New Papers: Intermittent Wind Power PRESERVES & INCREASES Need For Fossil Fuel Energy Generation

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 ⇑ Wind Power Installation Amplifies

The Growth Of Fossil Fuel Energies 

[A]s RES [renewable energy sources] increases, the expected decreasing tendency in the installed capacity of electricity generation from fossil fuels has not been found.” – Marques et al., 2018


In late 2012, a prophetic article appeared in the Los Angeles Times that warned:

“As more solar and wind energy generators come online, […] the demand will rise for more backup power from fossil fuel plants.”

Image Source: LA Times

Wind turbines cannot produce energy when the wind is not blowing.   Consequently, wind power routinely needs to be backed up by reliable and immediately-available energy sources — which are often fossil fuels-based (gas, oil, coal).

So as wind power installation expands across the world, more fossil fuel plants will need to be built to back them up.

A new observational analysis using data from 10 European Union countries affirms the rather devastating conclusion that wind power installation “preserves fossil fuel dependency” because for every 1% increase in the installed capacity of wind power there is a concomitant ~0.25% increase in the need for more electricity generation from fossil fuels.

And, sure enough, the growth in natural gas production and consumption across the globe is expected to explode in the coming decades (EIA, 2016), nearly doubling in production (from 300 to nearly 600 billion cubic feet per day) between 2010 and 2040.

Currently, 1,600 new coal plants in 62 countries are planned or in the process of being constructed across the world, expanding the world’s coal-fired energy capacity by 43% in the coming years (New York Times, 2017).

There can be no long-term CO2 emissions reduction benefit to installing more and more wind power if the long-term net effect of doing so leads to the requisite construction of more fossil fuel energy plants.


Marques et al., 2018

♦ “The installed capacity of wind power preserves fossil fuel dependency. … Electricity consumption intensity and its peaks have been satisfied by burning fossil fuels. … [A]s RES [renewable energy sources] increases, the expected decreasing tendency in the installed capacity of electricity generation from fossil fuels, has not been found. Despite the high share of RES in the electricity mix, RES, namely wind power and solar PV, are characterised by intermittent electricity generation.  … The inability of RES-I [intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar] to satisfy high fluctuations in electricity consumption on its own constitutes one of the main obstacles to the deployment of renewables. This incapacity is due to both the intermittency of natural resource availability, and the difficulty or even impossibility of storing electricity on a large scale, to defer generation.  As a consequence, RES [renewable energy sources] might not fully replace fossil sources.”

♦ “The literature proves the existence of a unidirectional causality running from RES [renewable energy sources] to NRES [non-renewable energy sources] (Almulali et al., 2014; Dogan, 2015; Salim et al., 2014). This unidirectional causality proves the need for countries to maintain or increase their installed capacity of fossil fuel generation, because of the characteristics of RES [renewable energy sources] production.”

♦ “In fact, the characteristics of electricity consumption reinforce the need to burn fossil fuels to satisfy the demand for electricity. Specifically, the ECA results confirm the substitution effect between the installed capacity of solar PV and fossil fuels. In contrast, installed wind power capacity has required all fossil fuels and hydropower to back up its intermittency in the long-run equilibrium. The EGA outcomes show that hydropower has been substituting electricity generation through NRES [non-renewable energy sources], but that other RES have needed the flexibility of natural gas plants, to back them up.”

♦ “[D]ue to the intermittency phenomenon, the growth of installed capacity of RES-I [intermittent renewable energy sources – wind power] could maintain or increase electricity generation from fossil fuels. …  The electrification of the residential, services and industrial sectors has been continuously pursued to diminish the consumption of fossil sources.  Nevertheless, the increased electricity consumption intensity in the economy has been satisfied by fossil fuel burning, which has cancelled out the advantages of that shift.”

♦ “The installed capacity of wind power preserves fossil fuel generation to back up its electricity generation. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power has been deployed in large amounts to increase the exploitation of natural resources. But, the intermittency phenomenon, more noticeable in wind power, means that, unlike fossil fuels, the installation of this RES capacity does not correspond to growth by the same amount of electricity generation. On the one hand, this can cause a lack of energy in the grid, i.e., the excess of installed capacity does not correspond to the effective generation to satisfy the entire demand. … In short, the results indicate that the EU’s domestic electricity production systems have preserved fossil fuel generation, and include several economic inefficiencies and inefficiencies in resource allocation.”

♦ “[A]n increase of 1% in the installed capacity of wind power provokes an increase of 0.26%, and 0.22% in electricity generation from oil and natural gas, respectively in the long-run…. Natural gas plants are the most commonly used to manage the scarcity of RES electricity supply and the uncertainty of electricity demand. Indeed, the flexibility and storage facilities of natural gas plants allow the electricity production systems to effectively match the electricity demand with the electricity supply.  Hence, this implies that the greater the electricity consumption peaks, the larger the capacity for generation from natural gas plants must be and, consequently, the longer and larger the capacity needed on stand-by status.”


To Grow Renewables’ Market Share,

More Fossil Fuel Plants Are Needed

Paradoxically, in order for renewable technologies to continue growing their market share, they need to co-exist with fossil fuel technologies.”

In another new paper that lends support to the conclusions of Marques et al. (2018) above, Blazquez et al. (2018) (full paper available for download) find that renewable energy paradoxically becomes more and more costly to consumers the further it penetrates the market, and thus simultaneous growth in fossil fuel technologies is needed to keep the costs of renewable energy sustainable.

Moreover, Blazquez et al. (2018) conclude that “transition towards a full 100% renewable electricity sector is unattainable.”


Blazquez et al., 2018

“However, promoting renewables –in liberalized power markets– creates a paradox in that successful penetration of renewables could fall victim to its own success. With the current market architecture, future deployment of renewable energy will necessarily be more costly and less scalable. Moreover, transition towards a full 100% renewable electricity sector is unattainable. Paradoxically, in order for renewable technologies to continue growing their market share, they need to co-exist with fossil fuel technologies.”

The paradox is that the same market design and renewables policies that led to current success become increasingly less successful in the future as the share of renewables in the energy mix grows. The renewable energy policy paradox results from the interaction between several factors, including: [1] the (almost) zero marginal costs of renewables, [2] the intermittent nature of renewables, [3] the interplay between price volatility and renewable technologies. The first feature above explains why renewables have priority of dispatch. The structure of renewable technologies, which have a high levelized cost of electricity but almost zero marginal cost of production, gives renewable energy priority in the order of dispatch. However, renewable technologies are often not the cheapest in terms of total cost, not marginal cost. This leads to a divergence between the true cost of the system and the evolution of price of electricity in wholesale markets, in markets with high penetration of renewable energy.”

“To illustrate this point, we performed simple calculations for three European countries using Eurostat data which show a sharp decrease in wholesale prices that concur with high penetration of renewable capacity but also a surge in the final consumer price for the period 2008–2014. In Germany there was a simultaneous increase in the price of electricity to consumers of 41 percent, a decrease of the wholesale price of electricity of 50 percent and renewable penetration increased from 15.1 percent to 28.2 percent.”

“In the longer term, investors will not reinvest or recapitalize electricity markets without sufficient guarantees on returns. These additional costs will eventually be borne by taxpayers or consumers. In Germany the feed-in tariff subsidy program has already cost more than $468 billion, and its total cost could exceed $1.3 trillion by the time it expires, according to 2015 estimates.  German consumers paid an 18 percent surcharge on their monthly power bills in 2014 to finance renewables. This is more than a fivefold increase since 2009.”

Full decarbonization of a power sector that relies on renewable technologies alone, given the current design of these markets, is not possible as conventional [fossil fuel] technologies provide important price signals. Markets would collapse if the last unit of fossil fuel technologies was phased out. In the extreme (theoretical) case of 100 percent renewables, prices would be at the renewables marginal cost, equal to zero or even negative for long periods. These prices would not be capturing the system’s costs nor would they be useful to signal operation and investment decisions. The result would be a purely administered subsidy, i.e., a non-market outcome. This is already occurring in Germany as Praktiknjo and Erdmann [31] point out and is clearly an unstable outcome. Thus, non-dispatchable technologies need to coexist with fossil fuel technologies. This outcome makes it impossible for renewables policy to reach success, defined as achieving a specified level of deployment at the lowest possible cost. With volatile, low and even negative electricity prices, investors would be discouraged from entering the market and they would require more incentives to continue to operate.”

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59 responses to “New Papers: Intermittent Wind Power PRESERVES & INCREASES Need For Fossil Fuel Energy Generation”

  1. RegGuheert

    I believe we are observing Jevon’s Paradox in action…

    1. Georg Thomas

      How do you mean that? After all, Jevons paradox depends on efficiency gains. Jevons suggests: when the efficiency increases with which we use a resource (say energy), the more people will tend to consume of it. But in the case at hand, where is the efficiency gain?

      1. RegGuheert

        Agreed that the original interpretation was related to the efficiency of consumption of a single fuel (coal). But I am applying the concept more broadly to include the interplay between multiple competing fuels. In this case, we have learned to use both wind and sunlight more efficiently than we could previously. Many people think this will result in a reduction in the use of coal, gas and oil. But Jevon argued that the efficient use of coal due to Watt’s invention lead to more application of coal and therefore more consumption and faster growth in the economy.

        What I see is that by using sunlight and wind more efficiently coal, gas, and oil are more available for other uses, which their producers certainly will exploit. In other words, the development of those resources will add to the energy available for consumption rather than replace the consumption of other forms of energy.

        We may see similar (or perhaps greater) effects as more-efficient transportation is realized through the use of electric vehicles. Many expect that electric cars will reduce the consumption of oil, but I think Jevon’s work argues against that eventuality. What most do not see is that electrification of more and more cars will INCREASE the amount of electricity needed by perhaps 50% or more. This could lead directly to an increase in both coal and gas consumption, at least in the short term.

        But I do see both a race and a disconnect between deployment of solar panels and battery-electric vehicles: Approximately six solar panels are required to fuel the typical commuter car in many parts of the U.S. and they produce their electricity as the wrong time of the day. At some point I believe the batteries in the electric cars need to become an integral part of the grid before enough solar panels can be installed in order to fuel them.

        We live in interesting times…

        1. Georg Thomas

          Thank you, for your interesting reply.

  2. P Gosselin

    Looks more to me like the law of unintended consequences.

  3. Green Sand

    It just demonstrates the refusal of virtue signallers to think through the consequential outcome of their actions. They don’t care that their “we are saving the planet” actions are seen by the money men as the actions of useful idiots. They will of course evenually realise they are simply being used, but that will of course be the money mens fault.

  4. SebastianH

    This seems to be a particular clear case of Captain Obvious paper promotion?

    Yes, as energy demand (read: max GW consumed at any moment) increases conventional power plants need to be built as well to cover that demand.

    However, there is a difference between building up / increasing capacity and actually increasing the amount of kWh coming out of conventional power plants. Or in other words, an increase in capacity does not correlate with an increase of fossil fuel burned.

    There can be no long-term CO2 emissions reduction benefit to installing more and more wind power if the long-term net effect of doing so leads to the requisite construction of more fossil fuel energy plants.

    Dead wrong! Let’s assume consumption doubles until year X, but we get 80% of our electricity from renewables by then, fossil fuel power plants running only 20% of the time. Have the emissions increased from now to year X?

    Constructing fossil fuel energy plants doesn’t really cause CO2 emissions to increase, burning fuel in them does.

    “Full decarbonization of a power sector that relies on renewable technologies alone, given the current design of these markets, is not possible as conventional [fossil fuel] technologies provide important price signals.

    Tell that countries that are already at this stage.

    This outcome makes it impossible for renewables policy to reach success, defined as achieving a specified level of deployment at the lowest possible cost.

    Easy fix, don’t trade electricity on the exchange by marginal costs, but by total costs.

    1. AndyG55

      yep, level playing field, no subsidies, no feed-in mandates.

      Bidding the day before, big fines for non-supply, ie loss of contract. Just like a proper market.

      Only political will and agenda driven funding can keep wind and solar afloat, because the world needs solid RELIABLE, REGULAR supply systems, not an unreliable erratic subsidy driven mess.

      “Tell that countries that are already at this stage.”

      Which fantasy land is that, seb. !!

      ” burning fuel in them does.

      Seb STILL hasn’t figured out that coal and gas plants still have to consume resources and emit CO2 even when they are forced not to provide supply by mandates on the use of wind and solar. DOH !!

      1. SebastianH

        Question: how many fossil fuel power plants do you think are running on standby at any time in Germany?

        Take week 17 with (at times) greater than 50% wind and solar on the grid:
        https://energy-charts.de/power_de.htm?source=all-sources&year=2018&week=17

        How many backups were on standby (meaning consuming fuel despite not contributing electricity to the grid) at 12:00 CET on April 25th when wind and solar provided 48.8 GW to the grid? Take an educated guess!

        1. AndyG55

          Enough to cover 100% of supply if that wind and solar.

          There HAS to be.

          [snip – no intelligence insults]

          And seriously??? cherry-picking a period of ideal weather.. Even you are better than that, seb.

          Except, you are NOT !!

          1. AndyG55

            How about you go back to say, week 6.

            Or the middle of week 2

          2. AndyG55

            And where’s the daily or hour graph instead of the weekly one that smooths out all the fluctuations. ?

          3. SebastianH

            Enough to cover 100% of supply if that wind and solar.

            There HAS to be.

            Either you didn’t understand the question or you are really believing that 48.8 GW of conventional power plant capacity was on standby, ready to jump in in case the wind and solar output suddenly would drop to 0 GW. Is that the case?

            And seriously??? cherry-picking a period of ideal weather.. Even you are better than that, seb.

            Ideal weather? I thought this was about standby power plants? When wind and solar aren’t providing much, conventional power plants are running. Why would there be a need for standby power plants (standby for wind/solar) in those situations?

            And where’s the daily or hour graph instead of the weekly one that smooths out all the fluctuations. ?

            The link is to an hourly graph. You can get quarter hourly data from the ENTSO-E platform (https://transparency.entsoe.eu/).

          4. AndyG55

            “When wind and solar aren’t providing much, conventional power plants are running.”

            Of course they are.

            That IS the back-up. DOH !!

            And they have to be up and running even when wind and solar are lucky enough to provide some electricity.

            If they weren’t ready on stand-by (and that means consuming fuel), then there would be no electricity when wind and solar cut out.

          5. AndyG55

            Your total LACK OF BASIC COMPREHENSION can only be a troll-like wilful endeavour.

            A PRETENSE..

  5. Yonason (from a friend's comp)

    Too Close To Call.

    And coming into the stretch, it’s Carbon Copy in the lead. But wait, look! Sea Breeze and Little Sunshine are coming up from behind.
    http://i1.wp.com/www.powerlineblog.com/ed-assets/2015/11/energy-consumption.jpg

    (use your binoculars. They’ll be coming up over the horizon any century now)

    Here’s an oldy but goody on relative costs. I doubt things have improved much since 1910.
    http://halfwisehalfwit.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-spend-little-when-you-can-spend-lot.html

    1. SebastianH

      [Entire post snipped – Ageism, like racism, is not welcome here, SebastianH. Take your bigoted comments elsewhere.]

      1. SebastianH

        Wth … “ageism”?

        It’s still a fundamental truth that a lot of skeptics are basing their opinions on old information. In this case 2009 numbers about costs of solar and wind. Better not look at what a 1 TB solid state drive cost back then, I doubt this improved much since 2009/2010 … right?

        1. Kenneth Richard

          You referred to skeptics as behaving like “retirees” again. The age of the people who espouse views that you disagree with is immaterial, as is the color of their skin. It’s soft-core bigotry, and you peddle it so facilely that you don’t even know/remember you’re doing it. Bigotry is not welcome here.

          1. AndyG55

            Speaking of “old” information.

            Have you found any empirical proof that enhanced atmospheric CO2 does ANYTHING except enhance the growth of the biosphere?

            Or have you just given up looking !!

            We are STILL WAITING !!!

        2. AndyG55

          “fundamental truth that a lot of skeptics are basing their opinions on old information”

          Yet there you are relying on an erroneous assessment of CO2 warming from a guy 150 or so years ago…. and science, physics etc that you didn’t learn properly 5 or so years ago in junior high.

          You should UP-DATE your knowledge, start by getting rid of all the anti-knowledge BS fed to you by your AGW priests….

    2. Yonason (from a friend's comp)

      .OOPS. Just noticed this. Instead of 1910 it should be 2010,

  6. Steve

    All of the above comments are fine.
    In the end though, what is left is the fact that CO2 is a non toxic gas that trees and plants thrive on.

    1. AndyG55

      yep, and with well over 1000 new coal and gas fired power stations going ahead around the world, with an increase of some 40% in CO2 emissions worldwide, (a substantial amount going to create wind and solar equipment), the increase in this highly benefical trace gas should continue apace.

      Even if the myths are true, and CO2 does have some small warming effect, that warmth will only bring us closer to the Holocene average, opening farmland in higher latitude as the continued growth of human population utilises that enhanced atmospheric CO2 to feed itself.

      1. SebastianH

        yep, and with well over 1000 new coal and gas fired power stations going ahead around the world, with an increase of some 40% in CO2 emissions worldwide,

        In your imagination … most current reports estimate we are at peak coal. Gas will be the only fossil fuel resource that will keep growing in the next decades.

        (a substantial amount going to create wind and solar equipment)

        Wind and solar have left the valley where producing new panels/turbines cost more energy than current installations could provide a long time ago.

        1. AndyG55

          “most current reports estimate we are at peak coal”

          Roflmao. Yet another mindless fantasy from, seb.

          We have been at peak coal for 100 years.

          And there is MORE THAN EVER available.

          Once all these idiotic feed-in and subsidies disappear, common sense will prevail, and coal and other fossil fuels will continue to rule

          They are REALIABLE, CHEAP and PLENTIFUL and can SUPPLY ON DEMAND.

          1. SebastianH

            I should have written “peak coal consumption” to not cause a troll reflex reply by you, I guess …

          2. AndyG55

            So you admit you were attempting to troll.

            With 1600 or so coal fired power station being built.. that would indicate to any sane person, that peak coal consumption is a LONG time in the future.

            Still going to need one humungous amount of coal to make all those wind turbines and solar panels, isn’t it, naïve one.

          3. SebastianH

            So you admit you were attempting to troll.

            I bow before the master …

            With 1600 or so coal fired power station being built.

            Nope, not happening.

            Still going to need one humungous amount of coal to make all those wind turbines and solar panels, isn’t it, naïve one.

            Are you sure? I wonder how countries without coal power plants are producing them?

          4. AndyG55

            “I wonder how countries without coal power plants are producing them?”

            Roflmao… what a bizarrely idiotic question !!!

            They are importing them, naïve one.

            You think they magically appear out of thin air ??

            I know you live in a little fantasy world of your child-mind’s own making..

            but SERIOUSLY !!!!!

            ——

            Nope, not happening.

            SebastianH is correct, AndyG55.

            It’s actually 2,400.

            I apologise for under-stating the number of coal fired power stations being built.

            Seb.. like a stopped clock, correct only ever by accident.

  7. Yonason (from a friend's comp)

    Ruinable Energy – The Ultimate Venture Capitalism?(**)
    http://business.financialpost.com/opinion/lawrence-solomon-are-solar-and-wind-finally-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-not-a-chance

    After the German government decided to reduce subsidies to the solar industry in 2012, the industry nose-dived. By this year, virtually every major German solar producer had gone under as new capacity declined by 90 per cent and new investment by 92 per cent. Some 80,000 workers — 70 per cent of the solar workforce — lost their jobs. Solar power’s market share is shrinking and solar panels, having outlived their usefulness, are being retired without being replaced.

    (**)VENTURE CAPITALISM
    You have two cows.
    You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
    The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
    The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.

    1. Yonason (from a friend's comp)
    2. SebastianH

      Where do you find these links? I have to congratulate you on digging these things up. Very impressive!

  8. RickWill

    It amazes me that someone can publish a paper based on stating the obvious – there are times when there is no wind!

    The paper also uses incorrect terminology by describing wind generation as renewable. Clearly that description is inconsistent with these generators increasing the consumption of fossil fuel.

    Anyone with a little curiosity and access to the web can easily determine that wind and solar cannot produce enough energy over their life to enable system maintenance.

    The sad aspect of Germany’s disastrous experiment with run-whenever-you-like generators is that subsidies encourage waste. The wind and solar industries have not developed technologically as they would have if there were no subsidies.

    1. SebastianH

      Anyone with a little curiosity and access to the web can easily determine that wind and solar cannot produce enough energy over their life to enable system maintenance.

      I am curious, any links where to start searching for this information? All I can find is that it takes months or a few years for energy payback. Or are you again equating money with energy? How about you tell us if Hinkley Point C will produce more energy than it consumes? At a price of close to 10 Pounds per MWh, how would that be possible?

      1. SebastianH

        Sorry, i meant to write close to 100 Pounds per MWh:
        https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/07/18/hinkley-points-cost-consumers-surges-50bn/ (it’s currently subsidized with £92.50/MWh).

        Windfarms receive less subsidies, so does that mean nuclear power plants consume more energy than they produce?

  9. AndyG55

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/06/13/wind-power-fails-in-canada-a-23-year-life-span-not-likely-to-be-replaced/

    OLD Canada wind power unlikely to be replaced.

    “TransAlta is very interested in repowering this site. Unfortunately, right now, it’s not economically feasible,” ….

    “We’re anxiously waiting to see what incentives might come from our new government. .

    Amazing that something so “free” is not economically feasible…

    Waiting for MORE subsidies for the second time around. !!

  10. AndyG55

    CHEAP COAL FIRED POWER, from shuttered power station.

    I don’t know a thing about crypto-currency, but if it can drive the RE-OPENING of closed coal power, all the better for the environmental level of CO2

    http://joannenova.com.au/2018/05/gamechanger-chinese-crypto-miners-can-get-8c-cheap-electricity-in-australia-using-old-coal/

    1. SebastianH

      Well, Apple bought solar power for 8 cents per kWh as well, so … what is the point?

      Besides, industrial users (at least in Germany) get a much lower rate for electricity. Below 8 cents per kWh is not uncommon.

      1. AndyG55

        RE-OPENING coal fired power stations, rather than build UNRELIABLES..

        Poor seb, how that must hurt. 🙂

        Germany already has the back-up to cover when wind/solar don’t work (for now anyway)

        Apple RELIES on its connection to RELIABLE grid power for cloudy days or anything outside a 4-6 hour period each day. Notify us when the rely totally on solar. AS IF.

        1. SebastianH

          And again, as long solar (or wind) don’t produce more than 100% of the load regularly, it’s totally fine to buy solar power that would cover 100% of your consumption and still depend on the grid for electricity. If you do that, you effectively replaced what you would have consumed from conventional power plants with electricity produced by solar panels (or wind farms).

          When states or countries reach that 100% threshold regularly, the interesting part of this energy transition begins. Finding and building storage solutions. According to a posting from a few months ago (about Mr. Sinn) that should happen once 50% to 60% wind/solar is reached. So, plenty of time for batteries and other solutions to come down in price …

          1. AndyG55

            “solar power that would cover 100% of your consumption “

            But it can NEVER provide 100% of your consumption unless you only operate when it is available. DOH !!

            Totally RELIANT on having that RELIABLE, REGULAR electricity supply available.

            Start cutting them out of the market with ridiculous subsidies and feed-in rules, and that will disappear. Basic economics.

            When that RELIABLE, ON-DEMAND supply is gone, you have NOTHING.

            Then off you go into fantasy la-la land of battery storage… yet again… displaying your absolute lack of basic comprehension of physics.

          2. AndyG55

            “it’s totally fine to buy solar power that would cover 100% of your consumption ”

            So, you are buying solar to cover 100% of your needs.

            How does the RELIABLE supplier get paid, considering they are providing 100% of your electricity for probably 60-70% of the time?

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