November 6, 2018 Read More →

Analysis shows new coal generation no longer economic in U.S.

S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):

Wind energy is America’s overall lowest-cost source of new power generation, when not considering incentives, while solar and natural gas-fired facilities are also the cheapest options across wide swaths of the country, according to new analysis from the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

“This shows why, even in coal country, nobody is building coal,” said Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at the Energy Institute whose recent analysis yielded roughly 20% and 40% cost declines for wind and solar, respectively, compared to a 2016 Energy Institute report on the levelized cost of electricity. “With gas and renewables in the system there’s just no room for coal anywhere.”

The update almost eliminated coal from the institute’s interactive online map of lowest-cost new power sources throughout the United States and broadened the footprint of wind and solar as the least-expensive technologies in the county-by-county analysis. On an unsubsidized, levelized-cost basis, wind farms in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas are the nation’s cheapest generation sources, with the cheapest wind in those states ranging from $46.76/MWh to around $48.85/MWh, the research found.

The cheapest new gas generation, according to the University of Texas’ updated data, would be combined-cycle facilities in Idaho, Washington, Montana and Oregon at $52.50/MWh to $53.61/MWh. The lowest-cost U.S. solar farms, located in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Colorado, ranged from $62.79/MWh to $64.36/MWh. The only places new coal generation would be the cheapest option are three remote counties of Washington state, with levelized costs around $111/MWh. The analysis does not view new nuclear power as the most cost-effective technology anywhere in the country.

While the Energy Institute’s analysis appears to bode well for the future competitiveness of wind and solar as federal tax incentives phase down, experts remain split on how the real impact may play out in the marketplace. Analysts from Bloomberg NEF, IHS Markit and Navigant Consulting, for instance, recently presented wildly diverging views on future solar capacity additions as the investment tax incentive declines for businesses and zeroes out for homeowners. IHS, the most bearish of the three on solar, also foresees a plunge in wind investment post-federal tax breaks.

More ($): ‘No room for coal’: Wind, solar, gas seen as cheapest U.S. power without subsidies

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