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This doesn’t make sense – But then it is Caroline Lucas

Here in the UK, renewables are now a staggering nine times cheaper than gas; and on a global scale, solar and wind has the potential to meet our planet’s energy demand 100 times over. It just needs the political will to adopt the infrastructure at speed and scale.

And it’s starting to happen. Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August, has been labelled “the biggest step forward on climate ever” – it directed $369bn of investment towards renewable energy and reducing the US’s current astronomical emissions.

If renewables are vastly cheaper then why is it necessary to invest vast amounts of tax money in them?

Given that we do have marginal pricing anyone building the cheapest source will make a gargantuan profit – that’s the point of marginal pricing of course. So we don;t need subsidy nor government spending – if renewables are so grossly cheap.

If the answer is that renewables are cheap but we need to spend on the grid to connect them – well then, renewables aren’t cheap, are they?

Of course, this is Caroline Lucas so we don’t expect it to make sense. But even so this is something that really should be picked up upon, isn’t it.

37 thoughts on “This doesn’t make sense – But then it is Caroline Lucas”

  1. Caroline Lucas makes the important point that, while we may have an energy shortage, at least we don’t have a stupid cunt shortage.

  2. When it comes to the fans of renewables, rationality just flies out of the window. One sunny, windless day recently, I got into an argument with someone about wind power. He refused to accept that, for weeks at a time, there can be negligible wind blowing in the UK.

  3. “Here in the UK, renewables are now a staggering nine times cheaper than gas; and on a global scale, solar and wind has the potential to meet our planet’s energy demand 100 times over. It just needs the political will to adopt the infrastructure at speed and scale.”

    Can just one fucking eco-mentalist please tell us what powers the grid when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, an event that also happens quite commonly here in the UK?

  4. If this was true, good old fashioned greed would do the trick without any political will whatsoever.

    And one and one is two.

  5. I’m not sure how much Lucas knows, but most of those touting cheap renewables are perfectly aware of the fact that renewables are much more expensive than coal or gas by the time you take into account delivering power 24/7/365 to the consumer.

    After all, many of them are pocketing the subsidies that renewables receive from us mug punters.

    When you aggressively discourage investment in fossil fuels to the point that there’s a shortage, thus sending the price through the roof, and you still have to resort to fudging the numbers to make it appear that your unreliable product is cheaper, then your product is crap.

  6. OK, we’ve seen plenty of cases where Greenies try to claim it’s cheaper by ignoring construction costs or maintenance or storage or subsidies, etc. But claiming 9 times cheaper? 9 times? That’s a leap into La La land that ought to get you the equivalent of a straitjacket.

  7. Lucas should have a smart meter installed in her house which only permits the use of renewable energy. We’ll then see whether she really wants net zero!

  8. Lucas and Bennett (alongside Murphy who cites her as a ‘real hero’) will go down in history alongside the architects of lockdown as authors of genocide on a scale that Genghis Khan would envy – there are few politicians (Sturgeon maybe) closer to pure evil in the UK.

  9. When your limbic system is responsible for your economic calculations you cannot expect much sense from Lucas.

  10. Kevin B: “most of those touting cheap renewables are perfectly aware of the fact that renewables are much more expensive than coal or gas by the time you take into account delivering power 24/7/365 to the consumer.”

    I’m still confused about this. If they are cheaper but only available some of the time, then use them some of the time and save gas, or whatever, during those times. It should still be profitable.

    But it doesn’t actually seem to be, hence the subsidies. So what am I missing? I suppose there might be limits to how quickly you can turn off-and-on the reliable stuff like gas. Or costs to do so. I that it?

  11. @ Rob Fisher
    In Spain, windmills are built to generate electricity, in Britain they are built to generate subsidies. That is why there are so many windmills in Britain that are non-functional when others in the same windfarm are turning; on a recent visit to Spain I saw hundreds of windmills, maybe a thousand and only one that wasn’t turning when the wind blew.
    As Tim points out Ms Lucas is carefully ignoring the cost of linking windfarms to the Grid as well as contruction and maintenance costs. When I looked at the accounts of Lincolnshire Eind Farms (offshore wind) I found out that in the then latest year the cost of transmitting electricity to the onshore grid exceeded the revenue from selling electricity – more than all the profit came from the “green” levies.

  12. When it comes to the fans of renewables, rationality just flies out of the window. One sunny, windless day recently, I got into an argument with someone about wind power. He refused to accept that, for weeks at a time, there can be negligible wind blowing in the UK.

    Who are they going to believe? Saint Greta von Thunderbirds, or their own lying eyes?

  13. @Rob Fisher

    Power stations work best when turned on and left running. Combined-cycle gas turbines can be turned on and off pretty quickly, but at an enormous cost in efficiency. Large thermal plants simply cannot be turned on and off quickly — for nuclear the start/stop time is measured in days. Given the way the grid is set up to “prioritise renewables”, if there’s a sudden burst of wind then you can’t even sell the electricity that is still being produced while the fossil fuel plant is spinning down. Hence we’re heading for more and more power coming from diesel generators which are horrendously inefficient, but can be turned on and off in seconds.

    Demand is variable but predictable, and it is quite feasible to run a plant up from 80% to 100% capacity for 6pm if you know at midday that you’re going to be paid for it, or for a CCGT, running it up from cold to full power for 6pm if you know at 4pm that it’s going to be worth your while; inversely with backing them off again after the peak. What doesn’t work is “we need power in 30s” or “stop generating immediately”.

    The 24h weather forecast is reasonably accurate, so it should be possible for renewables operators to have a good idea how much they will be generating and when, so if there was a day-ahead bid/supply electricity market they could predict supply and then take spot prices for any excess or shortfall. The trouble is that with the renewables being given grid priority there is no need for them to do take any such risk and such a market becomes impossible.

  14. “renewables are now a staggering nine times cheaper than gas”

    Possibly if you compare by nameplate capacity. Certainly not when you look at actual watts generated, let alone the other infrastructure (storage) required for actual substitution.

    Another “green” grift.

  15. As other have said: if renewables are so cheap, have a smart meter fitted that only sources from renewables, and shuts off when there isn’t any.

  16. Caroline Lucas now controls Parliament, the courts, the monarchy and all media. An extraordinary achievement for one wimmin. Yet still she’s moaning.

    No pleasing some.

  17. The “potential” of wind power is great. Our 6500+ wind turbines potentially can generate 25.5GW. Currently on this windy day they are putting out over 13.5GW, which is very good. Note however that last year they averaged 5.639GW, so they don’t really live up to their potential.
    Greens would claim building four times as many will solve this problem. It doesn’t because when the wind decides not to blow, 4 times zero is still zero. At the other extreme, 4 times maximum power does not push up the average by that much as it’s more power than the demand we can use (or store). No matter how many you build you still need 100% backup generation for when the wind doesn’t blow. Massive wind turbine overcapacity does mean that the backup power stations run infrequently so all the capital costs and maintenance are apportioned to the fewer days they are running. This makes their energy output more expensive and so artificially makes wind look cheap.

    My proposed solution would be to contractually require the wind power generators to provide reliable power i.e. they need to pay for the backup gas generation when they are failing to generate power because the wind isn’t blowing. Essentially this boils down to asking the market to provide reliable power and letting them work out the mix to do it. It should work for solar too, but I’m undecided how to treat night times.

  18. @AndyF

    Effectively you have a committed price, I will supply x MW to the grid between times y and z tomorrow and a spot price, I have/need x amount of power right now. If it’s windier than expected and all the wind farms are shoving excess onto the grid then the spot price might go negative, similarly if the wind providers can’t generate the power they’ve said they will then they will need to buy expensive spot energy to make up the shortfall. Solar operators would be foolish to bid for supply at night-time…

    This would allow the owners of thermal plants to decide if it’s worth turning them on for period_of_time, and would make it profitable to run grid-scale storage — battery, spinning, gravitational, whatever: those capitalists will work out what works without it being added as yet another sundry to the poor punter’s electricity bill.

  19. No one is going to build a generator (fossil or nuclear) if you can only sell the product for 30% of the time.
    So we’d better get used to the dark.

  20. AndyF @ 12.55.

    Last time I checked (June this year), we have 11,091 wind turbines connected to the grid. Nameplate capacity 24.6GW. As you say, output when the wind isn’t blowing = 0GW.

    As others have pointed out, if you sign up to renewables you should onlybe allowed to use renewables.
    Please come back to me in 6 months time when you have only had energy from renewables and convince me it is the way to go.

  21. Matt @ 11:32
    I think you mis-spoke (or had a typo) CCGTs are (one type of) the large thermal plants that can’t be run up and down quickly (ramp times of at least several hours). SCGTs can be spooled up and down in minutes – just like the aero engines many of them are derived from.

  22. In theory the smart meter system could allocate different classes of electricity to different customer classes, so if it’s low wind today most of the ‘green wind’ customers get shut off by random allocation, and the ‘nuclear’ customers get it 24/7. If course the unit price would be very different in the various classes. Why is a little voice in my brain saying ‘people with mad ideas like that get sent to the funny farm!’?

    Perhaps it’s not so mad though. If we do get into demand management at the individual punter level as a regular part of grid processes, then some sort of formal process for deciding who gets cut off will be needed, and price and willingness to pay will inevitably figure somewhere.

  23. Martin Near The M25

    Some people are on ‘green’ tariffs so it seems only right to me that they should get all the benefits of that. I’m sure they’re not hypocrites and wouldn’t want any of those dirty nuclear power electrons through their wires.

  24. My electric usage so far this year is roughly 2,700 kWh, gas 9,000 kWh. So if renewable energy is mostly electricity then I would need to dispense with gas and increase my electricity consumption by 200% or 300% depending on the efficiency of all electric heating and cooking. And that’s before I ‘invest’ in an electric car or air conditioning.

    Replicate my individual case over hundreds of thousand houses and businesses then we would need a massive increase in the grid and distribution systems. That will have to be paid for, somehow.

  25. AndyF: “No matter how many you build you still need 100% backup generation for when the wind doesn’t blow.”

    No, you don’t understand. Always-on power is a patriarchial racist modern concept, totally unsuited to living in balance with Gaia. You will have electricity only when the wind blows, and be happy, dammit.

  26. “You will have electricity only when the wind blows, and be happy, dammit.”

    Except if (or indeed when) the grid crashes they might not be able to get it back up and running on renewables alone……..

    https://www.theblackoutreport.co.uk/2019/07/04/black-start/

    A so called ‘Black Start’ of a completely dead grid requires traditional coal fired power stations that can be restarted under their own power from diesel generators. Guess what we don’t have any more…….

  27. One thing we need to get across is that wind power varies with the cube of windspeed.

    So if a wind farm produces 1GW at 20 knots, then the wind drops to 10 knots, we get 1 x 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/8th of a GW.

    If it drops to 5 knots, then it’s 1/64th of a GW.

    And it can go below that. I don’t know what the windspeed was, but I once timed a turbine turning at 0.8rpm.

  28. It’s entirely possible that solar and wind are vastly cheaper than other generation methods and yet are not very successful for a reason which is freqently mentioned here as a more general problem – planning regulations. It doesn’t matter how big the profits of a wind farm would be if you cannot get planning permission to build it.

    Considering it’s supposed to be a climate emergency, why not require solar and wind project planning applications be approved within some short period and can only be refused for a small number of very serious problems, with adequate compensation for improper refusal?

  29. @ Charles
    That is a red herring – I suspect that windfarms almost always get planning permission since I cqn only remember, vaguely, one report of one being refused.
    The fundamental problem is the variability 1 to 400 of their aggregate output (it’s 0 to 100 for an individual windfarm). If we built N thousand windfarms to supply, on average, the amount of non-nuclear, non-hydroelectricity used at nights then they would burn out the grid on a “good” day for wind.
    Go to gridwatch.co.uk and look at the graph for wind – last year average output was 40% of maximum daily average, min daily average was 0.25% of max daily average; that does not take account of intra-day variation – today min 10 minute average is half daily average, max 10 minute average is one-third more than daily average. Peak 10 minute spell is roughly 3.3x daily average; nuclear is 4-5GW, about 15%, so using wind plus multiple Dinorwigs plus batteriesfor the rest would require average output around 41GW and peak output of well over 130GW which would burn out the Grid.

  30. And it can go below that. I don’t know what the windspeed was, but I once timed a turbine turning at 0.8rpm.

    Some large wind turbines have to be kept turning (by electric power) during calm spells, to prevent flats developing in their bearings.

  31. Wind energy is free in exactly the same way as coal is free. It doesn’t need to be manufactured; all you have to do is dig it up and use it! Simples!

  32. @john77

    Not a red herring at all. A quick search for “windfarm refused permission” turns up many hits, such as https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/news/mallon-refuses-planning-permission-doraville-wind-farm in Northern Ireland, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/ckv5052x43lo in Scotland, and a Guardian article from 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/21/six-in-10-uk-onshore-wind-farms-rejected-report which says:

    The analysis from the Fabian Society, a left-leaning thinktank, found 57% of all onshore projects were rejected in 2014, meaning only 161 mostly smaller ones got the go-ahead.

    The rejection rate is now double that when the coalition came to power, as onshore wind power has become a major area of political tension.

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