Friday, April 7, 2017

Costs of Energy

A letter from yesterday's Star Tribune contained some facts on energy costs that I want to be able to find later. Allan Campbell of Minneapolis wrote,

An April 5 letter on energy sources contained the statement that “solar and wind energy on a stand-alone basis cost multiples of carbon-based energy.” This statement is simply not true. Instead of relying on ideological talking points, I turn to December 2016 research from the investment banking firm Lazard that found that the levelized unsubsidized cost of producing a megawatt hour of electricity from wind energy is between $32 and $62. And although solar costs are all over the map, depending on climate, scale and technology, they can be as low as $46. The comparable cost for Appalachian coal is $60 to $143, depending on the extent of pollution controls.

As costs continue to come down with improving technology and economies of scale, renewables are clearly the way to go if we care about reducing our utility bills.
Campbell doesn't mention the costs of natural gas from the Lazard report, but if I'm reading it correctly, it is given as $68–$101 for natural gas reciprocating engine, $165–$217 for gas peaking, and $48–78 for gas combined cycle. All are more expensive than wind, and I wonder if that number includes the externalized cost of methane added to the atmosphere during the extraction process? Probably not.

Nuclear, by the way, is $97–$136, not including decommissioning costs.

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