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« Green blob in control at Environment Agency | Main | How can the BBC help you advertise your wares better, Mr Green Blob? »

AEP and the GLCL*

Detail from woodcut by Paul Bloomer Evans-Pritchard has an article in the Telegraph boldly declaring that the UK is backing away from wind power just as they become competitive with fossil fuels. The story seems to be that if only wind turbines could be made really, really huge, then everything would be OK.

Cue a barrage of graphs to support the (alleged) case.

"Great levelised costs lie?", I hear you ask.

You bet.

A study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance concluded that the global average for the 'levelised cost of electricity' (LCOE) for onshore wind fell to $83 per megawatt/hour last year compared to $76-$82 for gas turbine plants in the US, or $85-$93 in Asia, or $103-$118 in Europe.

Ho hum.


*GLCL: Great levelised costs lie.

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Reader Comments (79)

Hey Paul Homewood's got a blogpost with some figures

and @PhilB points out "AEP seems to have taken over from Geoffrey Lean as the head of gibberish."

Jan 11, 2016 at 5:15 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Gordon Hughes wrote a report for the GWPF in 2012 "Why is Why Is Wind Power So Expensive? An Economic Analysis" which described the problems of levelised costs comparisons.

"These technical differences [between dispatchable and non-dispatchable sources] are hugely important. Most of the comparisons between the costs of renewable and non-renewable types of generation focus on the cost per MWh based upon an assumption of uniform load factors and a standard discount rate to translate capital and operating costs into a single cost – what is referred to as the “levelised cost per MWh”. Unfortunately, in economic terms 1 MWh generated at 9 am on a December morning is simply not the same product as 1 MWh generated at 2 am in the middle of June. Levelised costs are useful for comparing generation technologies that are dispatchable and will be used to meet base load demand. They are profoundly misleading when used for any other comparison."

Jan 11, 2016 at 5:27 PM | Registered CommenterRuth Dixon

David Jones @ 10:37 regarding charging or using wind output:

Folks that like to play with numbers will often split the output 50-50 when working with wind or solar. One can take the daily average output and store half of it. See Figure 3 in
Roger Andrews at Energy Matters

Jan 11, 2016 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

Skepticism is warranted but there are engineers doing just that right now with several cunning schemes. I try to balance my scepticism with the knowledge that if engineers had ever listened to deskbound naysayers then we'd still be using pre-industrial-revolution wind and water mills and there wouldn't be any air traffic to ban :)

The problem as with all things green, is the money! So long as someone gives them taxpayers money to squander, the "engineers" will work on it, regardless of whether it has any merit or not!

Jan 11, 2016 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Harry Passfield
I've come to this a bit late.
Scotland has over 5GW (40% of UK) of installed wind generation capacity. Scotland is probably the windiest of the UK member countries. As of 2011 Scotland's annual demand was 50,000 GWh (about 10% of UK demand). Assuming the demand hasn't changed by much and an average load factor of 35% the Scottish wind mills should produce about 15,500 GWh. So assuming that much of the excess wind generation goes to England as an invisible export then the numbers in the report aren't regarding 6 months at 100% aren't that unbelievable as a result of torturing data. Whether the grid in Scotland will ever be run on 100% wind is an entirely different question.

What remains the problem is high demand windless days. I'm not sure if any nuclear facilities have closed but in 2014 nuclear was the largest single source of electricity in Scotland, but no where near enough to cope with a fleet of stationary wind mills.

Jan 11, 2016 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

stewgreen Jeremy Leggett seems to offer an uncanny ability to get things wrong. Far more useful to Business Investors than he would like people to know.

Are all his top tips for success doomed to failure? I presume/hope they are all Green Blob inspired, subsidy racketeers, that he knows so much about, through his own self interest.

Jan 11, 2016 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

@SandyS: the scam organised by the Corporatist Fascists who set up the SNP was to sell Scots' wind power to England at 3x Grid price, then when the wind didn't blow, to import rUK fossil and nuclear power at 1x Grid price.

This arbitrage was intended to replace lost N. Sea oil earnings. It has failed. There is a fix for this abuse of the economy. It will close down ~half present wind farms, enabling them to be refinanced with no subsidies.

Jan 11, 2016 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

@Paul Matthews, Jan 11, 2016 at 10:57 AM

I know it's a bit tedious, but I think you should spell out exactly what the GLCL lie is and why it's a lie. Previous posts on the subject don't really seem to do this either. You'd only need to write it out once, then refer back to it each time it comes up

See: Comparing The Costs Of Intermittent And Dispatchable
Electricity Generating Technologies (LCOE), Paul L. Joskow Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and MIT>/a>

Jan 11, 2016 at 7:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

Well I wouldn't worry about subsidies. If high altitude wind power ever works it surely won't be the Brits who do it first.

Jan 11, 2016 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

No need to just guess about Scottish energy stats - all the data is available online, eg:

Also "Figures published today (26 March) by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for renewable energy generation in 2014 reveal that 49.6% of gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources in Scotland last year - an increase from 44.4% in 2013."

Just ignore NCC, he's has clearly been off his meds too long so you won't get any sense out of the conspiracist troll. This mythical 200 companies turned out to be perfectly legitimate businessmen who happen to think that the Scottish better know how to run Scotland. The idea that Scotland depends on England's energy is a farcical reversal of reality since they export 28% southwards and any subsidising of Northern windmills is easily countered by the North subsidising all those solar panels in the South - which is still ongoing btw. As for the oft-repeated idea that somehow the English are more capable of managing an economy than Scots it is quite literally a sick joke in the light of the current national debt. As for the needlessly incendiary language,,,,well this appears all the time from little Englanders on this blog and is exactly the kind of ill-informed, motormouth stupidity that caused the rise in nationalism in the first place.

Jan 11, 2016 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

It is passing strange that wind appears to work well in Scotland while under performing basically every where else. My hat goes off to my ancestral homeland for this great accomplishment. It will be of great interest to understand the Scottish distinction.

Jan 11, 2016 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Jan 11, 2016 at 8:57 PM | JamesG

As for the oft-repeated idea that somehow the English are more capable of managing an economy than Scots it is quite literally a sick joke in the light of the current national debt.

Darien scheme

Jan 11, 2016 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Jan 11, 2016 at 8:57 PM JamesG

Check out how much the fraction of biomass is of renewable sources in Scotland. Usually it is more than 50% of renewable generation.

Jan 11, 2016 at 11:04 PM | Registered CommenterAlbert Stienstra

Thanks JamesG, was very interesting!

Jan 11, 2016 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand


"As for the needlessly incendiary language,,,,well this appears all the time from little Englanders on this blog and is exactly the kind of ill-informed, motormouth stupidity that caused the rise in nationalism in the first place."

Perhaps you should consider that some of the same being directed south of the border by little Scotlanders was also causal? There appear to have been some pretty offensive comments originating from cyber-nats against David Bowie today.

Jan 11, 2016 at 11:47 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

As for the oft-repeated idea that somehow the English are more capable of managing an economy than Scots it is quite literally a sick joke in the light of the current national debt. As for the needlessly incendiary language,,,,well this appears all the time from little Englanders on this blog and is exactly the kind of ill-informed, motormouth stupidity that caused the rise in nationalism in the first place.

Cripes James. No one is for one minute suggesting that what occurs in Westminster approaches nor provides anything like an efficient administration and I am damned sure there are many Scotlanders who could achieve a much more stable government than is currently the case north or south. Actually, the problem is those wonderful Scots lads and lassies just aren't in, running the government whether it be in Edinburgh or London.

We - yes you and me, are stuck with a political managerial strata whose incompetence is only matched by their sense of entitlement, that is, for the taxpayers of the UK to provide these wonderful political elite and to keep them in the style to which and unfortunately they have become accustomed.

This is a problem of our incredibly inept political system and the fact that these people believe in fashioning the world as a Disney cartoon some sort of Nirvana. An abstract perfection here on earth, where money grows on trees and everyone can have a leg up, it's bloody marvellous in dreams but it won't work in reality - in the final analysis the money has to be borrowed from somewhere.
In the meantime, these self same politicians are strapping British industry or what's left of it - through the green agenda. Which is a double calumny and it simply cannot go on, the national debt is ballooning, the world economic system is in dire straits, and at some point, it will come crashing down [that's where I do agree with AEP btw] - and someone will have to pay the piper.

Nationality is, should not be, an issue between countrymen who should be on the same side of the debate.

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Athelstan: "Nationality is, should not be, an issue between countrymen who should be on the same side of the debate."

10/10, and in the case of the UK, should apply to all four Nations.

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:50 AM | Registered CommenterSalopian

This is a blog of someone who lives in Scotland, though I don't know Andrew Montford's ancestry.
My father is a Scot and I wasn't born in England.
Years ago, whenever I used to go climbing/drinking in Scotland I had to swallow a lot of anti-Thatcher belly-aching even though I never voted for her (and they oft bought me drink afterwards).

People in England are entitled to call out arse whether it originates from anywhere in Scotland or England.
[See who I missed out there :) ]

Get over it.

Jan 12, 2016 at 1:45 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

note that Mr Bloomberg is a great proponent of green energy with many investments in that area. Note therefore that his communications empire is not to be considered impartial and that he has a very large dog in this fight. So I choose to disbelieve this report without further investigation.

Jan 12, 2016 at 3:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterchris moffatt

Battery backup systems are net consumers of energy. Same with pumped storage. That backup capacity is measured in hours, not days/weeks. Contrast river-fed reservoir storage systems, nuclear, and coal/NatGas systems which are net producers of energy. As some wise person once noted, the steam that blows the whistle will never turn the wheel.

Jan 12, 2016 at 5:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterdp

Thrumm of themm rotor blades signifying
...not much.

Jan 12, 2016 at 7:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterBeth Cooper

@JamesG: it is perfectly reasonable to state that because the SNP's policy is to go 100% renewable, and because hydro is a small proportion, once Scotland's nuclear and fossil power stations are shut down, when the wind doesn't blow they will rely on power exported from English nuclear and fossil fuelled power stations at Grid price.

They then export wind energy to England whenever there is an excess over domestic needs at 3x grid price. This cynical arbitrage has been designed to enrich businessmen who, to get rich on the backs of the English poor, have been destroying Scotland's tourism by making the Highlands a Factory whilst controlling SNP energy policy.

One of those 'subsidy farming scum' is a Liberal Peer. I notice today that the newly knighted Idiot Davey has got four jobs in DECC related villages, sorry companies. This is Corporatist Fascism, pure and simple.

Jan 12, 2016 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

The problem with the Scottish renewable generation stats is called "averaging". You can only generate when you consume and you must consume when you generate. Average figures are pointless when talking about electricity generation.

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

The correct method of costing wind v conventional is to look at the Levelized Avoided Cost of Energy (LACE).

In other words, you take the total cost of wind (incl capital + fixed), but compare with the variable cost of, say, gas-fired. This is on the basis that you still need to pay for the fixed costs of gas, just to keep on standby.

I have worked out some costings here, based on IEA figures.

The cost of onshore wind comes out as $97, against a variable gas cost of $57

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Homewood

I am convinced that windmills will save us all.

As an engineer I know that an electric motor is the same thing as a dynamo.

What we need to do is to design windmills so that, when the wind does not drive the turbine we power the turbine from the grid. Simples!!

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Baird

Perhaps the winds are not blowing so clearly in favor cluttering up all of Scotland with windmills after all:
<""= "Wind Power Blows"> hoping the html works....

Jan 12, 2016 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter


BP are cutting around 600 Scottish jobs, due to the collapsing price of oil.

What are the SNP doing to counteract this?

Jan 13, 2016 at 1:48 AM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Jan 13, 2016 at 1:48 AM Salopian

Write a letter to Amber Rudd.

SNP Aberdeen MP calls for crisis talks with UK Energy Minister over BP jobs axe

Callum McCaig – who is also the SNP Energy Spokesman in the House of Commons – has today written to Amber Rudd, Energy Minister, challenging the Government to mitigate job losses, and is pressing for swift changes to taxation of the sector to encourage exploration.

Jan 13, 2016 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

SNP are in bed with the Greens. They are against new "fossil fuel" jobs in Scotland, plain and simple.

They actively campaigned in my electorate against shale oil & gas exploitation in Scotland.

Their door-knocker ran (literally ran) away when I angrily asked him to explain this and made clear I would not be fobbed off by vague allusions to supposed water contamination in Lancashire.

Jan 13, 2016 at 12:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

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