of the discharge flow from the Congo River, only surpassed by the Amazon!]
    • 300 m high dam with crest at 650 m elevation
    • Bottom reservoir is the sea
    • 30 km canal, 51,000 m3/s, triangular cross section with 1:1 side slopes, 170 m wide, 85 m deep, velocity 9.8 m/s, head loss 11.1 m (each direction).

    The Preface in David MacKay’s Book “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air , p viii, begins:

    I’m concerned about cutting UK emissions of twaddle – twaddle about
    sustainable energy. Everyone says getting off fossil fuels is important, and
    we’re all encouraged to “make a difference,” but many of the things that
    allegedly make a difference don’t add up.

    Twaddle emissions are high at the moment because people get emotional
    (for example about wind farms or nuclear power) and no-one talks
    about numbers. Or if they do mention numbers, they select them to sound
    big, to make an impression, and to score points in arguments, rather than
    to aid thoughtful discussion.

    The purpose of this comment is to help to “reduce the emissions of twaddle – twaddle about
    sustainable energy

    Comments, Issues, Criticisms:

    The “World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?” is not viable. Even if we assume a highly optimistic 15% average capacity factor the LCOE would be >10 times higher than LCOE of nuclear power. However, 15% capacity factor is virtually impossible if using power for pumping from weather dependent renewables. In fact, even if it could buy electricity for free, it would still need to sell it at around 10 times the cost of nuclear to be viable.

    Reasons why the 255 GW Inverness seawater pumped hydro proposal is impractical and not financially viable:

    1. Could never be financially viable – LCOE is ~10x the LCOE of nuclear.

    2. Therefore, it would never get funded.

    3. If built, it couldn’t buy renewable energy cheaply enough and sell at high enough price to pay for the scheme.

    4. Ignoring costs, the capacity factor, if powered by weather-dependent renewables, may be 1% to 15% at best.

    5. Capital cost of a hydro plant (not pumped hydro) 255 GW @ £10/W = £2,550 billion (say £3 trillion for your seawater pumped hydro project) (DECC, ‘Electricity Generation Costs 2013’, p67 ).

    6. Add capital cost of transmission (255 GW x 2000 km x £500/ = £255 billion.

    7. Total overnight capital cost = ~ £3.255 trillion (i.e. ~ £12.5/W).

    8. LCOE = £1,050/MWh (NREL ‘Simple LCOE Calculator’ , inputs: £12.5/W, 40 year life, 10% discount rate, 15% capacity factor, £104/kW.yr FOM, DECC, ‘Electricity Generation Costs 2013’, p67).

    9. Add: buy excess wind and solar power at say £100/MWh (DECC, ‘Electricity Generation Costs 2013’, p34) when available (= £133/MWh after pumping efficiency losses @ 75%); total LCOE = £1,183/MWh.

    10. Why would any rational buyer buy electricity from the scheme at £1,183/MWh instead of from nuclear power at around £93/MWh? (DECC, ‘Electricity Generation Costs 2013’, p33)?

    11. Even if an investor could be persuaded to invest over $3 trillion in your concept, how long would it take to build? 20 years, 30 years? Adding interest during construction would probably double the total capital cost that has to be recovered over the life of the plant.

    12. Environmental issues with pumping sea water into a reservoir at 630 m elevation that then infiltrates into the ground water and pollutes it with salt water (and some sea life that survives) would almost certainly preclude environmental approval.

    13. The purpose of the well is not explained? What is its volume? How many hours of water can it hold at 51,000 m3/s?

    14. The canal would be hugely expensive, prone to disruptions and impractical for many reasons.

    15. What is the land elevation profile along the centre line of the canal? How long would the canal be if it followed the contours? How much cut and fill would be required? Bridges across valleys?

    16. The land surface along the canal route seems to start at 300 m elevation at the well, fall to 267 m at Moy and rise to 350 m at the base of the dam. So the ground surface falls 33m and rises 87 m to the base of the dam . How is this going to be levelled? The cost will be enormous.

    17. How deep does the canal have to be to get the required flow rate in both directions? (e.g. 85 m + 11 m = 96 m deep at each end and 91m in the middle?)

    18. What is the cross section topographic profile at say 100 m intervals along the line of the canal? How much excavation is required for a 91-96 m deep by 170 m wide canal on the side of steep sided valleys?

    19. How will landslides, debris slides and erosion by freak floods be prevented for the life of the project?

    20. What will be the diameter of the pipes, and the steel thickness needed to hold the internal pressure at 300 m static head plus dynamic head? What is the estimated cost of the steel pipes?

    21. How many turbines and penstocks will you need for 255 GW generating capacity? – e.g. 500 turbines at 500 MW each (250 at sea level and 250 at base of dam)? Where would you fit them at the base of the dam? Underground? Cost?.

    22. How large would the two power station be with 250 x 500 MW turbines in each – e.g. 80 times ‘Tumut 3’ (6 x 250 MW turbines) – see photos:

    23. Cost of dam, canal, penstocks, pump-generating station?

    24. How long does it take to change from pumping to generating?

    25. Why would any rational utility buy electricity from the scheme at £1,200/MWh instead of from nuclear at around £93/MWh? (DECC, ‘Electricity Generation Costs 2013’, p33).

    26. Rough guestimate of uncertainty in cost estimate: -50% to +200%

    27. The generating capacity and/or storage capacity is overstated. Either the system is operated with the dam kept near full for maximum head, in which case the generating capacity is ~255 GW but the storage capacity is ~550 GWh, not 6,800 GWh. Or the system is operated to use all the storage in which case one would have to assume that the available head is with reservoir near empty because an operator would have to guarantee 95% reliability for his peaking power. Thus, the gross head for power generation is 300 m, so the generating capacity is ~132 GW and the storage capacity ~5,500 GWh. You should not claim 255 GW generating capacity AND 6,800 GWh energy storage capacity.

    Main Point

    No doubt there will be many errors in this and valid criticism about some details I’ve stated, but the main point is that the scheme is about 10 times too expensive compared with simply buying reliable nuclear power.

    The excellent 2015 ERP report ‘Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity System, also shows that energy storage is hugely expensive and ineffective. The ERP analysis shows that nuclear power is the cheapest way for GB to meet its 2030 CO2 emissions targets (e.g. Figure 14).

    The ERP analysed the cost to largely decarbonise the GB electricity system by 2030 with a wide variety of technology mixes. The ERP report is co-chaired by Prof John Loughhead FREng, Chief Scientific Advisor to DCEE. ERP members include a broad spectrum of stake holders from electricity industry, academics, government agencies and environmental NGOs. The ERP analysis considers and does sensitivity analyses on important inputs and constraints that are rarely included in analyses intended for informing policy analysts regarding policy for a whole electricity system.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Hi Peter, I appreciate you came to the conversation here relatively recently. And I’m short of time today. But see these…

      • Peter Lang says:


        Thank you for the two links. I had read the “The Coire Glas pumped storage scheme – a massive but puny beast” post when you linked previously to another post that then linked to it. I had not seen the “Loch Ness Monster of Energy Storage” post on Energy Matters until now. Neither have an estimate of costs or financial viability and neither address the question I asked up thread about what capacity factor could be expected from the pumped hydro scheme if powered by weather-dependent renewable energy? I am still hoping you can answer that question from the GB data you already have for 2013. See my question and the background to it here:

        By the way, I disagree with this point in your post on the “Lock Ness Monster of Energy Storage”:

        2) the blog post appears to contain carefully considered engineering calculations

        My interpretation is engineers were not involved in the development or review of the concept, at least none who have had experience in hydro electric plant investigation, design and construction. I posted a brief comment on the ScottishScientist’s blog; the author replied with two pompous, arrogant dismissive comments including a comment about daring to criticise his “carefully considered design” – a prima donna attitude – “a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.” And he’s not even prepared to state his name, let alone his affiliation, background, expertise and experience. I then posted a more detailed critique and included it (slightly reworded), on this thread.

        Euan, I hope you can answer my question about capacity factor of pumped hydro powered by wind and solar in GB. If you wont be able to, could you please say so. I suggest it is an important piece of information to have because the financial viability of pumped hydro is very sensitive to the capacity factor that can achieved through the plant’s life. Roger’s recent post on El Hierro showed that the capacity factor of the pumped hydro plant so far is near zero. I expect that would not be atypical for pumped hydro plants that are powered by wind and solar.

        Wivenhoe pumped pumped hydro scheme near Brisbane, Australia is 500 MW and 5 GWh energy storage It pumps for about 5-6 hours per night and generates and remains on spinning reserve during the day. Pumping for 6 hours gives about 4-5 hours full power; i.e. a capacity factor near 20%. That’s probably about as high as achievable if powered by reliable, cheap baseload power. If powered by intermittent renewables the pumping and generation periods are totally different, as you know. I hope you can answer my question.

    • @Peter Lang

      I’ve just noticed your comment here which follows your similar earlier comment on my own blog

      Thank you for that mighty comment Peter. I apologise for not having replied on my own blog as yet. I’ll try to reply to a few of the easier points soon.

      However, I do think posting your comment on my blog was more appropriate than posting it here on “Energy Matters”.

      So I would encourage everyone who wants to reply to Peter’s comment, to reply on my blog rather than here, unless there is some reason for someone wanting to escape my moderation?

      I sometimes lose patience with non-scientific comments on my blog and do occasionally scold but rarely ever do I actually delete a comment so anything which needs to be said about my Strathdearn Pumped-Storage Hydro Scheme concept should be allowed to be said on my blog, without fear or favour, I trust.

      • Peter Lang says:


        Your comment here was posted while I was writing my response to Euan above. I posted my comment here because your first two replies to my first comment (one to me and one to another comment) I regard as pompous, arrogant, prima donna replies and demonstrated a complete lack of engineering experience in hydro electric or pumped hydro. Science is not engineering.

        I sometimes lose patience with non-scientific comments on my blog and do occasionally scold but rarely ever do I actually delete a comment so anything which needs to be said about my Strathdearn Pumped-Storage Hydro Scheme concept should be allowed to be said on my blog, without fear or favour, I trust.

        I understand you “losing patience with non-scientific comments”. The problem is your are apparently a scientist dabbling in engineering, a subject you apparently know little about. My comments just scratch the surface of what you haven’t considered and should have. And taking offence at someone suggesting alternatives and pointing out errors, may be acceptable to scientists but it is unprofessional for engineers – not to say it doesn’t happen of course, but we should welcome critiques, not take offence as you did.

        I’d encourage you to either edit and clean up your two dismissive, rude responses to my first comment, or put an appropriate note of correction/apology or whatever attached to each comment.

        I suggest you don’t bother trying to write dismissive replies to my last comment on your thread. I don’t think you have sufficient understanding to do that. You’d be better off asking questions.

  22. gweberbv says:

    A few remarks:

    – When Scotland was a big energy exporter 10 years ago, other parts of UK acted as importers. If because if this surplus the Scots could be rather relaxed with respect to energy (electricity) security, people in living in the deficit areas should be equally worried, right (relying on ‘with expensive and intrinsically insecure electricity imports’)? As a result, every region, every citiy, every household should seek for energy autarchy?
    I do not think so. Because autarchy is the most expensive way to achieve security.

    – In the case of electricity shortage (which needs to be prevented by all means anyways), would UK really reserve the production in Scotland for keeping up the supply of ‘Shaun the Sheep’? Or would the government priorize the administrative, industrial and military centers of which many happen not to be located in Scotland?

    – Why being so critical with regard to interconnectors? Don’t you realize that interconnectors also can keep some of the conventional capacity alive as they allow them to export electricity in times of high domestic renewables production (as long as not all neighbours are in the same situation)?

    – The huge difference in demand from 2006 to 2015 is literally unbelievable. Note that at the same time the population grew by about 5% (if my numbers are correct). Maybe there is some error in the analysis/data?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I will not at this point argue against the construction of either of these inter connectors, paid for by foreign capital and designed to provide energy jobs in Iceland and Norway.


    With regard to the imminent closure of Longannet coal-fired power station in Fife, Scotland, scheduled I believe for March, 2 months time.

    1) I oppose closure of Longannet at this time, even though I am a renewables enthusiast and I believe coal-fired power stations have no long-term future.

    In the short to medium term, for security of electricity supply in Scotland reasons, I believe Longannet should not be closed. I want Longannet kept operational, on stand-by for days of low wind, high demand or a power supply crisis caused by any failure in any part of the system.

    The redundancy and spare capacity offered by Longannet is the only way in the short term to guarantee self-sufficiency for Scotland in power supply and to guarantee the lights always stay on. Closing Longannet at this time is asking for power cuts sooner or later.

    2) It is only fair to attribute responsibility for the imminent closure of Longannet where it belongs – with the UK, with the UK energy minister, Amber Rudd, with Ofgem, with National Grid, with Scottish Power. In fairness, the Scottish Government and its energy minister Fergus Ewing has always opposed the premature closure of Longannet. The Scottish government is responsible for approving wind farms, which I approve of, but approving wind farms is not the same thing as closing Longannet and fairness demands that fact to be understood, admitted and never denied.

    3) I encourage Scottish government to step in and fight to save Longannet much more than they are doing. Nationalise Longannet perhaps. Come to a deal with Scottish Power to subsidise Longannet to keep it on stand-by, perhaps. Subsidise the mothballing of Longannet, perhaps. Whatever actions are taken to save Longannet could be reviewed on a yearly basis, in the light of whatever new power plant has become available to change the rationale for Longannet as a stand-by.

    4) In the medium term, Longannet could be coverted to burn bio-mass

    5) In the long term, we need to build new pumped-storage hydro and convert suitable conventional hydro to pumped-storage operation to balance wind power and then we won’t need Longannet, but that is years off yet.

    6) Whatever differences people have over renewables, we can respect each other’s point of view, agree to disagree, put our differences aside for the next few months and come together to save Longannet.


    Scottish Scientist
    Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland

    • mark4asp says:

      Apart from their demand that the transmission charging regime be altered to favour Scotland, what positive proposals do the SNP have? : “SNP manifesto takes aim at National Grid’s transmission charges”

    • GeoffM says:

      ScottishScientist, why do you want Longannet to be biomass? A Forestry Commission Scotland rep. on TV a couple of years ago said that Scotland is going to run out of trees by about 2030. Anyway, if you support renewables because you support the war on CO2, wouldn’t it be better to leave trees growing seeing as they hold/absorb so much CO2, especially when mature. After all, the most prominent world anti-CO2 campaigners keep claiming that catastrophic climate change is imminent if we don’t do something immediately. They’ve been saying that for years.

      • @GeoffM

        Well if biomass burning is good enough for Drax – “a large coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire, England, capable of co-firing biomass and petcoke” – then it is good enough for Longannet.

        Operating a biomass power-station on stand-by would not consume vast amounts of biomass but in any case I presume that responsible policies in the selection of which biomass to burn would be made.

        Burning biomass, as opposed to fossil fuels, is burning carbon in the biomass which was recently recycled by plants from the atmospheric CO2 and so burning biomass has a net neutral effect on CO2 in the atmosphere.

        I’m not “at war with CO2”.

        If I was I go to war as a scientist, it would be against “anti-science” (a.k.a. “pig-headed stupidity”).

        CO2 is a chemical compound and chemical compounds, per se, are never the enemy in war, but may or may not be used as weapons of war, for example, explosives in bombs or propellants in ammunition, though chemical poisons used as chemical weapons are prohibited.

        I would say that anti-science is far more dangerous to us than a degree or two warming of the atmosphere could be, which would likely be reversible, as the planet has suffered bigger variations in temperature than that.

        Anti-science could prevent scientists eradicating polio – as for example, the anti-science Taliban murdering polio vaccination health workers.

        “Such theories included assertions that vaccine drops were part of a Western plot to sterilize Muslims. (This rumor may have gained some credence because at one point, polio vaccinators wore the same jackets used by those in a family planning campaign.) Some clerics erroneously claimed that the vaccine contained ingredients derived from pigs, forbidden to Muslims. Most bizarre was a claim, widely circulated after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, that polio vaccine contained urine from then President George W. Bush.”

        Or anti-science quacks in Africa suggesting that raping a virgin can “cure you of AIDS” etc.

        There is a lot of anti-science out there which deserves war being declared against it so if war needs declaring, and in my view it does, then I am all for war but no scientist would declare war “with CO2” per se.

        Who knows in millennia to come, the Earth may undergo a period of global cooling and then scientists may well recommend to resume burning fossil fuels to warm the planet up again. CO2 is just a gas. It’s not the enemy.

        There is a time for war rhetoric but it is better saved for our real enemies and that’s not CO2.

      • kelvinsdemon says:

        You are quite correct about biomass. There is an excellent website in England about the biomass potential of Short Rotation Coppicing, SRC, particularly with willow and alder. But if you do the numbers, the area needed for a renewable production level of about a megawatt_year per year is about a square km., or more. This means that for example if the whole county f Kent were in SRC, it could just about produce as much energy as one of the nuclear reactors at Dungeness.
        Mind you , SRC is easily the most sustainable of biomass approaches.

  24. robertok06 says:

    About the potential to cover via PV the consumption of cities, published in a peer-reviewed journal:

    “The research demonstrates that a technical potential equivalent to almost 30% of the city’s annual electricity consumption can be supplied by widespread deployment of rooftop-based distributed photovoltaic systems. ”

    … and the city they are talking about is Seoul, South Korea, which has an insolation much higher than the UK or Germany.

    The paper can be downloaded here:

    The study also says things like this:

    “San Francisco (more than 800,000 residents), in calcula-tions done to establish the Solar Map of the city, found a technical PV rooftop potential of 400 MWp (440 GWh) [60]. This estimate was based on a citywide assessment of solar resource and rooftop shade analysis.”

    …i.e. one the SHADE ANALYSIS is done (via LIDAR technique from satellites, for instance), a city with a relatively high insolation as San Francisco could get only 400 MWp for 800 thousands inhabitants… i.e. 2 kWp/person (which would be waaaay below what’s needed to cover the per-capita electricity consumption in that area).

    For Hong Kong…

    “For Hong Kong (over 7 million residents), Peng and Lu [27] determine the technical potential of rooftop PV as well as its environmental benefits. The authors estimate a technical potential of 5.97 GWp (5981 GWh) which can account for 14.2% of the city’s 2011 electricity use”

    Is this convincing enough or not? I can find more papers, no problem.

    • robertok06 says:

      More on this issue of potential solar coverage of energy demands… in this case it is combined heat and PV solar, in Spain, a country with a potential much bigger than UK or DE:

      “Solar Energy, January 2011, Vol.85(1):208–213, doi:10.1016/j.solener.2010.11.003
      Brief Note

      Title: “Roof-top solar energy potential under performance-based building energy codes: The case of Spain”

      Authors: Salvador Izquierdo Carlos MontañésCésar DopazoNorberto Fueyo


      The quantification at regional level of the amount of energy (for thermal uses and for electricity) that can be generated by using solar systems in buildings is hindered by the availability of data for roof area estimation. In this note, we build on an existing geo-referenced method for determining available roof area for solar facilities in Spain to produce a quantitative picture of the likely limits of roof-top solar energy. The installation of solar hot water systems (SHWS) and photovoltaic systems (PV) is considered. After satisfying up to 70% (if possible) of the service hot water demand in every municipality, PV systems are installed in the remaining roof area. Results show that, applying this performance-based criterion, SHWS would contribute up to 1662 ktoe/y of primary energy (or 68.5% of the total thermal-energy demand for service hot water), while PV systems would provide 10 T W h/y of electricity (or 4.0% of the total electricity demand).”

    • gweberbv says:

      if you take the 2 kWp/person at face value for the UK, you end up with 130 GWp, right? UK is on a higher lattidue, so shadowing becomes more important. Let’s say this effect renders another 30 GW unusable. We end up with 100 GW solar potential for UK. (Of course having a lower capacity factor that in San Francisco.)
      But San Francisco is a metroplitan area and for a whole country one needs also to take the rural areas into account. There you will find more ‘roof per person’ because ground is cheaper. And you will also find less buildings in the surrounding that are blocking the sun. (Ok the latter might be compensated by having more trees that do the same job. At least for single-floor buildings.)

      Recently, I saw a study for Germany ending up with a number of 160 GWp, but including a reduction of 1/3 because they were also taking into account space for solarthermal installations with compete with PV.

      Bottom line is that most probably in most countries (maybe excluding the likes of Monaco and Singapour) you can install much more rooftop solar capacity than you will ever want to do. And in addition, you can install non-rooftop systems like the 300 MW PV plant that was recently build in France.

      • robertok06 says:


        “And in addition, you can install non-rooftop systems like the 300 MW PV plant that was recently build in France.”

        That’s the candle on the cake, thanks Guenter!… it is the famous power station which will never ever recover the CO2 emitted –> IN CHINA <– during the fabrication of its components.

        Thanks for having brought forward one of the latest nonsense actions of the greens.


        • gweberbv says:


          I doubt that French NPP will be ramped down because of PV production. So, you need to compare the carbon footprint of electricity generated by PV to that of the power plants that are going to be replaced by it. In Germany this would be hard coal, in France it is maybe gas?

          To just pay back the energy (note: in form of electricity) that was necessary to produce the PV panels, one might need about 3 years in Central Europe. See here: (they are ending up with 1.5 to 2 years, but using the conditions in Southern Europe which are better by maybe a factor of 50%).
          After that point, the PV installation has at least another 20 years to go. Thus, for the PV installation to be unable to reduce emissions over its lifetime, the power plant going to be replaced in Europe/France would have to be about ten times ‘cleaner’ than the energy infrastructure in China that was used to produce the PV panels.
          However, the study from the link above yields less than a factor of two.

          But I am curiouse to see how you are able to defend your claim.

          • robertok06 says:


            “But I am curiouse to see how you are able to defend your claim.”

            I can do it while I sleep, Guenter!… France’s average CO2 emissions are 60 gCO2/kWh, while China (where the cells/modules of the 300 MWp power station have been produced) has specific emissions of 700 gCO2/kWh:

            Now, unless you have also redefined mathematics, the following inequality holds:


            … or not?…

            See, that was reaaally easy.

            Anytime you want, baby. 🙂

      • robertok06 says:


        “Bottom line is that most probably in most countries (maybe excluding the likes of Monaco and Singapour) you can install much more rooftop solar capacity than you will ever want to do”

        No, as clearly explained in the peer-reviewed paper I’ve referenced/linked above… even installing PV panels on each and every roof suitable for installation, one would cover only a fraction of the electricity demand (averaging over the year, taking into account the seasonality and intermittency woud make things worse, of course).

        Read it.

        • gweberbv says:


          it is the other way around: Taking into account seasonality and intermittency of solar makes things easier. Because then one will never seek to build significantly more capacity than what is necessary to match peak demand around noon on a sunny day.
          There is simply no realistic option to store the excess production in reasonable quantities. Thus, calculating the amount of solar capacity that would be necessary to produce the total energy demand of one year is like calculating how much angles fit on a pin.

          • robertok06 says:


            “Because then one will never seek to build significantly more capacity than what is necessary to match peak demand around noon on a sunny day.”

            You are funny… now you are twisting things around trying to imply that it was me who said that Germany wants to install a gazillion photovoltaic Wp?
            You are shameless.

      • robertok06 says:


        “Recently, I saw a study for Germany ending up with a number of 160 GWp,”

        Cite the source, please. If it’s GreenPiss or equivalent sect it is automatically sent to the trash bin.

  25. Peter Lang says:


    Did you see my question here:

    I’ve asked it three times. I don’t know whether you’ve missed it or are ignoring it. If you can’t or don’t have time or have no intention of answering it for some other reason, could you please say so.

    I’ll put the question more succinctly (the background and reasons for the question are in the previous comments).

    Using the 2013 data set of GB electricity generation by technology/fuel at 30 minute intervals (I think), could you please estimate what capacity factor pumped hydro is likely to produce if powered by only wind or only wind and solar? (e.g. with energy penetration of 50%, 80% and 100%). Also see Figure 10 here:

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Peter, I guess I’m ignoring it. It would take weeks to work that out. I don’t see the relevance of the question. The scheme is a hypothetical “joke”. Can’t remember how many GWs of transmission it needed. The main reason I covered it was because David MacKay had shown some interest.

      • Peter Lang says:


        Thank you for answering. Much appreciated. I agree the scheme is a “joke”. And I agree about the transmission. I didn’t get into how much transmission would be needed to all of Europe, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Nabib Desert to collect 255 GW power for pumping? And how would you collect power for pumping from regions with excess power to send while also providing power to regions with insufficient power, The concept is ridiculous.

        But my question is not for this project. I actually asked it first several months ago before I’d seen the ScottishScientist’s monster pumped hydro project. My question is actually about the GB electricity demand profile and the generation profile from intermittent renewables and an assemblage of pumped hydro projects in GB that are to be powered solely by intermittent renewable energy.

        If it is a lot of work to answer it, then I fully understand why you cannot take it on, especially if you don’t see the relevance of it. I thought you or Roger may be able to easily extract the answer from the analyses you’ve already done, such as this very interesting analysis:

        The relevance of the capacity factor that can be achieved is vitally important to the financial viability of pumped hydro. If the capacity factor is say 20% (about the maximum that can realistically be achieved using off-peak baseload power to pump every night of the year and supply all the stored energy the next day), then in some cases pumped hydro can be viable. But if the capacity factor is much lower, as I expect is the case if the power is from wind and solar, then it will not be viable (unless the ratio of sell price to buy price is very much higher and that would generally not be the case with wind and solar).

        The ERP report, Figure 10, shows the profile of energy sent to storage and recovered from storage with wind scaled up to supply all GB’s power in 2012. It shows a maximum of 7.1 TWh storage would have been needed.

        Figure 10 above shows for each day the amount curtailed (light green) and the amount of fossil generation (dark green) that could be displaced if stored energy was available for the 100% renewables scenario.

        But I can’t work out what the capacity factor of the pumped hydro scheme would be.

        I was hoping you or Roger could answer my question fairly easily from the analysis (probably using the wind energy penetration used in the analysis – I think it was 60%, average 25 GW power) .

        • Peter Lang says:


          Further to above comment,

          As a first approximation, the capacity factor of the pumped storage plants needed to meet GB’s electricity demand from 100% wind power would be the total GWh represented by the green area in Figure 10 divided by the peak power divided by 8760 h. I’d suggest adding a capacity margin of perhaps 20% (a capacity margin for the GB pumped hydro plants would reduce the capacity factor but would be essential).

          Wind capacity would have to be substantially higher than needed to just balance demand over the year because some pumped hydro would have to be kept running in spinning reserve (i.e. using stored energy) and generating some power, even when there is some excess wind power, so that demand can be met the moment the wind power drops below demand.

          I expect you or Roger have the data to calculate the capacity factor of the pumped hydro plants for the five scenarios analysed in the post: ‘Estimating Storage Requirements At High Levels of Wind Penetration .

        • Peter Lang says:


          My previous comment referred to the wrong post. I’ve now done an eyeball estimate from Roger’s post ‘Renewable Energy Storage and Power-To-Methane and estimate (very roughly) about 12.5% capacity factor for pumped hydro in GB if powered by 100% renewables (as per the assumptions in Roger’s analysis).

          Eyeballing from Figure A3, I estimate the maximum power output required from storage is about 53 GW (occurs on about day 340). I’ll add 20% reserve capacity; i.e. 64 GW.

          Also from Figure A3 I eyeball estimate the average generation from storage (i.e. the deficit) is a little over 10 GW average; therefore the electricity generated would be 10 GW x 8760 h x 80% = 70,080 GWh.

          Therefore, capacity factor = 70,080 GWh / (64 GW x 8760 h) = 12.5%.

          However, this assumes all the 64 GW of pumped hydro in GB can be switched from pumping to generating instantaneously when renewable generation switches from surplus to deficit, with no risk of power drop. Clearly this is not the case, so when forecasts suggest there is a risk renewable generation could fall below say 10% excess to demand, some pumped hydro would need to be kept generating (i.e. drawing energy from storage rather than pumping to storage). Let’s assume we need to allow an extra 20% of drawdown of energy from storage – i.e. wasted as spinning reserve and displacing some generation from renewables causing more to be spilled. To have sufficient energy stored we’d need to increase the pumping capacity, the energy storage capacity and the installed capacity of renewable energy generators.

          I expect you or Roger could improve my rough eyeball estimate and make some valuable suggestions/comment.

  26. mark4asp says:

    More on what Dieter Helm said about Miliband, Huhne, and Davey all believing that, by 2020, renewables would cost less than nuclear or fossil electricity.

    John Kutsch “Solar & Wind Incompetence” @ TEAC6 :

    “Before it was kind of like an entertaining thought experiment : like what if we could do this. Now the trouble is: now the thought experimenters are creating policy. If you make bad policy you pay for it for a generation. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in Washington, it is that policy is real. It’s where the rubber hits the road. Social policy – are you pissed that kids are have a direct school to jail pipeline? That was because of a policy people put in place. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. So now that you know utopians back in the seventies and eighties. They grew up. Got their law degrees and became policy makers. And the’re setting policy that is going to decimate the United States and Canada and the Western world.”

    • Peter Lang says:


      Excellent point. Thanks for the link. The important point that those who are concerned about reducing GHG emissions do not understand is that every new investment in renewable capacity is delaying GHG emissions reductions. They just don’t understand this, or don’t want. I’ve tried to explain it below (hopefully someone else can explain it more clearly).

      Incentivising renewables is delaying progress to substantially reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation. Here’s why:

      Developed countries need to develop the technologies the world can use to generate electricity and reduce GHG emissions (if that is required). Therefore, developed countries need a market in their own country to use the technologies so they can learn by doing and demonstrate they are viable for other markets to use – that is the country that develops them needs to demonstrate them.

      The electricity system in developed countries is mature. Therefore, growth is limited to roughly a little more than GDP growth rate over the long term. Therefore, most new power stations are built to replace existing plants when they become uneconomic, rather than to meet demand growth.

      Economic lives for a selection of technologies are roughly:
      • Hydro = 60-100 years
      • Nuclear = 30-60 years
      • Coal = 50 years
      • Gas = 30-40 years
      • Wind= 15-25 years
      • Solar = 15-25 years
      • Nuclear = 30-60 years

      Now consider that a coal plant in a developed country is no longer economically viable. The owner decides to shut it down and replace it with something else. The owner does an options analysis. He takes into account the potential lives of the pants, the amortisation period and the cost after all incentives. With nuclear so heavily disadvantaged by many impediments (amounting to a factor of 4-10 increase to electricity costs) and renewables massively advantaged (by at least a factor of 2), the renewables plus gas back-up option is likely to be selected. You’ve now locked in about a four decade delay until that plant is due to be replaced again. Keep doing that each time a fossil fuel plant is due for replacement and you’ll never make any headway on reducing emissions or in developing low cost, low emissions electricity generation technologies for the world.

      Reminder: nuclear is 100% effective at reducing emissions from the fossil fuelled electricity generation plants it displaces. However, that is not the case for intermittent, fluctuating, weather dependent renewables. The CO2 abatement effectiveness of these renewable technologies decreases as penetration increases – approximately 50% effective at 20% penetration.

  27. kelvinsdemon says:

    One of the less well known points about fourth generation (breeder) nuclears is that they are actually quite capable of responsiveness to load.
    The bugbear of both coal and its steam turbines, and nuclear power plants which have solid ceramic pellets of fuel, is that you dare not change the rate of power output too fast. In the case of steam turbines, there is the risk of water droplets if you have too large a pressure and temperature difference. In the case of LWRs, the iodine 135 to Xe-135 decay, and the neutron absorbency of the xenon, pose risks.
    The Molten Salt Reactor gets rid of its fission product iodine and xenon at the surface of the liquid, and run turbines at such high temperatures that no problem arises.
    Because liquids expand when they get hotter, the thernal coefficient of reactivity in such reactors is negative, giving exactly the property you need for load-following.

  28. Andy Kerr says:

    Oh Euan! Your dislike of renewables has clouded your analysis.

    Scottish Power shut Cockenzie Power Station because they chose – in 2006 – not to opt in to the Large Combustion Plant Directive requirements on meeting air pollution standards. They did this because Cockenzie was already well past its expected operating life (its construction was started in 1959) and the cost of upgrading didn’t make sense. See, for example:

    By opting out of this regulation, they were allowed to run the station for up to 20,000 hours from 1 January 2008. This they did by 2013, so the plant was shut. See:

    IN 2006, when Scottish Power made their decision, the SNP were not in power and there was a 40% target for renewable electricity in Scotland. In other words, your assertion at the start of your blog that the SNP’s 100% net consumption renewable electricity target caused Cockenzie to be closed is utter nonsense.

  29. Euan Mearns says:


    Oh Euan! Your dislike of renewables has clouded your analysis.

    Well I’m actually enthusiastic about hydro, but probably not a lot more hydro in Scotland. I think The Lake District should be the obvious place in the UK for more hydro. And I’m not against Solar PV in the tropics. But installing solar PV on N facing roofs in Scotland is like building hydro dams in Holland – the domain of fools. So I’m afraid you’re opening line is utter nonsense.

    Anyway, thanks for the correction re Cockenzie. An oversight on my part! But it brings to the fore EU and others’ campaign against coal in Europe. The upshot is that all coal generation in the UK will be closed. I have no fundamental problem with Cockenzie closing. But Scottish power then considered installing a CCGT instead but met local opposition and I guess decided that there was no future for another CCGT in a 100% renewables Scotland.

    I’m unsure about the health risks of a station like Longannet (we’ve had contrasting opinions posted here), but I’m quite sure these health risks will be trivial compared to the risks of Scotland wide blackout that I’m told by qualified engineers are much higher than indicated in my post. The qualified engineers believe my commentary here is too muted.

  30. kelvinsdemon says:

    It should be plainly obvious from any single day’s or week’s or month’s record of the wind anywhere or all added together for the whole country, together with records of the cloud cover,
    that the objective of fulfilling 100% of electrical demand day and night, storm or dead calm, is ludicrously impossible.
    It is also quite definite from the papers of either the Royal Met. office or the USA’s NOAA and James Hansen’s papers, that because we have released into the atmosphere the dioxide of thousands of years of carbon sequestration by the Carboniferous Era (60 million years, consider one percent of that), it is time to stop ENTIRELY the burning of any more fossil carbon.
    That being the case, as Hansen and also Lovelock have noted, the only option left is nuclear.

    It is entirely false to say that “nuclear is not renewable”. A well supported design to do just that, consuming “nuclear waste” in the process, is described at

    • David McCrindle says:

      Nuclear power is not renewable. Use of Thorium or U238 in breeder reactors greatly extends the energy potential of nuclear power, but at the end of the day the uranium and thorium is not renewed.

      That of course does not mean that these resources should not be used. The basic problem is that we are in position that nuclear power cannot be extended much in W Europe because we have artificially made it too expensive. The vested interests (regulators, nuclear safety professionals and the green lobby) are ensuring that the cost of ‘safety’ is prohibitive.

      There is an optimum strategy out there. I am not to sure what that is, but tend to agree with Euan that the French have (or perhaps had) got it about right – lots of base load nuclear, some renewables and a decent amount of gas to provide grid stability. In the UK we lost the possibility to pursue any optimum strategy when we privatised the old CEGB/SSEB system. The privatised companies have no short term incentives to look to the long term, especially as the government seems to change the ‘market’ incentives all the time.

      The original article was about the Scottish system. I am no friend of the SNP, but I don’t think that they are mainly to blame for this situation. Their rhetoric is anti nuclear and overly pro non-dispatchable renewables, but if independence were ever achieved and the interconnections with England became unreliable then reality would set in very quickly.

      • mark4asp says:

        Apart from subsidence existence, what is renewable / sustainable? Wind turbines are not because they require massive amounts of concrete and steel, last only 20 years and don’t even come with guaranteed decommissioning! Nor does wind provide firm power. It requires fossil generation to back it up.

        Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia estimated there was enough thorium in the earth’s crust to supply all the energy needs of the world for 20 billion years to come. That’s a lot longer than the expected age of the sun. Humanity has no other applications for thorium. Each year the world mines enough thorium (as a byproduct of rare earths) to power world energy 40 times over.

        I agree we need cheaper nuclear plant designs. Just now nuclear power finds itself in a awkward position – the AREVA EPR is currently the only post-9/11 reactor design approved by Britain’s regulator. The AREVA EPR is a monstrosity. The AP1000 should pass generic certification next January. It will be about 60% the cost of the EPR (£ per GWe). I expect the Chinese will submit a design to our regulator this year. Probably the Hualong One or CAP1400. A new design takes at least 4 years to assess. Long run prospects are good: ThorCon estimate they can make a molten salt reactors for a capital cost about a seventh of the AREVA EPR (£ per GWe).

        An optimum strategy? Scrap the AREVA EPR – it’s too expensive. Build the AP1000, ABWR, and whatever the Chinese submit but I would make them submit their CAP1400 rather than their Hualong One. Keep the old fossil plants working till the new nukes are ready. If we scrapped the EPR, and put 3 AP1000 reactors at Hinkley instead, there would be no delay in because an AP1000 can be built within 6 years but an EPR will take longer. AP1000 electricity would need a CfD of about £82/MWh. A really optimal strategy: build molten salt reactors. If necessary begin it with a state financed enterprise. Phew. Sounds a bit like socialism to some!

      • Peter Lang says:

        David McCrindley,

        Nuclear power is not renewable. Use of Thorium or U238 in breeder reactors greatly extends the energy potential of nuclear power, but at the end of the day the uranium and thorium is not renewed.

        Neither are renewables “renewable”. They use nearly a factor of ten more resources per MWh than LWR power stations. Breeder reactors will increase this by anther one to two orders of magnitude over time.

        Nuclear fission fuel is effectively unlimited. There is sufficient uranium in the upper continental crust – at concentrations that could eventually be extractable as exploration and mining practices continually improve – to supply all the energy of 10 billion people at the per capita average consumption of US today, for thousands of years. That’s not including thorium or uranium in seawater. Then there’s fusion. So want does “renewable” mean. Is it just about the fuel. is it the life cycle analysis of all inputs. If it’s the latter, as it should be, nuclear is far more sustainable and “renewable” than so dubbed “renewables”.

        By the way, as an irrelevant bit of trivia, about 10,000 tons of uranium are be concentrated in the continental crust each year.

        That of course does not mean that these resources should not be used. The basic problem is that we are in position that nuclear power cannot be extended much in W Europe because we have artificially made it too expensive. The vested interests (regulators, nuclear safety professionals and the green lobby) are ensuring that the cost of ‘safety’ is prohibitive.
        There is an optimum strategy out there. I am not to sure what that is, but tend to agree with Euan that the French have (or perhaps had) got it about right

        I agree with this 100%. Furthermore, in a separate comment below I suggest the problem can be fixed (over time).

      • Peter Lang says:

        How to make nuclear cheaper

        Nuclear power will have to be a major part of the solution to significantly reduce global GHG emissions. It seems it will have to reach about 75% share of electricity generation (similar to where France has been for the past 30 years) and electricity will have to be a significantly larger proportion of total energy than it is now to reduce global GHG emissions significantly.

        To achieve this, the cost of electricity from nuclear will have to become cheaper than from fossil fuels. Here’s how I suggest this could be achieved:

        1. The next US Administration takes the lead to persuade the US citizens nuclear power is about as safe as or safer than any other electricity source US can gain enormously by leading the world in developing new, small modular nuclear power plants; allowing and encouraging innovation and competition; thus unleashing the US’s ability to innovate and compete to produce and supply the fit-for-purpose products the various world markets want.

        2. The next US President uses his influence with the leaders of the other countries that are most influential in the IAEA to get the IAEA representatives to support a process to re-examine the justification for the allowable radiation limits – as the US announced in January it will do over 18 months:

        US study on low-dose ionising radiation

        The US Department of Energy (DOE) and National Academy of Sciences have been directed to work together to assess the current status of US and international research on low-dose radiation and to formulate a long-term research agenda under a bill approved by the US House of Representatives. The Low Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015 directs the two organisations to carry out a research program “to enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation in order to inform improved risk management methods.” The study is to be completed within 18 months.

        The Act arises from a letter from a group of health physicists who pointed out that the limited understanding of low-dose health risks impairs the nation’s decision-making capabilities, whether in responding to radiological events involving large populations such as the 2011 Fukushima accident or in areas such as the rapid increase in radiation-based medical procedures, the cleanup of radioactive contamination from legacy sites and the expansion of civilian nuclear energy. The aftermath of the Fukushima accident has boosted concern that unduly conservative standards may have large adverse health and welfare costs.

        WNN 20/1/15. Radiation health effects

        More here: ‘WNN 20/1/15. Radiation health effects

        3. Once the IAEA starts increasing the allowable radiation limits for the public this should be the trigger to start the process that leads to reducing the cost of nuclear energy; and the catalyst to keep reducing costs over the long term as the radiation limits are reviewed and increased periodically. As the radiation limits are reviewed and raised:

        a. it will mean radiation leaks are understood to be less dangerous than most non experts believe > less people will need to be evacuated from accident effected zones > the cost of accidents will decline > accident insurance cost will decline;

        b. the public progressively reconsiders the evidence about the effects of radiation > they gain an understanding it is much less harmful than they thought > fear level subsides > opposition to nuclear declines > easier and less expensive to find new sites for power plants > increased support from the people in the neighbourhood of proposed and existing power plants > planning and sight approval costs decline over time;

        c. The risk of projects being delayed during construction or once in operation declines; > all this leads to a lowering of the investors’ risk premium > thus reducing the financing costs and the fixed O&M costs for the whole life of the power plants;

        d. Changing perceptions of the risks and benefits of nuclear power leads to increasing public support for nuclear > allows the NRC licensing process to be completely revamped and the culture of the organisation to be changed from “safety first” to an appropriate balance of all costs and risks, including the consequences of retarding nuclear development and rollout by making it too expensive to compete as well as it could if the costs were lower (e.g. higher fatalities per TWh if nuclear is not allowed to be cheaper than fossil fuels);

        e. The Operation and Maintenance cost of nuclear plants is reduced as the excessive requirements for safety and security decreases over time to the equivalent of other types of electricity generation plant (to AHARS, As High As Relatively Safe). (NPPs have 150 highly trained, well-armed security officers, augmented by comprehensive detection and surveillance systems, on average. That’s $15-$20 million per nuclear plant site per year (about $10 million per reactor).

        4. NRC is revamped – its Terms of Reference and its culture are changed. Licensing period for new designs is greatly reduced, e.g. to the equivalent of the design and licensing period for new aircraft designs.

        5. Small modular reactors are licensed quickly. New designs, new versions, new models, and design changes are processed expeditiously. This will lead to more competition, more innovation, learning rate continually improves so that costs come down.

        6. The efficiency of using the fuel can be improved by nearly a factor of 100. That is some indication of how much the cost of nuclear power can be reduced over a period of many decades.

        7. Eventually, fusion will be viable and then the technology life cycle starts all over again – but hopefully the anti-nuke dinosaurs will have been extinct for a long time by then.

        • David McCrindle says:

          First, thank you for your detailed reply and I hope that you are right. I think that we will need to fight hard to achieve your vision.

          The problem to me is that the public have developed a fear of radiation over many many years, and there are plenty of vested interest groups who exploit this fear. The powers that be have long known that the linear no low threshold dose harm concept is grossly conservative at low doses but have steadfastly refused to change dose limits to both public and operators. I think that this juggernaut will be very difficult to turn round as there will be enough people going around claiming that any man made dose is harmful (no matter how much evidence we have to the contrary). This makes it difficult to get the public to accept any radiation ‘risk’ at all as they will see no benefit from nuclear power (over other sources) until we start having blackouts, or electricity gets much more expensive than it is now. For operator dose the problem is less severe because people who work in the industry receive a benefit from working in it and generally understand a bit of science. Most modern designs would not require significant dose for operation and maintenance anyway.

          Revamping the NRC (and the ONR here in the UK) is also necessary but difficult. There will be plenty of people who will say that the regulators have kept us safe and reducing the power of the regulators and/or the scope of there activities would be foolhardy. In practice it is responsible operators that keep us safe rather than the regulators. The regulators are also themselves a well paid vested interest group who might fight any large downwards change to the scope of their activities. The current licensing system for new designs (at least in the UK) is prohibitive and will prevent SMRs being used here. My understanding of their view is that the design assessment process for SMRs will be just as onerous as for the large power stations – no SMRs here then as nobody could afford that process unless there was very large fleet in prospect. At the moment I can’t see where the political will to change that is coming from. Maybe things are better in the USA.
          Perhaps a world wide licensing system is the answer (e.g. an NRC licensed design would go through a light site specific licensing process here in Europe, and vice versa).

          Increasing the fuel efficiency to 100% requires the acceptance of fuel reprocessing, which has become a bit of a pariah industry – more so in the USA than here perhaps – the fear of the plutonium (or U233) economy. My view is that the breeder reactor systems will have their day (because they work (already demonstrated for the sodium cooled FBR) and can give us a lot of energy over a very long time). Sadly, I think that that day is still some way off.

          Sorry to sound like a sad old git, but I find the obstacles that have been put in the way of the nuclear industry very frustrating.

          • Peter Lang says:

            I agree with all or nearly all you said here. However, the issues are political, not technical, so they can be overturned in time. IMO it is inevitable they will be overturned eventually, just as there is no longer a requirement for a person with a red flag to walk in front of every car on public roads. 🙂

          • Euan Mearns says:

            David, thanks for a very profound comment.

            The problem to me is that the public have developed a fear of radiation over many many years, and there are plenty of vested interest groups who exploit this fear.

            Roger had a great post on this. These groups and vested interests are actually guilty of killing many people:


            This makes it difficult to get the public to accept any radiation ‘risk’ at all as they will see no benefit from nuclear power (over other sources) until we start having blackouts, or electricity gets much more expensive than it is now.

            I’m told by informed sources that if we have a blackout in Scotland post-Longannet closure we will struggle to restart the grid. If this happens, it won’t surprise me that the nukes are blamed.

            Social media has a lot to answer for when it comes to spreading Green hog wash.

  31. W. Mykura says:

    Very interesting article. But it is clouded by the author’s apparent pathological dislike of renewables, wind in particular. An opinion I find all too common from ‘old school’ engineers who’ve grown up in the days before renewables were ‘invented’ and consider them to ‘interfere’ with the old model of centralised generation.

    The fact is, wind and solar do exactly what they are supposed to do – they displace gas. And to an extent, coal while this remains. And therefore cut greenhouse gas emissions. They also reduce our dependence on energy imports and foreign imports of carbon fuels.

    The intermittency of Renewables is balanced mostly by gas generation (after the contribution from energy storage and interconnectors) so every kWh of wind and solar displaces close to a kWh of gas. And that is what it is for. This may need a gas power station for when it’s needed, but that’s a small price to pay for low carbon sustainable energy. Scotland should probably convert Longannet to gas and retain it, to enable exploitation of much more wind power, plus of course hydro, wave & tidal where possible. Most of the time Longannet would be on idle, required only for exceptional wind lulls.

    But the future actually lies with demand management. There are millions of electric heating systems, cooling systems, fridges and freezers, washing machines and driers, mainly in commercial premises, which could be turned off for short periods at times of high demand. This, together with localised energy storage – battery (probably in plugged-in electric cars), heat storage, etc. will smooth out energy demand and get rid of the expensive infrastructure we currently need to cope with short term fluctuations in demand.

    And the key to this is demand-responsive electricity pricing. This already exists of course, in the commercial energy market. But it needs to be applied to consumers, via smart metering. Once the cost of electricity is variable on demand, and is visible, you will be amazed how quickly consumers adopt demand-responsive switching technologies! Many of these already exist.

    Think: heating systems charging when the wind blows; washing machines slowing briefly as clouds pass over a solar farm; freezers pausing while the tide turns; – all done automatically, and on a massive, country-wide scale.

    Then our electricity requirement can then be achieved from large-scale diverse renewables, embedded energy storage, plus minimal base load. This is the future.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Then our electricity requirement can then be achieved from large-scale diverse renewables, embedded energy storage, plus minimal base load. This is the future.

      This is pure BS – see Roger’s thread on Hinkley today. You’re right about one thing, Roger and I are old time. We live in a world ruled by thermodynamics and not fantasy and hope.

      I agree with you on exposing consumers to spot market and demand management.

    • mark4asp says:

      W. Mykura said: “wind and solar do exactly what they are supposed to do – they displace gas”

      Apparently not. 2015 saw Germany’s GHG emissions rise by 0.9%. That makes no fall in German GHG emissions for 7 years now. Their 2014 emissions were the same as 2009, and 2015 is worse. The notion that renewables displace fossil fuel looks like a myth to me.

  32. Rob Slightam says:

    So much of our modern world cannot be paused or turned off when the sun does not shine or the wind does not flow. Chemical storage of electricity is hard, fiddly, messy and expensive and has been so for the the entire history of the technology, I am not holding my breath for a breakthrough on this.

  33. Grant says:

    Demand management. Hmm.

    Would that not be a lot easier if everyone was “encouraged” to live in camps (or should that be on campuses?) where all facilities were provided and managed by a central source and the residents simply got used to and accepted whatever was made available to them?

    In such a place one could always provide a location where “managed” facilities would e available. So, for example, if it was deemed necessary to turn off heating in individual living quarters there could always be somewhere heated (let’s call it a pub?) where those feeling cold could gather until their own heat provision was restored.

    Better still such places could be tied in to workplace demands so that all of the residents worked locally and could get to all of the services they would need on foot or by campus provided transport. This would largely eliminate the need for personal transport and so, presumably, greatly reduce demand for power generation. It should also have the effect of weaning humans off the need for pointless travel.

    It might result in a need for an alternative strategy for energy storage since battery powered cars would be lacking and presumably public vehicles really ought to be available as transport rather than energy storage. However if I owned an electric car and actually intended to use it on a daily basis I would rather like to be sure I would have all of the stored energy I might need for foreseeable use. The idea of my store being deplete rather than refreshed if the thing was plugged in overnight would not appeal – unless I was to be guaranteed an ultra rapid charging opportunity at the time I needed the transport facility.

    In effect the Demand Management opportunity will, I suspect, be more costly and far less effective if approached with the idea of “allowing” personal freedoms, such as they are perceived to be, to continue. As this will become more and more apparent over time we might expect greater social change to be enacted as “the only possible solution”.

    It’s unlikely to be in my lifetime, probably, but is no one thinking of the grandchildren?

  34. stone100 says:

    I’m interested that you have such a favorable view about Dounreay. My extremely limited impression about fast breeders has come from reading . That makes the whole global fast breeder effort seem an abject tale of woe with Dounreay being no exception. It gives the impression that pursuit of the fast breeder dream has basically let the nuclear side down, giving the overall industry a bad name.
    The fast breeder concept may have made sense when it was initially formulated in 1947 to address the perceived shortage of uranium. But once uranium turned out to be plentiful, it seems to have been pursued for no obvious reason other than as a sort of Apollo mission type stunt. I’m happy to be corrected though.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      U is perceived to be finite and in short supply, setting apart mining extreme low grade deposits like the Pacific Ocean. The Russians have just rolled out their first commercial breeder – perhaps Syndroma can update if he has not frozen to death.

      Can you remind us how many folks were killed up there at Dounreay.

    • David McCrindle says:

      Firstly, I am not sure that it is correct to refer to the Apollo programme as a stunt. It was an example of humans pushing themselves to their limits and exploring their environment. Without that we would all still be hunting in Africa.

      To address the question, the report you refer to has an anti-nuclear slant (with Walt Patterson supplying the report on the UK fast reactor programme). Against that I, perhaps, have a rose tinted view, having worked in Ops Support at the Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay for several years.

      Overall PFR had a fairly low load factor, but it was a prototype. As is alluded to in the report, in its early years it had significant problems with its steam generators. However, by the end it had essentially achieved its aims (among others – achieving good reliability of its modified steam generators, testing of a large variety of fuel designs, demonstrating the reliability of high burn-up fuel, and demonstrating closure of the fuel cycle). It also gave us a lot of experience in working with sodium on an industrial scale. This information was fed into designs for future larger reactors. The UK breeder programme was not a tale of woe.

      By the eighties, it had become clear that we would not need breeder reactors for some time. Nuclear power had become generally unpopular and there was plenty of uranium available for the then future plans for thermal reactors. While PFR could have carried on running, it was not economical to keep it going as it was a relatively small power station and required its own dedicated fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities. Accordingly it was shut down.

      Along with the French and the Russians, we have essentially demonstrated that the FBR technology is a feasible option, which will be available if we need to use it.

      • stone100 says:

        It’s great to hear from someone like you with first hand experience and It’s good to hear that valuable knowledge was gained from the program. Thanks.

  35. Pingback: China to Build 60 MWE Modular Nuclear Reactor by 2020 - Boston Commons High Tech

Comments are closed.