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« Wet, wet, wet | Main | The climate inquisitor »

More gloom for renewables rentiers

DECC is apparently about to announce a review of its strategy on solar power:

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is set to announce a review into the level of support offered to large-scale solar through the Renewable Obligation scheme, with a number of industry figures bracing themselves for the news.

While a reduction is not the only outcome of a review, it would tally with the recent Solar Strategy document which appeared to realign its preference for PV developments from ground-mounted to smaller, mid-sized rooftop arrays.

Given that the government has been making noises about keeping everything steady on the renewables front, this could represent something of an about turn. If so, one wonders if it represents jockeying for position ahead of the various elections over the next year or derriere covering ahead of the crises in the electricity grid that are expected in coming winters.

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Reader Comments (25)

This would be good news if it were to happen. I am involved in opposing two proposals, each covering well over 100 acres of good farmland, one by Lightsource, yet another foreign-owned company, bent on destroying the country and countryside for pure greed. However, there is no evidence cited and DECC does review the subdsidies for solar on a regular basis (degression) because the cost of solar panels keeps falling.

Apr 29, 2014 at 4:44 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip Bradley, a question for you.

Do you have a ball park estimate as to what % of the current total capital cost of a solar energy installation is for panels?

The lower cost of panels is frequently cited as a good reason for pursuing solar but it does not affect installation labour costs, other material costs, connecting to the grid, inverters, etc.

I realize that there would be a wide range of answers to this dependent on specifics - but I'm only looking for a rough estimate to better understand the true impact of lower panel cost.

There's also the question whether lower panel costs are sustainable - a good number of the current (no pun intended!) suppliers seem to be going bankrupt by selling below cost.

Apr 29, 2014 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

Bratby, damn it!

Apr 29, 2014 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

PJ. I don't really have a breakdown of costs, but if you can find the cost of panels, then it should be easy. Typically, a solar farm will cost a toatl of about £1Million perMW capacity plus a grid connection which could be another £million or so. A landowner could expect an annual rental income of at least £1k per acre. Typically, 5 to 6 acres are needed per MW capacity, so a farmer hosting a 20MW solar farm can sit back and watch the money roll in for 25 years, without lifting a finger.

Apr 29, 2014 at 5:51 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Personally, I have doubts about how much "derriere covering ahead of the crises in the electricity grid that are expected in coming winters" there will be. With only one winter to go before the next election I wonder if they might just wing it and hope for the best. With other issues dominating the thinking of most MPs, some political risks often look like ones worth taking.

Still, might be a good election to lose.

Apr 29, 2014 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

A good resource for pricing panels is

Apr 29, 2014 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Solar panels, another renewables joke. At least it has one advantage over wind in that we know for certain when it definitely won't work. Some advantage that. Wind has produced nothing for the last 2 days meaning only an idiot would try and pass it off as a good idea - calling Mr Davey.

Apr 29, 2014 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

Steve Jones
trouble is we still don't know for sure when they will work at full capacity. It is very much maybe they will maybe they won't during daylight hours. Knowing when they won't doesn't really add a lot to the mix.

Apr 29, 2014 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

or derriere covering

bish, fesse is a more correct word. :)

Apr 29, 2014 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Wind has produced nothing for the last 2 days meaning only an idiot would try and pass it off as a good idea - calling Mr Davey.

Keep watching the site. There is unlikely to be any wind energy for the next week except in eastern england and then only for a day or two

Apr 29, 2014 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

"Wind has produced nothing for the last 2 days meaning only an idiot would try and pass it off as a good idea"

What is the official response to no wind production especially in the ultra high demand cold winter months, is it to turn off the electric heating or to burn evil fossil fuels....

Apr 29, 2014 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Rob, the official response is that the wind is always blowing somewhere.

What we can say is that over the last 24 hours, we have had 40 times as much electricity from nuclear as wind, 70 times as much electricity from coal as wind, 64 times as much electricity from gas as wind, 11 times as much electricity from France as wind and 5 times as much electricity from the Netherlands as wind. That is how successful the £billions of our money that has been wasted on wind has been. And the Government tells us how wind power increases our security of supply. Really, if somebody wrote a book about this, you would laugh it off as a work of fiction.

Apr 29, 2014 at 10:08 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

How long before they start taxing it like the Spanish?

Apr 29, 2014 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Phillip Bratby:
"Rob, the official response is that the wind is always blowing somewhere."

Are you aware of any actual cases? I mean where someone has measured actual output of existing wind farms. I know there was a contrary conclusion to the comparison of (mostly) scottish output v (mostly) east german output. ( a range of 900 kilometres). There have been 2 tests in Australia over the 4 States (and ACT) in the South East with a spread of 1540 km. by approx. 900km. which concluded that there was no reliability of supply. There was supposedly a study of 5 States in S.E. USA but it may have been a computer exercise only, as I have not been able to track it down, nor confirm which States are/could be connected into a grid.

Perhaps Mr. Davey thinks extending wind farms into the Atlantic would help? In that case I think his chances are Rockall.

Apr 30, 2014 at 12:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

AAaaarrrgghhhh....The apocalypse of green, their horsemen are abroad in the UK and industrial suicide beckons. Are our lunatic 'green' MPs, administration and the DECC - lunaticos demolicion?

Financial Fiasco

The gold rush to get the subsidy of 47 Euro cents per kWh began. Because the subsidy was so high, far too many solar PV plants were built quickly — more than the government could afford. This might not have happened if global banks hadn’t got involved and handed out credit like candy.

Even before the financial crash of 2008 the Spanish government began to balk at paying the full subsidies, and after the 2008 crash (which was partly brought on by this over-investment in solar PV), the government began issuing dozens of decrees lowering the subsidies and allowed profit margins. In addition, utilities were allowed to raise their electric rates by up to 20%.

The end result was a massive transfer of public wealth to private solar PV investors of about $2.33 billion euros per year, and businesses that depended on cheap electricity threatened to leave Spain.

Despite these measures, the government is still spending about $10.5 billion a year on renewable energy subsidies, and the Spanish government has had many lawsuits brought against them for lowering subsidies and profit margins.

Solar companies went bankrupt after the financial crash, including the Chinese company Suntech, which sold 40% of its product to Spain. About 44,000 of the nation’s 57,900 PV installations are almost bankrupt, and companies continue to fail (Cel Celis), or lay off many employees (Spanish photovoltaic module manufacturer T-Solar).


The vast sums involved here are simply jaw dropping and yet Britain stumbles down this road to perdition and transported on [for some rich landowners] the luxury charabanc - a 'renewables' vehicle.

and this!

The green energy orgy in Germany is over. The music has stopped and the wine that once flowed freely has long run out. The green energy whores and pimps can go home.

Fookin ell, why are we the last to learn..............?

Apr 30, 2014 at 1:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

The green energy orgy in Germany is over. The music has stopped and the wine that once flowed freely has long run out. The green energy whores and pimps can go home.

Fookin ell, why are we the last to learn..............?
Apr 30, 2014 at 1:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.
This report has more details of the German reforms.

"German cabinet passes renewables reform seeking to trim subsidies

London (Platts)--8Apr2014/850 am EDT/1250 GMT

Germany's cabinet Tuesday passed a draft proposal for reform of the renewable energy law, seeking to trim subsidies for green energy and steering the growth of new wind and solar installations without endangering the country's transition to a renewable energy future.

Energy and economy minister Sigmar Gabriel's plans for reducing the overall costs of the so-called energy transition is focusing on setting annual installation targets as well as integrating renewable energy more into the market.

The reform seeks to introduce a cap on onshore wind at 2,500 MW/year.

Additions above that target would automatically trigger further cuts in feed-in tariffs."

More at

Apr 30, 2014 at 1:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterMick J

Graeme: Try the Pöyry report here. A key finding was

A geographical spread of wind (and, Pöyry argue, solar) supported by a supergrid would not resolve the problems of intermittency because similar weather patterns can extend across much of the continent of Europe and the UK and Ireland.

Apr 30, 2014 at 6:49 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

How about a reliable* energy future?

* Using the cheapest fuels (including nuclear) available from many producers world-wide - not excluding Great Britain.

Apr 30, 2014 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Sydney

I have just returned from Prestwold motor racing track near Loughborough. The place has been ruined by acres of solar panels - such that it was impossible to see the far side. The irony was that the buildings were powered by an old diesel fuel generator. LOL but this is serious money - ours?

Apr 30, 2014 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Mills

Answer for Rob Burton regarding the 'official response' to the total lack of wind power over the last few days...

Absolutely sweet FA. I e-mailed the DECC to point out to them the folly of their ways (including the 'wind is free' joke - yep, so are oil, coal and gas - the cost is in converting these into viable sources of power) - and presumably my e-mail got deleted toute suite...

Anyway - keep writing to them - EVENTUALLY they might get fed up with defending the indefensible...

May 1, 2014 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Athelstan - the reason we are the 'last to learn' - is that 'we lead the world in renewables'...!

Presumably eventually someone in government will work out (in between doing some colouring in, and making something with yogurt pots) that the reason we 'lead the world', is because everyone else has realised that this is a ridiculous way to produce 'secure and reliable' electricity...

Got my little standby genny ready...

May 1, 2014 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

DECC is at war with itself, and with the Chancellor and with the voters.

There are three massively conflicting conditions trying to be met

- cheaper electricity and power
- some belief that actual carbon reduction is necessary
- a renewable obligation handed down from Brussels. And gold plated by Mliiband.

The first conditions is best satisfied by coal, but that violates the second and third,
The second is best satisfied by nuclear but that doesn't do a lot for the first, and nothing for the third.
The third is satisfied by lots of cosmetic windmills and solar panels, but that destroys the first condition and does nothing to satisfy the second as without extensive hydro, or connectors to it, we have to rely on more inefficiently run fossil to make up the shortfalls. Thus negating the carbon gains.

What has resulted is a lot of headlines about renewables whilst steadily the subsidy trough is being turned off and plans for massive nuclear expansion if that can be achieved.

HOWEVER massive over regulation has made nuclear very expensive. So in order to get that built it also needs subsides similar too - but much less than - renewables - in order that it can compete.

This has led to the lunatic propositions in some DECC plans of having a massive nuclear fleet - capable of supplying the entire country all on its own and TURNING IT DOWN when the wined blows to meet 'renewable obligations'.

That you turn down one expensive zero carbon generator in order to let another even more expensive carbon generator play silly buggers simply to meet a POLITICAL target for 'renewable energy' I leave for you to contemplate in utter horror.

May 2, 2014 at 4:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterLeo Smith

"The green energy whores and pimps can go home. "

Solar Panel Installation Vendors.

aka SPIVs.

May 2, 2014 at 4:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterLeo Smith

Can I ask: What is wrong with a network of SMALL (c.50/100MW) nuclear power stations..? Why do we always have to go for massive/expensive..?
Surely these could be constructed relatively quickly, and with less regulation than big ones..?
As I understnd it (and subject to correction by those who REALLY know what they're talking about) - the reactor in a nuclear submarine is about the size of a dustbin...

May 2, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Trouble is it needs all the infrastructure of a big one in terms of security, fuel supply, grid connection etc.
The answer is to build new ones next to the old ones which already have all of this, plus it solves a lot of problems decommissioning the old ones as they can just be left in place within the controlled perimeter of the new operation.

May 2, 2014 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

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