In yesterday's post, I gave a rough estimate that it would take an increase in the price of fossil-fuel-derived energy of at least a multiple of three to five to achieve the kind of usage reductions that climate crusaders are seeking. (And of course in the process the poor would get priced out of air conditioning, not to mention air travel and lots of other things.) Today I find a report of some real world experience indicating that actual price increases could be far higher than that.
Paul Homewood is a British guy with a blog called Not a Lot of People Know That (notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com) that chronicles various sorts of climate craziness. I recommend the blog to you. A few days ago Homewood had a post titled "One small island's dream of energy self-sufficiency." The post comments on an enthusiastic story from the Korean news site Hankyoreh, reporting on the efforts of the people on the very small (0.85 sq.km.) Korean island of Gapa to make their energy sources 100% renewable. The Hankyoreh article quotes glowing reviews of the project from some of the island's residents. Homewood then drily comments that he thinks he has spotted "one tiny little problem that our Korean friends seem to have overlooked." In other words, looked at with a touch of realism, the project is an unmitigated disaster. The problem is cost. See whether you agree with the residents or with Homewood.
Gapa has a total of 178 residents in 97 families. According to Hankyoreh, it has average daily electricity usage of 142 kW, and maximum peak usage of 230 kW. To supply that demand with "renewables," the Gapans acquired for themselves two big wind turbines, each with a rated capacity of 250 kW, plus they installed solar panels on 49 of the 97 homes, with a total rated capacity of 174 kW. That would be a total capacity of 674 kW, against maximum peak usage of 230 kW, so nearly triple the peak demand and well over four times the average demand. And finally, the Gapans were fully aware that wind and solar don't work all the time, so they also got themselves a gigantic battery with a capacity to store 3.86 MWh of electricity, which should theoretically be enough to go more than a full 24 hours at their usage level with the wind and solar not functioning. (The battery pack of a Tesla Model S supposedly has a capacity of 85 KWh, meaning that Gapa's battery is equivalent in storage capacity to about 35 Teslas.)
So with all that the Gapans should have way more than sufficient capacity to supply all their electricity needs with just the renewables -- right? Actually, not even close. According to Hankyoreh, in the most recent measuring period of April 23 to July 12, the renewable resources supplied just 42% of Gapa's power -- 32% from the wind, and 10% from the solar. And where did they get the rest? From backup diesel generators, of course!
Between Apr. 23 and July 12 of this year, Gapa Island had a cumulative energy self-sufficiency rate of 42%. The island is meeting 32% of its energy needs from wind power and 10% from solar power. The rate climbed above 50% in May, but fell again in the monsoon season. The other 58% of energy is still supplied by diesel generators.
Oh, and the renewables-based electricity system, even with the diesel backup, only produced enough power to supply just four (!) electric cars. So it seems that the large majority of the Gapans must also continue to drive gasoline-powered vehicles. That means that the renewable contribution to Gapa's total energy usage is likely to be less than 20%.
Now, can we please get an idea how much has been spent to get the Gapans all the way up to generating 42% of their electricity (and perhaps 20% of their total energy usage) from renewables. Hankyoreh has the figures:
A total of 14.3 billion won (US$12.49 million) was invested in the project. Two 250kW wind turbines were installed, along with 174kW solar panels in 49 locations. Other installations included an energy storage device, a system control center, power conversion equipment and remotely controlled power meters.
That's $12.49 million for 97 households -- $128,000 per household. Homewood points out that, assuming a 15 year useful life for the system and zero return on the invested capital, that would mean $8000 per year per household, or about $670 per month per household. (By contrast, 2014 data from the U.S. EIA here show average monthly household electricity bills in the continental U.S. ranging from a low of $84 in Maine to a high of $145 in Alabama.) But wait a minute: add a 4% rate of return on invested capital, and the cost per household goes up to more like $13,000 per year, or close to $1100 per month. That's close to ten times what the average American currently pays for electricity -- and this is to get up to maybe 20% or so of energy usage from renewables!
So how do the Gapans feel about their wildly expensive energy system?
“At first, we weren’t satisfied with the results of renewable energy. Now, though, it’s benefiting us in two ways: our electricity bills are lower and the number of tourists is higher,” said Jin Myeong-hwan, the 55-year-old mayor of Gapa Island.
"Our electricity bills are lower"? How did that happen? Oh, it seems that this whole wildly expensive renewable system was supplied to Gapa Island gratis by the utility company. As Homewood puts it:
It is little wonder the islanders’ electricity bills have come down, because the capital cost of the project has been paid for by Santa Claus.
I would have said the tooth fairy, rather than Santa Claus, but whatever.
So what exactly is the climate crusader's vision of how the United States is going to get up to say 50% of total energy usage from renewables? If getting to 20% requires multiplying average utility bills by around 10, will getting to 50% require multiplying average bills by 20, or maybe 30? I've never seen one of these people even remotely attempt to present honest numbers. If any reader is aware of any such presentation, I would be glad to look at it.