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« Down with universities | Main | Putting windfarms to the sword »

The great levelised costs lie

The BBC covered the Energy Bill on Newsnight at the end of last week, looking in particular at onshore wind.

There was much airing of what I now refer to as the "great levelised costs lie" and, with the BBC adopting its usual approach to "due balance", there was nobody there to call them on it.

Video here.

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Reader Comments (17)

And was it just a coincidence that none of those in favour had their job description put up on the screen?.

Maria McCaffrey was the only one mentioned as a spokeperson for renewables - not as the spokeperson for Renewables UK. Guy Newey is the head of Energy and Environment at the Policy Exchange; and Dr Robert Gross is at Imperial College, Director of the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology, Policy Director of the Energy Futures Lab, and Head of the UKERC's Technology and Policy assessment function.

Nov 18, 2012 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Surely, you're not suggesting that Newsnight could be economical with the actualité, are you?
* faints *

Nov 18, 2012 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

So onshore wind farms are as economical as gas power stations!
The coalition partners are in total disagreement.


The Government should say the price of a unit of fuel should be indexed to the gas spot price relevant to the UK averaged over one year.

Let the power companies then decide .....wind or gas.
With the companies under pressure from their shareholders let the market decide.

Nov 18, 2012 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBryan

The alternative "free market" approach is given by Guy Newey of Policy Exchange. That is to have a carbon tax or cap 'n' trade schemes. Do the Newsnight team not know the difference between "free" market (without government intervention) and using economic incentives (carrot and stick approaches) to generate outcomes different from what the "free" market would produce?

Nov 18, 2012 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Levelised cost = PC phrase for cross subsidy

Nov 18, 2012 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin

There are so many ways to attack this lunatic strategy that it is hard to know where to start

1. All the people in this video know full well that the world is not united on this issue and that the new powerhouse economies of China, India, Brazil etc are dependent on fossil fuels and will be for decades. Action by the UK is therefore totally irrelevant in terms of reducing carbon emissions and is simply a cost to our economy that will hurt us badly.

2. Even if warming is coming, is it right to screw our economy to prevent it (again assuming the whole world joins in)? A rise in average temperature of 5/6 deg C would be welcomed by most people in the UK.

3. Can we please please remember that there is not one shred of real evidence to support the idea that CO2 is currently affecting global temperatures.

4. It is often said that no sceptics would deny that CO2 has some warming effect, well OK then I am a minority of one. IPCC AR3 contained the equation showing that the effect of CO2 on global temperature was logarithmic, accepting therefore that at some unspecified level CO2 would have virtually no effect on temperature. Personally I will not accept that it has any effect at all until someone can demonstrate this effect to me.

Nov 18, 2012 at 6:34 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung, with regard to 4.

The temperature effect of CO2 is both theoritical, and confirmed in a labratory. So nobody will disagree with that.

However, in the wild, the effect of rising CO2 can not be measured as it can in the laboratory. So I'm with you on this one.

CO2 raising temperatures is not yet proven, in my mind, in the open world. There are simply too many other things to overwhelm this one week signal.

Nov 18, 2012 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh


There is no experiment that has been done anywhere that confirms the greenhouse effect. If you are talking about the testube experiment then the answer to that is that glass is not transparent to all frequencies of IR radiation, it allows IR to pass into the tube full of CO2 but is not transparent to the frequency re emitted by the CO2. The glass warms because it absorbs the IR that it does not allow to pass through.
If you know of another experiment I am all ears hehe.

Nov 18, 2012 at 11:02 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung; I agree the 'greenhouse' effect does not happen as stated. And I'm guessing your referring to the usual television style demonstrations showing the greenhouse effect in a test tube.

I was thinking of the absorption band of CO2 being known and graphed. This couldn't be known unless it was correctly and accurately measured in a lab.

I'm not referring to televised presentations of demonstrations, as these are all suspect. Just the absorption band.

I'm not aware of any real lab demonstrations for temperature effect of rising CO2. This was an assumption on my part that such a thing would have been done, in order for the graphs to have been made.

Nov 19, 2012 at 12:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

Absorption to temperature rise in the atmosphere real or simulated is not a given. We need to divine what happens to the energy absorbed and re-transmitted. Does it re-radiate out eventually after going round a few times? Does it warm the N2 and O2? Don't they radiate, or warm the CO2, or whatever. Now, I might not, no, I do not, have a grip on the physics, but it seems to me a leap to go from 'we know the absorption bands' to 'we know what is happening' without a physical check that it really is happening and that it happens in the wild too. If it is all so obvious, take me through the steps and show me the data that backs up yor claims. (This last to anyone, not Greg C specifically)

Nov 19, 2012 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Interesting points about the effect of CO2. As far as I know (and this is not really very far, so proceed with caution!), the big computer models of the climate system do not model CO2 in any direct way. Rather they assume that a step change in ambient CO2 can be modelled by a step change in the radiative energy budget at the top of the model atmosphere. Now of course, we do not get step changes in either in the real system, and to some extent, this way of including the effect of a contributer to radiation budgets (known as 'forcing') is putting the cart before the horse, the effect before the cause, because after this step change the modellers watch as their models re-adjust back to an overall radiative balance.

This wheeze of using 'forcing' to model the effect of CO2 (and of other factors such as aerosols) caused the modellers no end of trouble in the early days of it, and ad hoc additions of energy fluxes (referred to as 'flux adjustments') were required to pamper the models into producing something credible by way of outputs. I understand that kludge has been replaced now with something more sophisticated, and flux adjustment is no longer required in modern models.

What I think rhoda would like, and so would I, is to see some model introduce CO2 at the surface, with spatial irregularly as in reality with big concentrations over the tropical land masses, and temporal irregularity both diurnal and seasonal. What effects do these relatively very high, very variable concentrations of CO2 have on weather systems and local radiation budgets? Is there some kind of interaction effect with water vapour and water droplets? What are the mechanisms and timescales of the mixing-in of the CO2 releases to the stage of their being classed as 'ambient', and how do they contribute to weather systems/radiation budgets throughout? Is the role of the CO2 molecule in the background, as an ambient participant, more or less important (in various phenomena) that its role when present in more concentrated layers and swirls in the atmosphere?

Now I daresay (caution called for again!) that this would be an extremely difficult thing to do, and might well be many orders of magnitude beyond the capability of existing computers to do it on a global scale. But we could surelyhave a shot on some scale or other? One in which actual real measururements, observations of the weather, could be pursued to check on the various hypotheses that would emerge or be required to set up the models. In view of the colossal importance being attached by sundry vested interests, as well as by many alarmed people, to the CO2 question, it would seem reasonable to try something like that.

Now of course Al Gore has told us that the science is settled. But even then, would not he and others with substantial vested interests in the CO2 alarm, not welcome such a detailed demonstration/illustration/verification of that? Given the unimpressive performance of the GCMs, surely something else from the Computer Temples would be welcome?

Nov 19, 2012 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

John, the thing is, if they modelled it nobody who did not like the result would have to believe it, because it is only a model and therefore the output of the programmer's prejudice.

The warmists have a chain of logic. They can measure the absorption in the CO2 bands actually in the atmosphere and use modtran/hitran to show projected results in various scenarios. I do not dispute that step. They calculate the absorbed radiation and come up with 3.7 watts/ sq m per doubling which is treated as added heat and translate that into an increased temperature for the whole earth using Stefan-Boltzman. I thnk they make some assumptions there. Is it 3.7 w/m^2 all the time, or does it vary in every location and time of day and year? Are there any measurements to check? If the tropospheric temps don't match this theory, does that not require explanation?

Back radiation or no?. Some warmists use this trope, others put things in a rather different way using the height of the radiating surface and lapse rate. But they admit there is no radiating surface per se, it is more of a conceptual thing.

Nov 19, 2012 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

We are adding more and more CO2 to the atmosphere every year and yet we appear not to be warming the planet, this is not what was predicted and this does not tally with dear old Bob Watson's favourite statement; "if you add CO2 to the atmosphere; it must warm, its simple physics."
Explain why not please and apparently Richard Betts does not know either.

Nov 19, 2012 at 9:04 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I won't bother to attempt to address the well put arguments regarding CO2, despite the scientific validity of them, as in practice, they are merely a diversion. The objective here was & is to create a Socilaist based Global Guvment, using the UN, the UNIPCC was never a scientific organisation, much of its apparent conclusions were probably formulated long before the reports were even prepared, it was & is a mere funcionary expedient to achieve the aforementioned objective. A scare story had to be created to capture the imagination of the people around the world. Hence we have conclusions of "the balance of evidence suggests no significant Human effect on climate", changed to "the balance of evidence suggests a discernable Human affect on climate", with the WG1 conclusions altered to concur with the SPM conclusions at a later date! This has consequently & subsequently been ratcheted up every time to propagate the desired message that Humans are evil, bad, dangerous, & must be culled, controlled, & oppressed to save Gaia. As Adolf Hitler said, "the mass of the people are more likely to believe a big lie, than a small one", & Vladimir Illych Ulyanov said "if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth"! So we now have a scientifically illiterate bunch of professional politicians most of them lawyers or PPE graduates, never having run anything in their lives, at all levels, lecturing us all on how we must live our lives, paying scientists to tell us what they want to hear, paying NGO's to provided "reports" & "evidence" that they want to hear! Our children are being brainwashed into accepting this garbage, teachers are forced to teach it to them, (some of them actually believe this crap themselves), & all done with a benign smile!

Dec 4, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

rhoda; 'back radiation' is an artefact of a pyrgeometer, the Poynting Vectors in its field of view. It can do no thermodynamic work until it has combined vectorially with PVs in the opposite direction.

Dec 4, 2012 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecm

Bish - I am curious about your antipathy to levelized costs as a method of comparing the costs of alternative energy investments. To my mind the approach is entirely sound, and I would appreciate it if you could provide your analysis that leads you to think otherwise.

All the best,


Apr 8, 2013 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterdcardno

Funny that the BBC Television Centre in White City London ( Blue Peter Garden Roy Castle with the 200 Tap Dancers ) the one they have recently shut down.Some of it.

Watch this special on BBC IPlayer with Micheal Grade, Brucie ,Parky, Miranda, Danny Baker, Wispering Bob Harris ,Attenborough ,Noel Edmonds all getting Emotional over a Building.

Read about it on Wilkipedia .Used to be powerd by its own Gas Turbine Generator and the BBC used to sell its excess KWs back to the National Grid at night time so they didnt have to keep stopping and starting it.

Wonder if the Beeb has got a Gas Turbine in Mancester.

Apr 9, 2013 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

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