The True Cost of Net Zero

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There was a time, not so very long ago, when the orthodoxy surrounding net zero and its costs went along the lines of admitting that it was expensive, but claiming that the costs were worth it, because not adopting net zero would end up costing us here in the UK even more. For instance, on 9th December 2020 (yes, as recently as that) the Guardian ran an article under the heading “Ending UK’s climate emissions ‘affordable’, say official advisers”. The key paragraph in the article was possibly this one:

The Climate Change Committee’s analysis found that the future cost savings from no longer having to buy oil and gas almost offsets the £50bn-a-year investment needed in low-carbon power, transport and home heating across the next three decades.

The Institute for Government said something similar, albeit at greater length:

In 2019, the CCC estimated that the total costs of getting to net zero would be £50bn per year, less than 1% of projected GDP over that period. The Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) put the figure at £70bn per year, or over £1 trillion by 2050. The economic analysis of net zero will undoubtedly change in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, however.

Models that attempt to calculate costs have a degree of uncertainty because the underlying economics are constantly shifting. One example is the changing price of offshore wind, whose cost fell by over 30% in 2019 alone, greatly exceeding expectations. This suggests that the UK could potentially accelerate moves to electrify other parts of the economy that have previously relied on energy from fossil fuels, such as surface transport and heating for homes and offices.

Net zero will also bring wider societal benefits, for instance to human health as a result of improved air quality and a better-protected natural environment [sic]. The CCC says these could [that weasel word] “partially or fully offset costs”, for instance by reducing hospital admissions, and enabling people to be more productive.

But that was then. More recently, the narrative has shifted, first of all by moving to a denial that net zero is costing us anything at all. Our new Prime Minister has recently (rather unwisely in my view, since I believe the position should have been given to someone with no skin in the game) appointed “green” Tory, Chris Skidmore MP, to lead a net zero review, and to look for the quickest ways to reach the emissions target.

At the same time, he has (in the words of the heading to another Guardian article begun a “‘net zero tour’ of UK to highlight benefits of action” and has urged Prime Minister Truss “to ignore ‘tiny vocal minority in Westminster’ arguing against climate target”.

Specifically:

He told the Guardian: “Environment and net zero should be bigger than party politics but I wanted to get out of Westminster to show that net zero is not a cost – it’s a benefit…industry isn’t listening to the tiny vocal minority in Westminster that is claiming that net zero is costing money, which is just wrong…”

Am I alone in finding it worrying that the person charged with reviewing net zero can believe and state that it isn’t costing money?

But wait, things have moved on, even since then. The BBC has breathlessly reported (unquestioningly, as is its wont in such cases – no fact-checkers or climate disinformation teams required for these stories) that “Switching to renewable energy could save trillions – study.” Specifically, the BBC report tells us:

Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy could save the world as much as $12tn (£10.2tn) by 2050, an Oxford University study says.

The report said it was wrong and pessimistic to claim that moving quickly towards cleaner energy sources was expensive.

Gas prices have soared on mounting concerns over energy supplies.

But the researchers say that going green now makes economic sense because of the falling cost of renewables.

„Even if you’re a climate denier, you should be on board with what we’re advocating,“ Prof Doyne Farmer from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School told BBC News.

„Our central conclusion is that we should go full speed ahead with the green energy transition because it’s going to save us money,“ he said.

I think the bandying about of words such as “[e]ven if you’re a climate denier…” tells us all we need to know about the mind-set and approach of the people behind the report. Criticisms I have seen of it so far vary, starting with dfhunter’s comment on another Cliscep article:

Since our study is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to focus on cost declines for key green technologies, we do not consider liquid biofuels, geothermal power, marine energy, traditional biomass, co-generation of heat, solar thermal energy, or CCS (our results are nevertheless robust to these modeling choices; see Experimental procedures).”

[G]ave up after that.

In an email to me, Jit wryly noted “I have wasted a lot of time reading the SI about that green miracle energy transition to try to find out where the idea that intermittent electricity + storage + grid stabilisers + far-flung grid extensions turns out to be cheaper than just burning gas (or generating electricity from nuclear).”

Andrew Montford has written a scathing attack on it for Net Zero Watch in which he says:

The methodology is, in essence, extremely crude: it involves extrapolating historic cost trends out along an expected curve (Wright’s law, apparently), while jazzing it up a little with what they call a stochastic methodology, which seems to just generate an uncertainty window. The latter details are, for the purposes of this post, largely irrelevant, however – it’s all gazing at tea-leaves in my opinion. What interested me was that they were generating predictions of future cost reductions from historic falling cost trends. As already noted, lots of people find no such cost reductions in windfarm accounts (and in fact, I have some limited data on solar, which tells a similar story)…

 It’s all to do with the way currency is handled. IRENA’s work is all demoninated in USD (and as a result, so is the Oxford Martin paper). But the problem of using a single currency is that the final cost figures will be affected by any currency fluctuations. And boy, have there been some big currency fluctuations in the last ten years. In particular, against the dollar, sterling has depreciated by 30%, the Euro by 25%, the Yen by nearly half, and the Brazilian Real by two thirds. When reporting in USD the costs of operators in any of these places, any reduction of less than these values represents an underlying increase in costs. Take the UK for example. According to IRENA, onshore wind costs fell from 0.086c/kWh in 2010 to 0.071c/kWh in 2019…

…But during that time, the exchange rate went from roughly 1.60 to 1.28, so in Sterling terms the equivalent figures are 5.3p and 5.5p – a small increase!…

…the Oxford Martin School guys have picked it up without understanding it, and have extrapolated what is, in essence a foreign exchange fluctuation out to 2050 and have concluded that renewables will save the world.

Experts, eh?

And, finally, Paul Homewood has made separate criticisms of the claims:

This typifies everything that is wrong with the BBC’s climate reporting. It fails to challenge the study’s allegations, instead accepting them as gospel.

The study’s conclusions are solely based on the assumption that the cost of renewable energy will continue to rapidly fall. This assumption derives from “probabilistic modelling”, AKA guesswork. There is not a shred of evidence this will happen, and indeed all of the evidence points to costs increasing, thanks to the debilitating shortage of raw materials needed.

Needless to say, given the very obvious and very real costs of net zero, combined with the problems of unreliability, unpredictability, and no ability (yet) to meet those problems by some such solution as mass battery storage systems, I remain highly sceptical of claims that have moved over time from acknowledging the costs (but claiming that they’re worth it) to denying the existence of the costs, to claiming that net zero will generate real savings.

What, then, are those costs? This is where it gets very tricky. Net zero has become embedded in every aspect of life in the public sector, and also features prominently across swathes of the private sector. More than that, as explained by John Ridgway in a comment on another Cliscep article about a £70 billion public sector procurement contract:

The £70 billion is only the tip of the iceberg. Say, for example, you are a major stationery supplier to a company in such a supply chain. The ruling will apply to you also if you want to safeguard your customer base. From the acorn that is the small group of suppliers to the government, grows an oak tree that harbours most of industry.

Those who are waiting to ambush the government by standing outside the office labelled ‘Legislation room’ will miss the fact that the action is all going on in the room next door labelled ‘Procurement’. By the time they realise their mistake, Net Zero has entrenched itself via a web of commercial contracts that cannot be unpicked.

Mention of a £70 billion public procurement contract gives an indication of the size of the task and the scale of the problem that is encountered in trying to work out the true costs of net zero within the UK. In truth, I don’t think it can be done. Any attempt will fall short, and will end up being an extremely conservative figure, a significant under-estimate. However, I have noticed that as I have written articles here, many of them have picked up on some aspect of net zero costs, whether within the article itself or within comments on the articles. What follows, then, is nothing more than an extraction and listing of those costs, together with a few (often very expensive) “odds and ends” that I have noticed along the way, but which are rarely if ever discussed in the mainstream media or among net zero enthusiasts. It is not, nor does it purport to be, a comprehensive list and itemisation of the costs associated with the net zero agenda in the UK

Insulation

First, since I’ve just read it, an article from the Guardian. This one’s about insulation (obviously they haven’t read Jit’s article, Insult Britain or mine, Insulate or Ventilate). We are told:

The primary way to reduce bills is to properly insulate people’s homes.

Of course, there’s an upfront costThe government’s climate adviser, the Climate Change Committee, estimates that the total cost of upgrading UK homes will be £250bn.

Good, we’re up and running. The first cost is the cost of insulation. Since it’s an estimate by the CCC, I’m guessing it’s an under-estimate. Let’s stick with it, nevertheless. £250 billion.

Climate Change Committee

Speaking of the Climate Change Committee, quite apart from the costs associated with its various proposals, the Climate Change Committee itself has an annual budget. In the scheme of things, I suppose it’s relatively cheap, its accounts revealing annual expenditure of less than £5 million. It’s the cost of the policies it insists on, rather than the direct cost of the Committee itself, that is the problem.

Emissions Trading Scheme

I mentioned Andrew Montford above, with his critique of the claims regarding renewables saving the world trillions of pounds/dollars. His Twitter feed is always worth following. According to it:

[T]he UK Emissions Trading Scheme currently costs the average UK household around £370 per year.

When the green levies are discussed, this one is usually conveniently overlooked. On those numbers, it works out at about £10 billion p.a.

Smart meters

Smart meters – of dubious benefit (despite the Government’s tortuous attempts to justify them in cost/benefit analyses, albeit their true purpose – rationing etc. – becomes increasingly obvious as the energy crisis unfolds). In 2016, the UK government put the cost at £12.986 billion. By 2019 that cost estimate had grown to £15.9 – £16.3 billion. For simplicity, let’s call it £16 billion.

Recycling Fires

In Burning Issues I discussed the huge numbers of fires at recycling centres up and down the UK, year in, year out. There is a cost associated with those fires – damage to buildings, the cost of the emergency services being in attendance, possible smoke damage to the health of nearby residents. There is an argument that the cost of all those fires is perhaps an indirect cost of net zero, given the reluctance of the “green” lobby to accept waste-to-energy power plants as a part of the solution. However, it’s arguable, and I can’t find an annual cost figure, so I won’t include one. Rather, I mention it as one more elephant in the room that is usually ignored.

Net Zero in Scotland

In More Greenhouse Gassing I drew attention to a few areas that involve costs. First, there is the cost of the Scottish Just Transition Commissions. Rather than single out the Just Transition Commissions (past and present) and their budgets, instead I draw attention to just some of the costs relating to net zero that the BBC reported on some nine months ago when the Scottish Finance Secretary presented the Scottish government’s 2022-23 budget:

The Budget sets cash for the decarbonisation of homes and buildings, transport and industry.

the first £20 million of a 10-year £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray [note – just the North East and Moray – more costs must be incurred for the rest of the country].

for energy efficiency, and low carbon and renewable heat.

Those are just some of the costs associated with the net zero project in Scotland, but they’re worth identifying, nevertheless.

Energy Entrepreneurs Fund

I also mentioned “the ninth round of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund – £10m aimed at encouraging the development of green technologies that can help cut the UK’s reliance on expensive fossil fuels.” Small beer in the scheme of things, but lots and lots of relatively modest sums do add up collectively to some very big numbers.

Shipping & Shipbuilding

The National Shipbuilding Strategy also received a mention from me in that article, along with over £4 billion of government investment to galvanise and support shipyards and suppliers across the UK, with new measures including better access to finance, vital skills-building, and funding for crucial research and development into greener vessels and infrastructure.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy also announced £206 million to establish a UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions, or UK SHORE. This, it is claimed, is a world-leading initiative showcasing our climate leadership and commitment to decarbonising.

Homes, Offices, Heat Networks & Public Buildings

The Scottish Government has announced £16.2m in funding for five zero emission heat networks to cut carbon emissions in homes and commercial properties. I am not sure whether that is within, or in addition to, the sums mentioned above.

£54m heat network funding from BEIS is to be split between four heat networks in England.

The £288m Green Heat Network Fund – running until 2025 – will go towards low carbon technologies to help deliver clean heating to homes, and commercial and public buildings

VAT on energy-saving materials, such as heat pumps and roof insulation, will be cut from 5% to 0% for five years. No number is put on this, but the effective subsidy it involves will be substantial.

“Green” upgrades for public buildings – up to £635m of funding will be made available to public sector organisations so they can install low carbon heating and energy efficiency measures.

Green” levies

In Energy Through The Looking Glass – Part Two I observed that you might conclude that “green” levies will cost us £13.8 billion this year alone – (renewables obligation at £6.6Bn; CfDs at £2.1Bn; capacity market at £600M; Feed-in Tariffs at £1.6Bn; Green gas levy – assuming it goes ahead – at £100M; renewable heat incentive at £1.1Bn; and climate change levy at £1.9Bn). Although many of those costs might ultimately be borne by households only indirectly (via costs passed on to them as consumers of businesses who pay some of the levies directly) that works out at around £500 per household per annum, not the £150 claimed by the Guardian. In addition, the OBR anticipates that they will rise to £17.5 billion by 2026/27. This is in addition to the annual £10 billion or so under the Emissions Trading Scheme, mentioned above.

National Grid

In that article I also reported on claims by the National Grid that it “is at the heart of that energy transformation – investing around £1.3bn each year to adapt and develop our transmission network to connect new sources of low carbon and green energy to our homes and businesses.” Also, that “National Grid reveals £54bn wind power network upgrade plan”.

Failed “green” retail energy companies

I pointed out that another 3% of domestic energy bills is due to the collapse of multiple energy suppliers last winter. The cost of managing the customers of these failed businesses is being passed on to households via their bills (specifically by increasing the standing charge). Of course, almost without exception, those energy suppliers claimed to supply “100% renewable electricity”. Note well also:

The National Audit Office estimates this will add £94 per household to annual bills, some £2.7bn overall. This excludes the cost of bailing out major supplier Bulb, which could reportedly reach £2bn.

Gas storage

I noted that the closure of the Rough gas storage facility has undoubtedly left the UK seriously exposed, and a Government that wasn’t obsessed with net zero might surely have had a bit more to say about it at the time. I don’t attribute any particular cost against this failure of net-zero obsessed politicians looking the wrong way, but a substantial cost is undoubtedly associated with this massive failure.

Hydro storage

I mentioned another project, “[s]lated as the first large-scale pumped hydro storage scheme to be built in the UK for more than 30 years, Utility Week Innovate digs into plans to deliver up to 1.5GW and 30GWh of storage by 2030 at Coire Glas.” This one is at a cost of £1 billion.

Replacing gas boilers with heat pumps

The move to replace gas boilers with air or ground source heat pumps will be extraordinarily costly. And that’s before considering that ongoing running costs will be higher. I took the opportunity to report on a Guardian article which admitted as much, telling us:

Don’t believe some of the quoted prices that have appeared in recent days, someone with a family-size three-bed house and larger can expect to pay £8,000-£15,000 in total to install a complete air source system, while fitting out a bigger home will cost more. Alongside the pump, that price will include a new hot water tank and labour. The final bill will depend on whether your existing radiators are large enough or need to be replaced. You are also advised to upgrade your home’s insulation at the same time, which could add considerably to the final bill, depending on your home’s construction. Fitting a ground source pump will cost much more – typically upwards of £15,000.

Let’s be generous, and go with a total cost of just £15,000 per home. With around 27 million households in the UK, that’s an extra cost in excess of £40 billion.

Hydrogen

One of the obsessions of the net zero brigade is the idea that hydrogen (at least if it’s “green” hydrogen) might be an answer to many of the problems associated with “decarbonising” the UK economy.

The Green Disconnect unearthed only some modest costs:

BEIS said £25m would be made available to test using hydrogen to cut greenhouse gas emissions from heat. The money will fund research into whether existing gas pipes can be used for hydrogen, and what impact having a hydrogen boiler would have for consumers. A further £10m is being invested in “smart heating”.

Hydrogen Boom examined some more of the issues with this, but not the costs. However, after I wrote it, some costs information came to light, and I added this information in some comments:

A wind farm is to become home to a state-of-the-art hydrogen storage facility which could eventually produce enough clean energy to help power the next generation of public transport.

The UK government has awarded the project, based at Whitelee Windfarm in East Renfrewshire, £9.4m.

It said the project would help Glasgow reach net zero by 2030.

And:

A hydrogen fuel project is set to be up and running in Dorset later this year after securing £6.5m of funding.

Dorset Green H2 is being built at White’s Pitt – a former landfill site off Magna Road in Poole.

It is being funded with £3m from Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)’s Growing Places Fund loan scheme, a £1.5m grant from Low Carbon Dorset, along with a £1.7m bank loan and equity funding from Canford Renewable Energy.

And:

Aberdeen’s fleet of hydrogen buses is gradually returning to service after being taken off the road more than two months ago due to a “technical issue”.

First Bus said in February that an issue had been identified with the 15 buses and the vehicles had been taken off service until the problem could be better understood.

Replacement buses were instead brought in.

The green and white-liveried buses, built by the Wrightbus company in Northern Ireland, cost £500,000 ($658,000, 555,000 euros) each.

The city hopes the £8.3 million project, part-funded by the Scottish Government and the European Union, will help to develop a hydrogen industry in the region as demand grows.

And:

Under the SGN/Wood plan, the rest of Scotland’s gas network could be converted to hydrogen only 15 years later than the Aberdeen target, in 2045. Wood throws in an extended pipeline network to gather in carbon dioxide from around the country for treatment and storage.

The total cost, at today’s prices: £11.6bn. Of that more than £3.4bn is in continued and expanded blue hydrogen generation, and £2.6bn would be required for the green variety, most of that for electrolysis.

Some £1.1bn would prepare the SGN pipeline network for hydrogen, while £500m would buy a gathering network for carbon.

A further £3.3bn would pay for conversion of appliances in homes and business premises.

Public Sector procurement

I have already mentioned Everything Net Zero. Don’t forget John Ridgway’s words which I quoted above, as to how the effects of procurement contracts trickle down to huge swathes of the private sector which contract with, and support, the public sector. Suffice it to say that this is a contract for just four years, to provide a “compliant procurement vehicle to access a range of products, services, solutions and support to achieve public sector ‘Net Zero’ strategies across the whole range of fields in education and the wider public sector.” And that its value over that four year period is £70 billion.

Blackout Avoidance

In Information Blackout I drew attention to the huge energy costs paid by the National Grid to the Belgians to keep the lights on in London in July:

National Grid paid £9,724 per megawatt hour, more than 5,000% than the typical price, to Belgium on Wednesday to prevent south-east London losing power.

The article led to a comment from Joe Public, pointing out that this was not an isolated incident:

I took some screen captures last year. There may have been other occasions in 2021 when similar then-record prices were offered/accepted:

8th Jan 2021 20:00-20:30 £4,000/MWh
1st Feb 2021 17:53 £4,000/MWh accepted by Langage Power Stn
15th Mar 2021 19:22 £4,000/MWh accepted by Drax5
9th Sept 2021 16:30 £3,999/MWh accepted by West Burton Unit 02
24th Nov 2021 14:30 £4,000/MWh accepted by Drax5
24th Nov 2021 14:00 £3,750/MWh accepted by Shoreham Power Station
24th Nov 2021 11:30 £3,250/MWh accepted by Connahs Quay 3

These absurd costs can’t readily be reduced to an annual figure, but they are the prices already being paid before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, thus giving the lie to the oft-repeated claim that it is that conflict which is primarily responsible for the UK’s expensive energy. They do, however, represent the increased costs of a net zero policy which, relying as it does on inherently unreliable renewable energy sources, leads to the National Grid increasingly paying crazy prices to generators (ironically, often of the fossil fuel variety) to ramp up their activities at short notice in order to avoid blackouts.

Re-wilding, offsetting, tree planting

When Green Goes Bad touched on the Law of Unintended Consequences. I cited yet another Guardian article (there seem to be lots of them pointing out the downsides to all this “green” stuff without ever making those at the Guardian begin to question it):

…the average price of land, according to research by the estate agent Strutt & Parker, jumped by 87% in the last year. Some estates have seen a 333% price increase since 2018…

Part of the issue lies in offsets themselves. Many activists demand the UK reaches negative, not net zero, emissions – which will require significant domestic rewilding as well as huge financial flows to the global south.

No specific cost was attributed to this unintended consequence of the drive to net zero (or even negative!) greenhouse gas emissions, but a significant cost there clearly is. And other aspects of this part of the story do come with firm price tags attached:

The Scottish Government aims to plant 18,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025 and forestry grants totalling around £72m will have to be handed out to wealthy landowners every year to ensure this happens.

The Forestry Grants Scheme has already awarded grants totalling £172m since it was set up in 2015. Ministers have also set aside £250m for grants aimed at restoring 250,000 hectares of degraded peat by 2030…

Green” building regulations

After that article was written, I spotted yet another negative story in the Guardian, and I made reference to it in a comment:

Net-zero rules set to send cost of new homes and extensions soaring.

New building regulations aimed at improving energy efficiency are set to increase the price of new homes, as well as those of extensions and loft conversions on existing ones.

The rules, which came into effect on Wednesday in England, are part of government plans to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. They set new standards for ventilation, energy efficiency and heating, and state that new residential buildings must have charging points for electric vehicles.

The moves are the most significant change to building regulations in years, and industry experts say they will inevitably lead to higher prices at a time when a shortage of materials and high labour costs is already driving up bills.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, a trade group for small and medium-sized builders, says the measures will require new materials, testing methods, products and systems to be installed. “All this comes at an increased cost during a time when prices are already sky high. Inevitably, consumers will have to pay more,” he says.

Gareth Belsham, of surveyors Naismiths, says people who are upgrading, or extending their home, will be directly affected.

The biggest changes relate to heating and insulation,” he says. “There are new rules concerning the amount of glazing used in extensions, and any new windows or doors must be highly insulated.”

The changes could mean an extra £3,000 added to the bill of an average home extension, according to Jonathan Rolande of the National Association of Property Buyers, a group of professionals aimed at raising construction standards.

Once again, it’s impossible to attach a firm price tag to this net zero policy, but a very real cost there is yet again to the long-suffering British public.

Green” Quangos

How Many Acronyms Does it Take To Save The Planet concentrated on various Quangos and their not insignificant budgets associated with the net zero project. UK Research Partnership Investment Fund(UKRPIF) is a taxpayer-funded body, with a budget of £900 million awarded to 53 projects across six rounds since 2012. As I pointed out, it is underpinned by nine Councils who work to distribute those funds, and much of it goes on net zero projects. In a comment on the article I also mentioned something I spotted shortly afterwards on the website of my local newspaper: “Applications for Powering our Communities £75,000 fund now being accepted”. Here’s an extract from the website article:

One of the projects that have benefitted from the ‘Powering our Communities’ [POC] fund in Cumbria is ‘Farming Futures’ [FF] by Agrivoltaics, Cumbria Farmer Network [CFN] and Cumbria Action for Sustainability [CAS], which sought to investigate the demand for, and viability of, on-farm renewables in Fellfoot and unlock barriers to implementation.

Cumbria Action for Sustainability also had another project that received such funding last year, called ‘Accelerating Community Solar’ [ACS], which will extend their solar projects to new communities across Cumbria, focusing on Keswick and the Duddon Valley to increase the amount of community-owned solar power across the county.

There are hundreds if not thousands of projects like this up and down the country. Individually they cost relatively modest amounts of money, but collectively they add up to some very big numbers indeed.

Green” NGOs, Government Grants & Climate Litigation

Biting The Hand That Feeds You was an attempt to highlight the nonsensical situation whereby the UK government regularly funds charities and NGOs which then turn round and sue the Government for “not doing enough” about the net zero agenda. ClientEarth is one such organisation, and as I observed, Note 7 to its accounts for the year ended 31st December 2020 shows the Department for International Development (DfID) to be among its top 10 donors, to the tune (that year) of £1,078,401. It is only one of many.

Balancing the Energy System

In Greenhouse Gassing I mentioned some discussion points in one of the numerous conferences associated with net zero: Next steps for energy storage in the UK -“expanding capacity – system flexibility, the role of small- and large-scale storage …”

That led to a very insightful comment by Joe Public once again (thanks, Joe):

The Briefing Note by Dr Keith MacLean of Providence Policy and Grant Wilson and Noah Godfrey of the Energy Informatics Group, Birmingham “NET ZERO -KEEPING THE ENERGY SYSTEM BALANCED” informs in its Executive Summary:

What looks like an optimal energy mix based solely on levelised costs of energy production could look very different to one based on minimising total system cost. For example, replacing the current daily gas balancing capability of up to 3-4TWh with batteries would cost over £1trillion…”

Yes, that’s right – £1 trillion is the estimated cost of replacing daily gas balancing capability on the National Grid with batteries (even assuming such technology is available). This would not be necessary were it not for the net zero objective of replacing all fossil fuel power generation with renewable energy systems instead.

Greenhouse Gas Removal

In a further comment on the article, I noted one aspect of yet another conference:

Greenhouse Gas Removals: Summary of Reponses to the Call for Evidence – published by BEIS and HM Treasury and concluding that without engineered GGRs, 2050 net-zero targets will not be met “. So net zero is pie in the sky.

Strategic Priorities Fund Wave 2 Greenhouse Gas Removal Programme – UKRI will invest £31.5m in land-based GGR demonstrator projects.

Green Heat Network Fund

And in another comment about another conference:

Green Heat Network Fund – running until 2025, the £288m grant fund will go towards low carbon technologies to help deliver clean heating to homes, commercial and public buildings.

Remote Renewables, Transmission Costs & Constraints Payments

Putting The Cart Before The Horse looked at the costs associated with building windfarms in locations before adequate transmission mechanisms to energy users were in place. I think a couple of quotes stand out:

So bad is the situation, that only now is SSEN Transmission, together with National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET), submitting a Final Needs Case to the regulator, Ofgem, with a view to approval for the proposed £2.1Bn joint venture for an “initial 2GW link [which] will run from Peterhead in north east Scotland to Yorkshire (Drax)…

And:

The link is essential to alleviate constraints on the GB transmission system, enable growth in renewables and support the transition to net zero emissions…For every year this link is not in place, hundreds of millions of pounds of GB consumers money is paid out in constraint payments to electricity generators unable to export to the grid.

Constraints payments, of course, are another significant cost of net zero that is never mentioned by those who favour it. As we add more and more renewable energy it increasingly destabilises the National Grid, with the result that in times of over-production, renewables operators are being paid more and more to switch off and generate nothing. I believe they cost us £181 million in June 2022 alone. That might be a particularly bad month, and not typical, so let’s call it £1 billion p.a. (while noting that as more windfarms are added, that figure will only increase). For those interested, the Renewable Energy Foundation has interesting webpages here and here about this serious (but little discussed) issue.

Scotland’s Zero Emissions buildings

Scotland The Grave discussed some of the ironies and problems relating to the Scottish Government’s determination to drive that country off a cliff five years ahead of the rest of the UK. This was probably the main point:

All buildings are to be converted to “zero emissions” by 2045 at a total cost of £33 billion. However, the SNP-Green coalition has so far announced only £1.8 billion of support, raising fears that homeowners and businesses will have to meet the vast bulk of the cost.

Electric Vehicles

In The Big Bright Green Money Machine I looked at some of the financial largesse on the part of the UK government when it comes to trying to electrify traffic on our roads. Money here, there and everywhere, it seems.

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) is a team working across government to support the early market for ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV). We are providing over £900 million to position the UK at the global forefront of ULEV development, manufacture and use.

In November 2017, £38 million was awarded to 27 projects involving 66 organisations addressing a range of technical areas from cell materials to pack integration, to battery management systems and recycling.

In June 2018, a further £22 million was awarded to 12 projects involving 40 organisations focusing on developments in solid-state batteries, understanding battery safety and advanced battery management systems.

A third round of funding will see up to £25 million awarded to collaborative research and development projects and feasibility studies.

The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution involves spending £1Bn to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains, including the development and mass-scale production of electric vehicle batteries and other technologies; £1.3Bn to accelerate the rollout of charging infrastructure, targeting support for rapid charge points on motorways and major roads; and £582M to extend the plug-in car, van, taxi, and motorcycle grants to 2022–23.

Then there’s the Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener funding – £620m for zero emission vehicle grants and EV infrastructure and £350m to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains.

What happens when the electricity goes off?

Capability Down looked at the aftermath of Storm Arwen on those poor benighted people whose electricity supply was cut off for days when the storm hit. It doesn’t look at financial costs, but rather the practical cost of relying entirely on a wholly electrified modern economy when things go wrong. I reproduce here some words I copied in a comment, from an article (headed “Net Zero Chance of Coping with Storms”) in the Conservative Woman.

Consider this: after days without an electricity supply, many in the North East were still able to charge mobile phones in their cars, enabling them to call friends or authorities for help. They could still get to the shops to buy food, or even move in with friends and relatives who still had power.

How will this work in a net zero world? Would your electric car battery have any charge when you woke up the morning after the storm? If the power cut was in the evening, then almost certainly not – most people will schedule EV charging for the middle of the night, when power is cheapest (and indeed off-peak charging may soon be compulsory). Moreover, ahead of a major storm, grid managers are likely to switch off all EV chargers remotely. If they didn’t, the demand from millions of people worried about the possibility of power cuts, and all trying to top up their batteries at the same time, would bring down the grid.

So, after a future Storm Arwen, tens of thousands of people would wake up to find themselves stuck: no getting food or medicine from the shops, no escape to friends and relatives, no visits to emergency relief centres. Through policy foolishness, an entirely natural winter storm could become a manmade disaster….

COP26

The Party’s Over sought to analyse the failure in its own terms of COP 26. Of course, this took place in Glasgow under the leadership of UK officials, a ridiculous piece of posturing on the world stage, driven by devotion to “leading the way” to net zero. It was completely unnecessary for the bill for this international greenhouse gas spewing jamboree to be paid for by the British taxpayer, but it was. Even the BBC (which was a breathless cheerleader for COP26 for months in advance of it taking place) admitted that “COP26: Climate summit may cost ’several hundred million pounds‘”. Let’s be conservative and call it £200 million.

The National Health Service

I looked at this in An Unhealthy Obsession, albeit not with a view to assessing the costs associated with the NHS‘ commitment to beat the rest of the UK to achieving net zero (those who run it are so very concerned about its approximately 5% contribution to the UK’s greenhouse gases). To be blunt, it is impossible to establish the cost of this move, though I think it’s safe to assume that it will run into hundreds of billions of pounds. The landmark glossy brochure “Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service” which runs to over 70 pages, doesn’t bother to discuss the cost (a search reveals that the words “cost” and “costs” appear only three times in the entire document. It does discuss some substantial investments (costing £billions) across the physical estate, and makes some heroic assumptions about payback periods.

I did allude in the article to various on-costs (albeit without establishing exactly what those costs will be), such as the NHS Net Zero Plan; the Scottish Government’s lead for the NHS Climate Emergency Response; plans to replace gas boilers with solar panels and heat pumps etc. Comments (from myself and others) mentioned “NHS Scotland climate emergency and sustainability strategy 2022 to 2026 – draft: consultation”; “the NHS already spends £50m on “carbon permits””; “Dozens of staff at an ambulance trust claim they cannot drive its £54m fleet of new vehicles due to their height or body shape” (the fleet was bought to be lighter in order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions); and job adverts for posts such as “Senior Net Zero Leadership and Workforce Development” (I imagine every NHS trust must have at least one) on a salary of up to £75,874 p.a. In that case “the post holder will be responsible for significantly contributing to the delivery of its ambitious and far reaching Greener NHS Programme of Work”.

The leakage of funds abroad

Where Power Lies took a brief look at the ownership of much of the UK’s renewable energy projects. Overwhelmingly they are foreign-owned. My object was simply to establish the extent to which UK taxpayers and energy users are sending money abroad, thus depleting the country’s already wretched balance of payments. The article elicited some helpful comments, from Joe Public (thanks again Joe) and Cliscep’s own Jit. First Joe:

Beatrice: Year ended 31st March 2020: 75% of revenue was from harvesting subsidies (£281.3m from CfDs), and only 25% (£91.2m) from generating electricity.

Sheringham Shoal: 2015: 70% of revenue was from harvesting subsidies (£98.2m from ROCs), and only 30% (£40.6m) from generating electricity.

And Jit:

Joe, I think I can trump you there with Dudgeon’s latest accounting: £242 million from CfDs and £51 million from selling leccy.

As so often, all this is very opaque, and short of sifting through the accounts of every foreign company that is hoovering up subsidies, it’s simply impossible to know how much money is leaching abroad in this year. However, it’s safe to say that it’s in the billions (possibly tens of billions) of pounds every year.

Red Tape and Bureaucracy

Green Laws Galore and Green Law, Red Tape looked at the stultifying effect of “green” legislation and edicts. This article is already long enough, so this is not the place to go into detail, save to note that red tape and bureaucracy is probably damaging business in the UK. In a comment against the latter article, Ron Clutz (thanks Ron) makes some excellent points in this regard, for anyone who is interested in pursuing this line of thought further.

Exporting Emissions, Exporting Jobs

Where Did All The Green Jobs Go? looked at the claims about “green” jobs that are repeatedly parroted by those pushing the net zero agenda, and found that they were distinctly lacking. I can do no better than repeat a quote I adopted then, from Magnus Linklater, writing in the Times:

On jobs, for instance, what is the prediction? Once we were told by the SNP there would be 130,000 green jobs by 2020. In fact, as Sir Keir Starmer inconveniently pointed out on his recent trip to Scotland, there are fewer direct jobs in the industry now than in 2014, with less than a fifth of the projected total delivered. Once a wind farm is created it is not a big employer. Even the construction period has limited potential. There is no major UK-based manufacturer of wind turbines, and much of the work is farmed out to cheaper plants in southeast Asia. Most of the big offshore projects are foreign-owned, such as the giant Neart na Gaoithe site off the Fife coast, owned and run by EDF Renewables, a wholly owned subsidiary of a Paris-based group.

It is idle to pretend that jobs lost in the North Sea oil and gas industry will soon be made up by employment in renewables.

Net zero doesn’t create jobs – it destroys them.

Interconnectors

20,000 Volts Under The Sea looked at the problems (logistical, ecological and financial) associated with HDVC cables running under the sea to connect remote wind farms with the UK mainland. The article was mostly concerned with the failures of, and problems relating to, such cables. However, some definite costs were established:

The failure of the high voltage undersea cable between west Scotland and north Wales last month resulted in National Grid ESO paying almost £31m for wind farm operators to curtail output.

Following the latest outage, Ofgem has opened a probe into the £1.3 billion Western HVDC connector, which links Highland wind farms via Hunterston to North Wales.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 National Grid reported daily average constraint costs of GBP0.5 million/day. This rose to GBP6.1 million/day from Feb. 16 to Feb. 25, before wind generation dropped.

Orkney – Pentland East cable:

This cable was replaced in late 2020 and the announcement of the completion of the work was welcomed with much publicity from SSE and others. However about 2 months later it was very quietly announced that the new £30 million cable had unexpectedly failed.

In April this year, Danish wind farm operator Orsted said it had put aside £350 million to repair or replace cables within its wind farms that had been damaged due to interaction with the sea floor.

And I added comments when further information came to light:

SSEN Transmission submitted its initial costs for delivering the Shetland Link to Ofgem in November 2020, amounting to £657.8m. As discussed and agreed with us, it provided further updates to those costs in May and August 2021, bringing the costs to £675.4m.

£28MILLION PROJECT TO REPLACE SKYE TO HARRIS SUBSEA CABLE COMPLETE

North Sea Link (NSL) is also a great example of two countries working together to maximise their renewable energy resources for mutual benefit.”

National Grid said the €1.6bn (£1.37bn) joint venture with Norwegian power operator Statnett would help the UK reduce carbon emissions by 23 million tonnes by 2030.

£3.4bn undersea electricity superhighway between Scotland and north England moves forward.

Local Authorities

The Great British Turn Off was a meandering article in some ways, but it did hit on the fact that local authorities, as well as spending vast amounts of money in trying to turn declarations of climate emergencies into some sort of meaningful effort, are also funding various NGOs and charities who proselytise about climate change and net zero. I identified that Cumbria Action for Sustainability was funded by:

…grants from South Lakeland District Council, Lake District National Park, Eden District Council, Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Council for Voluntary Service (itself a registered charity), Historic England, Innovate UK (which, according to my friend Wikipedia, is “the United Kingdom’s innovation agency, a non-departmental public body operating at arm’s length from the Government as part of the United Kingdom Research and Innovation organisation), Electricity North West…and NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group.

Note the NHS throwing grant money around too.

The National Lottery is also very generous with the public’s money:

On behalf of the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership, Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) was awarded £2.5 million from the National Lottery’s Climate Action Fund for a five-year Zero Carbon Cumbria project.

Goodness knows what all the Councils spend on their climate change officers and initiatives, and grants to organisations such as this also add up. But as to what they add up to, it is impossible to say. An awful lot of money, no doubt.

Environmental Degradation

For Peat’s Sake was something of a case study, looking at the damage being caused by the Viking Energy Wind Farm to the beautiful, pristine, and environmentally precious landscape of Shetland. While the situation in Shetland is particularly egregious, it is being replicated all over the UK, but especially in Scotland. Although this article is about the financial costs of net zero, you can’t put a price on environmental damage. Some things are just too precious – and net zero is wrecking them.

Conclusions

1. The cost of net zero is running completely and utterly out of control.

2. It seems unlikely that anybody (least of all those in charge of the project) has a realistic handle on what all this is costing.

3. The British public hasn’t a clue how much money this is all costing. If they did, I strongly suspect net zero would be given the elbow very quickly.

4. The above costs may occasionally overlap, and to that extent be an exaggeration. On the other hand, the costs I have itemised are merely those that I have noticed, and in many cases I have identified that there is a cost, but have been unable to put a figure on them, and such costs are therefore not included in the final total. In addition, I strongly suspect that I have missed a great many (therefore please feel free to add examples in comments below the line). Anyway, multiplying the annual costs by roughly 30 (to give a run-out to the Nirvana net zero date of 2050 – south of the border, anyway) and adding them all up, it comes to £2.326 trillion. That’s around £86,150 per UK household. It’s probably an under-estimate, by dint of not being a comprehensive catalogue, and by virtue of the fact that these things almost always cost more than politicians and “experts” predict. If pushed, my suspicion is that net zero (if allowed to run to its conclusion) will end up costing the UK £3 trillion, or roughly £110,000 per household.

5. There are other indirect financial costs (such as money leaching abroad to foreign energy companies) and non-financial costs (such as the destabilisation of the National Grid, making the UK insecure in terms of its energy supply, and further insecure by virtue of reducing the diversity of energy sources). It destroys (or exports) jobs. And renewable energy sources such as wind and solar cause massive damage to the environment.

via Climate Scepticism

September 19, 2022

The True Cost Of Net Zero – Climate Scepticism (cliscep.com)

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