Monday, 18 September 2017

The relative costs of electricity

Glyn Davies MP reminded us over the weekend that he is happy for wind-generators to punctuate other people's horizons, just not those of mid-Wales. (For the record, I repeat my stance that I am in favour of wind turbines, but only where they are acceptable locally. I would add that we must ensure that there is storage capacity to smooth out the peaks and troughs associated with this form of generation.)

Mr Davies' posting had clearly been inspired by the headlines simplistically proclaiming that wind generation was cheaper than nuclear. The Guardian had earlier been more precise: it was cheaper than Hinkley Point.  The comparison had been made between the price guaranteed to the French and Chinese for building the experimental reactor in Somerset - £92.50 per megawatt-hour - and the reduction in the guaranteed price - £57.50 - sought by two offshore developers.

I looked out for real-world comparisons. The obvious place was in Canada where there is a mature nuclear power industry. I found the Ontario Energy Board Regulated Price Plan (pdf here) which has a table (page 20) listing the various unit costs. Using a conversion rate of 1 Canadian dollar to £0.6, it suggests current prices per mW/hr of: Solar £290, natural gas £84.5, wind £80.3, nuclear £39.8 and hydro £34.4. The absence of dirtier fuels like coal and orimulsion is noticeable.

Apart from this, most of the comparisons available on the Web are based on more theoretical calculations. The wikipedia entry is a good example. What does stand out is that the UK, the pioneer in nuclear power generation, pays more for nuclear-generated electricity than most. On the other hand, we really do seem to be cutting the cost of renewables.

No comments: