Is he tilting at windmills like Don Quixote? Victor Hill @ Master Investor is asking.
The vision thing
Right now, the British prime minister’s in-tray is full – but one of the items requiring his keen attention is the UK’s commitment to transition to a net carbon neutral economy by 2050, as decreed by his predecessor, Mrs May.
During his digital address to the virtual reality Conservative Party Conference 2020, beamed through cyberspace on 06 October, one of the key themes was to build back better by harnessing a valuable resource which Britain possesses in abundance: wind.
Boris Johnson announced a target of a fourfold increase in the amount of electricity generated by offshore wind turbines by 2030. He said that in ten years’ time wind power would be supplying every home in the country.
In the very recent past many serious analysts opined that wind power would never be economically viable without massive subsidy. Indeed, our prime minister once wrote in his days as a journalist that wind power couldn’t blow the skin off a rice pudding.
But ten days ago, the PM made it the centrepiece of his policy-setting conference speech.
The share of wind power in the UK national energy mix has been rising for years just as our reliance on CO2-belching coal has declined. Thirty years ago, Britain generated around 70 percent of its electricity by burning coal. Last year that was down to just over two percent.
As I write (Thursday) the National Grid Live Status website informs me that the UK is generating 52.8 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas); 23.4 percent from renewables (wind, solar and hydroelectric); 21 percent from nuclear and biomass; and the other 2.8 percent is coming through an interconnector from the Netherlands.
The share of wind power in the total energy mix right now on a not particularly windy autumn day is 11.4 percent. That equates to 4.7 gigawatts (GW).
Mr Johnson mentioned a target in his speech of 40 GW for electricity generated by wind power, which would be enough to power the entire UK demand this Thursday lunchtime. The current maximum capacity of the UK wind turbine network is around 10 GW. So, Mr Johnson envisages increasing wind power capacity fourfold.
What will it cost?
In order to achieve that target the UK would have to invest an estimated £50 billion and build new turbines at a rate of about 240 a year – up from the current rate of 130 a year – over ten years, according to Aurora Energy Research.
Building such large new arrays will require the agreement of planning, environmental and aviation authorities. The network of power cables on the sea floor which connect the turbines with the mainland will also need to be upgraded.
But a study by Professor Gordon Hughes of Cardiff University published on the Briefings for Britain website suggests that, contrary to what politicians and industry leaders claim, costs of installation and production of wind power arrays are rising and future projects will require government i.e. taxpayer subsidies.
He thinks that government cost estimates are inaccurate and compares them to the cost estimates of other infrastructure projects such as the HS2 rail link which is still burgeoning.
The real cost of Boris’s target will be more like £150 billion, paid over 15 years, says Professor Hughes. He thinks that, as a result, it will be necessary to double the cost of electricity for consumers by 2030.
Taking into account rising costs and lower yields as turbines age, Professor Hughes reckons that revenues would eventually dip below operating costs by an estimated £27 billion a year.
Ultimately, either the taxpayer or the consumer will have to make up this shortfall. So, there seems to be a significant difference of opinion on the economic viability of wind power.
Full article here.
via Tallbloke’s Talkshop
October 16, 2020 at 06:06AM