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Curiouser and curiouser

While looking for something else, I came across an article in the Mail about the recent report on Net Zero from the Committee on Climate Change. Apparently, in order to reach that target, we are going to need to quadruple the offshore wind fleet to 7500 turbines.

This took me aback somewhat because 7500 is a much smaller figure than I had assumed would be necessary. Reading on, these 7500 turbines were supposed to produce 75 GW of output, implying that they are all 10MW machines. (This also caused me to raise an eyebrow, because it’s quite a lot larger than anything in operation today, but that’s by the by.)

The problem is that 75GW of output at a load factor of 40% will produce only 261 TWh, or 22,466 kilotonnes of oil equivalent, which is about 15% of current energy demand.

This raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions. How much energy are we going to be allowed to use in this brave new world? And where is it going to come from if not from offshore wind?

A little further digging reveals the CCC’s illustrative scenarios for power generation in 2050. Item 2.5 gives us the CCC’s idea of total energy use: a figure of 645 TWh, around 40% (!) of current levels. (Update - this is electricity not energy - they have 270TWh of hydrogen too) Of this, 369 TWh is “variable renewables (largely offshore wind)”.

Which causes my eyebrows to raise again. How are you going to get 75 GW of offshore turbines to generate 369 TWh of electricity? That implies a load factor of 55% averaged over the lifetime of the turbine. This is entirely implausible. The best, biggest, newest turbines start out at around 40% and decline from there.

Incidentally, the cost of 75GW of offshore wind turbines, at an optimistic £3m/GW, is £0.2 trillion.

The CCC seems to be using a figure of 58% for offshore wind load factor (see p.27 here). They cite as their source a BEIS report, which can be found here. BEIS do not explain how they arrived at this figure.

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Reader Comments (30)

Without trying to be too much of a cynic...

Those who propose such things aren't visibly bothered by the possibility that there will be *less* not more power delivered to customers in future. Not only are the load factors suspect, but the area (square miles) of land/sea that need to be allocated to wind is being ignored. Their view is that it's "ok" since we can live will less due to forced consumption reductions, efficiency gains, hydrogen as an energy source, batteries, and let's not forget all the CCS energy sources. And confusing "energy" (input) to "power" (output and paid for by customers). And buying into to the "woke" narratives. And of course there are those so-called electric smart-readers out there that can (in future) be worked by the power producers to manage the demand side when electric power can't be delivered.

or .. as has been observed, they have scientists, politicians, and PPE bureaucrats doing the designs/numbers and not involving chartered engineers who have to sign-off on life-threatening designs under penalty of law if the designs fail ...


Jun 7, 2019 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterrms

As the support for British Steel and our car industry demonstrates, the plan is to need less energy by having less industry.

We will be a clean, garden country. With picturesque, quaint little villages for foreign tourists to wander through while photographing the ruins of a once great civilization.

That would explain our energy policy.

Jun 7, 2019 at 7:37 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

When the arithmetic is that brutal - where are the prominent public figures dismantling the fraud?

BEIS is stuffed with activists - who by some accounts busy themselves heading off honest arithmetic produced by the competent folk working in the same department.... - I've been to public lectures where the extents of the political / ideological meddling have been exposed by insiders - especially with regard to fracking and nuclear power.

The mendacious gits need calling out in the very strongest terms - but the mania is such a pitch that the zealots can smear and misrepresent to destroy careers .....

The country will be filled with back yard generators.

Jun 7, 2019 at 11:08 PM | Registered Commentertomo

"With picturesque, quaint little villages for foreign tourists to wander through ... "
Jun 7, 2019 at 7:37 PM | M Courtney

Us country bumpkins in quaint little villages would be happy to give foreign tourists a lift in our carts, but we are not sure how they will get here from those foreign places in the first place.

Jun 8, 2019 at 12:24 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Industry is already a minor component of the UK energy balance .
The fat and muscle are gone already.
The objective is clearly to both reduce residential consumption even further and yet import more people so you will have neither a prosperous people nor a green and pleasant land .
The simple objective is rationing & control .
Sadly the distributionists and social creditors are the only people outside the circle who seem to understand this diabolical system .
The rest of you sorry lot are floating up the Nile

Jun 8, 2019 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Assumptions are the termites of greenergy.

Any time I look at data projecting the performance of wind turbines in the future that is used to justify high renewables programmes I find the data have been manipulated to over-egg projected production and to try to hide the impact of intermittency.

Jun 8, 2019 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Where will all that Hydrogen come from?

If you had some large quantity of Hydrogen which you could a.) keep perfectly contained (which you can't) and b.) had a power plant to convert it with perfect efficiency (which is impossible). you wouldn't get enough power to lliberate an equal quantity of Hydrogen from what ever source you choose.

Perhaps they will build a pipeline from the sun?

Jun 8, 2019 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterdadgervais

On the plus side, maybe the need for an economical source of hydrogen, may lead to a reluctant support of fracking.

Jun 8, 2019 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterCanman

People also seem to conveniently neglect line losses - which are NOT negligible.
Line losses were a pertinent consideration when the old codgers were planning the best places to site power stations.

Jun 9, 2019 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

There was a recent revelation of the cost of this "free" off-shore wind: while "conventional" electricity costs £45/MWh, the "free" stuff is only £158/MWh. What a bargain!

Jun 9, 2019 at 11:15 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

I always think that if we had politicians (and their advisers) with any brains they would scrap all subsidies for (so called) renewable energy and spend the money on developing power from nuclear fusion as soon as possible, as that is the only way our descendents will have a future based upon energy.

In my rural part of the country the landscape is being ruined by huge solar pv farms - and guess who is raking in the huge subsidies - the already very rich!

Jun 10, 2019 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterCrowcatcher

Robin Guenier says
In his article in the Torygraph this morning Boris Johnson informs us, amongst other absurdities,

The cost of solar power has fallen by 70 per cent in the UK.
There are now 30 countries around the world where it is cheaper to rely on the sun than on fossil fuels.
A miracle is taking place” and “Britain is respected and admired round the world for its leadership in tackling climate change…
And he could soon be the PM.

Jun 10, 2019 at 8:42 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The Times doesn't do Climate Doom everyday, but rather every 3 days
Today : Simon Clarke Conservative MP for Middlesbrough
Alex Chalk Conservative MP for Cheltenham
Theresa May should look to climate change for a positive legacy
#1 few people botherered to read/comment cos top comments only get 14 likes
#2 Comments as always flow to skeptics
- "My god, and we are ruled by the likes of Tweedledee and Tweedledum here.
You could lose the will to live reading how otherwise intelligent people are buying into this rubbish."
- "How pitifully uninformed these chaps are. ."

Jun 10, 2019 at 10:00 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

4 people tweet that article

#1 @AlexChalkChelt himself
(Chalk's constituency has previously been solidly liberal

#2 Sarah Newton Member of Parliament for Truro and Falmouth.
tweets "Ace piece chaps @SimonClarkeMP @AlexChalkChelt"

#3 Grantham LSE
"Committing to end Britain’s contribution to climate change could provide a positive legacy for Theresa May’s premiership & may help bring people together after the divisions of Brexit say MP"

#4 Bob Ward
"Theresa May should look to climate change for a positive legacy"

Jun 10, 2019 at 10:41 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

"This raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions. How much energy are we going to be allowed to use in this brave new world? And where is it going to come from if not from offshore wind?"

We are plagued by people in charge who are experts at not looking at the detail. They're 'bigger picture' types for whom the realities of delivering promises are irellevant. They assume that getting their grand ideas to work is someone elses responsibility. They think that they earn their place just by having ideas that the little people aren't clever enough to come up with.

So to those people, the difference between supply and demand is a mere detail that the clever plebs can work out. Some boffins will invent near zero energy stuff, built in near zero energy factories and we'll all be near zero energy users because we'll own all those near zero energy things and never leave a light on when we're not in the room. Sorted... There's no malign intention by those in power. Any energy misery they cause will be the fault of those involved in carrying out the plans, not those who think them up.

Jun 11, 2019 at 8:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

tomo: "When the arithmetic is that brutal - where are the prominent public figures dismantling the fraud?"

Or one could say folly - but the question stands. And why is thequestion posted on a niche blog rather than being asked until answered by journalists at every media outlet that covers the output of the CCC?

Jun 11, 2019 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Trudeau on um ah plastic water bottles um boxes

Jun 12, 2019 at 11:52 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Ive done a quick estimate of where our power will be coming from and it's not pretty relying on the interconnectors.

As to on street charging for electric vehicles a conversation with a local SWEB employee confirmed there was no way the existing cabling to the street lamps could cope with multiple charging points. The cables were designed for an approximate 500 watts per lamp and as most terraced houses tend to be the older ones the cables are no way near modern standards so the streets would have to be re-cabled and the local substations and their feeds up graded to cope.

Jun 20, 2019 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterADRIAN KERTON

On the plus side, maybe the need for an economical source of hydrogen, may lead to a reluctant support of fracking.

Jun 8, 2019 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterCanman

We should also point out that it could be an economical source of large amounts of money, something more likely to win hearts and concentrate minds.

Jun 23, 2019 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Save the whales, from infrasound.
And please don't forget all God's littler but still susceptible critters.

Jun 27, 2019 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Adrian, concerning the the article you linked to in your post (Jun 20, 2019 at 12:25 PM), should the values you quote for 'Nuclear power in 2030' be in kW, rather then GW?

I ask because the value you state a little further down for 'Nuclear Generation' is 4.4 GW.

Jun 28, 2019 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

As skeptics we know we don't have to panic and go renewable mad, cos we have a strong possibility of having low CO2 in the future from better nuclear..and in one scenario by functioning fusion pwer say by cool pulsing chambers. etc.

I'm guessing alarmists know that they have these scenarios as rescue plans as well.

So they can talk about solar/wind
and then in 2050 have their plans rescued by switching on nuclear and fusion.

Jul 11, 2019 at 4:07 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Thanks for the information. I'm now predicting the total collapse of the UK economy if energy costs quadruple. Last time I looked (admittedly a long time ago), offshore was 4x the price of reliable coal. So, this is excellent news as it means the total collapse scenario has a definite & predictable timescale. Of course I could be wrong - but, if I'm right, it won't be long before we start seeing the initial signs of collapse.

Jul 11, 2019 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)

It's all change with another Secretary of State at BEIS (Leadsom) with Claire Perry also off. So we are likely to have to wait another 12 months before we understand what their plan is, although think Leadsom was at DECC in 2016 with Amber Rudd.

Jul 25, 2019 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon Davies

Bish: I spent some time studying the new contract LA just signed for solar power (including some battery storage) and gained a new perspective on some aspects of "renewable energy" that may be useful to you - though my facts and opinions likely will not appreciated by your readers. Things have changed a great deal in the past five years.

1) Low interest rates are dramatically changing the economics of the high capital cost of renewable energy. In their 2014 report surveying the real costs of current projects, the US DoE applied an after-tax cost of capital of 6.5%. In their January 2019 report (under the Trump administration), that cost was down to 4.2%. With the darkening economic outlook and central banks lowering interest rates, capital costs are likely even lower today. 2019 report, page 7.

2) The cost of solar panels has fallen dramatically. The DoE's 2019 levelized cost for electricity from solar farms is 1/3 of the cost in 2014. (I know you are suspicious of levelized costs, but I will address that problem by adding the fixed cost of providing 100% backup and considering waste when renewable generation exceeds demand.)

3) LA recently announced a contract with the largest US operator of solar farms for $20/MWh, an unsubsidized $28.6/MWh assuming a 30% Production Tax Credit. Other bidders offered similar prices; this is the real price. This price is well below the lowest price in the 2019 DoE report ($40/MWh unsubsidized). I don't know if this is because I don't understand the available subsidies (30% is the figure used by the DoE) or if this is the result of falling interest rates and costs of solar panels since the Jan 20019 report was drafted. In sunny Southern California, the economics of solar power have changed dramatically.¢-kwh/

4) According to the 2019 DoE report, the fixed US cost of new natural gas is about $10/MWh and the variable cost is about $32/MWh. Given an unsubsidized price of $28.6/MWh for solar power, it is slightly cheaper for LA to get its electricity from a combination of gas and solar than from gas alone.

5) I'm surprised to realize that the low fixed cost of natural gas generation makes 100% backup of renewable electricity financially practical. You only need to add $10/MWh to the cost of renewable electricity to ensure that it can be replaced at any moment with reliable power from gas. When that happens, customers obviously need to pay the cost of the gas burned, but they aren't (or shouldn't be) paying the owner of the wind or solar farm at the same time. If you want the reliability of backup from fossil fuel generators, you need to pay the fixed cost of that backup 100% of the time. A solar+gas combination now can provide about 30% renewable at a LOWER PRICE than gas alone - at least on paper. In the real world, there are existing contracts and plants built when interest rates were much high. However, LA could build NEW solar capacity and new gas backup that is 30% renewable at a lower cost than gas alone.

6) Since Southern California can already meet most of its demand for electricity during daytime with wind and solar (much built when the price of solar was ridiculously high), the new solar project will be storing half (and likely eventually all) of its daily output in batteries. The ADDED cost for electricity from storage is $13/MWh or $18.6/MWh without subsidy (assuming a CA subsidy of 30%.) The unsubsidized cost of stored solar electricity is clearly higher than natural gas, but LA breaks even with the subsidies in this scenario.

7) Extrapolating, LA could have 100% backup from natural gas for a fixed cost of $10/MWh plus solar farms directly providing electricity for 1/3 of the day at $28.5/MWh and solar electricity from battery storage for 2/3 of the day for $65.5/MWh ($28.6 + 2*$18.6) on 270 sunny days per year. That totals $63/MWh on sunny days and about $42/MWh on when gas is used. With a modest amount of solar on cloudy days, that system would be 80+% renewable. On cloudy days (and the following nights), up to 100% of electricity would come from natural gas for as long as necessary.

8) In Britain, solar irradiation is weaker and wind appears to be the cheaper form of renewable electricity. Unfortunately, wind is less predictable and more difficult to analyze. The sun is available for 1/3 of the average sunny day and the maximum storage capacity it makes sense to purchase is enough to cover the remaining 2/3 of the day. Adding enough storage to get through one cloudy day would more than double the cost of storage capacity. Adding storage for two cloudy days in a row would more than triple that cost. That storage capacity would be used only for a modest number of days a year - and you would still want to be able to meet 100% of demand at any time with natural gas. You might be able to improve from 80+% renewable to 90+% renewable with more storage, but the cost of that additional 10% would be outrageous. Unlike solar, with wind it is impossible to know what fraction of storage capacity will be empty at any time and what fraction of generation capacity should be stored at any time. Let's suppose that average wind output in Britain equalled average demand AND that you had fossil fuel backup capable of meeting 100% of demand at any time. Would it make sense to store some of the power that would otherwise be wasted on windy days and use it on calmer days? Possibly not. You are probably near 75% renewable with that much wind power, and some of it is going to be wasted - driving up the price per MWh - unless you store it. However, the cost of storage goes up rapidly if you aren't making use of it regularly. So, you aren't likely to store much. If you want to go past about 75% renewable, it will probably be cheaper to use natural gas and store the CO2. (And CCS is so expensive and challenging today, that no one is doing it.)

9) My take-home lesson is to FORGET ABOUT 100% RENEWABLE GENERATION and focus on what is currently practical and cost-effective WITH BACKUP from fossil fuel generation capable of meeting 100% of demand at any time. The fixed cost of backup by fossil fuel generation is affordable and essential. With today's low interest rates, it CAN BE as cheap or not dramatically more expensive to pay the (mostly capital) cost of renewable generation - when it is available - rather than pay for fossil fuel. "Can be" appears to be "is" in the case of solar in places like Southern California. I have no idea of how the true cost of wind (including maintenance and the lifetime of the turbine) compares to the variable cost of fossil fuel. The US DoE puts the total fixed cost TODAY of new onshore wind at $40.4/MWh and off-shore wind at $118/MWh, but the US has negligible experience with off-shore wind. Solar panels don't wear out and their output will drop less than 20% over the next 30 years. The variable (mostly fuel) cost of natural gas in the US is a little above $30/MWh, so turning off the variable cost of gas and replacing it with wind costs about $8/MWh is no wind power is wasted. The cost of fossil fuel is likely different in Britain and on-shore wind is more intrusive there. The cost of storage has dropped dramatically also, but today is too costly for non-affluent customers. With subsidies (paid for mostly by affluent taxpayers in the US), the cost of storage might be tolerable.

10) Some places (like Germany) that invested in renewable energy when capital costs were much higher than today and solar was absurd. Those fixed costs are the reason the price of their electricity is so high today and will continue to be high far into the future. If they had simply put a price on CO2 emissions, no one would have invested in expensive renewables until they were more reasonably priced, as some renewables appear to be today. Get rid of your central planners and replace them with a carbon tax people are willing to pay - preferably one that is rebated equally to every citizen and is less likely to be opposed by the "yellow vests".

Hope some of this info is useful to you.

Aug 1, 2019 at 8:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

The article below was written when I realised that the CCC had completely ignored the advice of David MacKay and SEWTHRA. I had bought his book 10 years ago and used it when making my own house and others energy efficient. The estimate of £1tn in order to achieve Mrs May's goodbye present would not even cover the cost of upgrading the older housing stock. MacKay's advice to do as the French did and build a large number of nukes and run them all the time would enable a less expensive insulation and ventilation systems to be used with storage resistance heaters.The world cost of nuclear is way below that of Hinkley, which the CCC use to justify the unproven tenders for offshore wind, exposed as dubious by the GWPF. The whole report is riddled with assumptions that are not properly costed. Originally it was to be published on the CW blog but they found the figures were difficult and lost interest. Perhaps some readers would care to put some firm figures on the proposal to bridge the gap of around 100GW of missing wind during a long lull, as examined in SEWTHA. I gather that Dr Aris is working on a detailed analysis, to be publised in the autumn.

Aug 9, 2019 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered Commentersteve

A sign of the endtimes, me liking something Michael Moore has done. But see his new 'Planet of the Humans', where it appears he has had an epiphany about so-called renewable energy.

Aug 10, 2019 at 12:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Steve wrote: "The world cost of nuclear is way below that of Hinkley, which the CCC use to justify the unproven tenders for offshore wind, exposed as dubious by the GWPF. The whole report is riddled with assumptions that are not properly costed."

I sympathize with your position. However, the "world cost of nuclear" is low because the countries currently installing nuclear are using technology that is now a half-century old. Is the safety record of old nuclear technology good enough that you what to invest in more of the same?*

The regulatory apparatus in the US, at least, makes it financially impractical to build newer, non-standard designs that should be safer. If we were willing to invest, the cost of standardized design(s) should come down and in a few decades, modern nuclear might have a stellar safety record and again compete with fossil fuel. If you believe we need to dramatically cut CO2 emissions, however, the US needs to start building new plants by the hundreds. The US has about 100 nukes and falling generating 20% of our electricity right now. US nuclear infrastructure is nearly gone: No one is getting a degree in nuclear engineering any more. We have failed to build a permanent nuclear waste repository and the refusal to reprocess and recycle long lived useful isotopes makes disposal more challenging. We don't even have the enrichment capacity to upgrade our aging nuclear weapons and supply our existing reactions. The bankruptcy of Westinghouse may cost its Japanese owners $1T. The enviros have won, just when they need nuclear technology the most. China, Russia and South Korea are the dominant suppliers of nuclear power today. This is why a new nuclear plant at Hinckley, if any, is likely to be built by the Chinese and will not be cost effective if it is.

*A US organization (Environmental Progress) is making the case that existing nuclear technology is safe enough, that we should be doing everything possible to keep existing reactors running, and that we should be building new plants with cheaper old technology. Technically they are right, but ordinary citizens fear cancer from something they can't see. In more than 50 years, accidents at conventional nuclear plants (Three Mile Island and Fukushima) have probably killed at most a handful of people. The earthquake and tsunami killed 19,000 Japanese, but the Fukushima plants responded perfectly to the emergency until the tsunami took out the unprotected back-up generators needed to provide emergency cooling. Once a conventional reactor loses its cooling, the zirconium cladding on fuel rods is going to react with water to make hydrogen, which will explode and inevitably cause the release of some radioactivity. Japanese who got a high enough dose of radiation at Hiroshima to get acute radiation sickness and survived, clearly had an increased risk of cancer. The increased risk from lower doses couldn't be detected, because the natural background rate of cancer is so high. A linear no-threshold model predicts large numbers of cancers from Fukushima because large number of people received very low exposure. The same linear no-threshold model predicts large, but undetectable, numbers of cancer from flying frequently on planes, living in areas with high natural background radioactivity (Colorado), from radio- and chemo-therapy and even X-rays.

With a flammable graphite moderator and no containment building, Chernobyl was not a typical nuclear reactor. The increased cancer risk in Chernobyl emergency responders who suffered from radiation sickness and survived still can't be detected. However, there is an epidemic of thyroid cancer in children exposed to radioactive iodine which could have been minimized by iodine supplements - if the Russian authorities had alerted the population to the existence of the problem. Fortunately the death rate from thyroid cancer is only about 1% - ironically when patients are treated with more radioactive iodine.

Aug 12, 2019 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

I'm coming a bit late to this.
This BEIS report, dated 8th April 2019 suggests that maximum load factor improvement is up to 52.9% (page 65 of

One wonders why the report linked in BH's post, dated 1st May 2019, has 58.4%, but then we do know that turbine technology is improving at a frightening pace :)

Sep 26, 2019 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterT

Just to say hello to all the Bishop's congregation and defend the 'faith' ( empirical science).

BTW - I still use the search facility to successfully find loads of past stuff we debated on here which I vaguely recall but where Google proves utterly useless.

Oct 10, 2019 at 6:50 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

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