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The UK Grows its Economy as it Replaces Coal with Renewable Energy

by John Brian Shannon

Great Britain has come a long way since the Industrial Revolution when it was almost completely dependent on coal.

The snapshot in time (below) covers the period May 1, 2019 through May 8, 2019 showing which energy producers contributed to the UK national energy grid and how much they contributed.

The UK was once 100% dependent on coal, but it now uses 5% coal, 19.5% nuclear, 33.3% renewable energy and 39.4% natural gas.

Image courtesy of BBC.

But in 2018, the UK met total electrical demand with 5% coal, 19.5% nuclear, 33.3% renewable energy and 39.4% natural gas. 2019 looks set to be even better from a clean air perspective. Burning coal to meet UK energy demand might reach 1% in 2019.

Every month, more wind turbines are installed and connected to the UK grid. About half of them are installed offshore (out of sight and out of mind) where they produce almost constant power 24/7/365 and are shut down only one day per year for inspection.

The other half get installed in farmers fields where they add energy to the grid day and night. Farmers like this arrangement because it adds to their bottom line as the utility companies rent the land upon which the wind turbines sit.

For example, if a farmer has one wind turbine mounted on his property, he or she will receive approximately £4000. per year from the utility company — but if the farmer has 20 wind turbines on his or her land, he or she will receive £80,000. per year for the land lease and 24-hour-per-day access rights.

In the case of larger farms, this amount could equal his/her annual spend on seeds, or in the case of ranchers, it could meet their annual veterinarian bill plus whatever the rancher spends on medicine and other treatment for their animals.

Although not as profitable as offshore wind turbines, having many electricity generators near demand centres is a definite benefit for utility companies.

The moral of this story is, adding one million wind turbines to the UK grid over the next 10-years (half of them onshore) would work to increase the profitability of farmers and ranchers, and could save them from insolvency during years of drought or flooding.

When did coal ever do that for farmers and ranchers? Never!

Wind power generation in the UK

Wind power generation in the UK theswitch.co.uk

That’s why the UK must commit to adding one million wind turbines over the next 10-years — thereby turning the UK into a major energy exporter to the EU, as the cables to transmit electrical energy are already installed and in use daily to import (expensive) gigawatts of power from the EU annually. See where I’m going here?

Adding half a million onshore wind turbines would dramatically empower farmers and ranchers, most of whom spend their profits close to home; Making land-based wind turbine economics an important force for good in local economies.

Siting those wind turbines so that they don’t trash-up the UK’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) will of course be an important consideration going forward.

It’s important to locate the turbines in natural wind corridors, sure, but installing them within sight of Castle Howard for one example, or within sight of major residential areas is a bad idea no matter how good the wind potential there. Careful siting of wind turbines is a must to… prevent… (wait for it!) ‘blowback’ from NIMBY communities. Hehe.

READ: The UK Has Gone 6 Days Without Burning Coal Now, And Guess What, The World Didn’t End (Science Alert)


The UK Economy Continues to Grow In Spite of the Overly-Extended Brexit Negotiating Period

UK GDP between 2014 and 2018

The statistic shows the GDP of the United Kingdom between 2014 and 2018, with projections up until 2024, in US dollars. Image courtesy of Statista.com

Say what you like about Prime Minister Theresa May (or, ‘Theresa the Appeaser’ as she is known to Brexiteers) and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond (possibly the most risk-averse man on the planet) they did a good job running the UK economy, although in the end, they couldn’t secure a decent Brexit agreement with the EU; Which is the only reason that both of them are soon gone from their present jobs.

Ultimately, the 3-years of economic uncertainty in the UK caused by the overly-extended Brexit negotiation period prompted the removal of Theresa May from the PM’s chair, and Philip Hammond from the Exchequer’s chair once the next PM is chosen.

But imagine how the UK economy would’ve accelerated had May and Hammond accepted the ring of destiny handed to them by 17,410,742 UK voters in June 2016.

Still, when you can grow the UK economy while removing coal and adding huge quantities of renewable energy to the grid — right in the middle of Brexit — you’re obviously doing something right.

But The People called for Brexit, and Brexit it will be.


Plan Your Work, Then Work Your Plan!

Someone should thank the best Environment Secretary in Britain’s history for the massive renewable energy capacity addition to the UK grid in recent years in locations where renewable energy does make economic sense, for the astonishing CO2 reductions, and for backing energy conservation programmes that reduced energy costs £2 for each £1 of programme spend.

This is where the UK must continue to focus its greatest efforts. Where its cheaper to install renewable energy, then install renewable energy; Where its cheaper to spend on energy conservation programmes to lessen demand, then spend on conservation; And where its better to locate energy producers near energy demand centres, then locate energy producers nearer demand.

READ: Study: UK leads G7 at cutting emissions and growing economy (BusinessGreen) You must register at their site to read the article. Here’s an excerpt though: “Report shows that in the 25 years since the Rio Earth Summit the UK has delivered the best economic performance and the deepest carbon emission cuts of any G7 state.”


The UK Could Lead the World in Local Clean Air Improvements and Increased Renewable Energy Exports

On a county-by-county basis, replacing coal-fired power generation with natural gas-fired generation supplying 15% of total demand in every UK county, 65% of total demand in every UK county met via wind and solar, and hydropower and biomass covering the remaining 20% of total electricity demand in every UK county… is the fastest way to clean energy, lowered healthcare costs and increased energy exports to the continent, which should be Priority #2 of any UK Prime Minister. (Brexit is Priority #1 for now, and being a democrat, I get that)

But next on any PM’s list after the Brexit item must be growing the UK economy while replacing coal and natural gas via generous energy conservation programmes and massive renewable energy capacity additions.

READ: UK Leads G7 in the Combined Metric of Economic Growth + Carbon Cuts (LetterToBritain)

Let’s hope the UK continues its great track record in lowering CO2 emissions, lowering its annual healthcare spend on respiratory disease, and growing the economy.

The only component missing in the UK’s clean air goals are the mind-boggling opportunities that await UK energy producers to export gigawatts of renewable energy to the EU in exchange for billions of euros annually.


Bonus Graphic

Here’s a great resource where you can track in realtime, how much energy the UK is purchasing from the EU.

When the snapshot was taken, the UK national grid was purchasing 3.3 gigawatts of energy from France, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, and other EU energy producers.

Snapshot of UK electricity demand

Snapshot of UK electricity demand on June 23, 2019 at 2:45pm. Click the image to access the realtime dashboard at any time.

Keep in mind that 14.70 pence per kWh is the average cost for electricity in the UK. So, yes, UK energy consumers spend billions to purchase electricity from EU utility companies annually — instead of EU utility companies purchasing billions worth of electricity from UK utility companies annually. Facepalm!


Notes:

  • One Gigawatt (GW) is equal to one million kilowatts (kW)
  • One MegaWatt (MW) is equal to one thousand kilowatts (kW)

For More Information

The U.K. Cut Emissions to the Lowest Level Since 1888. Here’s How (Fortune)

What will it take for the UK to reach net zero emissions? (The Guardian)

Floating wind farms just became a serious business (Quartz)

Fossil Fuel Subsidies ‘Bad for Business’ Say $2.8 Trillion Investor Group

by John Brian Shannon
Originally posted at kleef.asia

In advance of the G20 Hamburg Summit in July 2017 investor groups that control $2.8 trillion in assets report that fossil fuel subsidies are counterproductive to G20 economies.

This latest call to remove fossil fuel subsidies came two years after the G20 Brisbane Summit where leaders announced their intention to, “reaffirm our commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.”G20 Brisbane Leaders’ Communiqué (November 2014, Item #18)

The 16-member mega-investor group says G20 nations should set a clear timeline “for the full and equitable phase-out by all G20 members of all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020,” and mobilize “to accelerate green investment and reduce climate risk” in a report submitted to G20 foreign ministers preparing for the upcoming G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.

G20 fossil fuel subsidies total $452 billion a year according to the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International.

A Must Read: Empty promises:
G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production

Fossil Fuel Subsidies chart from Empty Promises - G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production. Image courtesy of ODI and Oil Change International

Annual  G20 Fossil Fuel Subsidies (2015)

Meanwhile, annual subsidies for renewable energy in the G20 nations amounts to only 1/4 of the annual subsidy awarded to fossil fuels, which have received mega-billions of subsidy dollars every single year since 1918.

G20 Fossil Fuel Subsidies total 452 billion globally 2015, while Renewable Energy Subsidies total 121 billion globally 2015

Annual G20 Fossil Fuel Subsidies = $452 billion. Renewable Energy Subsidies = $121 billion (2015)


For the next few paragraphs, let’s look at the United States exclusively…

Fossil Fuel Subsidies - Energy subsidies from 1918-2009. Image courtesy of Nancy Pfund

1918-2009 Fossil Fuel Subsidies vs. Renewable Energy Subsidies in the U.S. The Historical Role of Federal Subsidies in Shaping America’s Energy Future: What Would Jefferson Do?

The average annual subsidy for Oil and Gas alone in the U.S. from 1918-2009 totals $4.86 billion.

Adding all those (oil and gas only) subsidy years together gets you the astonishing figure of $442,260,000,000. in total from 1918-2009 — that’s half a trillion dollars right there, folks.

Which doesn’t include wars to protect foreign oil exporters to the United States.

Nor does it include so-called ‘externalities’ which are the negative costs associated with the burning of oil and gas — such as the 200,000 annual premature deaths in the U.S. caused by airborne pollution, along with the other healthcare costs associated with air pollution, the environmental costs to farmers and to the aquatic life in our rivers and marine zones, and higher infrastructure (maintenance) costs.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies chart from DBL Investors What Would Jefferson Do. Total Capital Gains tax allowance coal subsidy 1.3 trillion 2000-2009

Fossil Fuel Subsidies chart from DBL Investors What Would Jefferson Do? which shows the capital gains allowance (a type of subsidy) enjoyed by the U.S. coal industry that totals $1.3 billion over the 2000-2009 timeframe.

This chart shows only the U.S. capital gains allowance! There are other coal subsidies, direct and indirect, at play in America — in addition to the externality costs of coal.

On the Externality Cost of Coal
Harvard Medicine

Each stage in the life cycle of coal—extraction, transport, processing, and combustion—generates a waste stream and carries multiple hazards for health and the environment. These costs are external to the coal industry and are thus often considered “externalities.”

We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public… over half a trillion dollars annually.

Many of these so-called externalities are, moreover, cumulative.

Accounting for the damages conservatively doubles to triples the price of electricity from coal per kWh generated, making wind, solar, and other forms of non-fossil fuel power generation, along with investments in efficiency and electricity conservation methods, economically competitive. — Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal (Harvard Medicine)

Fossil Fuels = High Subsidy Costs, High Externality Costs and Lower Employment: When Compared to Renewable Energy

In addition to the direct and indirect subsidy costs of fossil fuels, there are the externality costs associated with carbon fuels, but almost more important, is the ‘lost opportunity cost’ of the carbon economy.

Over many decades in the U.S., conventional energy producers have tapered their labour costs to only a few persons per barrel of oil equivalent (BOE) while renewable energy hires more workers per BOE, which will result in a significant net gain for the U.S. economy.

Infographic: More Workers In Solar Than Fossil Fuel Power Generation | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

Even with the paltry subsidy regimes presently in place for U.S. renewable energy in the year 2017 — once fossil fuel subsidy costs, the externality costs of fossil fuels, and the ‘missed opportunity’ costs (fewer jobs per BOE) are factored-in to the equation, renewable energy really begins to shine.

And best of all — by 2020 and without any subsidies (yes, really!) renewable energy will regularly beat highly subsidized conventional energy generators at their own game — by lowering electricity costs, by lowering healthcare and infrastructure costs, and by creating thousands of new, good-paying jobs.

Who was saying that renewable energy was a pipe-dream?


Bonus Video: