RENEWABLE PO WER GENERATION HAS LONG BEEN
confronted with detractors, who assert
that solar, wind, geothermal, and other
carbon-free power sources are impractical, intermittent, and expensive. Better
to stick with coal-fired plants, they say,
than to risk having the lights go out.
Recent advances have not eliminated calm days or brought sunshine to the dead of night, but one concern is being addressed: Most forms of renewable power generation are now cost-competitive with fossil-fuel burning power plants, and those that are still too expensive have costs
that are falling fast.
These results form the backbone of Renewable Power Generation Costs in
2014, a report published in January by the International Renewable Energy
Agency, an intergovernmental organization based in Abu Dhabi. The organization has more than 130 member countries.
According to the report, “Regional, weighted average costs of electricity
from biomass for power, geothermal, hydropower, and onshore wind are all
now in the range, or even span a lower range, than estimated fossil fuel-fired electricity generation costs.” Electricity from photovoltaic panels is
also becoming less expensive, with the cheapest installations about on par
with many fossil fuel power plants.
“Given the installed costs and the performance of today’s renewable tech-
nologies, and the costs of conventional technologies,” the report continued,
“renewable power generation is increasingly competing head-to-head with
fossil fuels, without financial support.”
The report used a range from 4. 5 cents to 14 cents per k Wh for the level-
ized cost of electricity from fossil fuel sources.
THE LEVELIZED COST OF ELECTRICITY FROM UTILITY-SCALE
RENEWABLE TECHNOLOGIES, 2010 & 2014
Source: IRENA Renewable Cost Database.
Note: Size of the diameter of the circle represents the size of the project. The centre of each circle is the value for the cost of each project
on the Y axis. Real weighted average cost of capital is 7.5% in OECD countries and China; 10% in the rest of the world.
continued on p. 15 »