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The High Cost Of Going Green


It has become raison d’être that electric vehicles (EV) will keep increasing in use without considering serious factors that could hamper their growth. The British electrical grid example and the growth of EVs should bring pause to consumers, investors and governments promoting their unconstrained usage.

According to the British National Grid, “the growing use of electric vehicles could increase electricity peak demand by 3.5 gigawatts (GW) by 2030.” This will occur since sales of EVs are expected to be more than 90 percent of all British car purchases by 2050, highlighted in its Future Energy Scenarios Report. In July, the British government mandated that all new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by “2040 to reduce air pollution and assist cutting carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.” Moreover, the National Grid stated:

“Peak electricity demand could even rise by as much as 8 GW by 2030 without ‘smart charging’ during off-peak hours and 18 GW by 2050 as the pace picks up to decarbonize.”

Where all interested parties should be concerned is the cost to achieve the above mandates. Britain will need billions of pounds of new investments into new power plants (either renewable or fossil fuels), transmission lines, smart grid network technology and EV charging points and stations throughout the country. Otherwise, Britain could potentially suffer power shortages when EVs overtake fossil-fueled vehicles.

Britain has the technology to support millions of EVs over the next two to three decades, but drivers will have to recharge their vehicles overnight or face billions in costs. This is when spare capacity on the grid is abundant, which is typical for most developed nations pursuing EV policies.

The grid operator still faces local network issues, as consumption of electricity to accompany EVs is expected to rise 15 percent in overall demand and 40 percent during peak times. Johannes Wetzel, energy markets analyst at Wood Mackenzie, surmises the dilemma for the British and all EV investors, consumers, governments and taxpayers:

It will be a challenge and a lot of investment is required – in generation capacity, strengthening the distribution grid and charging infrastructure.”

EV sales are expected to reach 20 million in Britain by 2040, whereas today they have roughly 90,000 on the road. But Britain already faces a power supply crunch, because older nuclear reactors and coal-fired power plants will be phased off the grid by 2025. No one at the National Grid, Parliament or the Prime Minister’s office has stated how this power will be replaced to support a huge surge in electricity demand caused by widespread EV adoption.

The British could attempt to build natural gas plants, which are cheaper, faster to build and allow grid flexibility, but that isn’t being pursued since they produce carbon emissions. Renewable energy has problems when it comes to EVs because of supply and demand problems. Solar panels, for example, produce energy during the day, but not at night when the British would need to recharge their EVs to avoid large infrastructure costs. Though estimates can vary from government figures of EV adoption, analysts surveyed by Reuters said, “anything up to an extra 50 terawatt hours (TWh) would be needed for them (EVs) by 2040.”

Off-peak grid incentives could be the solution by encouraging charging only at night, when demand is currently only about a third of during peak periods. The transition to EVs would then pose no significant stress to the national grid. But the British government would need to make sure off-peak grid demand is properly incentivized and enforced.

This can be achieved, as Britain is making significant progress in energy efficiency. The overall peak power demand fell around 14 percent between 2005 and 2016—a time when the economy experienced significant growth. This bodes well for British EV expansion without significant costs associated with that growth. This could also mean there is slack in the National Grid’s transmission and distribution system that could take additional stress during peak power demand.

The National Grid, which also operates the British transmission system said:

The rise in peak demand can be kept up to 5 GW if there is smart charging and time-of-use electricity tariffs.”

The National Grid will need off-peak EV charging essential to keep costs down and stress on the grid to minimum levels. What happens, though, for the British economy and investors if peak demand isn’t enforced? The Scottish and Southern Electricity Network tested this theory and found “uncontrolled EV charging would double the usual domestic load to 2 kilowatts (kW) when using a 3.5 kW charger.”

To meet these demands, Britain opened the largest gas plant in two decades at 884 MW. The plant came online in Manchester last year, but the costs were over 700 million pounds. Unfortunately, two additional natural gas plants near Manchester have stalled because the developer has been unable to raise the dual project’s 800 million pounds required for them to be built. However, the risk of more fossil fuel being used to meet additional EV needs could mean that Britain emits more greenhouse gases with widespread EV adoption than conventional vehicles.

Nuclear is also an option to meet growing energy needs, but Britain has struggled to build nuclear plants due to the prohibitive costs associated with construction. EDF’s 3.2 GW Hinkley Point C nuclear plant won’t open until 2025 at the earliest, as the costs fall on the private sector. To address these concerns, British energy regulator Ofgem has been tapped to ensure multiple power sources, infrastructure to support EVs and more interconnectors dispersed throughout the country.

The final reality of mass EV adoption deals with jobs and profits. In early September, China also pledged to outlaw the combustion engine, though the government didn’t say when. Daimler, the builder of Mercedes, gave details about their EV program that should give investors, policymakers and advocates of mass zero-emission motoring reason to plan ahead. Daimler warned that:

Planned electric Mercedes models will initially be just half as profitable as conventional alternatives, forcing the group to find savings by outsourcing more component manufacturing, which may in turn threaten German jobs.”

Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche also recently told reporters, “In-house production is almost irrelevant to the consumer.” If German jobs are threatened then British and Chinese jobs could also be eliminated. The factors of job elimination, infrastructure upgrades and the tens of billions it will take to have EVs overtake the combustible engine should give investors and elected officials grave concern.

Private energy investors, in particular, should understand the costs and tradeoffs before investing in the British EV market or other developed nations going down this path.

By Todd Royal for

67 Comments on "The High Cost Of Going Green"

  1. Antius on Mon, 18th Sep 2017 1:45 pm 

    High gas prices led to the closure of the state’s coal power plants, leading to the highest electricity prices in the world? What’s wrong with this picture?

  2. Apneaman on Mon, 18th Sep 2017 1:47 pm 

    clog, here’s some more science history for you.

    “The chemical industry has reshaped the modern world – giving us new fuels, drugs and materials. But the methodology and principles of chemistry go back over a thousand years. Between the 9th and 14th centuries, there was a Golden Age of Science when scholars from the Islamic world, like Jabir Ibn Hayyan and Al-Razi, introduced a rigorous experimental approach that laid the foundations for the modern scientific method.

    In this episode of Science in a Golden Age, theoretical physicist Jim al-Khalili leads us on an exploration of just how these scientists began the process of transforming the superstition of alchemy into the science of chemistry.”

  3. Apneaman on Mon, 18th Sep 2017 1:59 pm 

    clog, here’s a book for you. I bet if you ask nicely, one of the nurses there on the dementia ward will read it to you.

    Why the West Rules—for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future
    by Ian Morris

    “Sometime around 1750, English entrepreneurs unleashed the astounding energies of steam and coal, and the world was forever changed. The emergence of factories, railroads, and gunboats propelled the West’s rise to power in the nineteenth century, and the development of computers and nuclear weapons in the twentieth century secured its global supremacy. Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many worry that the emerging economic power of China and India spells the end of the West as a superpower. In order to understand this possibility, we need to look back in time. Why has the West dominated the globe for the past two hundred years, and will its power last?”

    “It is not, he reveals, differences of race or culture, or even the strivings of great individuals, that explain Western dominance. It is the effects of geography on the everyday efforts of ordinary people as they deal with crises of resources, disease, migration, and climate. As geography and human ingenuity continue to interact, the world will change in astonishing ways, transforming Western rule in the process.

    Deeply researched and brilliantly argued, Why the West Rules—for Now spans fifty thousand years of history and offers fresh insights on nearly every page.”

  4. Cloggie on Mon, 18th Sep 2017 3:35 pm 

    clog, here’s a book for you. I bet if you ask nicely, one of the nurses there on the dementia ward will read it to you.

    You must have a pretty miserably life that you can’t find any other occupation than talking to demented all day. What’s next: talking to you plants? After the usual bed wetting, peeing in your pants?

    Regarding these Muslims you keep peddling, with your motives you are as transparent as water. For some reason you want us to believe that Muslim scientists had made indispensable contributions to science. Well, these camel jockeys didn’t:

    For the rest… the “West won’t rule indeed” because the US-led West will soon no longer exist. Point for you.

    But who cares? The West is something that needs to vanish. The only ones who will miss the West is your tribe, because you will lose your power base. Your deep state managed to destroy America via mass migration alright and with it they destroyed the very stick they could terrorize the world with. How smart is that?

  5. TommyWantsHisMommy on Mon, 18th Sep 2017 4:58 pm 

    Really want to know how electric cars fix anything. Same problems start to arise. Still need to power them. Still need fossil fuels or nukes and the last i checked, nukes were insanely expensive to build and take forever to finish and they can’t even figure out where to store the waste safely. On top of that you need somewhere to recharge. Every night everyone going to plug into 220v and charge all night. 100’s of electric cars pulling 4000 watts every night. Roads still need to be replaced. A taxing system for cars will need to be figured out (vs petrol fuel taxes) to pay for roads.

  6. Apneaman on Mon, 18th Sep 2017 6:15 pm 

    That other denier cult.

    100 Percent Wishful Thinking: the Green-Energy Cornucopia

    “A growing body of research has debunked overblown claims of a green-energy bonanza. Nevertheless, Al Gore, Bill McKibben (who recently expressed hope that Harvey’s attack on the petroleum industry in Texas will send a “wakeup call” for a 100-percent renewable energy surge), and other luminaries in the mainstream climate movement have been invigorated by reports like Jacobson’s and have embraced the 100-percent dream.”

  7. onlooker on Mon, 18th Sep 2017 6:37 pm 

    The Green Movement fully bought to you and paid for you by none other than your friends Big Business. Enjoy

  8. Boat on Mon, 18th Sep 2017 6:44 pm 


    “Oh. South Australia recently closed it’s last coal power plant. The state had been installing wind power plants rapidly and using the coal plant as backup. Unfortunately, they failed to compensate the plant for its excessive downtime and it went under. Now they have to pay a fortune shipping power in from out of state. Renewable energy directly caused this problem”.

    First of all, coal does not ramp up and down like nat gas does. If you use wind you need nat gas. 2nd Austraila did not legislate their exports of nat gas and allowed too much to be exported. This was stupid. Wind is being developed for 2 reasons. First, it’s cheaper and second it pollutes less than FF.

  9. Cloggie on Tue, 19th Sep 2017 2:19 am 

    This morning’s harvest of happy-clappy green news:

    Fighting intermittency. Airconditioning? Produce ice when renewable energy is abundant and cheap:

    Water splitting catalyst for hydrogen production, much cheaper than platinum:

  10. Cloggie on Tue, 19th Sep 2017 2:48 am 

    That other denier cult.

    100 Percent Wishful Thinking: the Green-Energy Cornucopia

    If the TalmudTurk had actually read his own posted link he would have noticed that the Counterpunchers actually DO advocate that the world should pursue a 100% renewable energy base and additionally that this is possible. What they deny is that we can have as abundant amounts of energy as we are used to have with fossil fuel.

    The mistake the energy amateurs from Counterpunch make is to assume that renewable energy is too expensive because you need so much base load backup in case both the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. In the entire article there is only a single reference to (thermal) storage.

    Forget Counterpunch.

    Poor nihilistic TalmudTurk. His worldview would collapse and his life lived for nothing if the hated reality wouldn’t collapse under its own weight.

    Not going to happen.

    Jump Apneaman, jump.

  11. Cloggie on Tue, 19th Sep 2017 8:04 am 

    Why Norway can afford to become the first e-vehicle country:

    1. They have lots of hydro-electricity
    2. They have an oil-fund worth $193,000/capita.

    Norway could become the catalyst for car companies worldwide to acquire economy of scale.

  12. Kenz300 on Tue, 19th Sep 2017 8:08 am 

    Clean energy production with solar panels / tiles and battery storage.
    Clean energy consumption with electric vehicles. No emissions.
    A new solar roof, battery storage, an electric car charger and an electric vehicle.
    Solar panels are now being projected to have a much longer life and lower cost than just a few years ago.
    Every new home should be build energy efficient and come with solar panels and battery storage.
    Electric cars, electric trucks, electric lawn mowers, electric snow blowers, electric tools, no emissions.

  13. Davy on Tue, 19th Sep 2017 9:33 am 

    Norway is a small country cloggie, they are not going to influence economies of scale. Your EV wonderland is doomed to diminishing returns. Farming, heavy transport, and mass flight will be a tough cookie to crack and you haven’t even started a serious EV personal transport momentum.

  14. Cloggie on Tue, 19th Sep 2017 9:41 am 

    Norway is a small country cloggie, they are not going to influence economies of scale. Your EV wonderland is doomed to diminishing returns. Farming, heavy transport, and mass flight will be a tough cookie to crack and you haven’t even started a serious EV personal transport momentum.

    What happened to the famous American “can do spirit”?

    Has it always been a myth?

  15. pointer on Tue, 19th Sep 2017 1:10 pm 

    Look, in the end, the world will do *something* about the energy/economy/environment issues. The possibilities range from the world sitting on its hands and taking blows to the head, or going nuts with green infrastructure that leads to who knows where, but reveals the realities of such. My bet is that the trajectory is going to be somewhere in between, and much closer to the hand-sitting direction.

    So what does this portend? Well, for starters, the planet will continue to accumulate heat. Humans will continue to burn fossil fuels mainly for the convenience. To keep the populace deeply asleep and without any cranial activity, interests vested in fossil fuels will drum into the populace (think car ads) the pleasure of this convenience. This slumber will be reinforced by a variety of methods, including regular shiny object product releases, and some sorts of sensationalism of continually-increasing strength. Virtually no one will actively in their blissfully-slumbering mind connect the burning of fossil fuels with the heat accumulation, let alone come to the conclusion that the world perhaps ought to stop such burning. Nor will they realize that the problem is rooted in how they live, much of which takes the form of dense urbanity (requiring much fossil fuel to function) or in sprawling suburbs (also requiring much fossil fuel to function).

    In the tropics, the heat accumulation means tropical disturbances quickly turbo-charged into massive hurricanes and typhoons (as we have already seen). Elsewhere it means droughts (conventional and the flash variety), turbo-charging wildfires and destroying crops (as we have also already seen). Eventually there will be some major food and/or water event that will make headlines for a while, at least until people get jaded by climate crises (which is also already happening).

    There will be some who put up solar panels and maybe even windmills, and switch to driving EVs, but mainly because the incentives are great and are expiring soon. Other green initiatives will be rooted in some sort of self-interested investment schemes, entirely devoid of any actual concern for the planet and its residents as such. It is unlikely that the world will come to its senses and carry out the Mother of All Manhattan Projects to expediently transition its way of life to something more sustainable. The world never operates like that, and there isn’t going to be a first time. All the action will be a reaction to catastrophes. The catastrophes will determine our trajectory (so if you want to predict our trajectory, predict the catastrophes).

    And the reaction to the catastrophes will be much like the reaction to the economic collapse of, say, the Rust Belt. Geographic areas that experience a high frequency of catastrophes will eventually be left to blight. These areas won’t be uninhabited, but just left to the desperately poor who scratch out a living somehow in these toxin-oozing climate favellas.

    The white, clean and professional members of the population will do the sensible thing and move to bright, trendy, sensible places where they continue their white and clean professional careers. Meanwhile they will shuttle their precious offspring to and from private schools in minivans (some EV!), and will teach them that this is the best and only way to live. News of the misery and violence elsewhere will be nothing but entertainment, never actually intruding into and touching these gleaming safe zones. In the meantime, emotionally-engaging topics will be restricted to the anguish over, as a few examples, potentially falling real estate prices as a result of the conversion of old railways to bikepaths, the ineptness of the domestics, and the declining quality of schools.

    Inevitably, catastrophe will find its way even into these charmed lands, and will continually erode them into blight, much like splashes of acid eat away at a concrete and iron structure. As time passes, memory of “how it used to be” will fade, and accepting the blight will be the new way. The old way will be mythologized, embellished with stories of shiny, spectacular magic, with the dirty parts left out.

    That, my friends, is how it will all play out.

  16. Dredd on Tue, 19th Sep 2017 2:20 pm 

    The HIGHEST cost is not going green.

  17. pointer on Wed, 20th Sep 2017 7:06 am 

    Dredd, “going green” is not an option, unless you define “going green” to include abandoning many of the pleasurable conveniences made possible by fossil fuels. “Going green” in the context of a fossil fuel-supported society is not “going green”. For instance, shopping at grocery stores while living off the grid is not “going green”.

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