I note that there has been some interesting discussion here on costs of electricity, especial the comparative value of fossil fuels versus nuclear (and renewables). This is a point I will revisit from a number of perspectives over the next few months, because I agree with commenters like Arthur Dent, Peter Lang and DV82XL that this is a critical issue (though not the only one). For now, here are a few interesting points to inject into the conversation.
First, I have a paper coming out shortly in the journal Energy, co-authored with Martin Nicholson and Tom Biegler. It is called “How carbon pricing changes the relative competitiveness of low-carbon baseload generating technologies” (DOI: 10.1016/j.energy.2010.10.039), but is not yet available online — when it is, I’ll write up an overview of it on BNC. The core message of this paper, based on a standardised meta-review of the last 10 years of authoritative assessments of levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) and life cycle emissions (LCE), is that nuclear is the lowest-cost option for mitigating carbon emissions; moreover, is already competitive with pulverised fuel coal (under the right conditions). I’d like to say more now, but I’ll have to wait until it’s been formally published online. Press releases etc. will be forthcoming…
Still, there are other things I can point out for now.
Exhibit #1: IEA/OECD projected nuclear costs for 14 countries — 2010 update:
Exhibit #2: 2016 Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources from the Annual Energy Outlook 2010:
Exhibit #3: OECD electricity generating cost projections for year 2010 on – 10% discount rate, c/kWh:
|country||nuclear||coal||coal with CCS||Gas CCGT||Onshore wind|
Exhibit #4: Electricity prices by country (selection — have more than 5 million people), with % energy generated by nuclear and technosolar* renewables (only domestic generation is counted):
A super-crude multiple linear regression of these data yields the following equation:
Electricity price (c/kWh) = 20.5 – 0.1*N% + 0.5*T%
i.e. baseline cost is 20.5 c/kWh, with each percentage unit of nuclear reducing the price by 0.1 c/kWh and each % of technosolar adding 0.5 c/kWh to the price. (Don’t draw any serious conclusions out of this super-simplified analysis).
This is data from the real world. Yes, there are caveats — aren’t there always? Draw your own conclusions.