Wind and solar are worst
Jun 19, 2014
Bishop Hill in DECC, Energy: gas, Energy: grid, Energy: nuclear, Energy: solar, Energy: wind

The venerable (and somewhat woolly liberal) Brookings Institution in Washington DC has published a working paper on the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Commendably, the paper eschews the dishonest levelised-cost (LCOE) approach used by DECC and its colleagues in the green movement. 

The author, Charles Frank, concludes that solar and wind power are the worst possible approach to the problem:

...nuclear, hydro, and natural gas combined cycle have far more net benefits than either wind or solar. This is the case because solar and wind facilities suffer from a very high capacity cost per megawatt, very low capacity factors and low reliability, which result in low avoided emissions and low avoided energy cost per dollar invested.

So DECC is promoting the least cost effective approach to emissions reduction and utilises a misleading metric to cover this up. Hmm.

In a similar vein, I came across this article at the GreenBiz website, which looked at levelised costs a few weeks ago:

Many people going solar are engaged customers and card-carrying members of the renewable energy choir. Or they're the energy-savvy commercial customers that have installed more than 3,300 MW of solar power through mid-2013 as a way to lower their energy costs, improve their bottom line and gain competitive advantage. They're going solar and reading about its LCOE — they hear that solar's LCOE is beating other forms of power generation, and they might come to believe that LCOE is the only metric that matters. And if you hang your hat on solar's LCOE, and that LCOE is favorable, why build anything other than solar?

Except that despite what LCOE might lead you to believe, things aren't that simple. If one generation source has a hypothetical LCOE of $60 per MWh but only produces power during the day and another source has a hypothetical LCOE of $80 per MWh but can produce power around the clock, if you need that power at night LCOE would suggest you should build one thing while in reality you needed the other.

Now in my book, if this hypothetical scenario exists in practice then its no different to fraud. You would not be allowed to sell anything else using such misleading metrics. The article speaks about a company called SolarCity that eschews levelised costs. No doubt there are others that are not so honest. But when you think about it, it's pretty appalling that the government is engaging in behaviour that most would consider fraudulent and even promoters of renewables think is misleading.

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