The Failure of Green Energy Policies

Whilst enjoying the good natured exchanges on this blog concerning the pros and cons of new renewable energy sources I decided to dig deeper into the success of Green energy policies to date. Roger Andrews produced this chart the other day and the low carbon energy trends caught my eye. It is important to recall that well over $1,700,000,000,000 ($1.7 trillion) has been spent on installing wind and solar devices in recent years with the sole objective of reducing global CO2 emissions. It transpires that since 1995 low carbon energy sources (nuclear, hydro and other renewables) share of global energy consumption has not changed at all (Figure 1). New renewables have not even replaced lost nuclear generating capacity since 1999 (Figure 2). ZERO CO2 has been abated and the world has done zilch to prepare itself for the expected declines (escalating costs) of fossil fuels in the decades ahead. If this is not total policy failure, what is?

Figure 1 Nuclear, Hydro and Other Renewables (mainly wind and solar) expressed as % of total global energy consumption. The combined low carbon share reached 13.1% in 1995. In 2013 it was 13.3%. From this chart it is easy to see that Other Renewables have simply compensated for the decline in nuclear power a point made more clear in Figure 2.

One of the main problems with Green thinking is that many Greens are against both fossil fuel (FF) based energy and nuclear power. There are some notable exceptions, James Lovelock and George Monbiot, and I recognise that a number of the “pro-renewable” commenters on this blog are at least not anti-nuclear. It would also be unfair to blame the relative decline of nuclear power since 2001 exclusively on Greens but they do have to shoulder a significant slice of that responsibility.

Figure 2 shows that the recent growth in Other Renewables does not compensate for the relative decline in nuclear power. What is more, stable base load is being replaced with intermittent supply that is seldom correlated with demand. FF generation is wrestling in the background, unloved and unappreciated, maintaining order in our society.

Figure 2 Nuclear and Other Renewables as a percentage of total global energy consumption. Nuclear’s contribution peaked in 2001 and the decline in nuclear since then has not been fully compensated by the rapid expansion of renewables.

The history of civilian nuclear power is of course dictated by the 1986 Chernobyl military reactor disaster that saw civilian nuclear power programs shelved. Reactors under construction were completed, like Sizewell B in England completed in 1995, but new build was halted. Figure 2 shows a slowing of nuclear growth post 1986 which presumably reflects some reactor closures post-Chernobyl but growth continued as reactors like Sizewell B were brought on line. Nuclear’s share of global energy peaked in 2001 at 6.38%. But then first generation reactors like the UK Magnox fleet began decommissioning, for example Sizewell A was shut down in 2006, and nuclear’s share of global energy went into decline that will unlikely be reversed for many years.

Many readers of this blog are aware that Mankind faces an uncertain energy future with supplies of affordable and secure fossil fuels expected to decline in the decades ahead. Many see the need to prepare for and mitigate the consequences of this. Since 1995 the share of non fossil fuel based energy has not increased at all. We are as dependent on fossil fuels today as we were 20 years ago.

Figure 3 M. King Hubbert’s long term view of world energy.

It is worth concluding with this view of our energy world from Hubbert 1956. Was Hubbert right or was he wrong?


Footnote: In another thread my good fried Luis de Sousa questioned the accuracy of BP data on renewables suggesting that BP under-reported renewables generation data. I did a quick check comparing BP generation data for UK wind 2012 with that deduced from BM reports / Gridwatch with the following result.

BP: 19.6 TWh
BM reports: 12.6 TWh

From an earlier thread we discovered that BM reports to do not meter all UK wind which tallies with this data. There is nothing to suggest that BP are under-reporting from this single example.

Commenter Willem Post also also posted this link and data:

This report states 77.9% fossil, 22.1 RE, of which
16.4% hydro,
2.9% wind,
1.8% bio,
0.7% solar,
0.4 % geo, CSP, ocean

The 2013 BP report states 78.3% fossil, 21.7% RE, of which
16.4% hydro
2.7% wind
1.8% bio
0.5% PV + CSP
0.3% geo
0.0% ocean

As a result of RE build-out investments of about $1,700 billion from 2002 to 2013 (excluding mostly “socialized” investments for grid adequacy, capacity adequacy, etc., of about $400 billion not mentioned in the report), worldwide RE generation increased from 1.6% to 5.3%, a 3.8% addition, of which:

– Wind increased from 0.3% to 2.7%
– Biomass from 0.9% to 1.8%
– Solar (PV + CSP) from 0.0% to 0.5%
– Geo from 0.3% to 0.3%
– Marine from 0% to 0%

Previously on Energy Matters

Roger Andrews: How to cut emissions, and how not to

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

132 Responses to The Failure of Green Energy Policies

  1. Willem Post says:


    Added to the $1.7 trillion is about $0.4 trillion for grid adequacy, generating capacity adequacy, etc., which is mostly “socialized”.

    • I estimated $2 trillion in the “how to cut emissions” post. We could have eradicated a lot of poverty with that.

      • Ed says:

        $1.7 trillion spent on renewables with a ERoEI of say 20 gives you a return of $34 trillion to spend doing useful things in society.

        Compare this with $1.747 trillion spent on arms just in 2013 with a ERoEI of zero (at best) or vastly negative if used to destroy things.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Weapons are designed to destroy things and therefore achieve their goal. Renewables are supposed to reduce our dependence upon FF and have failed miserably, mainly because of the allied anti-nuclear policy strand. This post is more about the decline of nuclear power.

          • Ed says:

            I don’t think renewables have any chance of reducing our dependence upon FF. None. However when energy for FF starts to decline we will be glad that we built some renewables (or nuclear?) to extend the FF age by a little.

          • dennis coyne says:

            I agree we should build more nuclear and there should be more research and development of fast reactors to alleviate the problem of nuclear waste. I also agree the policies have failed thus far to reduce carbon emissions. It would be best to develop wind, solar and nuclear. I also agree CHP is a great idea, are there many examples of coal being used as the thermal source? Usually the plant needs to be near the units to be heated. Pollution problems might make this a problem for homes, though for a factory it might be fine.

            Most CHP projects are fueled by natural gas, are they not?

            A lot of CO2 emissions have been avoided due to the renewables installed to date. Just replace all the energy provided by renewables with coal and see how that compares from an emissions standpoint. That would be the appropriate comparison.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Tetris: I once found sufficient data to be able to do a fairly confident ERoEI estimate for tar sands mining and it came out at about 3. When ERoEI approaches 1 we are really talking about energy conversions as opposed to energy production, in the case of tar sands the main input is nat gas that gets upgraded to a liquid hydrocarbon. Onward production of the tar sands will be dependent on supplies of cheap nat gas.

            To contemplate using nukes in the tar sands for me then goes over to desperation for liquid fuels. Is it not better to use the nukes to power electric cars in the niches where they can be deployed – short commutes in warm climates.

            In your first comment you were a touch cautious on CO2 and justifiably so. The fact is that we don’t know its impact on climate which at the present stage is a travesty. My current view is that climate sensitivity is somewhere in the range 0 to 1.5˚C. At zero, clearly harmless, at 1.5, 2 doublings adds 3˚C on average at 1040 ppm.

            On Monday I have a post looking at the breakdown of global liquid fuels and as already mentioned, conventional C+C has been on a plateau since 2005, peak in July 2008. The peak oil argument goes that all the growth in liquids is down to inferior fuels. About half comes from LNG, where only a small component can substitute as liquid transport fuel. Most of the rest originates in N America.

            The picture of a world awash in oil is I think a bit over simplified. A period of prolonged low price will see production capacity lost and new projects delayed. Then what? But I did write a recent post called:

            Drowning in oil again

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi Euan,

            Could you narrow down your estimate of ciimate sensitivity? 0C is not very credible. What would your explanation be for ice ages be, if climate sensitivity to CO2 was 1 C for a doubling of CO2.

            CO2 increased from about 190 ppm at the last glacial maximum to 280 ppm over most of the Holcene. Global temperatures rose by about 5+/-3C, with most estimates in the 4 to 6 C range. The equivalent rise in CO2 from preindustrial would be 412 ppm if over the long term we think a 5 C rise in temperature is a good idea.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Dennis, before I answer. Can you explain why it is with only positive feedbacks, that following CO2 minima it starts to get warmer and following CO2 maxima it starts to get colder during the glaciations.

          • clivebest says:

            Ice Ages are caused by changes in orbital obliquity. This modulates the amount of solar energy incident in polar regions. Precession of the equinoxes simply changes which season receives the most energy.

            CO2 is a feedback to Milankovitch forcing and plays no direct role in ice ages. A far greater feedback are the ice sheets themselves which change the earth’s albedo and dry the atmosphere thereby reducing the stronger H2O GHE. CO2 is a much smaller positive feedback.

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi Euan,

            The timing is due to the orbital cycles. The CO2 does not initiate the change the changes in Northern hemisphere insolation causes albedo changes.
            The physics of the greenhouse effect is very well understood, without the CO2 in the atmosphere the earth would be about 33 C cooler on average.

            Do you deny that carbon dioxide has any effect on the earth’s temperature? I would suggest that there is zero probability that the Climate sensitivity of a doubling of CO2 is 0 C. Without any further feed backs from albedo or water vapor, the climate sensitivity is about 1.5 C. Possibly you think that water vapor and ice albedo positive feed backs do not exist?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            @ Dennis

            You should really try and avoid using the word deny. I would refute that the physics of the Greenhouse effect are well understood.

            I gave a range of 0 to 1.5˚C for climate sensitivity without giving the distribution of probabilities for that range. For some reason known only to you, you have decided that 0˚C is the most probable in my mind which is untrue.

            Unlike many commenters I am happy to confess that my understanding of the enhanced greenhouse effect is extremely poor. I keep going back to Clive’s articles to try and understand better, but its quite heavy physics for a geo to understand.

            However, given the enhanced greenhouse effect is controlled by the lapse rate that is in turn controlled by convection rate that is in turn controlled by surface temperature, I strongly suspect that a change in convection rate / lapse rate associated with warming may give rise to a strong negative feedback giving 0˚C a non-zero probability.

            Thoroughly recommended reading:

            A collection of posts regarding the CO2 greenhouse effect and AGW

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi Euan,

            My apologies for using the “d” word I will refrain in the future.

        • Graham Palmer says:

          $1.7 trillion spent on renewables … gives you a return of $34 trillion …

          This is a basic misunderstanding of the EROI metric.

          Renewables have not created $34 trillion of wealth (putting aside a debate of whether EROI=20 is accurate). In large part they displace little capacity but result in slightly less fossil fuels being consumed (nuclear’s a bit harder to quantify). The capital stock of energy infrastructure is higher than it would otherwise be but this additional capacity has not given us more energy than we would otherwise have had access to. Since renewables are almost universally lower EROI than their equivalents, there is a net productivity decline since labour is being substituted for energy (which is the opposite of what happens with fossil fuels). So as a society, we are poorer, the degree to which we are willing to trade-off this loss of wealth with a cleaner environment is the difficult question. This post is suggesting that the money hasn’t been well spent.

        • tetris says:

          Based on experience to date, it would be very short sighted indeed, to expect the world to run out of FF any time soon -it may be what Hubberites would like to see come true but that doesn’t make it anymore so.

          Reality is instead that the world is awash in FF and that proved reserves today are larger than Hubbert could imagine in his day.

          Reality is also that as long as global crude prices stay at US70/barrel or more, 1] exploration of “unconventional” hydrocarbons will continue and more reserves will join the “proved” category, and 2] should global crude prices start exceeding say US120 barrel on a sustained basis, other hydrocarbon sources will start to become economically interesting. We haven’t even begun in earnest to bring on line known methane reserves or beta testing large scale exploitation of methane hydrate nodules.

          Somehow wishing all the hydrocarbon energy sources away on ideological [green] grounds is wishful thinking of the worst sort, because yet another reality is that there is no economically or politically acceptable alternative to this bounty of hydrocarbon reserves.

          And until there is a proper [not IPCC] understanding of the role played by CO2 in the climate equation -including the possibility that its influence has been grossly overstated- fewer and fewer governments around the globe will be prepared to fund renewables.

          And the numbers presented above will remain roughly the same or drop.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            As a latent Hubberty, always fighting my Malthusian instincts, I guess I have to agree with what you say here, perhaps tweaking some of the nuances. It is in fact N America that is awash with expensive oil and we have a show down between the frackers and Aramco.

            I have a post on global liquid fuel production for Monday that will show conventional crude + condensate peak remains July 2008. I think we may see $50 for a short while in the months ahead – cos demand is also weak. Much will depend on whether mature areas like the N Sea and expensive areas like Brazil deep water and the poorer shale plays survive intact.

          • Ed says:

            The World will not run out of fossil fuels soon. No one has ever said this. This is just misinformation trotted out by trolls in blogs dealing with energy issues.

            However the rate of production will peak relatively soon and certainly in my lifetime. Net rate of production available to society (ie. minus that used in the energy sector) is even closer to peaking.

            Methane Hydrates have a ERoEI of less than 1 and always will. Another common misinformation dissemination by you folk.

          • sam Taylor says:

            I fail to see how oil prices will stay above $120 long term given the damage this will do to the economies of the developed nations. The hydrocarbon industry now seems to face declining returns, and I fail to see how exploiting resources of ever declining quality will reverse this. I feel that finance rather than geology is likely to be the determining factor moving forward.

            Besides which, the main problem isn’t the stock of hydrocarbon energy in the ground, but rather the flow rate of that energy which we can achieve. I have my doubts that shale plays could ever replace the flows from conventional production.

            The next few years seem likely to represent a possible crunch time. Be interesting to see where we are by 2020.

          • tetris says:

            To Ed:

            it’s disappointing to be called a “troll” and “you folks” for stating something fairly obvious.

            You and a few others here need to answer for yourselves the quite straightforward question I raised:

            Why would anyone in his right mind stop using ever more abundant hydrocarbon energy sources when there is 1] no credible scientific evidence that their use is the overarching variable determining temperatures/climate on earth; and 2] there is no practical and economic alternative.

            To Sam Taylor:

            The purported bottlenecks in extraction rates have been shown to be yet another “peak oil” red herring.
            Go have a chat with the folks at e.g. Schlumberger [who supported the pioneering work in fracking] or the folks in Alberta’s oil sands who are now increasing production at a remarkable pace with new in situ extraction technologies. The issue of getting the crude to market will be addressed by way of two pipelines: Keystone XL which will get the go ahead sometime after the US mid terms, and a West-to-East Canadian pipeline project that enjoys broad support.

            On the subject of proved reserves, the Alberta oil sands are an interesting case. “Proved reserves” means “with current technologies”. With current technologies the official oil sand reserves are pegged at approx. 170 billion barrels [economically extractable at crude prices above US40/barrel]. Not only are the next generation technologies that are being brought online or beta tested cheaper than current technologies -they are crucially orders of magnitude more environmentally friendly- when fully deployed, they will raise the proved reserves to some 400-500 billion barrels. Those in the know in the Alberta oil patch will tell you that total crude reserves are likely in the 1 trillion barrel range, so peak oil is 1] a long time away; and 2] reserves of that magnitude bring an entirely new perspective to the issue of price pressure.

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi Tetris,

            There is plenty of evidence that carbon dioxide and the associated positive feedbacks such as increased water vapor in the atmosphere associated with higher temperature are causing temperatures to rise.



            my check on this model at link below,


            As far as $70/b being adequate to keep light tight oil output increasing, that is incorrect. If oil prices follow the EIA’s reference scenario (rising from $95/b in 2016 to $140/b in 2040 in 2012$) Bakken and Eagle Ford output will peak in 2018 and then decline sharply, other tight oil plays (Permian Basin especially) might be able to take up some of the slack as the Bakken and Eagle Ford decline, but the best plays have been developed first, other plays will require higher prices. The entire LTO boom in the US will produce on the order of 20 to 30 Gb of oil, for the World C+C output will likely be around 3000 b, perhaps 3400 boe when NGL is included, the half way point (which will likely be within 5 years of peak output will arrive by 2025 at the latest.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            There is plenty of evidence that carbon dioxide and the associated positive feedbacks such as increased water vapor in the atmosphere associated with higher temperature are causing temperatures to rise.

            Dennis, the evidence may be obvious to you but seems entirely absent to me. So perhaps you could provide some specific examples. You could start with the evidence for “global warming”.

          • Sam Taylor says:

            Tetris, at present consumption rates 1 trillion barrels is around a decades worth of oil. And, again, that’s a stock not a flow. Peak oil is about flow rates, nothing more. What’s the maximum flow possible from alberta, especially in light of the recent project cancellations in the area?

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi Euan,

            Just read the IPCC report. Or try the CSALT model by Paul Pukite which is based on physics. There are the ice age cycles which cannot be explained without the greenhouse effect. There are areas such as clouds and aerosols which need a lot of work.

            In the face of uncertainty, engineers use a factor of safety. Let’s say I was building a bridge and I was unsure of the load that the bridge would need to support, but my best guess is that it will be between 1.5 tons and 4.5 tons. What load would you use in designing your bridge?

            Note that the CSALT model finds a transient climate response of 2 C for a doubling of CO2 using NOAA land ocean temperatures. Over time the ocean will warm up, at current rates of radiative forcing it will take hundreds of years for ocean temperature to equilibrate with average air temperatures, this is why we do not see more warming at present because much of the excess energy is warming the ocean rather than the air.
            Once the ocean warms we will see the 3C equilibrium climate sensitivity for a doubling of CO2.

            Let’s assume CO2 has no affect on temperature and leave it out of the CSALT model to create a SALT model.



            In the chart at the link above it is clear that carbon dioxide is related to the change in temperature from 1880 to the present as leaving out carbon dioxide results in a much poorer fit. R squared decreases to 0.33 for SALT vs 0.83 for CSALT.

            Also not that the transient climate response estimate is based on the simple regression coefficient for carbon dioxide, a simple reflection of the data.

            Also note that when we consider the Berkeley Land data (BEST) the TCR for a doubling of CO2 is 3.2 C.

            This transient climate response may be closer to the Equilibrium Climate response when the ocean temperature equilibrates with average air temperatures.

            Chart at link below with CSALT model with land only BEST data


          • Roger Andrews says:


            Let me try to put to bed the CSALT model, which you continue to harp on about.

            Empirical models of this type are great fun and give you excellent fits to observations, but they don’t prove anything. The two graphs below show why. They’re from an empirical model I put together some years ago that used CO2, sulfate aerosols, Solanki TSI and the PDO and AMO as “tunable parameters” – similar to the ones CSALT uses – and I present them just as they appear on my old spreadsheet.

            Both give excellent fits to 10-year smoothed observations. You can hardly tell them apart. But the second graph uses the US consumer price index instead of CO2 as a tunable variable.

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi Roger,

            I do not know what you mean by a tunable variable. Do you mean you ran a regression on temperature vs ln(CO2), AMO, PDO, TSI, and sulfates.

            and then replaced ln(CO2) with the CPI?

            It may be that the CPI is well correlated with CO2 emissions. I would expect that greater economic activity might lead to greater carbon emissions.

            The important point is that there is a physical basis for why we would expect these variables to be correlated, you often want the data to confirm the theory.

            The CSALT model does that over the 1880 to 2012 period. This is an example of data confirming the theory.

          • A C Osborn says:

            dcoyne1984 says: November 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm

            CSalt v BEST, now I know how brainwashed you are.
            Let me quote to you directly from the horses mouth of someone working on BEST when challenged about changes to historic data.
            “If you want to know the ACTUAL Temperature use the original RAW DATA, if you want to know what best estimates what the Temperature should have been (based on our computer model) use our Final Product data.”
            Anyone who has looked at actual Raw data knows it bares no relationship to any of the current Final Data Products.
            Anything using CO2 as a control for temperatures CANNOT account for the current pause, which actually shows cooling for land temperatures.

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi AC,

            I downloaded the data from Berkeley


            It is long term trend that are important, are you familiar with the term cherry picking? Choosing the warmest year on record to find a cooling trend is rather unconvincing.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        $2 trillion sounds a lot but is less than 1 year UK GDP spent in the whole world over a decade or so and in that context is not a huge amount. The issue boils down to has it achieved what was intended? Could the money have been invested more wisely?

        Some of it will have been spent more wisely than other. Solar in sunny climates for example where it is used for AC. But following a blind religion of renewables are good leads us to the cul-de-sac of solar in Aberdeen – a total waste of money, and wind in Europe which adds little security in winter anti-cyclones.

        I don’t think many of the renewables companies are making money. So there is no profit for society to share. Flooding the market with expensive energy is ruining the profits of traditional generators, even less profit for society to share. But I suspect the main cost is hidden in the attrition of economies, lack of economic growth, impoverishment of the poor.

        • clivebest says:

          On-shore wind farms are very profitable. They are a risk free investment. The capital costs of a single 2MW turbine are about £ 2million fully installed. Lets assume a load factor of 0.25, so in 1 year such a turbine will generate

          0.25*2*24*365 = 4380 MWh per year

          For this they receive a guaranteed price of £85 per MWh independent of demand. So the yearly return on investment is £372,000. That is a risk free return of 18% !

          You can even borrow the money from a bank at 5% interest over 10 years and still make a handsome yearly profit.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Where are the investment opportunities Clive at risk of being branded a parasite 🙁

          • clivebest says:

            We could try asking David Cameron’s father in law.

          • Ed says:

            Wow. Inflation proofed as well because in the long term the price of energy will exceed inflation. There will be ‘down time’ for maintenance etc but 18% minus 5% give you a good cushon. If you invest in a portfolio of projects, you could minimise this exposure as well. Have you any details how you actually invest into this sector as a private individual, Clive?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            The trouble is that the wind producers are benefiting from consumer subsidies and are not paying for load balancing services. Consumers are giving them money and the base load producers are giving them money. Someday there will be a hanging!

            I am going out this evening. Please keep things totally civil!

          • Willem Post says:

            Whenever someone has such a high return in a near- zero-growth economy, some else is being hurt big-time.

            I suspect it is a little guy.

        • Willem Post says:


          I think the ERoI is not an appropriate way to look at it.

          Say, at present, $100 of GDP is produced by spending $7 on energy, then the GDP return on energy is 14.

          That is the number we should concentrate on.

          If, at some future date, we need to spend $20 to produce $100 of GDP we are in deep do do.

          With RE prices at about 4 times wholesale grid prices, we are heading for deep do do.

          Good thing, RE was only 5.8% of total world generation in 2013.

          This article describes all in great detail.

          If you like it, please press the LIKE button in the upper left corner; my only compensation.

        • Jacob says:

          “Solar in sunny climates for example where it is used for AC.”

          There is an alternative to that, and it is already in use, without subsidies: run your a/c compressors at night when there is a surplus of cheap electricity due to low consumption. Use them to chill water, stored in tanks. Use the cold water to cool the air during the day.
          It makes more sense in hot climates than solar.

          Let solar be used whenever it makes sense, without political subsidies and mandates dictated by RE fanatics.
          It is perfectly possible that at some point, when FF get more expensive and solar cheaper – solar will make sense (for whatever small quantity of energy that it is capable of supplying – that is: for supplementing some other sources).

          It doesn’t make sense now.

      • Dennis Coyne says:

        Hi Roger,

        Do you have a specific plan for how you would eradicate poverty?

  2. topflat says:


    Would it be fair to ask for a comparison with spending on FF. While I suspect the price would be lower, without context it’s hard to pin much meaning on the one statistic.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      A perfectly fair and valid question. One of the features of renewables is that virtually all of the cost comes up front and this model is entirely unsuited to our current capitalist model. Could wind developers live with 10% interest?

      Similar argument applies to shale, its expensive to produce and cannot survive in a low energy price high interest rate environment.

      The approach of the international institutions is to try and make conventional FF so expensive so as to make these “new” energies cost-competitive. They overlook the fact that they kill growth and the poor in the process.

      We are at a very difficult juncture in the evolution of our energy system. The one thing I think I know for sure is that designing a system around the single metric of reducing CO2 emissions is bonkers, especially when it has thus far demonstrably failed so badly.

      • It doesn't add up... says:

        Shale has very short payback periods – that’s a given when you have rapid declines in well productivity. It’s far less interest rate sensitive than the billions spent on offshore platforms and pipelines, or wind farms – most of which depend on subsidy to survive at all, or nuclear, where there is a nice tension between the initial investment and building up the sinking fund to pay for decommissioning (so low rates early in the life of a nuclear site are good, and also high rates after it has achieved payback).

        • Sam Taylor says:

          Short payback periods but extremely high leverage. I don’t think it’s an accident that fracking has only taken off during a time of near zero interest rates.

          • It doesn't add up... says:

            The leverage you are seeing has nothing to do with the real costs of shale exploitation: it’s entirely the result of historic over-bidding for acerage and expertise. The extent of overbidding was certainly enabled by pursuit of yield on the part of investors and banks, but the take-off is mainly to do with the development of fracking technique to optimise the frack fluid. The techniques of horizontal drilling were already in place.

      • Sam Taylor says:


        I absolutely agree that the current goal of designing our energy system around only CO2 reductions is not a good idea. I think it’s certainly a laudable goal, and should be one of the main tenets of what we’re going for, but the idea of resilience should really be front and centre these days, given the likely future of energy resources.

        Unfortunately it seems that current policy is leading us further away from resilience, which is really not a good place to be.

      • tetris says:


        The core of the issue the anti hydro carbon/ pro renewables groups are faced with is encapsulated in your comment above about the “capitalist model”.

        That model is the only economic model the world has known thus far, that actually works -e.g. mercantilism doesn’t, feudalism doesn’t, autarky doesn’t, etc. Capitalism crucially self corrects, it is eminently transposable and adaptable to local circumstances provided its basic premises of more or less open markets, more or less private property and more or less rule of law, and the profit motive are respected; and where ever applied, it produces incomparable amounts of wealth. Everything various iterations of socialism would like or purport to be, but “uber” demonstrably are not.

        Why would anyone – in politics or in business- want to switch to any other model – including a command economy one in which renewables might possibly make sense, but nothing else does?

      • dcoyne1984 says:

        Hi Euan,

        So it seems your views have shifted from where you were at the oil drum.
        Could you give me some idea what you think are likely URRs for oil, natural gas and coal?

        Something different than Roger’s assessment of tight oil and shale gas which was from 0 to infinity (it might have been worse, I think he ruled out negative infinity, though he did want to cover all possibilities so I may have this wrong.)

        I am assuming that you do not share Tetris’s faith that fossil fuel resources are infinite.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Dennis, when I began posting at The Oil Drum I posted under the moniker of Cry Wolf, the wisdom of this I believe is evidenced by history. The rest of you comment is not worth the time of day.

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi Euan,

            I agree that it is a bad idea to cry wolf.

            I am actually trying to reconcile your responses to Tetris, where you seemed to agree with his position that either peak fossil fuels will never happen or that it is of little concern, and your position in your Olduvai revisited 2008 post


            That post was a group post and perhaps did not actually reflect your position and it is now 6 years later and you position may have changed dramatically.

            Despite our different perspectives on climate change, I agree with much of what you have to say on energy, though I think renewables are useful, and you think they are mostly wasteful spending (I think), I agree that nuclear should be ramped up.

            The question is really fossil fuels:

            I think for C+C+NGL the URR will be about 3400 +/-200 Gb. For Natural Gas URR= 15,500+/-1500 TCF and for coal a URR of 850+/- 150 Gt. For the coal estimate I tool the average of David Rutledge’s estimate (700 Gt) and Steve Mohr’s estimate (1000 Gt).

            I am assuming your estimates would be different, I was curious about your current views.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            @ Dennis

            From the forward to that article:

            The work on this article started in the Spring of 2007, when Euan Mearns tried to show that Peak Oil does not necessarily imply an Energy crunch.

            I don’t have and never have had estimates for FF reserves. Olduvai used other folks estimates all of which I believe have proven to be wrong.

            If I have learned one thing in the last 6 years it is impossible to forecast the future of FF production and reserves. Those who try are attempting the impossible – folks can draw their own conclusions.

            From Olduvai post, I stand by the need for per capita reduction in energy consumption, that population will follow a logistic, peak and decline of its own accord, and that substitution will smooth the decline of FF.

            The main problem in the UK since we wrote that post is that GWs of wind power have been installed, GWs of nuclear and coal have been closed down and ZEROWatts of new nuclear have been started let alone completed.

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Thank you Euan,

            Ok. Clearly nobody knows anything precisely about the future including how much will be extracted.

            Even though we cannot know if our estimates of future oil, natural gas, and coal are correct. It would seem that to plan for the future use of energy it would be relavent to know how much fuel we might be able to extract. The amounts of fossil fuel that I guessed at, based on the work of Laherrere and Steve Mohr primarily only amounts to 1100 Gt of carbon emitted to the atmosphere (the midpoint estimate).

            Though you certainly seem agnostic on the limits to fossil fuel, you did scoff at the notion of 5000 Gt of carbon emissions in a paper by David Archer and perhaps you think 1100 Gt is too low (though you have simply said you don’t have an estimate).

            Interesting, maybe 1000 to 3000 Gt of carbon?

        • tetris says:


          I’ll take you bet about the peak as you wrote in your reply to me above.

          You win, I’ll buy you a beverage of your choice; I win you reciprocate. Where do I contact you 10 years from now?

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi Tetris,

            I do not have confidence in my estimates, were I to bet I would want your estimate of the peak in fossil fuels.

            The guesses are difficult because we do not know what will happen to prices and how easy it will be to substitute for fossil fuel use.

            You gave the impression that you either think that fossil fuels will never peak or that when they do it will cause little or no disruption to the world economy. Is my impression correct?

            Note that I do not subscribe to the view that there will necessarily be a dire economic collapse as the peak arrives. I do think that if most people share your view that there is no way that oil, then natural gas, and finally coal will peak over the next 5, 10, and 20 years respectively. That there will be a great deal of economic disruption as it will take some time to ramp up alternatives to replace fossil fuels.

            Even if someone thinks that climate change is nonsense, the problem of fossil fuel depletion still warrants attention in my view.

            For those who think that there is not a climate conspiracy where thousands of scientists have gotten together to hoodwink the general public, there are two reasons to be motivated to transition to non-carbon sources of energy. Either way as fossil fuels deplete they will become more expensive and the current cost benefit analyses of coal vs nuclear or wind may be woefully inadequate as coal becomes more expensive.

  3. Simon Whelan says:

    You mentioned that low carbon energy sources produced 13.1% of total energy in 1995 and 13.3% in 2013. Surely though the point should be made that total energy consumption has risen considerably since 1995 as well making the 13.3% figure a little more impressive. The IEA states total energy consumption in 1995 was about 6500 MTOE while in 2012 it was 8980 MTOE a 40% increase. ( consumption) In absolute terms this would give an increase in low carbon output from 851 MTOE in 1995 to 1194.34 MTOE in 2012 also a 40% increase.

    It seems to me that the failure is not that past & current green policy is ineffective in fostering low carbon energy uptake, it is that as a society we are ineffective in slowing down the increase in total energy use.

    P.S. I agree that nuclear must be part of our energy mix and I work in solar..

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Simon, there are obviously different ways to present the data but I believe in the context of moving towards a carbon free energy system then looking for an increase in the carbon free share of the total system is the correct metric to follow.

      GDP, population and energy growth are all correlated. If we are to continue with the 20th century economic model based on GDP growth then either our energy consumption has to go up or we have to become much more efficient at extracting work from the energy we currently use.

      The energy efficiency of solar may be summarised as:

      (net energy / ERoEI)*100

      If solar has ERoEI = 10 then the efficiency associated with it is 90%
      If solar has ERoEI = 2 then the efficiency associated with it is 50%
      If solar has ERoEI = 0.9 then the efficiency associated with it is -10%

      One of my main gripes is that solar panels mounted on N facing roofs is Aberdeen will have a load factor less than 8 and will unlikely ever pay back the energy used to create and install the devices. The south of England gets about 2* as much sunshine as N of Scotland and you don’t have to go far above ERoEI of 2 to achieve reasonable lifetime energy efficiency. But in S of England you still face miss match between annual demand pattern and need to factor in the energy cost of mitigating for that.

      The abandonment of sound engineering in designing our energy system is another gripe. As noted else where, this post is as much about the decline of nuclear power as anything else.

      • Simon Whelan says:

        Hi Euan, Thanks for your reply. Anyone installing solar panels on a north facing roof in Aberdeen or anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere has no place in this industry (did you mean south?) Solar has its place as a very flexible, carbon & cost effective method of energy production given the correct circumstances, with the advent of better and cheaper storage this will transform the way solar will be used and alleviate the mismatch in demand and supply. This is beginning to occur in Germany as we speak so will get to the UK soon enough.

        I live in Ireland where there is no subsidy for solar electricity and it still sells if slowly but solar technology can only get cheaper and more efficient and has no public opinion barrier which plagues nuclear, solar’s future is bright as part of our energy mix. However bottom line about nuclear is that it is perceived to be dirty and dangerous and its this perception that moves the greater public and ultimately our politicians rightly or wrongly. Remove this negative perception and the graphs above will change quickly.

        Your comment about GDP led growth is the issue at the heart of sustainable development – continuing with this model is a dead end eventually, you can’t continue to grow on a finite resource base. But as you have pointed out this a choice we make as a collective..

      • dcoyne1984 says:

        Hi Euan,

        What percentage of solar panels in Aberdeen are mounted on North facing roofs?

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Dennis, I know it is good blogging procedure to ask only questions, but you need to be careful in asking me so many questions that there is a reasonable chance that the data actually exists for me to be able to answer them.

          There are pics and data here:

          Let me ask you a question. Are you in favour of deploying renewable devices where the ERoEI is less than 1? You burn all the energy today to create a device and that energy is never recovered over the device’s life time?

          • dcoyne1984 says:

            Hi Euan,

            I actually did not see any data in that post on the percentage of panels mounted on north facing roofs, though there was a photo of one facing east 🙂

            No I do not think deploying renewable devices are a good idea where the EROEI is less than one. The EROEI calculations quickly become outdated and they are not easy to do. It would probably be best to eliminate all subsidies, but make sure to tax all externalities as well, then let the market decide.

            I also doubt the Spanish study which is how you come up with less than 1 for an EROEI in Aberdeen.

            Do the EROEI analyses take account of the greater energy quality of electricity? For fossil fuels such as coal a typical BTU of energy content produces only 33% of the energy as electricity. This is probably taken into account I have never looked closely at these studies.

            Note that Professor Rutledge’s comment about US solar is spot on, the BP data for the US Solar generation is only for utility scale solar only, the NREL data is the one to use for the US.

  4. clivebest says:

    In 10 years time wind energy will be looked back on as having been the greatest scam since the South Sea bubble. A small number of people will have made fortunes out of the rest of us while achieving nothing except the destruction of wild places. The UK renewables figures are boosted by Biomass ( incinerators, wood chip etc). Wind alone achieves just 6% of UK energy demand. It will take another 10 years to burst, because this generation of politicians cannot admit that they really were that stupid as to have been hoodwinked by the green lobby to pass the Climate Change act in 2008.

    We could simply halve CO2 emissions by building more Gas power stations in the medium term. Nuclear power is the only long term solution for base load.

    • stewgreen says:

      It’s not about the CO2 it’s about the $ubsidies$

      – as Clive points out each $ spent replacing coal power with gas reduces CO2 by magnitudes more than each $ spent replacing coal power with wind/solarPV why is the consumer FORCED to subsidise wind/solarPV ?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        First post on site needs to be approved. Thinking CO2 and designing an energy system around it is as you know bonkers. It leads to bizarre strategies like bio-fuels, CCS and burning virgin N American hardwood in Drax.

        Thinking energy efficiency is in my opinion the only way to go ± a rounded environmental and societal impact assessment. CHP is highly energy efficient and therefore has to be good, it has the coincidental feature of reducing CO2 emissions which I imagine the pensioners living in Council flats in Aberdeen don’t give a flying toss about.

        Scotland has a much higher proportion of Council houses than England and these are often arranged as groups of high rise flats. They clearly lend themselves to small localised CHP installation.

        • dcoyne1984 says:

          Hi Euan,

          CHP does indeed make a lot of sense from an emissions standpoint, is it not quite expensive to refit existing units with CHP. For new construction it should be standard, but it is not clear that the economics works out for refits.

          Also are there many examples of coal CHP? My understanding is that these are usually natural gas units, coal might be a problem due to pollution and the need to have the plant close to residences.

    • stewgreen says:

      It’s not about the CO2 it’s about the $Subsidies$

      – As Clive Best points out each $ spend replacing coal power with gas reduces CO2 by magnitudes more that each $ spent replacing coal power with wind/solarPV. So why are the consumers FORCED to fund SUBSIDIES to wind/solarPV industry ?
      (post wouldn’t go the first time)

      • Ed says:

        You are correct, it’s not about the CO2. It’s about keeping the lights on when energy from fossil fuels start to decline. CO2 reduction is a red herring. We are destined to burn all our FF sooner or later come what may. However if you delay the build out FF extenders like renewables or nuclear, it will be too late.

        The subject of subsidies is an interesting one. All FF, Nuclear and renewables get some subsidies. ALL, not just wind or solar. This is because the ‘market’ finds it difficult to make long term capital allocations to energy generation so governments give them a bit of a push in the right direction (or the wrong direction in the case of solar/wind in your view)

        • It doesn't add up... says:

          I’m sorry, but I don’t have truck with those who think that anything that isn’t taxed to the hilt is subsidised. Moreover, there hasn’t been a period when electricity generation has been subject to a free capital market ever since it was nationalised. The politicians have always dictated. In Thatcher’s time, there was a concerted move away from coal motivated by not wishing to be in hock to the NUM – despite the privatisation. The decisions on nuclear have been political. We now have a system where all capacity is decided upon by the ministry and the regulator – centrally planned beyond the dreams of GOSPLAN.

          • Ed says:

            That is why we cannot wait for the government or energy companies to make the right decisions. Communities and individuals need to take charge of their own destiny for their long term interests. Community scale energy production. However this is very disruptive to base load supply, which I appreciate needs working out and is one of most contentious issue amongst commenters here.

  5. Euan Mearns says:

    I am hoping to do a post some time on local Combined Heat and Power (CHP) in Aberdeen. They have three flagship schemes. Taking note of my comments above “we have to become much more efficient at extracting work from the energy we currently use” CHP in my opinion makes a huge amount of sense where it can be easily deployed.

    It was estimated that energy ratings could be substantially improved, C02 emissions reduced by 40% and most importantly, the tenants could have warm homes for approximately half of the previous cost.

    Reducing CO2 emissions by 40% is New Speak for a 40% improvement in energy efficiency. The important thing is that this puts money into people’s pockets that they spend, enjoying themselves and supporting the local economy.

    • A Siegel says:

      Next to energy efficiency, CHP is often the best EROEI / financial ROI option out there. Huge amounts of ‘cheap’ energy out there to leverage. And, as with other arenas, we are seeing lots of interesting / valuable technology development that makes this easier and quicker to implement. While there have been lots of systems available for larger heat/power loads, there are now pretty good organic Rankine cycle systems that can go on top of 500kw generators and boost total electricity (due to reduced parasitic loads for cooling along with the electricity generation) in the range of 14% with some other side benefits — for, dependent on circumstances, as long as <$US 0.05 per kWh.

      Obstacles to CHP are not primarily technical nor are they straight financial return, but they are 'soft'. While not familiar enough w/UK electricity structure / rule sets but there are many of the regulations re the electricity market that undermine the attractiveness of aggressive CHP implementation (such as constraints on moving electricity across roads w/out selling at wholesale into the grid, etc …). Also, within businesses, this is not a 'known' thing by most executive teams, is an aside from their 'normal' business structure, is viewed with hesitation as an unknown risk, etc, thus there is serious educational / otherwise burden to getting CHP implemented at a facility / within an institution (government or private).

      Sean Casten is one of my 'go to' people in this arena:

    • It doesn't add up... says:

      CHP makes most sense in industrial processes like paper manufacture, where the demand for low grade heat/steam is continuous. The costs of the distribution network are limiting, and best in greenfield installation: CHP results in local generation which in turn leads to a need for grid reinforcement. This study:

      estimated that the economics are driven by a high margin between power prices and gas prices. The problem with that is that CCGT limits the margin – if gas prices are low, then so is CCGT derived power.

      Engineering wise, CHP may be feasible. The economics are less certain. What is interesting is that in Denmark they have been shutting down their energy efficient CHP schemes.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Hugh Sharman who comments here would have something to say about the Danes closing their CHP schemes in pursuit of the Zero Carbon dream (mirage).

        The wheels will come off the Danish and German renewables fantasy should the Swedes close down their nuclear plants and X GW of hydro balancing capacity will go with it.

        • It doesn't add up... says:

          You’re quite right to draw attention to the loss of grid stabilising, dispatchable power to the CO2 god – the more so, since the economics of CHP will have been good given Denmark’s astronomic power prices.

    • Joe Public says:

      “It was estimated that energy ratings could be substantially improved, C02 emissions reduced by 40% and most importantly, the tenants could have warm homes for approximately half of the previous cost.”

      OK let’s start from first principles:

      The report states the initial focus was on a cluster of 288 poorly-insulated flats in 4 multi storey blocks at Stockethill. All the flats had electric storage heating.

      1. Multi-storey blocks lose most heat thro’ walls. The ground floor flats lose some heat vis conduction downwards to ground. Intermediate flats lose ht upwards via ceiling, but gain similar amount up through their floor so are in vertical thermal equilibrium. Top flats lose more thro’ roof than gain up thro’ floor.

      Unstated, but presumed, is that all flats have on-peak immersion heaters for DHW.

      Improving wall insulation would/should be the first step, and would save most energy/CO2.

      2. CHP in this/these instances are in effect CHP/mini-district heating. As ‘It doesn’t add up… ‘ states below, CHP really needs a matched profile of heat demand to power demand; and, it’s NOT 50:50. Ideally the heating load should be long hours-run, low ∆t. It’s ideal to ‘trickle-charge’ all the flats’ DHW cylinders; domestic space heating is a lousy annual load-profile. During summer there’s nil space-heating load, and reduced DHW & power loads.

      3. The “…tenants could have warm homes for approximately half of the previous cost.” can be achieved simply by installing gas-fired boiler & radiators. Either a central boiler, or individual boilers.

      4. It’s possible that CHP will be a waste of money unless there is a local matched power load. And multiple flats aren’t.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        In Aberdeen, blocks of flats have also be refurbished with cladding on the exterior that greatly improves their appearance and presumably also their insulation. I will try and do a post on this before Christmas with participation of the folks running CHP in Aberdeen and we should probably best defer detailed discussion of the merits until then.

        • Joe Public says:

          Hi Euan. You’d be correct that the cladding would be primarily for insulation. Depending upon how poor the original wall U-value was, modern cladding would reduce heat loss thro’ the external walls by ~85%. But the external walls will account for maybe 10% – 20% of the flat’s heat loss (depending upon whether there are 2 or 4 external walls).

          They may have improved the roof insulation, but that’d only benefit the top floor flat(s).

          If the blocks originally had single glazed windows, & they’ve been replaced with double glazing, then glazing heat loss would be reduced by ~65%. But glazing is only ~10% of external wall area. A better benefit of DG vs SG is that it would be more airtight, so cold draughts & ventilation losses will be reduced.

          I’d be interested to know the CHP heat output to power output balance; and, how those figures are matched with the site demands.

    • dcoyne1984 says:

      Hi Euan,

      This answers part of my question above, clearly existing units can be refitted with CHP as it looks like that was done in Aberdeen. On the Aberdeen heat and power website it did not specify if these units were coal or natural gas, do you know?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        The Aberdeen units were as far as I know custom built and run on nat gas. Most Danish units are also custom built but run on coal.

        • dcoyne1984 says:

          Thanks Euan,

          Is it possible that pollution complaints may be part of the reason that the Danish are shutting down some of their CHP, if so it seems that converting to from coal to natural gas would make sense.

  6. JamesG says:

    Nuclear power in the UK was, in fact, neither halted by Chernobyl nor by any green pressure (which was very lacklustre in the UK). Rather it was purely on cost! The dash for gas coincided with the dissolution of CEGB/SSEB ready for the privatisation. Up to that point the true costs of nuclear power had been hidden but when the books were opened and investors saw these true costs there were no takers unless decomissioning was underwritten by the UK taxpayer. Consequently there was zero likelihood of nuclear expansion thereafter when gas powered plant was so much cheaper. It was a similar story worldwide. In fact only France and Japan showed any enthusiasm for nuclear power after 1980 and both eventually gave up on fast reactors – again due to cost. For nuclear power to rise again it only has to be cost-effective versus fossil fuels and so far the new EDF design isn’t – hence the high strike price. I’m persuaded that Candu is the best of the nuclear options since the Chinese managed to build two on-time and to a small budget (around 3.5 billion each I think) a few years ago.

    Where does that $1.7 trillion come from?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      James, there is undoubtedly truth in what you say. But it is also true that Green lobby groups have opposed new nuclear. You only need to read “The Revenge of Gaia” to get Lovelock’s take on the issue.

      Part of my perceptions are coloured by living on Scotland where the SNP government is de facto anti nuclear and favours a Green panacea that is to cover every mountain, roof top and bay, regardless of the engineering sense and cost.

      Your comment embodies a lot of complex issues. For example, the mantra that large centralised power stations are bad and we must move to “distributed systems” – where is the evidence to back that up? Our grid exists around large nodes. It seems to me there is a centralised campaign against large centralised systems – safety codes for nuclear, health codes for coal and environmental standards for off shore decommissioning that all seem designed to make these industries unprofitable. From my perspective, putting the industries that have been the lifeblood of our economies out of business is bonkers, especially when they are replaced with something that is expensive and doesn’t work.

      The true cost of nuclear is a difficult issue to get to the bottom of. As already mentioned, it seems that a lot of the cost may be linked to over-zealous safety standards. But it becomes very, very difficult to over turn that.

      Whilst I am a fairly red blooded capitalist, I am unsure that all energy industries are necessarily best run in private hands. The core of the existing electricity supply system in the UK was built by the state. In the current circumstances I think it may be best for the State to build a new fleet of nuclear power stations – not necessarily the EDF EPR which seems fraught with problems – and to then perhaps lease these to the private sector for operation. The cost of Hinkley (£25 billion) is clearly to high for the private sector to risk. It would be better IMO for the government to run the risk of cost discovery. Energy is fundamental for our society and I would argue that government has a responsibility to ensure supplies for the population and commerce alike. Without it our society fails.

      • Euan: The largest green group opposing new nuclear is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which got the worldwide push for renewables started at the Rio Summit in 1992 and which is and always has been run by the global “green blob”. The UNFCCC in fact did its best to ban new nuclear altogether by denying it carbon credits in the Kyoto Protocol, which is one of the reasons your Figure 2 looks as depressing as it does.

      • dcoyne1984 says:

        Hi Euan,

        You are absolutely correct that many Green groups are opposed to nuclear power and that is a mistake.

        Wouldn’t a combination of wind and nuclear make sense, with some solar in places where it makes economic sense? According to the EIA wind is competitive with nuclear on a $/MWh basis for new installations, a widely distributed network of wind farms has fairly consistent output. A few natural gas power plants that could be brought online for peak loads and for those times when the wind does not blow anywhere in the system.

        Why not just nuclear? It seems to me that a diversity of supply makes sense, maybe uranium prices will rise or something else unforeseen that makes nuclear less desirable. Putting all your eggs in one basket just seems a bad idea.

      • JamesG says:

        Almost the only argument that green groups use against nuclear power nowadays is that it costs too much: If it was cost effective then the private sector would not need such a high strike price nor would they need the spiraling disposal and decommissioning costs to be underwritten. The secondary arguments the Greens use are the high risks of proliferation and the current lack of a coherent plan to dispose of the waste. In all of these arguments the greens have very valid points and too many people are just ignoring these issues.

        Alas, not only can the UK not afford to build new plant. it can’t afford to decommision the old plant. We are still running a large deficit and paying off a large debt so any new infrastructure has to be built on more borrowed money. What we really need is shale gas, not only for cheaper gas plants, but also to put some money back in the piggybank to replace the iou’s.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      This report is the source of the $1.7 trillion figure. In an earlier post I came up with $1.3 trllion from a back of envelope type calculation:

      The High Cost of Renewables

      Roger Andrews had another source that said $1.6 trillion. I think the $1.7 trillion is likely on the money. You need to add a further $400 billion for grid extensions etc.

    • The EdF design (the EPR) leaves a lot to be desired – it is a very old design with a few very expensive add-ons and updates. The far better, safer and cheaper options are the AP1000 and ABWR. But our Energy Ministers can be relied on to chose the worst option – after all it is our money they are wasting.

      • dcoyne1984 says:

        Hi Phillip,

        I do not follow nuclear closely. Of the best options (for whatever reason) what are the costs per KWh of capacity. The EIA has advanced nuclear at $86/MWh and onshore Wind at $80/MWh, but the wind is given a capacity factor of 35%, which seems too high.

        At these prices it must be regulatory hurdles which prevents more investment in Nuclear along with the low cost of natural gas in the US.
        Natural Gas is $66/MWh and coal is $95/MWh for new facilities entering service in 2019 all prices in 2012$.

        • JamesG says:

          Nuclear costs have always been underestimated alas and that figure is no different. There is no possible way that new coal plant is more expensive than new nuclear plant unless the numbers have been doctored. But anyway, if the Chinese can build new nuclear plant then surely anyone can. In the UK the reason we don’t build more plant is entirely because of the lingering and erroneous Thatcherite dogma that the private sector has to undertake it. I hear strong rumours that this may change but alas it would be too little too late.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            You sure about shale gas?

            Shale Profits

            To both counter and compliment what I have just said above is this Table of free cash flow for a range of shale operators compiled by Deborah Rogers forming part of the PCI media package.

            There is a lot of red ink, but no problem here that European natural gas prices coming to America cannot solve. The big question is whether or not the US economy is sufficiently robust to withstand sharply higher primary energy costs that Europeans, Japanese and S Koreans have lived with for many years.

        • dcoyne1984 says:

          Hi Euan,

          It is not clear that US Shale gas will make a huge difference once it starts being shipped to Europe. Assuming about $2/MBTU to convert to liquid and ship it to Europe, the US price would stay about $2 below European prices, currently around $9/MBTU. Increased prices will no doubt increase natural gas drilling and reduce natural gas use for electric power.

          It will certainly help the profitability of the US Shale gas companies.

  7. Pingback: The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 4451

  8. Yvan Dutil says:

    You should put the fossil fuel subsidies in perspectives to be rigorous.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      UK oil production is taxed at between 62 and 81%. And about an additional 61% tax is paid on gasoline and diesel. Which subsidies were you thinking about?

      • dcoyne1984 says:

        Hi Euan,

        Perhaps Yvan is thinking of the US where fuel taxes do not cover the roads as they are supposed to resulting in a net subsidy to oil companies.

  9. Euan Mearns says:

    The UK is a little bit different to the World. Recent rise in low carbon brings us up to the global average, in part based on the EDF revival of UK nuclear (that is recently reversed) and in part due to recent major expansion of wind. With renewables investment slowing and UK nuclear heading for zero within a decade we have to presume this picture will continue to evolve.

  10. mrmethane says:

    Ed: When you say that money spent on renewables (including subsidies, which increase costs to all energy users and also other taxpayers) is not killing people, you are apparently blind to energy poverty deaths. Shame on you.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Excess Winter Deaths in England and Wales

      Excess winter deaths have in fact been falling steadily in England and Wales for a long while and you cannot pin this on high energy prices or government policy. I think it is in fact a triumph for government policy that excess winter deaths have declined so much.

      It is a natural phenomena that more folks die in winter than in summer. I guess flu remains a big killer.

    • Ed says:

      You ain’t seen anything yet, mrmethane.

      When FF energy production starts to fall (within 15 years +/- 7), the price of energy will go through the roof. How many people will be in energy poverty then? Ans: Far more than today, and it’ll be your fault.

      People will ask why we didn’t invest in FF alternatives while FF were cheap.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Ed, you have a typically “green” skewed view of FF production.
        The only reason for the production to fall is Political.
        The UK has 250+ years of coal reserves under the land and much more under the sea, the billions wasted on renewables could have easily built more coal fired power stations and opened the mines to supply them.
        All of the money spent would have stayed within the UK instead of going to China and the EU.

        • Ed says:

          “The UK has 250+ years of coal reserves under the land and much more under the sea”.

          According to

          Total annual World production of coal is 7.2 billion tones and UK coal reserves is 3.2 billion tones in total. The UK currently uses 16.8 + 44.8(imported coal) = 61.6 million tones per year.

          Therefore 3.2 billion divided by 61.6 million = 52 years

          If we substituted gas for coal then this figure would be even less !!

          • Ed says:

            Or do I mean “substituted coal for gas”, I’m not sure but you get my drift. 250+years is fantasy using official figures.

          • clivebest says:

            Please read the talk given by Maria van der Hoeven of the IEA to launch the “Medium Term Coal Market Report 2013″ in Paris last December.

            – Coal is abundant and geopolitically secure. Coal-fired plants are easily integrated into existing power systems. No fuel draws the same ire, particularly for its polluting qualities both locally and in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. And yet no fuel is as responsible for powering the economic growth that has pulled billions out of poverty in the past decades.

            -Over the next six years, additional coal production capacity of a half million tonnes per annum will be added worldwide each and every day. Coal prices are also falling. Coal price in ASIA is $4/mBTU whereas LNG prices are $16/mBTU – 400% higher. Indonesia has vast coal reserves.

            If just the new coal plants under development in India and Indonesia were instead to be completed using latest technology it would save as much CO2 as all the wind turbines in Europe combined. Technical subsidies by Europe to achieve this would be a far cheaper means to tackle climate change than are current policies.

            Whenever you see the Keeling curve of ever increasing CO2 levels just remember that nearly 2/3 of that is due to coal burning in Asia. What can be done about it? In the short term nothing can be done and carbon emissions are sure to rise for the next few decades whatever we do in Europe. It means that Europe’s efforts to cut emissions are essentially futile. There are only two ways out of this dilemma long term:

            1. International carbon price. This would need to make coal artificially 3 times more expensive than it actually is to encourage a switch to gas. I don’t think there is a hope in hell of getting developing countries to agree to that – and anyway who would be the recipient of these trillions of dollars ?

            2. Underground gasification of coal to methane. This could halve carbon emissions and avoid air pollution but at the expense of lower yields. Only an international agreement similar to banning the use of CFCs would achieve this.

            The scale of the growth in coal consumption in Asia is staggering. It really makes a mockery of Europe’s de-carbonization policies. For energy security reasons the UK should have already built a couple of modern efficient coal plants just like Germany and Holland did within EU limits and thereby save on their energy bills. However, Friends of the Earth stopped the Kingsnorth plant in Kent from being developed by E-on in 2009. Shortly afterwards to placate FoE, Ed Miliband blocked any new coal plants being opened in the UK without CCS. Later a stealth carbon floor tax was introduced to penalizing existing coal plants. This resulted in the conversion of Ferrybridge and DRAX to burn imported US wood chips reducing power output and increasing net costs and energy prices.

        • dcoyne1984 says:

          Hi AC,

          Mining coal under the sea. I don’t think the coal can be mined economically, just because it is there does not mean it is profitable to extract.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Have you ever seen Tunnel Boring machines in action?
            If the political will is there the machines that just finished boring railway tunnels in London could be used to start boring into the land in the direction of those fields, most of which start under the land any way.
            Forget Guys with Pick Axes and think of using modern technology and Engineering.
            Other methods of extraction include Gasification, but I prefer a very large tunnel with smaller tunnels leading off.

          • tetris says:

            You appear to have missed a development that is currently at the beta test stages in several spots around the globe:

            forget about mining the coal -in e.g. Alberta the very large reserves are far too deep to mine- rather gasify it in situ, 4000m down if necessary, and pipe up the resulting gas and leave the nasty bits down where it will take anyone a very long time indeed, to run into them.

            Imagine, gasified deep coal without the nasty bits. Do the math, and you find that “proved” [as in exploitable with current technologies] hydrocarbon reserves go up by several orders of magnitude.

            Leave it to the markets and human ingenuity and by the time we as a species shift to a different energy regime -because it makes better economic, technical and societal sense-, we will be leaving a lot of hydrocarbon energy untouched.

            “Peak hydrocarbons” is a neo-Malthusian nonsensical construct -a blend of fundamentally flawed reasoning blinded by ideology and its counter part, wishful thinking.

            Mankind left behind neither the stone or bronze ages or the horse for far more efficient alternatives, because of the lack of stone, bronze or horses..

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Mankind left behind neither the stone or bronze ages or the horse for far more efficient alternatives, because of the lack of stone, bronze or horses.

            Maybe, but Europeans more or less abandoned burning wood in the 19th century for a lack of trees. Had superior coal not just been lying there waiting to be used, history would have worked out rather differently.

            I lean towards opposing insitu gasification of coal and THAI in the tar sands since this will unleash an enormous new wedge of C to burn. It reminds me too much of orcs and I’m a grey wizard at heart. But the debate should be about an energy future based on methods such as insitu gasification and nuclear power – both of which we know can work and can power a form of society like we have today – one with red wine, inoculations, heart surgery, life expectancy of 85 and vacations in the Sun. Not the Green dream of living in a backwoods cabin tending diseased chickens and broken PV with no electrical appliances left working in any case fending off your neighbours with a pitch fork. 😉

          • A C Osborn says:

            tetris says:November 4, 2014 at 8:42 pm

            You obviously missed this “Other methods of extraction include Gasification”

      • Jacob says:

        The renewables you install today will be obsolete/worn out/dead in 15 +- 7 years (when they will start to make sense according to your estimate).

        • dcoyne1984 says:

          Hi Jacob,

          There is ongoing maintenance just like with thermal power plants, The wind power will still be around, PV solar typically lasts 30 years with inverters needing replacement every decade, most PV is grid tied, so most units have no battery backup. As far as parasitic solar (mentioned by Euan), a day ahead weather forecast and existing power data history would enable power companies to schedule needed backup, it is not really that hard to do.

  11. Euan you say “The history of civilian nuclear power is of course dictated by the 1986 Chernobyl military reactor disaster that saw civilian nuclear power programs shelved”. As I recall it (and it was a long time ago; I was working on analysing the 1979 TMI-2 accident in the UK and then in the USA on its implications for the Sizewell B design), the TMI-2 accident was the cause of the shelving of many nuclear power programmes. I don’t believe that a new reactor was ordered in the USA after 1979 (and it was by far the largest market for NPSs), although there were dozens under construction that were completed and commissioned. So the real impact of TMI-2 was not apparent in the number of USA NPSs until after 1986.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Phil, I stand corrected again. As a European I keep forgetting about TMI where I recall there was little / no radiation leak and no one was hurt. I was out in the rain in Oslo the day the fallout from Chernobyl came across / was discovered.

      Went home, had a shower, washed my clothes and took care to not eat any grass.

      Lovelock described the 1957 Windscale fire as being on scale similar to Chernobyl. Then, it was kept quiet. And no one died of worry.

      What is your take on radiation risks, safety standards and costs of nuclear?

      • You are correct about TMI, the release was negligible and nobody was hurt. However, I recall that someone was killed in the ensuing panic, brought about by a reporter at the Harrisburg Gazette, who wrote “I’m standing on the bridge and I can see the radioactive steam dripping down the cooling towers”. Has reporting improved since then one wonders?

        I’ll have to get back to you on my take on the three items. That will take some time, which I will find over the weekend.

  12. Ed says:

    Sorry, A C Osborn. You got your figures from the Daily Mail !!! God help us.

  13. stewgreen says:

    Climate Change & proper cost benefit analysis is covered very well at the start of the Oct 2 Freakonomics podcast with Bjorn Lomborgof the Copenhagen Consensus .
    (I think you’ll find yourself listening to the rest aswell ..very interesting)
    transcript :

    – A Lot of good comments over at …so I wont repost mine here

    I am a bit worried about the perspective shown here
    – The Fossil Fuels get subsidies as well meme, In the first world there are hardly any subsidies it is absolutely negligible per unit of energy supplied

    – That renewables means wind/ solarPV
    ..On a global scale hydro is by far the biggest renewable supply
    ..And in the UK doesn’t collecting energy from waste generates more electricity ? like the biogas from refuse tips and our local power station which works on gas from chicken shit.

    • dcoyne1984 says:

      Hi stewgreen,

      In the United States, oil companies are allowed accelerated depreciation of their assets which is a tax subsidy. In theory fuel taxes pay for the roads, but in fact the fuel taxes are too low to accomplish this so there is quite a big subsidy there as well, it is probably much smaller than wind and solar, I agree with you there.

      Nuclear in the US pays below market rates for liability insurance through government programs which is a subsidy.

      It may be that Europeans do not consider the US first world(fair enough), though it seems many Europeans wish their countries would follow “sensible” US policies, I think the European policies are much better.

      The grass is always greener… 🙂

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  15. E. Swanson says:

    Back in ’73, I worked on a project installing the first “modern” wind energy system in California before the Arab/OPEC Oil Embargo. The system was a small scale 2kw, 3 bladed horizontal axis generator with a 40 kw lead acid battery bank. The system was designed for off grid use in the Out Back of Australia.

    It was obvious to me at the time that energy storage was a necessary part of a renewable energy system design. As our development of fossil fuels has progressed, our economic calculations have ignored the “cost” of storage of those energy sources, including only the cost of recovery, thus most comparisons of the cost of renewables vs. fossil sources have been skewed toward the fossil sources. Add in the problem of climate change as another “cost” left our of the calculations, as well as that of various subsidies and the result is a steep hurdle for renewables to scale. Only hydro, the original renewable, is competitive, but there are few hydro sites left for large scale projects.

    I see various market interventions as necessary in order to offset these distortions, if humanity is to continue to survive on Earth. Else, we may find that population growth can not be sustained as our industrial system withers under the weight of ever greater costs of extraction of more difficult to extract fossil fuels.

  16. richard says:

    Amusing how the fossil fuel industry makes money from the renewables industry , no wonder it has not decreased.

    Roads – to and from sites. Concrete foundations.
    Aux power for the windturbines to keep them in working order.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      All of the energy cost of renewables comes at the start and so yes, FF demand will be boosted right now, constructing and deploying all that renewables infrastructure.

  17. Steve A says:

    Unfortunately however much cash we use to bring forward renewables in the developed nations, we cannot match the rise in emissions from developing countries. Perversely I’m just working on a low grade low efficiency new build coal plant in asia. We would be better subsidising them to adopt higher energy efficient technology in cost per CO2 saved terms, but even if we did, they would still pump out CO2 for 30+ years, so I can’t see any likelihood of zero carbon electrical generation worldwide by 2050 (as envisioned by the IPPC).

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