Comparative electrical generation costs

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Comparative costs data: California regulatory agencies (May 2008)

On May 13, 2008, the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission released a comparison of the costs of of new generating capacity from various sources. The analysis for the comparison was prepared by Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc., a consulting firm that prepares studies for utilities, governmental regulators, law firms, and non-profit agencies.[1] These estimates include firming resource costs.

Busbar cost in cents per kilowatt-hour in 2008 dollars:


  • Coal Supercritical: 10.554
  • Coal Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC): 11.481
  • Coal IGCC with Carbon Capture & Storage (IGCC with CCS): 17.317


  • Biogas: 8.552
  • Wind: 8.910
  • Gas Combined Cycle: 9.382 (assumes $5.50 to $6.50/MMBtu for gas)
  • Geothermal: 10.182
  • Hydroelectric: 10.527
  • Concentrating solar thermal (CSP): 12.653
  • Nuclear: 15.316
  • Biomass: 16.485

Busbar means the price of the power leaving the plant. All capital, fuel, and operating costs are taken into account in busbar costs.

The spreadsheet containing these costs can be found at CPUC GHG Modeling.

Select GHG Calculator v2b. This is a 5.7 MB compressed file in ZIP format. Decompressing the ZIP file produces an Excel spreadsheet.

On this spreadsheet, look for the tab on the bottom of the page that says "Gen Cost"

This opens another spreadsheet. Now look for "All-in Levelized Busbar Cost California." The results are in $/MWh and are readily converted to cents per kwh. For example, $85.52 per MWh is the same as 8.552 cents per kwh

Comparative costs data: Lazard analysis (February 2009)

The investment banking company Lazard Ltd. released the following comparison among generation technologies, in 2008 dollars. The levelized costs include production tax credits, investment tax credits, and accelerated asset depreciation as applicable. Assumes 20-year economic life, 40% tax rate, and 5-20 year tax life. Assumptions for alternative technologies include: 30% debt at 8% interest rate, 40% tax equity at 8.5% costs and 30% common equity at 12% cost. Assumptions for conventional generation technologies: 60% debt at 8.0% interest rate and 40% equity at 12% cost. Assumes coal price of $2.50 per MMBtu and natural gas price of $8.00 per MMBtu. 12% cost, 20-year economic life, 40% tax rate, 5-20 year tax life, coal at $2.50 per million Btu, and natural gas at $8.00 per million Bt.[2]

Coal/Nuclear/Gas: (cents per kilowatt-hour in 2008 dollars)

  • Gas peaking: 22.5 - 34.2 (assumes $8.00/MMBtu for gas)
  • IGCC: 11.0 - 14.1 (assumes $2.50/MMBtu for coal)
  • Nuclear: 10.7 - 13.8
  • Advanced supercritical coal: 7.8 - 14.4 (high end includes 90% carbon capture and storage) (assumes $2.50/MMBtu for coal)
  • Gas combined cycle: 7.4 - 10.2 (assumes $8.00/MMBtu for gas)

Alternatives: (cents per kilowatt-hour in 2008 dollars)

  • Solar PV (crystalline): 16.0 - 19.6
  • Fuel cell: 12.7 - 15.0
  • Solar PV (thin film): 13.1 - 18.2
  • Solar thermal: 12.9 - 20.6 (low end is solar tower; high end is solar trough)
  • Biomass direct: 6.5 - 11.3
  • Wind: 5.7 - 11.3
  • Geothermal: 5.8 - 9.3
  • Energy efficiency: 0.0 - 5.0

Capacity costs

According to the California regulatory agency study, the capital cost of a new integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal plant without carbon capture and storage (CCS) is $3,087 per kilowatt (kW), and the cost of a new IGCC coal plants with 90% CCS is $5,127 per kW, both in 2008 dollars.[1]

According to the Lazard study, the cost of a new IGCC coal plant without CCS is $4,075 per kW. The cost of a new IGCC coal plant with 90% CCS is $5,550 per kW. According to the Lazard study, the cost of a new supercritical coal plant without CCS is $2,800 per kW. The cost of a new supercritical plant with 90% CCS is $5,925 per kW. Costs are in 2008 dollars.[2]



  1. 1.0 1.1 E3 Selected Client List, accessed June 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis, version 3.0," Lazard, February 2009.

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