The Electric Power Research Institute has a report out that compares the costs of fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables.
The Integrated Generation Technology Options report provides an executive-level overview of near-term (5 – 10 years) as well as longer term (2025) electricity generation technology costs and performance. The purpose of this document is to provide a public domain reference for industry executives, policy makers, and other stakeholders. This report is based on 2010 EPRI research results and updates the Integrated Generation Technology Options report published in November 2009.
The key numbers can be found in the two tables pasted below which are on pages 1-11 and 1-12. The first table shows the estimated costs of each technology in 2015, the second table shows the estimated costs in 2025. All dollars are inflated to the year 2010.
The important numbers to look at are the LCOE in the right column which stands for Levelized Cost of Electricity. The LCOE includes the costs for capital, fuel, and operations and maintenance (it accounts for nearly all costs of a facility’s life).
As shown in both tables, nuclear’s levelized costs are estimated to range from $76-$87/MWh. In the 2015 table, the cost ranges that are lower than nuclear are coal and natural gas. Some biomass and onshore wind are competitive but offshore wind and solar don’t look like are in the game quite yet without major incentives.
In the 2025 table, EPRI assumes carbon capture is available for coal and natural gas which adds a bit to their capital and levelized costs. The cost ranges for nuclear, biomass and wind stay mostly the same. And it looks like the range for concentrating solar thermal becomes more competitive.
To add a number of qualifiers to the results, here’s EPRI on page v:
Planning for new U.S. power generation is in a state of flux due to uncertainty associated with recovery of recession-driven declines in electricity consumption, the impacts of anticipated regulations on existing generation, and potential future climate policy. U. S. electricity consumption began to recover in 2010 after back-to-back declines in 2008 and 2009 due to the economic crisis. However, the electric sector continues to feel the impacts of the recession from high unemployment rates, slow recovery of the industrial sector, and tighter credit markets. Anticipated environmental regulations may have significant impacts on existing generation including substantial capital investment in environmental controls retrofits and retirement of older, less-efficient generating stations. Longer-term implications of potential future U.S. climate legislation continue to be a factor in integrated resource planning.
And who said planning for the future would be easy?