Researchers have been underestimating the cost of wind and solar

How should electricity from wind turbines and solar panels be evaluated? Should it be evaluated as if these devices are stand-alone devices? Or do these devices provide electricity that is of such low quality, because of its intermittency and other factors, that we should recognize the need for supporting services associated with actually putting the electricity on the grid? This question comes up in many types of evaluations, including Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), and Energy Payback Period (EPP).

I recently gave a talk called The Problem of Properly Evaluating Intermittent Renewable Resources (PDF) at a BioPhysical Economics Conference in Montana. As many of you know, this is the group that is concerned about Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI). As you might guess, my conclusion is that the current methodology is quite misleading. Wind and solar are not really stand-alone devices when it comes to providing the kind of electricity that is needed by the grid. Grid operators, utilities, and backup electricity providers must provide hidden subsidies to make the system really work.

This problem is currently not being recognized by any of the groups evaluating wind and solar, using techniques such as LCOE, EROI, LCA, and EPP. As a result, published results suggest that wind and solar are much more beneficial than they really are. The distortion affects both pricing and the amount of supposed CO2 savings.

One of the questions that came up at the conference was, “Is this distortion actually important when only a small amount of intermittent electricity is added to the grid?” For that reason, I have included discussion of this issue as well. My conclusion is that the problem of intermittency and the pricing distortions it causes is important, even at low grid penetrations. There may be some cases where intermittent renewables are helpful additions without buffering (especially when the current fuel is oil, and wind or solar can help reduce fuel usage), but there are likely to be many other instances where the costs involved greatly exceed the benefits gained. We need to be doing much more thoughtful analyses of costs and benefits in particular situations to understand exactly where intermittent resources might be helpful.

A big part of our problem is that we are dealing with variables that are “not independent.” If we add subsidized wind and solar, that act, by itself, changes the needed pricing for all of the other types of electricity. The price per kWh of supporting types of electricity needs to rise, because their EROIs fall as they are used in a less efficient manner. This same problem affects all of the other pricing approaches as well, including LCOE. Thus, our current pricing approaches make intermittent wind and solar look much more beneficial than they really are.

A clear workaround for this non-independence problem is to look primarily at the cost (in terms of EROI or LCOE) in which wind and solar are part of overall “packages” that produce grid-quality electricity, at the locations where they are needed. If we can find solutions on this basis, there would seem to be much more of a chance that wind and solar could be ramped up to a significant share of total electricity. The “problem” is that there is a lower bound on an acceptable EROI (probably 10:1, but possibly as low as 3:1 based on the work of Charles Hall). This is somewhat equivalent to an upper bound on the affordable cost of electricity using LCOE.

This means that if we really expect to scale wind and solar, we probably need to be creating packages of grid-quality electricity (wind or solar, supplemented by various devices to create grid quality electricity) at an acceptably high EROI. This is very similar to a requirement that wind or solar energy, including all of the necessary adjustments to bring them to grid quality, be available at a suitably low dollar cost–probably not too different from today’s wholesale cost of electricity. EROI theory would strongly suggest that energy costs for an economy cannot rise dramatically, without a huge problem for the economy. Hiding rising energy costs with government subsidies cannot fix this problem.

Distortions Become Material Very Early

If we look at recently published information about how much intermittent electricity is being added to the electric grid, the amounts are surprisingly small. Overall, worldwide, the amount of electricity generated by a combination of wind and solar (nearly all of it intermittent) was 5.2% in 2016. On an area by area basis, the percentages of wind and solar are as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Wind and solar as a share of 2016 electricity generation, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017. World total is not shown, but is very close to the percentage shown for China.

There are two reasons why these percentages are lower than a person might expect. One reason is that the figures usually quoted are the amounts of “generating capacity” added by wind and solar, and these are nearly always higher than the amount of actual electricity supply added, because wind and solar “capacity” tend to be lightly used.

The other reason that the percentages on Figure 1 are lower than we might expect is because the places that have unusually high concentrations of wind and solar generation (examples: Germany, Denmark, and California) tend to depend on a combination of (a) generous subsidy programs, (b) the availability of inexpensive balancing power from elsewhere and (c) the generosity of neighbors in taking unwanted electricity and adding it to their electric grids at low prices.

As greater amounts of intermittent electricity are added, the availability of inexpensive balancing capacity (for example, from hydroelectric from Norway and Sweden) quickly gets exhausted, and neighbors become more and more unhappy with the amounts of unwanted excess generation being dumped on their grids. Denmark has found that the dollar amount of subsidies needs to rise, year after year, if it is to continue its intermittent renewables program.

One of the major issues with adding intermittent renewables to the electric grid is that doing so distorts wholesale electricity pricing. Solar energy tends to cut mid-day peaks in electricity price, making it less economic for “peaking plants” (natural gas electricity plants that provide electricity only when prices are very high) to stay open. At times, prices may turn negative, if the total amount of wind and solar produced at a given time is greater than the overall amount of electricity required by customers. This happens because intermittent electricity is generally given priority on the grid, whether price signals indicate that it is needed or not. A combination of these problems tends to make backup generation unprofitable unless subsidies are provided. If peaking plants and other backup are still required, but need to operate fewer hours, subsidies must be provided so that the plants can afford to hire year-around staff, and pay their ongoing fixed expenses.

If we think of the new electricity demand as being “normal” demand, adjusted by the actual, fairly random, wind and solar generation, the new demand pattern ends up having many anomalies. One of the anomalies is that required prices become negative at times when wind and solar generation are high, but the grid has no need for them. This tends to happen first on weekends in the spring and fall, when electricity demand is low. As the share of intermittent electricity grows, the problem with negative prices becomes greater and greater.

The other major anomaly is the need for a lot of quick “ramp up” and “ramp down” capacity. One time this typically happens is at sunset, when demand is high (people cooking their dinners) but a large amount of solar electricity disappears because of the setting of the sun. For wind, rapid ramp ups and downs seem to be related to thunderstorms and other storm conditions. California and Australia are both adding big battery systems, built by Tesla, to help deal with rapid ramp-up and ramp-down problems.

There is a lot of work on “smart grids” being done, but this work does not address the particular problems brought on by adding wind and solar. In particular, smart grids do not move demand from summer and winter (when demand is normally high) to spring and fall (when demand is normally low). Smart grids and time of day pricing aren’t very good at fixing the rapid ramping problem, either, especially when these problems are weather related.

The one place where time of day pricing can perhaps be somewhat helpful is in lessening the rapid ramping problem of solar at sunset. One fix that is currently being tried is offering the highest wholesale electricity prices in the evening (6:00 pm to 9:00 pm), rather than earlier in the day. This approach encourages those adding new solar energy generation to add their panels facing west, rather than south, so as to better match demand. Doing this is less efficient from the point of view of the total electricity generated by the panels (and thus lowers EROIs of the solar panels), but helps prevent some of the rapid ramping problem at sunset. It also gets some of the generation moved from the middle of day to the evening, when it better matches “demand.”

In theory, the high prices from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm might encourage consumers to move some of their electricity usage (cooking dinner, watching television, running air conditioning) until after 9:00 pm. But, as a practical matter, it is difficult to move very much of residential demand to the desired time slots based on price. In theory, demand could also be moved from summer and winter to spring and fall based on electricity price, but it is hard to think of changes that families could easily make that would allow this change to happen.

With the strange demand pattern that occurs when intermittent renewables are added, standard pricing approaches (based on marginal costs) tend to produce wholesale electricity prices that are too low for electricity produced by natural gas, coal, and nuclear providers. In fact, wholesale electricity rates for supporting providers tend to diverge further and further from what is needed, as more and more intermittent electricity is added. The dotted line on Figure 2 illustrates the falling wholesale electricity prices that have been occurring in Europe, even as retail residential electricity prices are rising.

Figure 2. European residential electricity prices have risen, even as wholesale electricity prices (dotted line) have fallen. Chart by Paul-Frederik Bach.

The marginal pricing scheme gives little guidance as to how much backup generation is really needed. It is therefore left up to governments and local electricity oversight groups to figure out how to compensate for the known pricing problem. Some provide subsidies to non-intermittent producers; others do not.

To complicate matters further, electricity consumption has been falling rapidly in countries whose economies are depressed. Adding wind and solar further reduces needed natural gas, coal, and nuclear generation. Some countries may let these producers collapse; others may subsidize them, as a jobs-creation program, whether this backup generation is needed or not.

Of course, if a single payer is responsible for both intermittent and other electricity programs, a combined rate can be set that is high enough for the costs of both intermittent electricity and backup generation, eliminating the pricing problem, from the point of view of electricity providers. The question then becomes, “Will the new higher electricity prices be affordable by consumers?”

The recently published IEA World Energy Investment Report 2017 provides information on a number of developing problems:

“Network investment remains robust for now, but worries have emerged in several regions about the prospect of a ‘utility death spiral’ as the long-term economic viability of grid investments diminishes. The still widespread regulatory practice of remunerating fixed network assets on the basis of a variable per kWh charge is poorly suited for a power system with a large amount of decentralised solar PV and storage capacity.”

The IEA investment report notes that in China, 10% of solar PV and 17% of wind generation were curtailed in 2016, even though previous problems with lack of transmission had been fixed. Figure 1 shows China’s electricity from wind and solar amounts to only 5.0% of its total electricity consumption in 2016.

Regarding India, the IEA report says, “More flexible conventional capacity, including gas-fired plants, better connections with hydro resources and investment in battery storage will be needed to support continued growth in solar power.” India’s intermittent electricity amounted to only 4.1% of total electricity supply in 2016.

In Europe, a spike in electricity prices to a 10-year high took place in January 2017, when both wind and solar output were low, and the temperature was unusually cold. And as previously mentioned, California and South Australia have found it necessary to add Tesla batteries to handle rapid ramp-ups and ramp-downs. Australia is also adding large amounts of transmission that would not have been needed, if coal generating plants had continued to provide services in South Australia.

None of the costs related to intermittency workarounds are currently being included in EROI analyses. They are generally not being included in analyses of other kinds, either, such as LCOE. In my opinion, the time has already arrived when analyses need to be performed on a much broader basis than in the past, so as to better capture the true cost of adding intermittent electricity.

Slide 1

Slide 2

Slide 3

Slide 4

Of course, as we saw in the introduction, worldwide electricity supply is only about 5% wind and solar. The only parts of the world that were much above 5% in 2016 were Europe, which was at 11.3% in 2016 and the United States, which was at 6.6%.

There has been a lot of talk about electrical systems being operated entirely by renewables (such as hydroelectric, wind, solar, and burned biomass), but these do not exist in practice, as far as I know. Trying to replace total energy consumption, including oil and natural gas usage, would be an even bigger problem.

Slide 5

The amount of electricity required by consumers varies considerably over the course of a year. Electricity demand tends to be higher on weekdays than on weekends, when factories and schools are often closed. There is usually a “peak” in demand in winter, when it is unusually cold, and second peak in summer, when it is unusually hot. During the 24-hour day, demand tends to be lowest at night. During the year, the lowest demand typically comes on weekends in the spring and fall.

If intermittent electricity from W&S is given first priority on the electric grid, the resulting “net” demand is far more variable than the original demand pattern based on customer usage. This increasingly variable demand tends to become more and more difficult to handle, as the percentage of intermittent electricity added to the grid rises.

Slide 6

EROI is nearly always calculated at the level of the solar panel or wind turbine, together with a regular inverter and whatever equipment is used to hold the device in place. This calculation does not consider all of the costs in getting electricity to the right location, and up to grid quality. If we move clockwise around the diagram, we see some of the problems as the percentage of W&S increases.

One invention is smart inverters, which are used to bring the quality of the electrical output up closer to grid quality, apart from the intermittency problems. Germany has retrofitted solar PV with these, because of problems it encountered using only “regular” inverters. Upgrading to smart inverters would be a cost not generally included in EROI or LCOE calculations.

The next problem illustrated in Slide 6 is the fact that the pricing system does not work for any fuel, if wind and solar are given priority on the electric grid. The marginal cost approach that is usually used gives too low a wholesale price for every producer subject to this pricing scheme. The result is a pricing system that gives misleadingly low price signals. Regulators are generally aware of this issue, but don’t have a good way of fixing it. Capacity payments are used in some places as an attempted workaround, but it is not clear that such payments really solve the problem.

It is less obvious that in addition to giving too low pricing indications for electricity, the current marginal cost pricing approach indirectly gives artificially low price indications regarding the required prices for natural gas and coal as fuels. As a result of this and other forces acting in the same directions, we end up with a rather bizarre situation:  (a) Natural gas and and coal prices tend to fall below their cost of production. (b) At the same time, nuclear electricity generating plants are being forced to close, because they cannot afford to compete with the artificially low price of electricity produced by the very low-priced natural gas and coal. The whole system tends to be pushed toward collapse by misleadingly low wholesale electricity prices.

Slide 6 also shows some of the problems that seem to start arising as more intermittent electricity is added. Once new long distance transmission lines are added, it changes the nature of the whole “game.” It becomes easier to rely on generation added by a neighbor; any generation that a country might add becomes more attractive to a neighbor. As long as there is plenty of electricity to go around, everything goes well. When there are shortages, then arguments begin to arise. Arguments such as these may destabilize the Eurozone.

One thing I did not mention in this chart is the increasing need to pay intermittent grid providers not to produce electricity when there is an oversupply of electricity. In the UK, the amount of these payments was over 1 million pounds a week in 2015.  I mentioned previously that in China, 17% of wind generation and 10% of solar PV generation were being curtailed in 2016. EROI calculations do not consider this possibility; they assume that 100% of the electricity that is generated can, in fact, be used by the system.

Slide 7

The pricing system no longer works because W&S are added whenever they become available, in preference to other generation. In many ways, the pricing system is like our appetite for food. Usually, we eat when we are hungry, and the food we eat reduces our appetite. W&S are added to the system with total disregard for whether the system needs it or not, leaving the other electricity producers to try to fix up the mess, using the false pricing signals they get. The IEA’s 2017 Investment Report recommends that countries develop new pricing schemes that correct the problems, but it is not clear that this is actually possible without correcting the hidden subsidies.

Slide 8

Why add more electricity supply, if there is a chance that you can use the new supply added by your neighbor?

Slide 9

South Australia had two recent major outages–both partly related to adding large amounts of wind and solar to the electric grid, and the loss of its last two coal-fired electricity generation plants. The first big outage came during a weather event. The second big outage occurred when temperatures were very high during summer, and because of this, electricity demand was very high.

One planned workaround for supply shortages was natural gas. Unfortunately, South Australia doesn’t actually have a very good natural gas supply to operate its units generating electricity from natural gas. Thus, the available natural gas generators could not really respond as hoped, except at very high prices. Some changes are now being made, including a planned Tesla battery system. With the changes being made, there are reports of electricity rate increases of up to 120% for businesses in South Australia.

The irony of the situation is that Australia is a major natural gas exporter. Businesses expected that they could make more money selling the natural gas abroad as LNG than they could by providing natural gas to the citizens of South Australia. These exports are now being curbed, to try to help fix the South Australia natural gas problem.

These issues point out how interconnected all of the different types of electricity generation are, and how quickly a situation can become a local crisis, if regulators simply assume “market forces will provide a solution.”

Slide 10

An expert panel in Australia has recommended an approach similar to this. It simply becomes too difficult to operate a system with built-in subsidies.

Slide 11

Slide 12

Timing makes a difference. The payments that are made for interest need to be made, directly or indirectly, with future goods and services that can only be made using energy products. Thus, they also require the use of energy products.

Slide 13

Slide 14

There is a real difference between (a) looking at the actual operating experiences of an existing oil and gas or coal company, and (b) guessing what the future operating experience of a system operated by wind panels and solar panels might be. The tendency is to guess low, when it comes to envisioning what future problems may arise.

It is not just the wind turbines and solar panels that will need to be replaced over time; it is all of the supporting devices that need to be kept in good repair and replaced over time. Furthermore, the electric grid is dependent on oil for its upkeep. If oil becomes a problem, there is a real danger that the electric grid will become unusable, and with it, electricity that is generally distributed by the grid, including wind and solar.

Slide 15

Slide 16

Economies and humans are both self-organized systems that depend on energy consumption for their existence. They have many other characteristics in common as well.

Slide 17

We know that with humans, we really need to examine how a new medicine or a change in diet works in practice. For one thing, medicines and diets aren’t necessarily used as planned. Unexpected long-term changes occur that we could not anticipate.

Slide 18

The same kinds of problems occur when wind and solar are added to a grid system. We really have to look at what is happening to see the full picture.

Slide 19

Anyone who has followed the news knows about medicine’s long history of announcements followed by retractions.

Slide 20

A fairly similar situation can be expected to happen with proposed energy solutions.

Slide 21

There is a whole package of costs and a whole range of direct and indirect outcomes to consider.

Slide 22

As far as I know, none of the attempts at producing a system that operates on 100% renewable energy have been a success. There has been some reductions in fossil fuel usage, but at a high cost.

Slide 23

2013 Weissabach et al. EROI analysis examines a situation with partial buffering of wind and solar (approximately 10 days worth of buffering). It leaves out several other costs of bringing wind and solar up to grid quality electricity, such as extra long distance transmission costs, and more significant buffering to allow transferring electricity produced in spring and fall to be saved for summer or winter. These authors calculated a partially buffered EROI of 4:1 for wind, and a partially buffered EROI range of 1.5:1 to 2.3:1 for solar PV.

Of course, more investigation, including looking at the full package of needed devices to provide non-intermittent electricity of grid quality, is really needed for particular situations. Improvements in technology would tend to raise EROI indications; adding more supplemental devices to bring electricity to grid quality would tend to reduce EROI indications.

If the cutoff for being able to maintain a modern society is 10:1, as mentioned earlier, then wind and solar PV would both seem to fall far below the required EROI cutoff, if they are to be used in quantity.

If, as Hall believes, an EROI as low as 3:1 might be useful, then there is a possibility that some wind energy would be helpful, especially if a particular wind location has a very high capacity factor (can generate electricity a large share of the time), and if pricing problems can be handled adequately. The EROI of solar PV would probably still be too low in most applications. In any event, we need to be examining situations more closely, instead of simply assuming that hidden subsidies can be counted on indefinitely.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to inadequate supply.
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3,302 Responses to Researchers have been underestimating the cost of wind and solar

  1. yt75 says:


    • Fast Eddy says:

      Shale vs Retail…. which will deplete faster….

    • Kurt says:

      Ahhh, not the IHOP!!! The only place to go at 3am after a gig at a bar.

    • Marcus T. Monihan says:

      It may be in part due to those two restaurants selling junk food only. My wife and I went to an Applebees and it was all junk food and we never went there again. IHOP is pancakes and more pancakes with heaps of butter and syrup, so don’t even get started on that crap. This is probably a good sign people are trying to avoid food devoid of nutrition.

      Junk food at every turn in the US has been up until now part of America’s obsession with upping entertainment levels and fooling themselves into thinking food is food no matter how much fat & sugar (in different forms) or how much it lacks any value to the body, but who knows, maybe they are finally wising up?

    • They have been around for years. Their “model” isn’t working any more.

    • interguru says:

      You can’t blame this on Amazon.

      Note they are opening 125 new locations for a net loss of 25. They may be bailing out of declining communities.

  2. jerry says:


    Britain and its famous no more gasoline cars by 2040 and the new reality for Africa cobalt mining where the Congo has 60 per cent of the planet’s reserves and Goldman Sachs, the merchant bank, calls cobalt ‘the new gasoline’ but there are no signs of new wealth in the DRC, where the children haul the rocks brought up from tunnels dug by hand.

    Read more:

    • Lastcall says:

      Try bringing that topic up in polite company; may as well break wind!

    • xabier says:

      Elon the Unbalanced, Solar Saviour (TM) can down a few of those pills with some wine, and visit them in their hell. in order to explain that their future lies on Mars and that this is all in a Good, Clean, Cause…..

      Well, this is the plan, thee should be no surprise: a last frenzy of extraction and consumption for Europe, China and the N.America, with as much of the pollution burden as possible visited upon poor Africans: the poisonous materials needed to build our nice shiny fun crap,and the stuff we shift back there for ‘recycling’.

      The Final Great Wrecking of Mother Earth.

    • Greg Machala says:

      Shirley you are mistaken. Resource extraction is clean, neat and sustainable. See:

    • zenny says:

      We are just in the process of getting 12 new chargers in Nova Scotia for our 120 registered electric cars…The future is so bright I need shades.
      Good to see they found work…guess they do not have welfare.

    • Cliffhanger says:

      By Kurt Andersen: How America Lost Its Mind (On the History of Denial)

      • Davidin100trillionyears says:

        the conclusion:
        “And fight the good fight in the public sphere. One main task, of course, is to contain the worst tendencies of Trumpism, and cut off its political-economic fuel supply, so that fantasy and lies don’t turn it into something much worse than just nasty, oafish, reality-show pseudo-conservatism. Progress is not inevitable, but it’s not impossible, either.”

        I didn’t read every word, but it seems to be a social commentary about how so many Americans are unable or unwilling to try to improve their grasp of Reality.

        he is “fighting” for an American future where most people are well educated and consider the nuances of Reality, but…

        epic irony:

        I bet he’s clueless about the economic decline that’s coming in the next couple of decades, AND the certainty that this decline will result in less education and less clear thinking by the American people.

        and there’s additional irony when he dares to use the word “progress”.

        • theblondbeast says:

          It’s hard to say what a “rational” response to reality would even be. Seems to me it would flow from your premises about what’s important. i.e. the reality is that the most important things in life are emotional – and revolve around what we care about. Denying some parts of reality have been a part of every culture. “Given BAU is over, what’s the rational response?” doesn’t make any more sense than “Given the sun will consume the earth, what’s the rational response?”

          Avoiding despair is perfectly rational, given one way of understanding rationality – i.e. avoiding risks.

      • Tim Groves says:

        I read this before Cliff posted it. Kurt Andersen takes us on a tour down memory lane. For instance, I too lapped up Erich Von Daniken’s books as a teenager, although I never for a minute “believed” any of his contentions or theories, and I had a lot more respect for Immanuel Velikovsky’s ability to fuse history with fantasy. Happy days!

        Kurt points out quite a lot of irrational tendencies that have gripped a lot of American minds down the years, but at the same time he seems blind to a few that are gripping his own mind. Since Kurt is unable to distinguish his own false beliefs from reality, and acts as an arbiter (or gatekeeper) of what kinds of beliefs are and are not rational or acceptable, the article becomes a disappointingly superficial look at the issues of “thruthiness”, alternate realities, and why America has mutated into fantasyland.

    • Davidin100trillionyears says:

      thanks. Here are a couple of details:
      “Crude oil imports in the first seven months of this year increased by 13.6 percent at 247 million tons.
      In the first half of the year, Chinese crude oil imports averaged 8.55 million bpd, or 212 million tons in total – a 13.8-percent annual increase.”

      so after 6 months of insane increases, they backed off their imports to their January level.

      2017 imports should finish way ahead of 2016.

      I just don’t see the red flag.

  3. richarda says:

    I told you so ……..
    “Average whole life project costs for large wind and solar generation in the United States are now less than for coal or nuclear and about the same as natural gas, according to a study of tax subsidy-neutral prices from investment bank Lazard. “Numerous key markets recently reached an inflection point where renewables have become the cheapest form of new power generation, a dynamic we see spreading to nearly every country we cover by 2020,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a report released in July. “We project large reductions in carbon intensity in the global power sector, driven by the seismic shift in renewables.””
    “While governments may fear instability in power generation and seek to shield incumbents, industry and jobs will generally follow cheap power, a point forcefully illustrated by the history of the Tennessee Valley Authority. At some point, if the economics of solar and wind continue to improve, the politics of suppressing that will become untenable.”

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Troll… let me fee you

      Germany’s Expensive Gamble on Renewable Energy : Germany’s electricity prices soar to more than double that of the USA because when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind does not blow they have to operate and pay for a completely separate back up system that is fueled by lignite coal

      Why Germany’s nuclear phaseout is leading to more coal burning
      Between 2011 and 2015 Germany will open 10.7 GW of new coal fired power stations. This is more new coal coal capacity than was constructed in the entire two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The expected annual electricity production of these power stations will far exceed that of existing solar panels and will be approximately the same as that of Germany’s existing solar panels and wind turbines combined. Solar panels and wind turbines however have expected life spans of no more than 25 years. Coal power plants typically last 50 years or longer. At best you could call the recent developments in Germany’s electricity sector contradictory.

      Germany Runs Up Against the Limits of Renewables
      Even as Germany adds lots of wind and solar power to the electric grid, the country’s carbon emissions are rising. Will the rest of the world learn from its lesson? After years of declines, Germany’s carbon emissions rose slightly in 2015, largely because the country produces much more electricity than it needs. That’s happening because even if there are times when renewables can supply nearly all of the electricity on the grid, the variability of those sources forces Germany to keep other power plants running. And in Germany, which is phasing out its nuclear plants, those other plants primarily burn dirty coal.

      • xabier says:

        Calling all Germans on OFW!

        It’s easy enough to get details on Spain, Italy,Greece, etc.

        But what has happened to your standard of living since 2008 (or earlier)? More or less discretionary income? Employment stability? What is the real rate of inflation, in non-discretionary items, in Germany? This is never reported on anywhere.

        • Lyn says:

          For most people in Germany the standard of living has not deteriorated yet; main reason for that is the rising number of female workers contributing to the family income and the abundance of highly paid jobs in the manufacturing industry. Electricity costs are skyrocketing tho. Biggest issue for a lot of people are non-affordable rents in the bigger cities on top of rising energy costs. In some cities real estate prices have been rising exponentially. Until the bubble bursts 🙂 At first glance, the German economy seems really stable and in good shape. But that is mainly due to the weak Euro (strong exports) and a high investment volume because of low interest rates (contruction/refugees). However, as you could see in 2008/2009 Germany would suffer a lot from a slowing world economy.

          • Don’t forget the Reich v4+ factor, when significant part of Europe is working for 1/x salaries on projects finalized under DE export trademark and the value stays in Germany, or funnily enough then is often times lost in global casino vs Wall St. sharks (e.g. DB), but that’s another story.. lolz

          • xabier says:

            Thank you, Lyn.

            When a Russian friend was looking to study in Germany two years ago, he was very favourably impressed by the rents for good apartments – much better than Britain, which is becoming unbearable not just the cost, but the space. Friends already there were very happy with their standard of living.

      • Lensman says:

        Logic of which FE claims to be truly possessed:

        1.BAU at all costs – many times.

        2. Obsessive need to tell people they are about to die when BAU collapses.

        3. BAU collapse is inevitable and soon!

        Forensic Analysis: Convincing a critical mass of people that THE END IS NIGH will cause confidence to smoke – thus ensuring collapse much earlier than otherwise would have occurred.

        Thus doomers are merely another manifestation of unrequited Freudian desires.

        – years of therapy.

        • Tim Groves says:

          Thus doomers are merely another manifestation of unrequited Freudian desires.

          Isn’t everyone? According to the Master himself, deep down in the id, we want it and we want it right now.

          On the other hand, FE fits Freud’s definition of the voice of reason:

          • Lensman says:

            I confess I was being facetious. Siggy made some valid observations about the Morlocks, but being of a higher order I am sublimating all earthly desires to higher pursuits.

        • Marcus T. Monihan says:

          “3. BAU collapse is inevitable and soon!”

          I yawn from the boredom of rapping on the counter waiting endlessly with baited breath for something that never happens. Piqued with curiosity, attentive to the next doomer article, listening intently, yet nothing much changes. In fact, my boredom waiting for collapse has been replaced by working, living, socializing, being creative, and all the other endeavors of an enjoyable, productive life, and while this life goes on…so does BAU…The only question for people preoccupied with the idea of collapse is; if the clock of BAU is still ticking, then why jump the gun and presume imminent collapse? It’s like waiting for a nuclear attack that never happens. All a person ends up doing is waiting in expectation for an event they have no control over whether it happens or not. It’s a waste of time, of life.

          • timl2k11 says:

            Think we’ll make it to 2045? There’s an massive solar eclipse that year. Goes right over my house.

      • My previous post got sensor ed or lost, whatever..
        Merely pointed out, that few years ago at the renewables mania height and coal bottoms, some people bought that nofuture uninteresting German coal, granted some were even self-identified as cyclical guys, but some must have been uber smart and now renewables won’t never scale up only work as extension hence the continued need for baseload grid backup in coal/natgas..

      • zenny says:

        Coal is a beautiful thing.
        I was talking to a friend about it and other than a picture she saw…Had no Idea other than it was bad

    • louiswu says:

      All subsidies should be removed for all industries in the energy business and then lets see what happens. It should be fun.

      • Greg Machala says:

        “All subsidies should be removed for all industries in the energy business and then lets see what happens.” – And all electricity from solar PV and wind turbines and all the electricity used at EV charging stations needs to be taxed at energy equivalent rate as petrol fuels.

    • Greg Machala says:

      “Average whole life project costs for large wind and solar generation in the United States are now less than for coal or nuclear and about the same as natural gas” – That should scare the living daylights out of anyone who reads that. Why? Because it takes coal and natural gas to make solar panels. Think man think. If you still don’t get it. That means coal and natural gas extraction is no longer profitable. What does that mean? Well, it means that coal and natural gas producers will go bankrupt and there will be zero, zip nada mas solar panels.

      • Marcus T. Monihan says:

        Yeah, but if enough PV panels are erected and connected to the grid, then at some point renewables will power the production of renewables.

        What are the choices? Try to make the transition to renewables or throw up our hands in defeat, because as of now there are no other viable solutions. Fusion is still years away – FF burning is causing GW – nuclear is unsafe (see Fukushima & Chernobyl), so the only option is to get busy deploying as much of this stuff as we can and figure out the problems associated with it as we go along.

        • zenny says:

          NO Just NO FF are not causing GW…This stuff you talk about is not the answer

        • Tim Groves says:

          Yeah, but if enough PV panels are erected and connected to the grid, then at some point renewables will power the production of renewables.

          You were doing very well up to “Yeah”. As for the rest, it remains fantasy if we are simply envisioning it, but it becomes delusion if we assume it to be a practical possibility in the real world.

          Adding a little bit of solar power generation infrastructure made possible by fossil fuels to an existing energy supply system made possible by and operated mainly using fossil fuels is one thing.

          Building and deploying solar power generation infrastructure by using only electric power produced by solar power or other “renewable” electricity is quite another.

          And operating an industrial system that produces and operates electrical and electronic equipment without using fossil fuels has never been attempted even on a small scale as a research project, because the researchers would quickly grasp at the planning stage that it would be totally impractical.

        • Artleads says:

          I have no reason to believe that FFs are not causing GW. How could it not if such a massive amount of FFs has been emitted in the past 100 years? But I also don’t see how so called renewables can change that. Renewables that are wildly successful would only ensure that mining continues (for materials, etc.), roads get built, land is disturbed…just to produce and distribute these renewable. . It’s been said here, and I absolutely believe it, that renewables ensure greater use of FFs, not less.

          Then we learn on FW how you lose computers, food, antibiotics, public order if trucking stops–trucking is what keeps food in the stores, and the production of just about everything in your house. (Someone posted a great video by Alice Friedman explaining how that works.) Trucking simply doesn’t work on renewables.

          My understanding of it is we need to maintain the oil and FF economy for as long as possible. The alternative is worse. It’s too late for any reasonable fix to be made to our system. That said, I doubt very much that the destruction to life support systems everywhere is strictly necessary for keeping industrial civilization going for some time. But then you’re looking at social, cultural, and psychological change that is even harder than finding technology to slow or stop GW.

  4. xabier says:

    Excellent quotes from the mysterious Baron Iseux von Pfetten -aka ‘Monsieur. 2%’ after hs regular commission, (from a French mag) :

    ‘Human rights issues in China are not my concern: I deal with economics.’

    ‘Chinese Communism cannot be compared to Soviet Communism. It has never been as bad.’

    • Well, we know why he had to say that..

      These two systems were incomparable anyway, just on the ground of history, culture, and geographic settings.

      It’s pretty funny to observe Western scholarly propaganda, each decade they tend to substantially (and quietly) decrease the count on Soviet purges, now the latest estimate is ~5M as the cost during forced country side collectivization, late 1920s-early mid 1930s. And without collectivization and massive industrial buildup they (nobody) would never ever defeated in conventional warfare those ~200 divisions dispatched from Reich v3.0 in 1941. So, realistically, ~5M might have been ~3M in actuality, the war took almost ~30M (both soldier and civilian), if we subtract ~30% for botched summer of 1941, i.e. not expecting the invasion – no early retreat from western border maneuver related to 1937 officer rank purgers, which still had effect on temporarily incapacitated command, we are at less than ~ *15M extra death toll. That’s frankly not much for such huge country to be retooled from mostly peasant feudalism into super power hitech giant in 2-3 decades. I’m not fanboy advocating for this avenue of history just commenting on the facts.

      * not counted are the extra losses from ~1917-22 civil war, Western intervention, early revolutionary Bolshevik rule period etc. But perhaps it should be counted in the above, because without it there would be no prewar Soviets nor post WWII Soviets.. so in total ~20-24M..

  5. Cliffhanger says:

    Tesla Cars Aren’t As Carbon (And Taxpayer) Friendly As You Think

    • This is Euan Mearns’ latest post on the subject of electric cars:


      Fuel costs

      In the UK domestic electricity costs ~15p / kWh. Diesel costs ~120p / liter of which about 80p is tax [ref 2]. The B-Class Sport will consume 249p of electricity to run for 100 km. The B-Class 180d will consume 478p worth of diesel, and so at face value I will save £229 / year going electric based on 10,000 kms. In no way is this enough to compensate for the extra £9,425 / £4,925 that I have to pay up front for the electric version.

      If the electrification of cars goes ahead then governments are going to lose substantial tax revenues from fuel sales. Does anyone believe that electricity will not be taxed at the same level? To level the playing field, the fuel cost of driving the 180d for 100km without tax works out at 159p, 36% lower than the electric version. Hence, I have to conclude that there is no fuel cost benefit going electric at current prices.


      To re-charge the B-Class Sport EV takes an eye-watering 9 to 21 hours using normal domestic power supply. This reduces to 3 to 4.4 hours using a 400 V / 16A industrial grade supply that most European homes quite simply do not have. This compares poorly with the 10 minutes it takes to fill the tank of the 180d.

      If the pattern of use is to use the car during the day and to re-charge at night, then it is indeed the case that a 9 hour charge period is of little consequence. Re-charging en-route remains a problem, even with the Tesla supercharger:

      “Stay charged while you’re on the road using the Tesla Supercharger network. Placed along well travelled routes, a Supercharger provides up to 170 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes.”

      • xabier says:

        Relays of Teslas, like the old relays of carriage horses and couriers which could take you from London to Geneva,and beyond? 🙂


      An article by a Seeking Alpha author who thinks that the numbers are worse than reported. Too many switches in comparisons. He also says, “Tesla’s customer deposits again fell sequentially to just $603 million,” and that net sales are below the reported gross sales, that the company reports. (It is my understanding that customers put $1000 down, but can cancel their order for any reason and get their money back.)

    • timl2k11 says:

      Tesla made $100 million from selling ZEV credits last quater to other manufacturers. ZEV is an oxymoron. Obviously (to anyone here) EVs just shift the emissions to the manufacturing side of things. What nonsense.

  6. Cliffhanger says:

    Another tech titan joins Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg in supporting free cash handouts for Americans

    • Greg Machala says:

      Handouts (or UBI) is about all that is left to try. Likely the only thing that will extend BAU and keep the people in order.

    • Jesse James says:

      It makes sense for them to support free money….they have been getting it for years. Monopolys exist based upon no competition, and implicit support by the government, which they control. The same is true for Google, Facebook and Amazon.

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