Deloitte Insights and Climate Reality have recently issued reports making claims that renewables – especially wind and solar – are as cheap and as reliable as conventional coal-fired or natural-gas-fired power.
We demonstrate that these claims are not valid and show that wind and solar exist almost entirely due to preferential government programs and subsidies.
Mass deployment of wind and solar can destabilize power grids. Solutions like batteries, flywheels, and pumped hydro are exorbitant in cost. Renewables-plus-storage systems cannot reasonably be scaled up to meet society’s demand for reliable power.
Large additions of wind and solar do not necessarily reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In any case, human-produced CO2 is not a control knob that can fine-tune Earth’s climate
Deloitte Insights, an imprint of Deloitte LLC, recently published a report entitled Global Renewable Energy Trends—solar and wind move from mainstream to preferred. Shortly thereafter, Climate Reality issued an e-book entitled How Renewables Work: A Practical Guide to Wind, Solar and Geothermal. According to Deloitte, wind and solar are now benefitting from three enablers:
The first enabler is that wind and solar are reaching price and performance parity on the grid and at the socket. Second, solar and wind can effectively help balance the grid. Third, new technologies are honing the competitive edge of wind and solar.
As this report shows, these claims are not valid.
LINK TO REPORT: In the Dark on Renewables FINAL Nov 18 2018
The assertion that wind and solar are reaching performance parity on the grid and at the socket ignores the reality that they require nearly equal amounts of conventional power generation to back them up because the wind does not always blow and the sun sets every day. Since wind and solar power generation systems are paired with fossil fuel, nuclear, and/or hydro back-up generation, wind and solar are effectively redundant, which means consumers effectively have to pay for two sets of generators. And while the costs of wind turbines and solar panels may have dropped in recent years, successfully integrating those technologies requires transmission-system upgrades, energy storage systems, and certain technical upgrades that all come at an additional cost.
Regarding the claim that wind and solar can effectively help balance the grid, it is true that certain technical advancements can reduce the negative effects that wind and solar have traditionally had on system stability. However, no amount of technical wizardry will allow wind to contribute to system balancing when the wind is not blowing, and no amount of wizardry will allow solar to contribute to grid balancing at 3:00 a.m. local time.
The price parity claim, which is based on a value known as the levelized cost of energy (LCOE), is also invalid. Even if the LCOEs of wind and solar were lower than the LCOEs of conventional generation—a debatable proposition—that does not translate into lower overall costs for consumers. The problem with the LCOE as a cost metric is that it ignores all the peripheral costs of forcing wind and solar onto the grid that were just noted.
According to Climate Reality, the transition to 100% renewable energy systems will be helped along by geothermal energy for heating and cooling. This claim, too, is largely invalid. While geothermal is playing a role—and will continue to play a role—in the world’s energy systems, it is simply not capable of replacing traditional heating and cooling systems in all situations or all locations.
The absurdity of the notion that it will now be easy and cheap to convert to 100% renewable energy systems is highlighted by the following chart, which comes from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy. Renewables (excluding hydro), shown in dark orange, accounted for just 3.6% of world primary energy consumption in 2017. Consequently, renewables advocates are effectively suggesting that we can rebuild the world’s entire energy system while maintaining the existing one as a backup, and that we can do in a ludicrously short period while keeping costs low. This is simply not reality.
Please read the full report, linked above.