European Electricity Prices Compared


Here is a price comparison table from The European Energy Portal.


We can do a little analysis of relative electricity prices in Europe.

Highest prices are in  Denmark closely followed by Germany. France is the lowest in Western Europe and Bulgaria is the lowest overall.

  • The Danish pay well over twice the price for their electricity compared to the French.
  • The Germans pay 190% more for electricity than the French, i.e. nearly double.
  • The Italians pay 49% more for their electricity than the French
  • The Spanish pay 43% more for their electricity than the French. Half as much again.
  • The British pay 12% more than the French.

It is interesting to correlate these price differences to installed generation capacity.

  • The Danes are the world leaders per head of population in installed wind power. They also have, by far the most expensive electricity in Europe.
  • Germany has the largest European installation of wind power. It is number two is this highest priced electricity in Europe
  • Spain is close on Germany's heels for installed capacity. Their prices though are a little more reasonable, they are tenth in the price league table.
  • Italy comes a poor third on total installed wind capacity but like the Spanish, they cough up half as much again as the French.

What does this tell us?

Well, I think that the overriding fact is that French Nuclear power (80% of French Electricity generation is nuclear) provides by far, the cheapest electricity in Europe.

Interestingly, the French have the fourth largest number of wind turbines in Europe but like Italy (No 3) and the UK (No 5) this number is about one quarter of that in Germany and Spain.

Compared to Denmark, France (like Italy and the UK) has less than one tenth of the installed number of turbines per head of population.

It would militate that when installed wind power capacity gets above a certain percentage, the price to the consumer sky-rockets. It also shows that wind power is the inflationary driver behind electricity price hikes all across Europe. Generally the more turbines per head of population, the higher your electricity bills are. French prices are driven low by nuclear. If they dispensed with their windmills then their prices would probably be even less.

But the above table contains another really disgraceful truth.

Compare the prices for all of the above nations for a low level user (left column) and a high level user (right column).

You will find that in most countries, including Denmark, Germany, Spain, France and the UK, the high level user gets a discount. In Western Europe, only Italy and the Netherlands charge more for profligate useage.

Surely, if we are trying to cut down on energy useage, we should stop having the smaller users subsidising the higher users.

In other words, why do we have pensioners and the thrifty, subsiding the extravagance of the well-off or careless?

Is that not basic common sense that we should reward energy thift, no punish it?
---------
[Note: 27/03/2014]
 Sadly, sometime in the last few months the European Energy Portal appears to have removed the comparison tables on national electricity and gas prices. It now only publishes comparison tables on petrol/diesel/lpg. I would suspect that the freely available data has been censored as it seriously undermined EU policy. As this post is now 3 years old I hope to update it in the near future when I identify another straight-forward source of pricing information. (red rags bulls and all that)
Regards Billo
[End Note]

26 comments:

Rozza said...

Ok, I had a bash at the comparison you suggest, and there's the suggestion a trend, although I'd question why price is some places, e.g Belgium and the UK, are so high when the per capita wind is so low. Similarly Malta has no wind turbines at all but it doesn't have a low residential electricity cost.

My question is why, if wind power is the inflationary driver behind electricity price hikes, does the corrollation vanish when you apply industrial prices instead of residential? (available through the same portal)

BilloTheWisp said...

Rozza,
Looking at the figures for industrial pricing, the trend does not vanish although I admit it is slightly shallower
using the example countries..
Denmark vs France industrial price is 143% - 153%
Germany vs France industrial price is 178% - 174%

But these are still huge differences.

The UK industrial compared... 150% - 145% which I freely admit is terrible and I think simply show the lack of commitment we have to industry in the UK. (bear in mind domestic difference is 112%)

France is still the cheapest in Western Europe, and by a fair margin for either market.

Malta is interesting. Possibly Malta is one of those places that would benefit from wind generation. An isolated island that (probably) relies on high cost diesel generation (correct me if I am wrong) is exactly the type of place that wind power can make a difference.

But really, the current highly expensive (Cost + ROC = 2 x Cost ++) wind generation here (and in Europe) is a major cost driver.

It is also the poor who pay the lions share, but more on that in another post

JAA said...

Many parts of Italy have "power rationing" and plans are under way to extend this...

One of the consequences of "Smart Metering" is that it will allow suppliers to reach into homes and disconnect supply on both an appliance based level and simply at the meter. This is not discussed much in relation to smart metering, it all about "energy saving".

BilloTheWisp said...

I deleted a comment here (which I thought was actually relevant) - unfortunately the link was to an affiliate marketing electric price comparison site. I don't mind commercial sites or ANY relevant comment but this is not an advertising board.
Anyway.. his comment..

Wow, it seems that Bulgaria is almost giving away their energy. It would be interesting to figure out why this is. I imagine that it's not wind power that is causing the increased price differences, but overall cost of living and taxes that cause these differences.

My reply will be below

BilloTheWisp said...

Bulgaria, like France is a net exporter of electricity. Their approximate generation mix (2005) was 20% nuclear (rising soon to 35%) thermal 55% (decreasing) and Hydro 25%. Their wind generation (2009) both built and building amounted to 100MW out of a generation capacity of 11,000MW. That is less than 1%.

Like France Bulgaria makes a net profit out of exporting electricity, whereas Denmark doesn't.

Bulgaria, compared to Western Europe is a poor country. Of course this has an effect on pricing. That is why I was careful to compare like with like: Germany France Denmark UK.

I also mentioned Spain which is slightly down the league table. If you want to see the real damage done by wind look at Spain. The country has been literally bankrupted by wind power. (no - that is not an exaggeration. Other factors have also caused their financial crisis, but spending on wind power is a primary cause)

I understand the Spanish govt. are planning to renege on their extortionate feed in tariffs.

Good for them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article, I understand the different points of view much better now

Anonymous said...

A distorted view in my opinion.

Comparing energy production prices is one thing but whole lifecycle is quite another.

When accounting for build, waste disposal and decommissioning, nuclear comes out as the most expensive form of energy available, far more expensive than wind.
Then if you factor in insurance costs which is effectively picked up by the tax payer as no commercial insurance company will touch it, then the theoretical costs go through the roof!

The truth is, in these days of austerity, we simply cannot afford nuclear power.

BilloTheWisp said...

The facts are the facts.

French nuclear power (which is what almost all French electrical power is from) is the cheapest in Western Europe.

Look at the table! No amount of denial will make that fact go away.

If you reckon that nuclear is the most expensive show me how. Show me the figures from a non biased and factual body. Prove it to me.

Please! I would love to see them.

No amount of wishful thinking, scare-mongering or denial will make this simple fact go away.

French Nuclear Power is the cheapest in Europe.
Regards
Billo

Anonymous said...

The question for me is, who pays for the decommissioning of these nuclear power stations. I have read that they are astronomically expensive to decommission, and the tax payer foots the bill, not the power companies.

So the price is not paid at the time of consumption, but later.

Regards
Natty

BilloTheWisp said...

Hi Natty,
I appreciate your concern about decommissioning but really, even taking into account decommissioning costs the price of nuclear generated power is still the lowest(or next lowest after CCGT Gas).

The French are not going to go bankrupt when they have to decommission old nuclear plant and nor will we.

The anti-nuclear lobby love throwing around figures which are usually a cumulative total over many years and then they big them up a bit more.

While the figures may sound huge they are, bearing in mind the actual amount of power generated and the time scale very manageable.

What you need are some cold hard facts.

Can I refer you to another of my posts which in turn refers to report by the Royal Society of Engineers (the elite engineering group in the UK).
I pull out what I think are the critical issues but their report gives a very detailed (though very dry) analysis of the true costs of electrical generation from all sources. Notice though, that if anything they err on the side of caution with nuclear by ignoring the decommissioning costs for everything other than nuclear.

A direct link to the RSE document is here:
http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Cost_Generation_Commentary.pdf


My post is here:
http://billothewisp.blogspot.com/2011/05/cost-of-generating-electricity.html

RayF said...

France has the >>appearance<< of cheap electricity, but the price paid per kWh is not the true price paid by French consumers because their nationalised system is paid for via their taxes.

Try reading the following to understand how "cheap" France's electricity is: http://www.psr.org/nuclear-bailout/resources/nuclear-power-in-france.pdf

BilloTheWisp said...

Hi Ray,
I will reply asap, but I am up to my eyes at the moment (hopefully I'll reply later today/tomorrow)
Regards
Bill

BilloTheWisp said...

Ray,

Thank you for the reference. I always appreciate it when a commenter backs up their views with referenced document(s).

I always try and read what has been presented, which I have done with this one, although obviously due to timescales, I have not dwelt on every word.

Sadly I am distinctly underwhelmed by document (I'll explain why in a minute), but even so, I still could find no reference within it that would indicate that the figures given in this post (taken from the European Energy portal) are wrong. In fact on page 39 in the "Conclusions" for this paper when referring to France, the author states:

[quote]
Electricity prices remain relatively low by EU standards.
[unquote]

The point the author tries to assert in this paper is that French Energy prices (which electricity is only a part) are high.

This may well be true, but you can hardly blame nuclear electricity generation ( or wind for that matter) for the fact that cars and lorries run on oil. Although the author does his best.

The author describes some rather politically bizarre methods where several 100 million euros from the energy budget get diverted to other uses, but really he singularly fails to pick any real holes in the successful French nuclear policy.

Finally, you really must take into account that the report is commissioned by the Green Party and is produced by an individual who has a very clear and long
held anti-nuclear agenda.

While neither of these facts should negate the document, they demand a level of caution when analysing it.

RayF said...

Of course you are free to only partially read the evidence, but this will leave you with flawed beliefs on this subject.

I would just say you should make note of what is happening in reality - long-term global decline in nuclear energy, exponential growth in renewable energy. Even France are now investing heavily in renewables.

These things are true for a number of reasons, and you should make effort to research them to understand why your beliefs do not match reality.

P.S. You seem to have continued to confuse 'cheap electricity' paid by the French consumer with total cost to the French taxpayer. I cannot explain it any more simply: what the French pay per kWh at their meter is not a true reflection of the total cost for its production.

BilloTheWisp said...

Well Ray,
You gave me a link to a highly biased document that is to supposedly prove the French are paying some massive hidden tax somewhere.

But in this bad tempered document I can find no reference to any figures that tell what this supposed tax is, or what its houshold value is supposed to be.

My figures (like the ones on this post) are verifyable, clear and presented up front.

If in my so called "partial reading" I've missed some relevent and verifyable data in this Green Party propaganda peice of yours, please point me at where it is and I will check it out.

It is no good simply chanting your anti-nuclear mantra about hidden taxes without backing it up with some verifyable figures.

Which currently look like they simply don't exist.

Whether you like it or not, the Germans and the Danes pay about 100% more for their electricity than the French. Even if you can produce some mythical hidden tax are you seriously suggesting it secretly doubles the average French family electrical energy bill ?

However much you indulge in denialism and wishful thinking the simple truths as displayed on the European Energy Portal remain.

French Nuclear Power provides the cheapest electricity in Western Europe, whereas Danish and German electrical generation, with their
swarm of wind turbines provide the most expensive.
De Facto.
regards
Billo

RayF said...

How can you know something is "highly biased" if you refuse to read it? This suggests you are not open to knowledge that contradicts what you >>want<< to be true. I see this often with people who believe in nuclear power - it is more ideology than anything else.

Why do you now say "my so called "partial reading""? You told me that "due to timescales, I have not dwelt on every word." Put simply: you did not read it all.

You continue to claim French electricity is the cheapest in Europe by the simplistic 'analysis' of looking only at cost per kWh paid by consumers. But you now know that the French electricity system is nationalised and therefore many costs are paid for by taxpayers. For example the reactor at Flamanville is many years behind schedule and many billions of Euros over budget - but this does not appear on French electricity bills. It is paid for out of the French taxpayer's bank account. You are simply denying the undeniable.

It seems you do not wish to do any research or reading that contradicts what you want to be true. This is common for people who >>believe<< in nuclear power.

Nuclear power has been delcining globally for many years now. Renewable energy is growing at exponential rates all over the world. These are facts which you can find and read for yourself. It is then up to you if you choose to research further to understand why these things are happening.

BilloTheWisp said...

Ray,
You contradict yourself in the first two paragraphs. First I supposedly didn't read the thing, then you berate me for only partialy reading it!

Out of courtesy, I did read your document, but as I said, I did not dwell on every word. Basically most of the document has little or nothing to do with the cost of electricity to the French consumer, let alone giving any hard data relating to
some underhand doubling of the average French electricity bill.

Just because the words "French" and "Nuclear" appear in it, and it is rabidly anti nuclear, does not mean this document has any relevence to the post in hand.

But even so, I did plow my way through it. After all I did read it deeply enough to pick out (some grudgingly admitted) statements that actually support my opinion! (see comment above)

The offer is still there. If I have missed some vital table, graph or verifiable evidence in this document that show how the French are paying a mysterious 100% tax to pay for nuclear electricity please give me the page reference, and I will read it and comment accordingly. I'm still waiting. May I suggest you read it (again) yourself?

By the way, after berating me for reading/not reading/skimming your document, have you even looked at any of the four I recommended? I hasten to add three of these are unquestionably apolitical while the fourth from the GWPF is at least written by a respected and world class academic. No offence to the no-name anti-nuclear evangelist author of your document, but really, he is hardly in the same class is he?

Just leaving France and secret taxes to one side for the moment.

What about the rest of Europe?

Denmark, followed by Germany have the most expensive electricity in Europe (it says so in the table).

Now, why is that then?

What separates out these countries from others, even the UK for example.

The truth is that coal, oil and gas (and nuclear) are much cheaper than wind. If we really want to decarbonise electricity generation we must go with a solution that works, with a forty year track record, not a pitiful intermittent, expensive and unreliable fashion statement.

As the post says, wind power is the primary driver forcing up electricity prices all over Europe, especially in countries with a high adoption rate.

Decarbonising electrical generation is a good idea but it has to be affordable and ractical.

In other words it must work.

Take away the subsidies and wind is doomed to failure. Nuclear is the only viable option.

If you want to see what your so-called long term decline in nuclear really is, see my post "Is Nuclear in decline or not?"

As for Flamaville and its Finnish twin they are prototypes Ray. The first of type. Of course there are hold ups.

That's engineering!

tony beswick said...

Just found your excellent blog, and it makes interesting reading. I will make my position clear from the outset. I am a member of FoE but I believe the only truly viable option, if we wish to maintain anything near our standard of living into the future for our children and grandchildren, is Nuclear Power. It's the only option that can be guaranteed. Even Lovelock holds this view. He said " In the war against carbon Nuclear is our only reliable ally, and that "While there are bound to be Nuclear accidents in the " war on carbon" these will be like comparing a car crash to a bombing raid ( not his words exactly but the gist). Preferably Fusion but fission in the meantime.
The arguement about cost is relevant in personal terms but secondary in the historical measure. We need to leave our descendants a viable and reliable source of electricity. If this comes from a mixed bag ( Nuclear, clean carbon burn, renewables) or a single source is ultimately irrelevant.

There is a high carbon cost to even hydro-power due to the flooded valleys producing huge amounts of methane. All energy sources have a cost and it would be nice to see the true cost somewhere, whether it's ( unquantified) govt support of nuclear, solar or wind generation industries or the cost in lives of having lower levels of generation.

BilloTheWisp said...

Hi Tony,

Thank you for your kind words.

I think your main thrust is to the fact that any power generation scheme needs to be both sustainable and viable and that our pursuit of decarbonisation (or plain old pollution reduction if you like) must be based on cold hard facts not just wishful thinking. To that I whole heartedly agree.

I must admit to a little surprise to find a member of FoE who is an open supporter of nuclear power. I imagine you may get quite a hard time from your colleagues for such a heretical stance against their current fashionable anti-nuclear dogma.

I am glad you like Lovelock, I like him too. He has recently taken quite a lot of stick from other FOE and Greenpeace supporters whose mantra's he has offended. (read some of the comments on this blog!). As you point out, he has always been a keen supporter of nuclear and incidentally, is also deeply against the current counter productive large scale deployment of on-shore wind turbines. Sometimes Lovelock has been a little OTT but at least he has then had the guts to modify his position based on evidence, an ability sadly lacking in many today.

It's interesting to hear from someone in FoE who appears to have a grip on the issues. I hope you make a difference to their views. Organisations like FoE are obviously important. It is vital they base their stance on facts rather than fashionable unthinking paranoia.

Good luck with that.
regards
Billo

Anonymous said...

Hello

It's pretty difficult to get an objective view on energy policy. Even most the experts seem to have an axe to grind on one side or the other. Nice academic-style papers turn out to be funded by the European Green party, say, with the predictable conclusions.

The relative energy prices across Europe are interesting, but I don't really agree with Billo that they are a reflection of the underlying generating costs. There's a correlation, but not a direct causal link. There's just too much political influence, subsidy and external cost on all sides. I'd say that the Germans have higher prices as an economic lever to reduce consumption, for ecological and geo-strategic reasons. And the French (and Brits) have their own geo-strategic reasons for nurturing a domestic nuclear industry.

On the specific question, as far as I can make out, wind and nuclear have roughly similar lifetime costs, with wind more expensive but known upfront, whereas nuclear is sensitive to uncertainty of decommissioning. You have to make some pretty radical assumptions to get wind to come out actually cheaper than nuclear.

The important difference is that nuclear produces high-quality energy, i.e. available on demand, whereas wind is really only a top-up source. A wind turbine only produces its rated output when the breeze is just right, not too weak and not too strong (one reason why the output of wind farms is commonly grossly exaggerated). You than have to build non-wind plant - usually gas, which can be switched on and off rapidly - to cover the rest of the time. In other words, wind farms are 100% duplicated capacity, at a substantial financial and ecological cost.

My view is that wind is just not a feasible solution. Nuclear has its drawbacks, but if like me you are concerned about carbon and you'd like to keep the lights on, it's the only practical answer presently available.

In the meantime, whatever your position, may I recommend David Mackay's excellent book http://www.withouthotair.com/, legally free online. If you want to form an informed opinion, you really should read this and understand the numbers. He doesn't take sides. However he only covers the technical aspect, not the economic.

BTW I live in France and I enjoy the cheap electricity and the excellent TGV trains - the lowest-carbon form of transport (except perhaps walking), and arguably the only ecological alternative to flying yet invented besides staying at home.

BilloTheWisp said...

Thanks for an interesting comment. First I fully agree that we all have to be careful with apparent academic papers which are in fact little more than unsubstantiated propaganda from one political camp or the other.

As to generation costs, I have to disagree with you. I think it is inevitable that the underlying energy production cost will be reflected in the retail price. I appreciate there is A LOT of fiddling by governments but most comes down to generating subsidies for wholly inappropriate energy production methods, all of which push up the wholesale and then the retail cost. Where these practices are most endemic (Germany, Denmark), the retailcost is the highest.

As to the relative lifetimes costs of wind vs nuclear. I know of only two reputable reports that on a superficial level show on-shore wind to be marginally cheaper than nuclear. The first related to a single table in the Mott MacDonald report for DECC. This was heralded by the windies but sadly they did not read the report fully. This single table was comparing short term cost for FOAK nuclear (First of a Kind - i.e. the pre-production reactor)
against NOAK (next of a kind - i.e. mature) on-shore wind. The report actually went on to expound on how nuclear was the cheapest option of all long term generation methods, but this was quietly ignored by the Greens. The other was a table in a USA EIA report where the equivalence was achieved only with a mythical wind turbine capacity factor of 34%. In the UK the average on shore CF is 25%. In fact less than 10% of the UK on-shore fleet actually reach 30% let alone 34%. In all reports I've seen (including the two above) off-shore can only be described as a total financial basket case.

Yes, I have read (most of) Prof. Mackays book and I agree it is a reasonably fair appraisal. It is now a few years old and I think he fell into the a couple of traps (overestimate of wind-turbine capacity factor, and over-reliance on a smart grid - especially using electric car batteries as an energy storeage medium) but even so it is thought provoking stuff and clearly shows that there are no simplistic solutions.

Oh, the TGV, a wonderful system. Gloriously electric. I don't think it would get far though without French nuclear. It would be amusing to see an attempt to run it reliably with wind turbines!

Enjoy the cheap electricity - more money for the wine!

Turboblocke said...

In the 1970's Denmark wanted to become energy independent so it introduced high taxes on energy. That was before the wind turbines were introduced. Your correlation does not equal causation.

Turboblocke said...

BTW you totally ignore the merit order effect whereby renewables push down the wholesale price of electricity.

BilloTheWisp said...

Thanks for the two comments.
Denmark has alot of energy resources. It has been self sufficient in oil and gas for a number of years and yet still relies on imported coal for about 50% of its electrical generation. Interestingly, while its coal use has dropped since 1990, almost most of this has been soaked up by Gas. See this graph: http://bit.ly/13NExPI

So it looks like whatever the tax paid on fuel in Denmark, the whole wind turbine fleet is little more than a dead weight on the cost of generation (with little yearly savings in CO2 as well for that matter - the majority of CO2 saving will have been by gas replacing coal - see graph). When you have such profligacy somebody has to pick up the tab and that is the Danish consumer.

As for renewables forcing down the wholesale unit price: There are several reasons for this in Germany recently.

1. Wind/solar get enormous subsidies (like here) 2 or 3 times actual traditional generation cost, inevitably this impacts the unit price, especially in summer when solar is actually working.

2. wind/solar are allowed (like here) to demand grid connection irrespective of the consequences for other generators who end up taking unpredictable hits on their generation schedule. Electricity generation for normal power plants is a business not a subsidied charity. If they cannot make a profit they close down. In Germany this means Gas closes while they are building new Lignite (dirty coal) plant.

3. As the nuclear shutdown continues, Germany gets ever more dependent on Lignite (5% jump in 2012). Things are getting decidedly worse with emissions up and pollution up. The (expensive) German green dream appears to be hitting the buffers
see http://bloom.bg/1aBkp5F)

Anonymous said...

Wind/nuclear power is irrelevant. The cost to customer on the above table does not take into account the tax paid by the consumer.

BilloTheWisp said...

You seem to miss the point...Let us rephrase the question.

"Why do Germany & Denmark pay such exorbitantly high taxation on their electricity compared to France?" (or even the UK)

Germans and Danes pay over 100% more for their Electricity than the French. And as you say, of that price in Denmark (55%) Germany (44%) is VAT taxes, & levys.

BUT the VAT rate in France (19.6%) is actually higher than Germany (19%) while (to be fair)Denmark is the highest at 25%.

The lowest taxation on electricity is (believe it or not) in the UK & we still manage to have more expensive electricity than the French.

The reason Germany and Denmark have such high taxes on their energy is BECAUSE they need to fund the excesses of the wind and solar industries. That funding comes from the levies/subsidies and other fiddle factors that are built into the consumers bill.

Whereas France, because it does not need the consumer to subsidise the hugely profitable nuclear sector has the lowest prices and by a very long margin.

Note that the third largest French export is electricity - 3B Eu/yr and France also has the cleanest air of any industrialised country.

While you are correct in saying that the price difference is due to energy taxation, you fail to mention the reasons for the difference in taxation levels.

Your first statement where you suggest that the wind/nuclear difference is irrelevant - is simply wrong.

The reason for this huge price difference is that Wind & Solar can not survive without massive subsidies. The people who have to pay those subsidies are the consumers.