Renewable Energy Could "Effectively Be Free" by 2030

A research analyst at Swiss investment bank UBS believes the cost of energy renewables could be so near to zero by 2030 “it will effectively be free.” The analysis explains that solar and wind farms are getting bigger, and that the potential of this sort of cheap, green energy is far-reaching and will only get cheaper. According to UBS estimates, the cost will have fallen to half a penny by 2020 and just 10 years later, the costs will be so minuscule, it will practically be free. 

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Except for the whole delivery  and maintenance part.
 

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We still haven't figured out how to maintain a power grid with nobody paying for it. That'll be interesting to watch.
 

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Zero cost doesn't mean infinite supply though. There will always be a ceiling on supply, even if it's much higher in the future than today. Scarcity drives supply and demand and therefore price.

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That implies a higher cap on energy supply than energy demand though. That's possible but, I think, highly unlikely. It's much more likely that demand for energy will always outstrip supply no matter how much supply there is.Energy can always be directed towards new purposes, even inefficient ones, especially inefficient ones if it's cheap. 

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Wow, the last time I heard about free energy was when the Nuclear industry was getting started. Electricity was going to be too cheap to meter. Must have missed a decimal somewhere.

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As the other posters have noted the "free" part is nonsense. Sure the cost of the equipment will continue to fall; does that mean networks will buy renewable energy unless they are forced to do so? Nope. The network has to be run to accommodate the varying output of renewables which causes immense problems with the other generators, and dictates a highly inefficient choice of new plants. To run a lot of renewables you need lots of inefficient fast response gas turbines (assuming there's not much hydro on the grid) or even diesel, which the grid operators have to keep ticking over in the background, ready to hook up. Some of these problems may  be overcome by batteries and pumped hydro  but those are still really, really, really, expensive and you need them in bulk to make a difference. This approach will never be cheap. 

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On 8/16/2018 at 9:35 PM, Stormysaga said:

A research analyst at Swiss investment bank UBS believes the cost of energy renewables could be so near to zero by 2030 “it will effectively be free.

< backs away  s l o w l y  from the delusional Socialist analyst >

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I can't wait for the futures market to open, trading sunny vs non sunny days!  And that, my friends, is why it will not be free.

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6 hours ago, markslawson said:

As the other posters have noted the "free" part is nonsense. Sure the cost of the equipment will continue to fall; does that mean networks will buy renewable energy unless they are forced to do so? Nope. The network has to be run to accommodate the varying output of renewables which causes immense problems with the other generators, and dictates a highly inefficient choice of new plants. To run a lot of renewables you need lots of inefficient fast response gas turbines (assuming there's not much hydro on the grid) or even diesel, which the grid operators have to keep ticking over in the background, ready to hook up. Some of these problems may  be overcome by batteries and pumped hydro  but those are still really, really, really, expensive and you need them in bulk to make a difference. This approach will never be cheap. 

You have to do this anyway for a number of reasons. 

1. Final user demand is quite variable and while there are fairly good mechanisms to predict changes in demand there is still an element of variability

2. The completely unpredictable is the sudden dropping out of a large generator. In many countries this will be when a  >1000MW nuclear reactor trips. There needs to be sufficient spinning reserve (part run generators) with sufficient capacity to ramp up at short notice to meet that loss. One of the advantages with distributed renewables is that you will not get that sudden unpredictable dropping out of several hundred MW / GW's of generation in a matter of a few seconds. 

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First Law of Thermodynamics

THERE'S NO FREE MEALS.

you can make energy cheaper, very cheap nuclear and hydro are capable of electricity between 1 and 2 U$S Cents per KWh while still driving profits, but that's not free you still need pay someone to do the job, and to mantain it. 

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9 hours ago, NickW said:

You have to do this anyway for a number of reasons. 

1. Final user demand is quite variable and while there are fairly good mechanisms to predict changes in demand there is still an element of variability

2. The completely unpredictable is the sudden dropping out of a large generator. In many countries this will be when a  >1000MW nuclear reactor trips. There needs to be sufficient spinning reserve (part run generators) with sufficient capacity to ramp up at short notice to meet that loss. One of the advantages with distributed renewables is that you will not get that sudden unpredictable dropping out of several hundred MW / GW's of generation in a matter of a few seconds. 

NickW - sorry but no. The use of renewables forces choices of other generators on grids to make it vastly more inefficient and costly to run than it otherwise would. This business about geographical spread of wind turbines cancelling out variability has been thoroughly debunked - it just doesn't work. Go and look at the sites that now track wind output over wide areas. There would now be several in the US I imagine. When wind goes down, it goes down over a very wide area - far wider than the transmission  distance. The debate has shifted to hopeful nonsense about storing energy.

As for your point about spinning reserves in a normal grid, sure. My point was that the use of renewables takes the reserving requirements to a whole new level of horror. If you have say, something like 30 per cent level of renewable penetration (assuming none of it is hydro) then at times the grid operator would have to have the equivalent of the whole grid's supply on spinning reserve, and not just the equivalent of a single, large generator. The task is much, much easier, incidentally, if you have a lot of hydro on the system. Otherwise high level of renewables are a total nightmare on any grid. Leave it with you.  

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(edited)

8 minutes ago, markslawson said:

NickW - sorry but no. The use of renewables forces choices of other generators on grids to make it vastly more inefficient and costly to run than it otherwise would. This business about geographical spread of wind turbines cancelling out variability has been thoroughly debunked - it just doesn't work. Go and look at the sites that now track wind output over wide areas. There would now be several in the US I imagine. When wind goes down, it goes down over a very wide area - far wider than the transmission  distance. The debate has shifted to hopeful nonsense about storing energy.

As for your point about spinning reserves in a normal grid, sure. My point was that the use of renewables takes the reserving requirements to a whole new level of horror. If you have say, something like 30 per cent level of renewable penetration (assuming none of it is hydro) then at times the grid operator would have to have the equivalent of the whole grid's supply on spinning reserve, and not just the equivalent of a single, large generator. The task is much, much easier, incidentally, if you have a lot of hydro on the system. Otherwise high level of renewables are a total nightmare on any grid. Leave it with you.  

Do you ever have anything to back up your claims? 

Whats your definition of Spinning reserve? I don't actually think you know what it is. 

Edited by NickW

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13 minutes ago, markslawson said:

NickW - sorry but no. The use of renewables forces choices of other generators on grids to make it vastly more inefficient and costly to run than it otherwise would. This business about geographical spread of wind turbines cancelling out variability has been thoroughly debunked - it just doesn't work. Go and look at the sites that now track wind output over wide areas. There would now be several in the US I imagine. When wind goes down, it goes down over a very wide area - far wider than the transmission  distance. The debate has shifted to hopeful nonsense about storing energy.

As for your point about spinning reserves in a normal grid, sure. My point was that the use of renewables takes the reserving requirements to a whole new level of horror. If you have say, something like 30 per cent level of renewable penetration (assuming none of it is hydro) then at times the grid operator would have to have the equivalent of the whole grid's supply on spinning reserve, and not just the equivalent of a single, large generator. The task is much, much easier, incidentally, if you have a lot of hydro on the system. Otherwise high level of renewables are a total nightmare on any grid. Leave it with you.  

No - this is a fantasy you have concocted in your mind. 

Lets say 30% of your power is coming from wind and solar in a region or country. This isn't going to go from 30% to 0% inside 10 minutes which is effectively what spinning reserve is there to meet (short term drop outs). 

Most modern CCGT plant are designed to be flexible, without a significant loss of efficiency and can ramp to 100% of output inside an hour. 

This is somewhat dated (2011) but is a good account of how much CCGT has been developed to flex up and down not just for renewables but also the fact that demand is quite variable too. 

http://m.energy.siemens.com/nl/pool/hq/power-generation/power-plants/gas-fired-power-plants/combined-cycle-powerplants/Fast_cycling_and_rapid_start-up_US.pdf

If you take a look at the UK today the steepest drop in wind output for the entire Country is approx 400MW over the space of an hour. Much of this is already predicted to within a few % within that hour. A single part loaded CCGT can easily meet this variation for the entire country. In practice its spread out among many different sets of generating plant. 

https://www.bmreports.com/bmrs/?q=help/about-us

 

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