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Dismantling the Royal Society Large-Scale Electricity Storage Report - Highlighted Article

Posted On:
Oct 19, 2023 at 7:00 AM


From: Eigen Values - SubStack

By: David Turver

Date: October 7, 2023

Dismantling the Royal Society Large-Scale Electricity Storage Report

The Royal Society report makes extraordinary claims that do not stand up to scrutiny.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." - Carl Sagan


The Royal Society (RS) has recently released its Large-Scale Electricity Storage report that says we can provide the electricity we need using wind and solar power supported by large-scale hydrogen storage. The report makes some extraordinary claims that are interrogated by this report that also seeks to find the extraordinary evidence required to validate their claims. One positive aspect of the RS report is the painstaking analysis of the variations in wind and solar power we might expect over yearly and decadal timescales that drive the need for a very large energy store. The RS report also effectively rules out batteries as a viable alternative as a large-scale energy store.

However, the positive parts of the report stop there. They begin by assuming that electricity demand will be 570TWh in 2050 that represents roughly halving the energy demand across residential, transport and industrial and commercial categories. The evidence from Our World in Data shows that rich economies require high energy consumption to thrive. There are no rich countries with low energy consumption and those countries that have reduced energy consumption have grown more slowly, or even shrunk. The first extraordinary claim of low energy consumption fails because the evidence shows that if we allow that to happen, we will be much poorer.

The report then goes on to assume that the profile of electricity demand will be the same as today. However, as we move from gas to electricity to heat our homes and offices, the winter surge in electricity demand will be further exaggerated. Moreover, demand will change from year to year such as during the cold winter in 2010 that also coincided with a calm period when we would have generated much less renewable electricity. These variations in demand profile will lead to more generation capacity and an even bigger energy store than RS assumes, pushing up costs.

On the supply-side, the report assumes unrealistic load factors for both onshore and offshore wind. They assume that the installed capacity in 2050 will have load factors far higher than has been achieved so far. Even allowing for some technological improvements, the capacity they need to meet their low generation target will need to increase by at least 20%. This would mean a sizeable increase in the capital costs of generation to deliver their plan, pushing up the costs of wind power very significantly. In fact, the costs they assume for renewable electricity generation are three or four times lower than we pay today through Contracts for Difference (CfDs) and Feed-in-Tariffs (FiTs) and are very much lower than achieved in the latest auction round. Using more realistic assumptions about generation costs would double their weighted average generation cost to around £90/MWh. (continue reading)


Dismantling the Royal Society Large-Scale Electricity Storage Report