28   Putting costs in perspective

A plan on a map

Let me try to make clear the scale of the previous chapter’s plans by show-
ing you a map of Britain bearing a sixth plan. This sixth plan lies roughly
in the middle of the first five, so I call it plan M (figure 28.1).

The areas and rough costs of these facilities are shown in table 28.3.
For simplicity, the financial costs are estimated using today’s prices for
comparable facilities, many of which are early prototypes. We can expect
many of the prices to drop significantly. The rough costs given here are the
building costs, and don’t include running costs or decommissioning costs.
The “per person” costs are found by dividing the total cost by 60 million.
Please remember, this is not a book about economics – that would require
another 400 pages! I’m providing these cost estimates only to give a rough
indication of the price tag we should expect to see on a plan that adds up.

I’d like to emphasize that I am not advocating this particular plan –
it includes several features that I, as dictator of Britain, would not select.
I’ve deliberately included all available technologies, so that you can try out
your own plans with other mixes.

For example, if you say “photovoltaics are going to be too expensive,
I’d like a plan with more wave power instead,” you can see how to do it:
you need to increase the wave farms eight-fold. If you don’t like the wind
farms’ locations, feel free to move them (but where to?). Bear in mind that
putting more of them offshore will increase costs. If you’d like fewer wind
farms, no problem – just specify which of the other technologies you’d
like instead. You can replace five of the 100 km2 wind farms by adding
one more 1 GW nuclear power station, for example.

Perhaps you think that this plan (like each of the five plans in the previ-
ous chapter) devotes unreasonably large areas to biofuels. Fine: you may
therefore conclude that the demand for liquid fuels for transport must be
reduced below the 2 kWh per day per person that this plan assumed; or
that liquid fuels must be created in some other way.

Cost of switching from fossil fuels to renewables

Every wind farm costs a few million pounds to build and delivers a few
megawatts. As a very rough ballpark figure in 2008, installing one watt of
capacity costs one pound; one kilowatt costs 1000 pounds; a megawatt of
wind costs a million; a gigawatt of nuclear costs a billion or perhaps two.
Other renewables are more expensive. We (the UK) currently consume
a total power of roughly 300 GW, most of which is fossil fuel. So we can
anticipate that a major switching from fossil fuel to renewables and/or nu-
clear is going to require roughly 300 GW of renewables and/or nuclear and

Figure 28.1. Plan M