After Monbiot Leggett was always going to be fun

Jeremy Leggett tries to recover from the shotgun blasts fired at Solar PV subsidies served up by George Monbiot.

Doesn\’t so all that well to be honest.

Second, Monbiot says the government\’s scheme targets money where economies of scale are \”impossible\” – an incorrect assumption because solar electricity costs will inevitably fall to the point, within just a few years, where they are cheaper than any form of fossil fuel and nuclear electricity. Systemic economies of scale in solar manufacturing and installation techniques are causing rapid reductions in solar PV costs globally, just as Ofgem and others worry so loudly about the inevitable rise of traditional electricity costs.

How wonderful, solar will be cheaper than coal.


So, when it is we\’ll all install it. No need for subsidies.

Even if you say that subsidies are required in order to get those economies of scale….it\’s a global market, remember? The UK is a mere glans drop of urine in the great golden river of global subsidies. The Germans are spending huge amounts on their subsidies and that\’s what is driving the prices down. We\’ve no need to spend our money in the same manner.

Let them do it, wait and reap the benefits.

Great, so Jeremy puts his business into cold storage for a few years, we all save oodles of money and all is right with the world: and we can still save Gaia.

6 thoughts on “After Monbiot Leggett was always going to be fun”

  1. “solar electricity costs will inevitably fall to the point, within just a few years, where they are cheaper than any form of fossil fuel and nuclear electricity”

    I reckon that this is arrant nonsense, and I’ve love to see whatever evidence he claims to have to support it. Quite apart from anything else, PV has (some of the) same disadvantages as wind, chiefly that it cannot supply baseline demand.

  2. The Pedant-General

    Isn’t there a form of prisoner’s dilemna here though Tim?

    If we all wait for everyone else to buy to get the economies of scale to get the price down, no-one ever will buy and it won’t happen?

    Apart from the bit about the Germans of course.

    Tim adds: True to an extent. But one of the things that I see (from the fringes of this whole industry) is the speed with which these technologies are getting better. From LED light bulbs to solar cells (people are now printing them using ink jet technologies rather than having to cast silicon for example) to fuel cells to…..the industry I’ve been making a living out of for a decade, metal halide lamps, for example, will be dead in another decade.

    Since the mid-90s companies have seen the way the wind is blowing. There’s money to be made in catering to green desires. So they’ve been spending not hundreds of millions but tens of billions in advancing these technologies. I’m very much of the view that while a kick start was necessary it’s already happened. It just takes time for the engineering and manufacturing to catch up with the desired result.

    I really do think that we’ve already done what needed to be done.

  3. Two gripes, both O/T in tone. I hope it stops short of trolling.

    PV cells really hack me off. Over many years, I’ve spent hundreds on them, not for the house but for ‘remote’ locations such as the greenhouse (you actually don’t save much effort, and certainly not any money, by growing tomatoes hydroponically).

    Solar cells are a source of intermittent power yet continous irritation. They produce far more current than the data sheet claims in summer, when you don’t need so much, and nowhere near it in winter, when you do.

    One suitably positioned fallen leaf or splat of bird poo knocks their performance down dramatically. And remember, you have to put them in locations where both these eventualities are entirely possible and not always easy to rectify (it may require steeplejacking skills).

    My RWE PVs produce 18-22 V in full summer sun, which if you’re using lead acid batteries means the charging circuit has to waste about a third of all the available power reducing this to the 14V or so the battery actually wants.

    Now wait for the best bit: the highest-perfoming panels (at my last time of purchase monocrystalline silicon) become less efficient with increasing temperature, so the manufacturer’s leaflets advise against installation in locations where the cells may become warm. I wonder if they really had a straight face when composing that.

    “You mean, like, don’t put them facing the sun, Dorks?”

    Finally, changing the topic quite a bit, as far as energy-saving lighting is concerned, there is at least one potential buyer for the first LED fridge light coming on the market. I am so fed up that whenever I open the door, a 15 Watt incandescent switches on. FFS, that’s virtually a bloody 15 Watt heater. In my FRIDGE.

    Rant over.

  4. There is a time and a place for everything. I suggest that the first place for PV cells is to run air-conditioning systems (although BP was installing them to provide village power in villages remote from a power grid half-a-dozen years ago). That sort of application will be justified while the technology gradually improves – engineering always takes a few years to iron out the problems in applying an intellectual flash of genius.
    “How wonderful, solar will be cheaper than coal.” Not in my lifetime, but it doesn’t produce pneumoconiosis, so I’ll pay for solar water-heating panels on my roof (they have actually saved me more money than the interest charge which enables me to defend the expense to my wife who worries about the bills I incur) and I’m prepared to pay something towards developing solar power (but not wind power for the grid which is a scam – the Dutch, who are experts, use it for intermittent pumps but not for the grid, the Danes had a brown-out when they couldn’t access back-up from Swedish nuclear power stations).

  5. The numbers given by George suggest mini wind and solar tariffs of 34p and 41p for every kWH generated.

    This suggests a wonderful arbitrage opportunity for pointing electric fans at mini windmills and greenhouse lamps at PV solar panels?

    Even with inefficiencies, there should be at least 2-300% profit in there?

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