How much does electricity cost?

Today’s NY Times has a graphic, comparing costs of various sources of electricity with and without a greenhouse gas tax (the tax could be a direct tax or the result of a cap and trade policy):

The Cost of Emissions
For larger image

I’m not sure what long-term expectations are about natural gas prices. A DOE graph shows natural gas oscillating between $6 and $8/million BTU this year, but natural gas ranged from $10 – 12 for several months in 2005.

With a $10/ton CO2 tax (again, this could be the result of a cap and trade policy), nuclear power is cheaper than all but natural gas, assuming $6/million BTU. Pulverized coal is a tad more expensive than nuclear, and gasified coal is 1 cent/kWh more expensive, as is natural gas with higher costs. Wind, biomass, and solar thermal are 3 – 6 cent/kWh more expensive (lowest estimate for solar thermal).

At $50/ton CO2 tax, coal is more costly than wind. By the time the tax reaches this level, the costs of solar thermal hopefully have fallen below coal’s cost in southern states, though today solar thermal could not compete.

2 Responses to “How much does electricity cost?”

  1. Well, if you like cheap, clean energy it looks like nuclear power is the answer.

    These comparisons always get the wind and solar numbers wrong. Nuclear power is power that we can use – it is reliable. Wind and solar are intermittent, they are not reliable. To compare these technologies on the same graph they should do the same job – i.e. we should compare apples to apples. That means we should compare a wind-coal system with nuclear. By a wind-coal system I mean a field of wind turbines that is backed up by a constantly running coal fired generator. A wind-coal system would cost around 20 cents per kwh on this chart, much more expensive than all the other options. The same is true for a solar-coal system. These intermittent technologies just are not viable. And note that if we build a wind-coal system the cheapest way to run it is without using the wind component at all.

  2. Karl says:

    “The use of solar energy has not been opneed up because the oil industry does not own the sun.” Ralph NaderIn China, office building are cold during winter days. However, as you look across the top of the cities, you will see solar hot water heaters at the top of most buildings and homes. Solar water heating and space heating is cost effective today. Photovoltaic may one day be cost effective. It’s not today. Wind and hydroelectric are in everyday use where I live.On the other hand, nuclear power has been a total disaster. The plants that were built back in the 1970 s were a financial melt down. The cost of uranium skyrocketed as plants came online. Water cooling pipes cracked and were replaced without ever being revealed to the monitoring authorities or public. Nuclear power is anything but safe, cheap, and clean. This is pure spin and double speak. Can we say Chernobyl?At every stage of mining, processing, application, and disposal, people have died. Many native American Indians died from the yellow powder they mined. When I spoke with the young son of a millionaire about the risks of mining the uranium, his conclusion was that HE should not work in the mines.