Charting the costs and effectiveness of Renewable Energy in Europe

Posted: February 25, 2015 by tallbloke in solar system dynamics



A long and well structured look at European Unreliables energy production by Ed Hoskins. Click on the ‘View original‘ link to see legible graphs!


A comparison of both the Capital Cost and Energy Production Effectiveness of the Renewable Energy in Europe.

The diagrams below collate the cost and capacity factors of European Renewable Energy power sources, Onshore and Off-shore Wind Farms and Large scale Photovoltaic Solar generation.  They are compared to the cost and output capacity of conventional Gas Fired Electricity generation.

  • capacity factor:  installed nameplate capacity compared to the actual electrical energy output achieved
  • capital cost:  comparison with the cost of equivalent electrical output produced by Gas Fired electrical generation.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 11.04.53

Overall European renewable Energy has almost 6 times lower capacity than conventional Gas Fired power generation and it costs about 16 times more in capital expenditure alone.

In all the capital costs expended by 2013 in Europe amounted to some €1/2 trillion for ~170 Gigawatts of “nominal” installed Renewable Energy generation.  But because of the reduced capacity factor, those installations provide ~30 Gigawatts of real output electrical…

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  1. graphicconception says:

    While extremely interesting, it would have been more even-handed if fuel costs had been considered as well.

  2. Doug Proctor says:

    As per graphicconception says:
    February 25, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I’m with GC.

    Looked all through the original. It is all about capital costs. If you did the same for the oil sands or offshore conventional oil production, you’d never do either. What you are concerned about in any power generation scheme is the amount of energy, simplified to dollars-out as revenue or netback, compared to the amount of energy/dollars invested. (The dollar comparison is the easiest to determine and most easily understood as “true”.)

    The Green will argue that operating costs should be compared, and that the operating costs are so much less for renewables than gas-fired (or other fossil fuel power generation), the excess capital costs of renewables will be recouped over time. Doubt it hugely, but there it is: apples to oranges.

    The life-generation of energy and its cost relative to gas-fired generation needs to be done for a reasonable determination of cost-effectiveness of renewables.

    The article is a salvo over the bows, not a persuasive reason to concede defeat.

  3. Emma says:

    Maybe due to the current situation in Ukraine, many European countries have realized that the dependence on Russian gas is not very good for them in today’s political conditions, and they try now to make different agreements between members of the EU, to export and import even clean energy produced from renewable resources.

    The coastal regions are represented very well here in the chart of wind energy, and countries like Spain and Portugal have a good development in this field.

  4. tallbloke says:

    Hi Emma, and welcome. The Czech republic has had enough of being used as the dumping ground for excess wind and solar energy generated in Germany and told the Germans to stop freaking out their grid system with it. This is one of the reasons the Germans are building coal fired power stations a fast as they can. I expect they’ll restart their nuclear reactors after the coal fired building program is complete nd sell energy to foolish governments like the UK’s, which have obeyed the EU directives to shut down their own coal fired capacity.

    Several European countries are rethinking the ban on fracking they agreed to under pressure from Brussels. Russia has a history of continuing to supply energy to countries they have disagreements with, but Europe is still getting very nervous about the situation. Renewables only make 3% of Europes energy requirement, as this article points out.

  5. DD More says:

    Yes, good to look at Spain for how to run a country on renewables.

    “But costs exploded, too. Subsidies to solar energy rose from €190m in 2007 to €3.5 billion in 2012 (an 18-fold increase). Total subsidies to all renewables reached €8.1 billion in 2012, see chart. Since the government was unwilling to pass the full costs on to consumers, the cumulative tariff deficit (the cost of the system minus revenues from consumers) reached €26 billion, having risen by about €5 billion a year.

    This would have been unaffordable at the best of times: €8 billion is almost 1% of GDP. ”