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What will net zero cost?

Yesterday's CCC report was a masterpiece of bureaucratic obfuscation, with acres of verbiage and a generous sprinkling of buzzwords that was never entirely successful in obscuring a marked shallowness of thought. One of the things that struck me about it was the almost complete lack of any cost information. We were told that all the CCC's whizzbang scheme would cost just 1-2% of GDP in 2050 (pull the other one!) but there was nothing to substantiate this figure (or indeed most other figures in the report).

It all struck me as extremely unlikely. Just a couple of days before I'd come across a study that put the cost of deep retrofitting insulation measures to the UK housing stock at £2 trillion, which over 30 years is £67 billion per year. That's 2% of current GDP on its own. The report puts the cost of converting to low-carbon heat (heat pumps etc) at £15 billion per year.

With this in mind, I wondered whether BH readers could come up with some more capital costs of the Great Leap Forward that our lords and masters are intending to unleash. 

As a start, I reckon that current UK energy demand is around 1600 TWh per year. How many offshore windfarms will we need to deliver that? And what will they cost to build (every 15-20 years)?



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Reader Comments (22)

As an aside. I was staying in a holiday let last month with an air source heating system. While we were there the gas backup failed and the temperature dropped like a stone. With just the air source side working, it barely took the edge off the cold. We burnt a basketful of logs while we waited for a heating specialist. The building was a barn conversion and had the opportunity to put in underfloor heating,which is supposed to be the only real way that ground or air source heating works well, This immediately adds extra problems when installing. Everything from raising skirtings and built in wardrobes to trimming doors. The plumber admitted that the lovely oak flooring put over the heating pipes acted as insulation from the pipes and god help them if the pipes needed repair/replacing. As with many complex system, any fault required an expert, whereas with conventional heating systems, many people can fix a minor problem themselves with at least with the help of a low level plumber.

Back about 10 years now, I read about an experiment involving an Oxford (?) University where they retrofitted a two bedroom end terrace. It cost £80,000 on a £130,000 house. The bills were only 2/3rd smaller, although part of that was due to the couple turning up the heat, because they could afford to. They lost their loft as storage space because it was full of equipment and insulation (which is great until you need to do ANY work in the loft (especially to the newly installed equipment). Sometime soon there will be workmen suing the government for lung or eye damage due to lofts clogged with insulation. Because of constraints, the property couldn't have a ground source heating system, so they couldn't get lower.

I suspect that many of the easy changes have been done and the big revolution the greenies want is just not going to happen. Wall insultation is a timebomb for damp problems or conflicts with listed housing. Solar panels will be white elephants making reroofing a bother, with those who signed up to the green deal having been left massively out of pocket and those who rented their roof out for free solar panels are finding it impossible to sell because the deal is tied to the deeds.

May 3, 2019 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

GreenDream projects are subsidised in 4 ways
#1 Directly with Guaranteed Feed In Tariffs
#2 With priority market access rules
#3 By getting free additional infrastructure like the cable which takes Scottish windfarm energy into Cheshire
.. (or would do if it wasn't broken all the time)
#4 A super preferential mining tax rate on their raw material there is a mining tax on oil/gas but NOT on wind/solar

Need we worry about those 4 subsidies ?
Well who pays for them ?
... MAGIC UNICORNS pay for all those extra costs

... thank God Britain has loads of magic unicorns

OR perhaps an electricity grid that retails electricity at an average of 15p/KWh
would be selling electricity at 11p/KWh
and thus feeds into the costs of everything GRANNY pays for directly or thru government/charity
.. And that includes hospitals
.. So a hospital budget that might have cash to employ 100 nurses only has enough cash to pay for 90 or 95

May 3, 2019 at 5:25 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

.. comments were giving submission error

May 3, 2019 at 5:27 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Fewer flights in and out of the country mean less air freight. Many small but urgent things come in that way.
I used to work in radiopharmaceuticals and they all got on commercial air liners, for instance.

Lots of businesses will go to the wall if flights are restricted.

As will diabetics if alternative ideas aren't found.

May 3, 2019 at 8:17 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

From the report itself:

"The precise investment needs of getting to net zero by the middle of the century are unknowable, because they will depend on the cost dynamics of the different technologies involved and, as has been seen in section 4, these could change dramatically over the timescale concerned.

However, two things are clear: that very large investments will be required in low-carbon technologies and infrastructure; and that current levels of such investment are much too low."

May 3, 2019 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Hodgson

Paul Homewood's analysis is worth a look:

His conclusion:

"In short

The cost of meeting a net-zero target will have risen to £50bn a year by 2050.
Large amounts of natural gas will still be needed, as back up for power and converting to hydrogen for heating.
The plan relies heavily on using CCS, which so far is unproven commercially
Domestic energy bills will rocket as natural gas is replaced by heat pumps or hydrogen (unless government picks up the tab)
A fifth of agricultural land will be lost
All new cars must be pure electric by 2030, requiring massive expansion of grid capacity and risking the collapse of the UK car industry. The CCC offer no explanation of how this can be achieved, nor any costing, nor demonstrate how drivers with no off road parking are supposed to recharge their cars without queuing for hours.
The idiotic proposal should be binned forthwith."

May 3, 2019 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Hodgson

If our older housing stock will cost so much to insulate, why not buy and burn every other house in a street, or indeed every other street, to keep adjacent properties warm, rebuild them, and then burn down the ones not previously destroyed?

We don't hear about a rise in asthma during the German Blitz on London, nor during reciprocal arrangements for urban regeneration in Dresden, Berlin or even Hiroshima, and the late 1940s through to the 1970s, with intense rebuiding and engineering saw global cooling not warming.

Are members of the CCC tied to specific remedies, bound by a lack of financial interests in common sense?

May 4, 2019 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

"Think of the children "
... means think about the kids groomed/raped/traded/prostituted in northern towns
..and ignored by the metroliberal establishment, who have still failed to wipe it out.
... and the black kids who are stabbing each other.
Not the PR games of the Greenblob.

May 4, 2019 at 9:24 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Letter not published in today's Times:
The latest Climate Change Committee Report “Net Zero” does not put the full figures to us. Take housing, responsible for about 30% of the UK CO2 emissions.
Starting ten years ago, a ‘Retrofit for the Future’ pilot spent up to £150,000 on each of over 100 social houses to seek an 80% reduction of CO2 emissions. The average actual reduction where all the pre- and post-retrofit data was available was actually nearer 60% with a spread from less than 30% to over 80%.
Given an average annual energy bill of order £2K per household, the 60% reduction would take 125 years to pay off the investment! Or even 25 years if five-fold savings from a nationwide rollout could be achieved. No-one would invest for such a paltry return. The Treasury would be in for nearly £1.5T, with a workforce comparable to the NHS needed to complete the work by 2050!
I have not costed the other sectors of the report.
Professor Michael J Kelly
Emeritus Prince Philip, University of Cambridge.

Figures in paragraph 2 cited from: Rajat Gupta, Matt Gregg, Stephen Passmore & Geoffrey Stevens:, ‘Intent and outcomes from the Retrofit for the Future programme: key lessons’, Building Research & Information, 43:4, 435-451, 2015. DOI: 10.1080/09613218.2015.1024042.
See .

May 4, 2019 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Kelly

If you want an example of Real world vs green dream PR fantasyland, look at smart meter rollout.
The massive delays and screwups of the smart meter prog
show there is a huge difference between having a greendream, setting targets
… and the real world.

How can you get rid of CO2 by 2050
When the smart meter rollout is way way off its installation targets ?

May 4, 2019 at 9:40 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

"Starting ten years ago, a ‘Retrofit for the Future’ pilot spent up to £150,000 on each of over 100 social houses to seek an 80% reduction of CO2 emissions. "
Professor Michael J Kelly 
Emeritus Prince Philip, University of Cambridge

Thank you.

Has anyone calculated the social cost of insulating Grenfell Tower?

May 4, 2019 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Dear Professor Kelly

Re: Lack of publication by The Times

Please can you tell us if there are any circles in which your arguments gain attention and traction?

If so, which ones and what influence do they have?

If not, do you have any thoughts on how informed and reasoned inputs can best be made?

Given that Parliament has now reolved that we are living in a state of "environment and climate emergency", do you think there is any evidence and arguments that could be put before them which might give them reason to reconsider their position?

Thank you.

May 4, 2019 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I noted they plan to bury 180 million tonnes of CO2 per year - as supercritical liquid (and therefore at 100+ bar pressures). A first order guess at the volume in perhaps more familiar units is 3 million barrels per day - bigger than the UCKS oil production at its peak. Just the handling after capture will therefore require an industry of commensurate size, and aside from a few cases of using CO2 flooding to squeeze a little more oil out of existing reservoirs it will be all cost. A first order estimate is that it will require of the order of 200,000 boe/d to do the pumping - or 120TWh/year. No-one has any experience of injection on that scale year after year. It could provoke large seismic events in due course.

Well blowouts in those circumstances could prove highly lethal - see Lake Nyos.

May 4, 2019 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

The time it took to read the last post there was an earthquake somewhere in the UK.But the locals thought it was a lorry or a bus driving past in the street outside .Or maybe legendary led Zepplin rock guitarist Jimmy Page thought it was Robbie Williams starting early digging out his indoor basement swimming pool in Micheal Winners old house.
There are over ten thousand recorded earth tremors in the UK every year and that is with or without fracking.

How many earthquakes are there in the Arctic Circle causing the sea ice to crack and the ice shelf’s to break off.

May 6, 2019 at 5:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Unfortunately there is no Mors Law for lithium batteries.

,PCs Smart TVs Laptops Tablets Mobile Phones and Spy Satellites Mors Laws the smaller Micro Chips get ,the more transistors and powerful they get .

Reverse Mors Laws for Lithium Batteries .The Smaller Lthium Batteries get ,the more they wear out.

Check out my next post entitled

“Adventure in the Croydon A23 Purely Way Nissan Car Showroom ,my ongoing 130 mile range Quest for the new Nissan all electric Leaf and Seeking somewhere in Catford to park it and charge it “.

May 6, 2019 at 7:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid Still on a roll

Here is a sobering comment from another discussion entirely (see today's Watts Up With That) about the realities of just expecting the tenants of a single Melbourne apartment building to buy EVs.

The qualified electrician (Warren) who wrote the original post deserves much credit for his honest common sense.



Warren May 5, 2019 at 10:23 pm

From an electrician in Melbourne about charging electric cars:

I recently did some work for the body corporate at Dock 5 Apartment Building in Docklands to see if we could install a number of electric charging points for owners to charge their electric vehicles.
We discovered:
Our building had no non-allocated parking spaces (i.e. public ones). This is typical of most apartment buildings so we cannot provide shared outlets. The power supply in the building was designed for the loads in the building with no spare capacity.

Only 5 or 6 chargers could be installed in total in a building with 188 apartments!

How do you allocate them as they would add value to any apartment owning one?

The car park sub-boards cannot carry the extra loads of even one charger and would have to be upgraded on any floors with a charger, as would the supply mains to each sub-board. The main switch board would then have to be upgraded to add the heavier circuit breakers for the sub-mains upgrade. When Docklands was designed, a limit was put on the number of apartments in each precinct and the mains and transformers in the streets were designed accordingly. This means there is no capacity in the Docklands street grid for any significant quantity of car chargers in any building in the area. It gets better.

The whole CBD (Hoddle Grid, Docklands) and Southbank is fed by two sub-stations. One in Port Melbourne and one in West Melbourne. This was done to have two alternate feeds in case one failed or was down for maintenance. Because of the growth in the city/Docklands and Southbank, neither one is now capable of supplying the full requirement of Melbourne zone at peak usage in mid- summer if the other is out of action. The Port Melbourne 66,000 volt feeder runs on 50 or 60 year old wooden power poles above ground along Dorcas Street South Melbourne. One pole is located 40 cm from the corner Kerb at the incredibly busy Ferrars St/ Dorcas St intersection and is very vulnerable to being wiped out by a wayward vehicle.

The infrastructure expenditure required would dwarf the NBN cost excluding the new power stations required. These advocates of all electric vehicles by the year 2040 are completely bonkers. It takes 5-8 years to design and build a large coal fired power station like LoyYang and even longer for a Nuclear one (that’s after you get the political will, permits and legislative changes needed ). Wind and solar just can’t produce enough. It’s just a green silly dream in the foreseeable future other than in small wealthy countries. It will no doubt ultimately come, but not in the next 20 years. So don’t waste your upcoming vote in the federal election on the Greens or Labor because electric cars won’t be happening for a long time yet!

May 6, 2019 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Ratliffe


There is a very big difference between the small quantities of injection required for fracking and burying hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 every year. Deep injection of waste water and the creation of large reservoirs have both been responsible for quakes of ML 6+

May 6, 2019 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Very much back of envelope. The asset value at cost of the National Grid network (which excludes the local distribution network discussed in Anthony Ratcliffe's excellent post) is about £57bn. Of course, that is historic cost, so today it would be somewhat larger. At the peak it handled demand of 400TWh, but has since been expanded to cope with the delivery of distant wind farm power, even against declining demand. The grid would need to be more than quadrupled to deliver the power, and the cost of tearing up the streets to reinforce the distribution network would probably at least double the spend on the main transmission network. Call it £500bn in total. That is before you buy a single wind farm. Pylons everywhere across the countryside, unless you want to spend ten times as much burying it all.

May 6, 2019 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Wind farms.

Taking Rampion as a modern farm on which we have data, 1600TWh would require 1,171 Rampions producing 1.367 TWh/a each. The cost would be £1.3bn each. or over £1.5 trillion, and it would occupy some 84,300sq km. The entire English Channel (including French waters) is only 75,000 sq km. Life is quoted as "20-25 years". Of course, that excludes the cost of storage required to catch surplus production and make it available when the wind isn't blowing. Work I have done suggests that storage is minimised with a nameplate 60% wind 40% solar mix (bear in mind that solar has only about an 11% capacity factor. A 30 year hourly simulation against a 400TWh annual demand profile suggested over 30TWh of storage would be required to handle seasonal variations and a "bad year" for weather: multiply by 4 for 1600TWh. In Big South Australian Batteries at 129MWh and A$60m apiece, that is 930,240 batteries at a cost of almost A$56 trillion. Dinorwig stores 9GWh, so you'd need "just" 13,333 Dinorwigs (if you can find the sites for them) at £425m in 1980s money apiece - a bargain at £5.6 trillion. You have to build more generating capacity to allow for the round trip loss through storage.

It is in fact cheaper to reduce the storage requirement by building lots of extra capacity. It's cheaper still to use fossil fuel backup. It's enormously cheaper to use a combination of fossil fuels and nuclear (at least so long as you don;t hobble the nuclear with gold plated expensive regulation that is unnecessary on sensible safety grounds).

May 7, 2019 at 1:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

As Liberals are fond of saying "net zero cost is exactly what we say it is".

Funny how all these super important and brainy reporters never seem to ask all these obvious questions about how these things will be paid for isn't it. Why...its almost as if all those super important liberal reporters are all of the same liberal persuasion as their political overlords.

May 7, 2019 at 7:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Perhaps I should add that the Big South Australian Battery occupies a site of some 2 ha. - about the same as a typical wellpad site - you can gain some idea of how much that could produce here - while of course the battery produces nothing. Battery sites would therefore carpet 15% of England by area.

May 7, 2019 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

As illustrated by comments above and elsewhere, the whole anti-carbon green scheme is simply impossible on economic grounds alone.

The only real questions seem to be
1) How much money will governments actually spend (waste) in pretending to try and achieve these impossible goals, and
2) Who will be the main beneficiaries of this governmental largesse?

May 8, 2019 at 6:18 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

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