Electricity Generation - Are Wind and Solar Cheaper than Fossil Fuels?


I am going to let someone else (Rosie Barnes), far more qualified than me, answer this question by pointing you toward two recent videos she put out on her YouTube channel (Engineering with Rosie). In the first video, Rosie compares the cost of electricity produced by coal, gas, solar and wind. Best to watch this one first ...

... because the second video repeats the analysis but adds another two energy sources (nuclear and geothermal) to the mix ...

This type of comparison is not easy because there are so many unknowns and additional factors that need to be taken into account: such as the extra cost of energy storage for intermittent renewables, transmission losses, subsidies, pollution, etc. Some of these 'elephants in the room' are discussed.

For those of the tl:dw inclination, the titular question is answered in the affirmative. And if you think we should just build lots of nuclear power stations, I hope you have very deep pockets.

Occasionally, I have flights of fancy and imagine I am the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. What policies would I enact? Well, as part of a 10-year energy plan, I would:

  1. Immediately legislate for all new homes to be insulated to at least Passivhaus standards, fitted with ASHPs and a minimum of 2.5 kW PV panels.
  2. Over the full 10-year period, insulate existing homes upto at least EPC rating C (though B would be better)
  3. Over the full 10-year period, install, free of charge, 2 kW PV systems on all suitable residential roofs. Residents could pay for additional generation and/or battery (thereby, saving on some installation and hardware costs). The aim is to add up to 5 GW per year (currently 0.73 GW per year) to the existing 15 GW at an estimated cost of £2.5 billion/year (assuming significant cost savings on PV panels and installation at this scale). It would be a far better use of our money than the current Government's Levelling Up agenda with the added benefits of extra jobs, increased tax income, upskilling the workforce, improved energy security, and lower energy bills. We would also achieve our net-zero climate target well before 2050. The existing Feed-in Tariff (FIT) would not apply to new installations (it was a stupid idea in the first place even though we personally benefit).
  4. Offer tax breaks and incentives for PV installations on non-residential premises.
  5. Increase HMG's R&D budget for renewable energy and storage technologies (£500 million?). Why do we not have any significant energy contributions from wave and tidal technologies? 

There are, of course, other areas of Government policy that I may comment on at another time.


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