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« Mann at the Cabot | Main | Bristol bound »

Renewables don't work

The message that renewables simply don't work seems to be getting around. John Morgan, an Australian industrial scientist working in the area of grid storage technologies, has been looking at the EROI measure that was discussed at BH a few weeks back and has concluded that there is a bit of a problem with the whole concept of grid storage:

Several recent analyses of the inputs to our energy systems indicate that, against expectations, energy storage cannot solve the problem of intermittency of wind or solar power.  Not for reasons of technical performance, cost, or storage capacity, but for something more intractable: there is not enough surplus energy left over after construction of the generators and the storage system to power our present civilization.

Given the amount we have lavished on renewables in this country, Morgan's conclusions could be viewed as just more than slightly unfortunate.

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Reader Comments (74)

Esmiff, the IMF working papers on the subject project over $200/bbl and actual shortages on the margin by about 2020. The oil companies don't care, because they will make a fortune on what they will have left. The last thing they want is transportation fuel conservation now.

Sep 23, 2014 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

Slightly off topic, but it looks as if the Germans are becoming the first to break ranks away from the "consensus".

Not only have their leading media outlets been highly critical of the German renewables industry, they are also beginning to question other articles of the AGW faith: No Tricks Zone has extracts (in English) of some German press articles which you would never see on the Beeb or most other British media outlets.

Sep 23, 2014 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterWFC

Rud Istvan

Even Nostradamus Monbiot admits there is actually too much oil in the world. Peak Oil was a lie.

Sep 23, 2014 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smiff

High CRI LEDs – 90 plus – are beginning to percolate down to the consumer market. I see a Chinese firm offering 98 CRI based on a violet LED. The penalty is lower efficiency and shorter life and higher cost. They're improving all the time. I might even invest in some soon.

Sep 23, 2014 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

I worked at a premier maker of CPUs. We had factories situated in some lovely zones where they experienced power fluctuations and blackouts daily. This kind of occurrence not only shut down the factory, but also tended to burn out very expensive equipment, which was difficult to replace. Nobody was idiot enough to buy PCs that plugged into the wall in those days. Laptops only. Various Asian countries have been working themselves out of this power pickle for decades, and they get why it matters. I'm not looking forward to more of the same in the first world.

Sep 24, 2014 at 12:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoberto


Thanks for the correction of my dodgy figures. I said I was up too late.

Yes, battery storage is bonkers but that won't stop the fools. Here in SA the Premier has called for an INCREASE in renewables to 50% of the supply. He claims that renewables have proven reliable, are cheaper and will lead to cheaper electricity.

South Australia has the highest concentration of wind turbines in Australia, and second highest % adoption of PV solar. It has the HIGHEST cost of electricity in Australia. The Premier doesn't see the connection. Mind you, his cabinet includes a Minister for Roads whose "solution" to runaway trucks was to reduce the speed of CARs on the same road.

Truly we are blessed (?) with politicians who "haven't got the brains of a raspberry seed".

Sep 24, 2014 at 12:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

Euro 5/6 legislation has led to more-efficient combustion and cleaner exhausts. This is not a pure market led initiative - the market is constrained by government regulation. And believe it or not we are actually better off because governments didn't let markets run riot. That said, renewables really don't look like a very sensible policy option for anything other than getting the green vote!

Sep 24, 2014 at 12:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

15 Gw is not 15 million watt. That would be 15 Mw, correctly. Kilo is 10 to power 3, Mega is 10 to power 6, Giga is 10 to power 9. (My tablet lacks symbols.)
15 Gw is 15 billion watt, if you have to make the mental stretch. There is historic confusion because billion was sometimes taken as a million million, while today it is settled at a thousand million.
Unfortunately, most of us do have to make the mental stretch.
Units like the watt, the watt hour and watt per square meter have to be learned to appreciate their significance.
One bad outcome is a confused society that has little feel for magnitudes and effects.
The kids at SS are not helping by inventing more units like numbers of bombs or cat meows.
Nor are some countries helping by their reluctant adoption of metric. It is way past time to dump miles and Fahrenheit.
Lest we end up with velocity in furlongs per fortnight.

Sep 24, 2014 at 1:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

I don't think anyone would disagree that legislation regarding clean water, air and land is a good thing. The problem in giving agencies enforcing the legislation too much power such as the EPA in America and SEPA in Scotland is that they take more and more power, become political and can't be voted out of office.

Even by brother who thinks Wind Turbines are a good and is keen on environmental protection regards SEPA as a hindrance. "I'm just going to check with SEPA before I wash the car"

Sep 24, 2014 at 8:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Geoff Sherrington

Jamesp actually said 15GW is ‘only’ 15 million kW

For the current generation of electric vehicles furlongs per fortnight. is an appropriate value for average speed.

Sep 24, 2014 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

"GW", please, not "Gw".

Sep 24, 2014 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

A billion is 10 ^12 unless you are an American or banker that wants to appear to have more than you actually do (see:

Sep 24, 2014 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Inevitably renewable subsidies will soon end everywhere and renewable investors will also bail out after losing too much. Industrial users and then domestic users will be forced by this disinvestment and lack of planning into buying their own micro-generation plant; stirling engines, fuel cells, micro-turbine tech etc. This is what Japan and Germany are moving towards to replace nuclear power and the UK will get on board too at some point. So the main problem will be in securing gas supplies and unconventional gas will be front and centre. Nimbys will eventually realise that gas exploration is necessary whether they like it or not because the alternatives are much worse. Pielkes 'iron law' will inevitably prevail against the luddites, closed-minded hippies and lying 'scientists'.

Sep 24, 2014 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Re Sep 23, 2014 at 1:04 PM | jamesp

In The Netherlands we have a saying (translated): "The Quayside will deflect the ship". I fear this is going to happen. The quay is not far off, however ;-)

Sep 24, 2014 at 9:55 AM | Registered CommenterAlbert Stienstra

Sep 23, 2014 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

You are correct that the drive towards lowering CO2 emissions has had some limited benefit with increased efficiency, but the steps taken may not be as large as you think they are.

The other day, I saw an article regarding fuel consumption. A number of cars were tested and it found that official figure for consumption were overstated by between 20 to 45%! Apparently, there is some Class Action being pursued in Italy seeking to obtain compensation for buyers of new cars.

I have a couple of old late 1960s Lancias (1600 cc engines, twin double choke carbs, weighing in at 810 kg and 880kg). Even today they will return 30mpg around town, and about 40mpg on a run. When pushed hard (eg., 100mph and above), their economy drops to 15 to 20 mpg. Many modern petrol powered cars do not perform significantly better in real life scenarios.

Reverting to renewables, the real elephant in the room is that they do not reduce CO2 emissions. Given that they require 100% backup from fossil fuels, this is not surprising. Typical windfarm average output is about 23% so one may at first sight presume that since fossil fuels are only required for 77% of the time, there will be a 23% reduction in CO2 emissions. But this is not the case, since the backup has to be operated in start/stop ramp up/ramp down mode. This is just like town driving where the start stop nature of the urban cycle requires much greater consumption of fuel than does the steady state motorway driving when th engine is working at peak efficiency and using far less fuel.

The upshot is that whilst renewables can produce power about 235 of the time they do not reduce CO2 emissions by 23%. They reduce CO2 emissions by virtually nothing at all, and by the time one takes into account the CO2 in the manufacture of the windturbines and shipping to site, and erecting the units (which require massive amounts of cement which is very CO2 intensive) coupling the windfarms to the grid etc, there is no reduction in CO2.

So what is the point, if they do not even result in fulfilling their raison d'etre, namely reducing CO2?

Sep 24, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

I read the linked article which pointed out that France had eliminated... mostly... fossil fuel from its electricity production by using largely nuclear, topped up with hydro.

But... it is now Government policy to replace 50% of nuclear with wind.

Which confirms what we know, this whole nonsense is about half-baked, political, Green ideology floating on a raft of stupidity in a sea of ignorance.

Sep 24, 2014 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Meanwhile, even the BBC seems to be losing interest in climate change/renewables..

On BBC Breakfast this morning, they spent no more than ten seconds reporting on yesterday's climate conference in New York - brief shot of Ban Ki Moon arriving in the conference hall...

But perhaps even more telling - in the World/USA section of their website, a side article entitled: 'Big deal or big dud..?' - referring to the march of '300000' (oh, yeah) people through New York on Sunday - with a pretty tongue-in-cheek view of the whole matter - including a picture of a guy dressed in a toga with flowers in his hair (SOOOOO 1960's...) The gist of the reporting was that it was just a march to protest about anything and everything.


Sep 24, 2014 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

The BBC skipping over the New York climate boondoggle is a sure sign it is falling apart. A curse on all the political hacks, parasites and media schills who have promoted told so many lies and manipulations on climate.

Sep 24, 2014 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

"Lest we end up with velocity in furlongs per fortnight." ain't that the truth.

Lovely expression Geoff, and thanks for your pointing out the GW size, [shame on me - I really must admit that I had that wrong].

I would like to debate over the perceived merits of miles v kilometers and also though you will be unaware of this argument and benefits [mathematically speaking] of the duodecimal monetary system, as opposed to the decimalization of the pound - a disaster for Brits, who were coshed, Shanghaied and forced into the strait jacket of decimal system by our overlords and masters. 12 - is a thing of beauty and in the same moment: varied calculations thereof - expands the mind.

Sep 24, 2014 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

richard verney

It's a hoax perpetrated by the banks and perpetrated by morons who want to look cool.

Carbon trading worth twice that of oil in next decade.

Sep 24, 2014 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Hello Ivan. I agree with you that we have more than enough wind turbines in the U.K already but ;
From Wikipedia
1,000,000,000 (one billion, short scale; one thousand million or milliard, long scale) is the natural number following 999,999,999 and preceding 1,000,000,001.
In scientific notation, it is written as "1 × 10^9".
Previously in British English (but not in American English), the word "billion" referred to a million millions (1,000,000,000,000). However, this is no longer the case, and the word has been used unambiguously to mean one thousand million (1,000,000,000) for some time. The alternative term "one thousand million" is rare and is used primarily to ease understanding among non-native speakers of English, as many other languages use words similar to "billion" (e.g. Spanish billón) to mean one trillion (1,000,000,000,000 or a million millions).

I expect that some of the people who voted yes on the 18th Sept were thinking that the annual U.K. income of ~ £ 6 billion of income tax from oil from North Sea was a 6 million million instead of the actual ~ £ 6,000,000,000 which if divided by 5 million people living in Scotland gives £1200 per head per year, which is not enough to live on and in any case is already spoken for to pay for public services. [ correct me if this is not correct ]

Sep 24, 2014 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex


Somebody, please, say something new. Beddies now, good book.

Sep 24, 2014 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterVernon E

Hi Alex,

Yes the thousand million meaning for billion is used by those that want to appear to have more than they actually do - bankers, politicians etc. and is something 'gained' from the US. In most of Europe a billion is still a million million as it is in the scientific community who point out it is 1 * 10^12.

Your example is a very good illustration of newspeak being used to change peoples perception by appearing to inflate the figures just as they do with wind and solar power.

Sep 24, 2014 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterivan

You keep asserting that the use of the term billion has some sort of American hucksterism egoist motive.
When I read Mathematician authors like Rudy Rucker discussing nomenclature, he does not seem to be involved in inflationary hucksterism.
When I look up a non-political source on the names of large and small numbers, I don't see any sort of 'mine is bigger' attitude. The short scale is easier to count in. And the rationale makes pretty good sense: Change names at each 10^3 set of large numbers:
thousand, million, billion, etc. The short scale, used worldwide, seems more practical.

Sep 25, 2014 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

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