Cost of electricity by source


Past costs of producing renewable energy declined significantly, with 62% of total renewable power generation added in 2020 having lower costs than the cheapest new fossil fuel option.[1]
Levelized cost: with increasingly widespread implementation of renewable energy sources, costs have declined, most notably for energy generated by solar panels.[2]
Levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is a measure of the average net present cost of electricity generation for a generating plant over its lifetime.

Different methods of electricity generation can incur significantly different costs, and these costs can occur at significantly different times relative to when the power is used. The costs include the initial capital, and the costs of continuous operation, fuel, and maintenance as well as the costs of de-commissioning and remediating any environmental damage. Calculations of these costs can be made at the point of connection to a load or to the electricity grid, so that they may or may not include the transmission costs.

For comparing different methods, it is useful to compare costs per unit of energy which is typically given per kilowatt-hour or megawatt-hour. This type of calculation assists policymakers, researchers and others to guide discussions and decision making but is usually complicated by the need to take account of differences in timing by means of a discount rate. The consensus of recent major global studies of generation costs is that wind and solar power are the lowest-cost sources of electricity available today.

Per-unit cost metrics

Levelized cost of electricity

The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is a measure of a power source that allows comparison of different methods of electricity generation on a consistent basis. The LCOE can also be regarded as the minimum constant price at which electricity must be sold in order to break even over the lifetime of the project. This can be roughly calculated as the net present value of all costs over the lifetime of the asset divided by an appropriately discounted total of the energy output from the asset over that lifetime.[3]

Typically the LCOE is calculated over the design lifetime of a plant, which is usually 20 to 40 years.[4] However, care should be taken in comparing different LCOE studies and the sources of the information as the LCOE for a given energy source is highly dependent on the assumptions, financing terms and technological deployment analyzed.[5] In particular, assumption of capacity factor has significant impact on the calculation of LCOE. Thus, a key requirement for the analysis is a clear statement of the applicability of the analysis based on justified assumptions.[5]

Avoided cost

In 2014, the US Energy Information Administration recommended[6] that levelized costs of non-dispatchable sources such as wind or solar be compared to the "levelized avoided cost of energy" (LACE) rather than to the LCOE of dispatchable sources such as fossil fuels or geothermal. LACE is the avoided costs from other sources divided by the annual yearly output of the non-dispatchable source. The EIA hypothesized that fluctuating power sources might not avoid capital and maintenance costs of backup dispatchable sources. The ratio of LACE to LCOE is referred to as the value-cost ratio. When LACE (value) is greater than LCoE (cost), then value-cost ratio is greater than 1, and the project is considered economically feasible.[7]

Cost factors

While calculating costs, several internal cost factors have to be considered.[8] Note the use of "costs," which is not the actual selling price, since this can be affected by a variety of factors such as subsidies and taxes:

  • Capital costs (including waste disposal and decommissioning costs for nuclear energy) – tend to be low for gas and oil power stations; moderate for onshore wind turbines and solar PV (photovoltaics); higher for coal plants and higher still for waste to energy, wave and tidal, solar thermal, offshore wind and nuclear.
  • Fuel costs – high for fossil fuel and biomass sources, low for nuclear, and zero for many renewables. Fuel costs can vary somewhat unpredictably over the life of the generating equipment, due to political and other factors.
  • Factors such as the costs of waste (and associated issues) and different insurance costs are not included in the following: Works power, own use or parasitic load – that is, the portion of generated power actually used to run the station's pumps and fans has to be allowed for.

To evaluate the total cost of production of electricity, the streams of costs are converted to a net present value using the time value of money. These costs are all brought together using discounted cash flow.[9][10]

Capital costs

For power generation capacity capital costs are often expressed as overnight cost per watt. Estimated costs are:

  • gas/oil combined cycle power plant - $1000/kW (2019)[11]
  • combustion turbine - $710/kW (2020)[11]
  • onshore wind - $1600/kW (2019)[11]
  • offshore wind - $6500/kW (2019)[11]
  • solar PV (fixed) - $1060/kW (utility),[12] $1800/kW (2019)[11]
  • solar PV (tracking)- $1130/kW (utility)[12] $2000/kW (2019)[11]
  • battery storage power - $1380/kW (2020)[11]
  • conventional hydropower - $2752/kW (2020)[11]
  • geothermal - $2800/kW (2019)[11]
  • coal (with SO2 and NOx controls)- $3500–3800/kW[13]
  • advanced nuclear - $6000/kW (2019)[11]
  • fuel cells - $7200/kW (2019)[11]

Running costs

Running costs include the cost of any fuel, maintenance costs, repair costs, wages, handling any wastes etc.

Fuel costs can be given per kWh and tend to be highest for oil fired generation, with coal being second and gas being cheaper. Nuclear fuel is much cheaper per kWh.

Market Matching Costs

Many scholars, such as Paul Joskow, have described limits to the "levelized cost of electricity" metric for comparing new generating sources. In particular, LCOE ignores time effects associated with matching production to demand. This happens at two levels:

  • Dispatchability, the ability of a generating system to come online, go offline, or ramp up or down, quickly as demand swings.
  • The extent to which the availability profile matches or conflicts with the market demand profile.

Thermally lethargic technologies like coal and solid-fuel nuclear are physically incapable of fast ramping. However, many designs of Generation 4 molten fuel nuclear reactors will be capable of fast ramping because (A) the neutron poison xenon-135 can be removed from the reactor while it runs leaving no need to compensate for xenon-135 concentrations [14] and (B) the large negative thermal and void coefficients of reactivity automatically reduce or increase fission output as the molten fuel heats or cools, respectively.[15] Nevertheless, capital intensive technologies such as wind, solar, and nuclear are economically disadvantaged unless generating at maximum availability since the LCOE is nearly all sunk-cost capital investment. Grids with very large amounts of intermittent power sources, such as wind and solar, may incur extra costs associated with needing to have storage or backup generation available.[16] At the same time, intermittent sources can be even more competitive if they are available to produce when demand and prices are highest, such as solar during summertime mid-day peaks seen in hot countries where air conditioning is a major consumer.[5] Despite these time limitations, leveling costs is often a necessary prerequisite for making comparisons on an equal footing before demand profiles are considered, and the levelized-cost metric is widely used for comparing technologies at the margin, where grid implications of new generation can be neglected.

Another limitation of the LCOE metric is the influence of energy efficiency and conservation (EEC).[17] EEC has caused the electricity demand of many countries[which?] to remain flat or decline. Considering only the LCOE for utility scale plants will tend to maximise generation and risks overestimating required generation due to efficiency, thus "lowballing" their LCOE. For solar systems installed at the point of end use, it is more economical to invest in EEC first, then solar. This results in a smaller required solar system than what would be needed without the EEC measures. However, designing a solar system on the basis of LCOE would cause the smaller system LCOE to increase, as the energy generation drops faster than the system cost. The whole of system life cycle cost should be considered, not just the LCOE of the energy source.[17] LCOE is not as relevant to end-users than other financial considerations such as income, cashflow, mortgage, leases, rent, and electricity bills.[17] Comparing solar investments in relation to these can make it easier for end-users to make a decision, or using cost-benefit calculations "and/or an asset’s capacity value or contribution to peak on a system or circuit level".[17]

External costs of energy sources

Typically pricing of electricity from various energy sources may not include all external costs – that is, the costs indirectly borne by society as a whole as a consequence of using that energy source.[18] These may include enabling costs, environmental impacts, usage lifespans, energy storage, recycling costs, or beyond-insurance accident effects.

The US Energy Information Administration predicts that coal and gas are set to be continually used to deliver the majority of the world's electricity.[19] This is expected to result in the evacuation of millions of homes in low-lying areas, and an annual cost of hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of property damage.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26]

According to a 2021 Harvard Business Review study costs of recycling solar panels will reach $20-30 per panel in 2035 which would increase the LCOE fourfold for PV solar power, which presents a significant policy challenge because if the recycling is made legal duty of the manufacturers it will dramatically reduce profit margins on this already competitive market, and if it's not then massive amounts of panels containing toxic heavy metals may end up in landfills unprocessed.[27] According to IRENA 2016 study the amount of PV-related waste is estimated to grow by 78 million tons by 2050.[28]

An EU funded research study known as ExternE, or Externalities of Energy, undertaken over the period of 1995 to 2005 found that the cost of producing electricity from coal or oil would double over its present value, and the cost of electricity production from gas would increase by 30% if external costs such as damage to the environment and to human health, from the particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, chromium VI, river water alkalinity, mercury poisoning and arsenic emissions produced by these sources, were taken into account. It was estimated in the study that these external, downstream, fossil fuel costs amount up to 1%–2% of the EU's entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and this was before the external cost of global warming from these sources was even included.[29][30] Coal has the highest external cost in the EU, and global warming is the largest part of that cost.[18]

A means to address a part of the external costs of fossil fuel generation is carbon pricing — the method most favored by economists for reducing global-warming emissions.[31] Carbon pricing charges those who emit carbon dioxide for their emissions. That charge, called a "carbon price", is the amount that must be paid for the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.[32] Carbon pricing usually takes the form of a carbon tax or a requirement to purchase permits to emit (also called "allowances").

Depending on the assumptions of possible accidents and their probabilities external costs for nuclear power vary significantly and can reach between 0.2 and 200 ct/kWh.[33] Furthermore, nuclear power is working under an insurance framework that limits or structures accident liabilities in accordance with the Paris convention on nuclear third-party liability, the Brussels supplementary convention, and the Vienna convention on civil liability for nuclear damage[34] and in the U.S. the Price-Anderson Act. It is often argued that this potential shortfall in liability represents an external cost not included in the cost of nuclear electricity; but the cost is small, amounting to about 0.1% of the levelized cost of electricity, according to a CBO study.[35]

These beyond-insurance costs for worst-case scenarios are not unique to nuclear power, as hydroelectric power plants are similarly not fully insured against catastrophic events like a large dam failure. For example, the 1975 Banqiao Dam disaster took the homes of 11 million people and killed between 26,000[36] and 230,000.[37] As private insurers base dam insurance premiums on limited scenarios, major disaster insurance in this sector is likewise provided by the state.[38]

Because externalities are diffuse in their effect, external costs can not be measured directly, but must be estimated. One approach estimate external costs of environmental impact of electricity is the Methodological Convention of Federal Environment Agency of Germany. That method arrives at external costs of electricity from lignite at 10.75 Eurocent/kWh, from hard coal 8.94 Eurocent/kWh, from natural gas 4.91 Eurocent/kWh, from photovoltaic 1.18 Eurocent/kWh, from wind 0.26 Eurocent/kWh and from hydro 0.18 Eurocent/kWh.[39] For nuclear the Federal Environment Agency indicates no value, as different studies have results that vary by a factor of 1,000. It recommends the nuclear given the huge uncertainty, with the cost of the next inferior energy source to evaluate.[40] Based on this recommendation the Federal Environment Agency, and with their own method, the Forum Ecological-social market economy, arrive at external environmental costs of nuclear energy at 10.7 to 34 ct/kWh.[41]

Additional cost factors

Calculations often do not include wider system costs associated with each type of plant, such as long-distance transmission connections to grids, or balancing and reserve costs. Calculations do not include externalities such as health damage by coal plants, nor the effect of CO2 emissions on the climate change, ocean acidification and eutrophication, ocean current shifts. Decommissioning costs of power plants are usually not included (nuclear power plants in the United States is an exception, because the cost of decommissioning is included in the price of electricity per the Nuclear Waste Policy Act), is therefore not full cost accounting. These types of items can be explicitly added as necessary depending on the purpose of the calculation. It has little relation to actual price of power, but assists policy makers and others to guide discussions and decision making.[citation needed]

These are not minor factors but very significantly affect all responsible power decisions:

  • Comparisons of life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions show coal, for instance, to be radically higher in terms of GHGs than any alternative. Accordingly, in the analysis below, carbon captured coal is generally treated as a separate source rather than being averaged in with other coal.
  • Surface power density which determines amount of land surface required per unit of energy generated using given technology, and can order by two orders of magnitude between high- and low-density sources. Surface power density is a significant limiting factor countries with high population density.
  • Other environmental concerns with electricity generation include acid rain, ocean acidification and effect of coal extraction on watersheds.
  • Various human health concerns with electricity generation, including asthma and smog, now dominate decisions in developed nations that incur health care costs publicly. A Harvard University Medical School study estimates the US health costs of coal alone at between 300 and 500 billion US dollars annually.[42]
  • While cost per kWh of transmission varies drastically with distance, the long complex projects required to clear or even upgrade transmission routes make even attractive new supplies often uncompetitive with conservation measures (see below), because the timing of payoff must take the transmission upgrade into account.

Global studies

Levelized cost of energy based on different studies. Source: IRENA 2020 for renewables, Lazard for the price of electricity from nuclear and coal, IAEA for nuclear capacity and Global Energy Monitor for coal capacity.
Global levelized cost of generation (US$ per MWh)
Source Solar
utility scale
Geothermal Nuclear
Hydro Geothermal Coal Gas CC Gas peaker Storage (1:4)
NEA 2020[43] (at 7% discount rate) 56 126 50 88 100 68 32 72 99 88 71 - -
NEA 2018[44] (at 3% discount rate) 100 160 60 135 - 55 - - - 90 100 - -
IPCC 2018[45] (at 5% discount rate) 110 150 59 120 60 65 - 22 60 61 71 - -
BNEF 2021[46] 39 - 41 79 - - - - - - - - 132
Lazard 2020[47] 36 125 40 86 80 164 29 - 80 112 59 175 189
IRENA 2020[48] 68 164 53 113 73 - - 47 73 - - -

BNEF (2021)

In March 2021, Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that "renewables are the cheapest power option for 71% of global GDP and 85% of global power generation. It is now cheaper to build a new solar or wind farm to meet rising electricity demand or replace a retiring generator, than it is to build a new fossil fuel-fired power plant. ... On a cost basis, wind and solar is the best economic choice in markets where firm generation resources exist and demand is growing." They further reported "the levelized cost of energy from lithium-ion battery storage systems is competitive with many peak-demand generators." BNEF did not disclose the detailed methodology and LCOE calculation assumptions, apart from declaring it was "derived from selected public sources".[46]

IEA & OECD NEA (2020)

In December 2020 IEA and OECD NEA published a joint Projected Costs of Generating Electricity study which looks at a very broad range of electricity generating technologies based on 243 power plants in 24 countries. The primary finding was that "low-carbon generation is overall becoming increasingly cost competitive" and "new nuclear power will remain the dispatchable low-carbon technology with the lowest expected costs in 2025". The report calculated LCOE with assumed 7% discount rate and adjusted for systemic costs of generation.[43] The report also contains a modeling utility that produces LCOE estimates based on user-selected parameters such as discount rate, carbon price, heat price, coal price and gas price.[49] The report's main conclusions:[50]

  • LCOE of specific energy sources significantly differs between countries due to their geographic, political and regulatory situation;
  • low-carbon energy sources cannot be considered in separation, as they operate in "complex interactions" with each other to ensure reliable supply at all times; IEA analysis captures these interactions in value-adjusted LCOE or VALCOE;
  • cost of renewable energy sources significantly decreased and are competitive (in LCOE terms) with dispatchable fossil fuel generation;
  • cost of extension of operations of existing nuclear power plants (LTO, long-term operations) has the lowest LCOE of low-carbon energy sources;

Lazard (2020)

In October 2020, the investment bank Lazard compared renewable and conventional sources of energy, including comparison between existing and new generation (see table). Lazard study assumes "60% debt at 8% interest rate and 40% equity at 12% cost" for its LCOE calculation.[47]

IRENA (2020)

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a study of 2019 renewable power generation costs based states that "new solar and wind projects are undercutting the cheapest of existing coal-fired plants". No data for non-renewable sources is presented in the report. IRENA study assumes 7.5% cost of capital in OECD countries and 10% in China for the LCOE calculations.[48]

IPCC (2018)

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report contains LCOE calculations[45] for broad range of energy sources in the following four scenarios:

  • 10% WACC, high full load hours (FLH), no carbon tax
  • 5% WACC, high FLH, no carbon tax — scenario presented in the above table
  • 10% WACC, low FLH, no carbon tax
  • 10% WACC, high FLH, $100/tCO2eq carbon tax

OECD (2018)

OECD NEA[44] contains LCOE calculations for three discount rates — 3%, 7% and 10%. The 3% scenario is presented above.

Regional studies


BNEF[51] estimated the following costs for electricity generation in Australia:[52]

Australia LCoE 2020
Source Solar Wind onshore Gas CC Wind plus storage Solar plus storage Storage (4hr) Gas peaker
Mean $US/MWh 47 58 81 87 118 156 228


The International Energy Agency and EDF have estimated for 2011 the following costs.[citation needed] For nuclear power, they include the costs due to new safety investments to upgrade the French nuclear plant after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster; the cost for those investments is estimated at 4 €/MWh. Concerning solar power, the estimate of 293 €/MWh is for a large plant capable of producing in the range of 50–100 GWh/year located in a favorable location (such as in Southern Europe). For a small household plant that can produce around 3 MWh/year, the cost is between 400 and 700 €/MWh, depending on location. Solar power was by far the most expensive renewable source of electricity among the technologies studied, although increasing efficiency and longer lifespan of photovoltaic panels together with reduced production costs have made this source of energy more competitive since 2011. By 2017, the cost of photovoltaic solar power had decreased to less than 50 €/MWh.

French LCOE in €/MWh (2011)
Technology Cost in 2011 Cost in 2017
Hydro power 20
Nuclear (with state-covered insurance costs) 50 50
Nuclear EPR 100[53]
Natural gas turbines without CO2 capture 61
Onshore wind 69 60[53]
Solar farms 293 43.24[54]


Comparison of the levelized cost of electricity for some newly built renewable and fossil-fuel based power stations in EuroCent per kWh (Germany, 2018)[55]
Note: employed technologies and LCOE differ by country and change over time.

In November 2013, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE assessed the levelised generation costs for newly built power plants in the German electricity sector.[56] PV systems reached LCOE between 0.078 and 0.142 Euro/kWh in the third quarter of 2013, depending on the type of power plant (ground-mounted utility-scale or small rooftop solar PV) and average German insolation of 1000 to 1200 kWh/m2 per year (GHI). There are no LCOE-figures available for electricity generated by recently built German nuclear power plants as none have been constructed since the late 1980s. An update of the ISE study was published in March 2018.[55]

German LCOE in €/MWh
ISE (2013) ISE (2018)
Technology Low cost High cost Low cost High cost
Coal-fired power plants brown coal 38 53 46 80
hard coal 63 80 63 99
CCGT power plants 75 98 78 100
Wind power Onshore wind farms 45 107 40 82
Offshore wind farms 119 194 75 138
Solar PV systems 78 142 37 115
Biogas power plant 135 250 101 147
Source: Fraunhofer ISE (2013) – Levelized cost of electricity renewable energy technologies[56]
Source: Fraunhofer ISE (2018) – Stromgestehungskosten erneuerbare Energien[55]

Middle East

The capital investment costs, fixed and variable costs, and the average capacity factor of utility-scale wind and photovoltaic electricity supplies from 2000 to 2018 have been obtained using overall variable renewable electricity production of the countries in the Middle East and 81 examined projects.

Average capacity factor and LCOE of wind and PV electricity resources in the Middle East.[57]
Year Wind CF Photovoltaic CF Wind LCOE ($/MWh) Photovoltaic LCOE($/MWh)
2000 0.19 0.17 - -
2001 - 0.17 - -
2002 0.21 0.21 - -
2003 - 0.17 - -
2004 0.23 0.16 - -
2005 0.23 0.19 - -
2006 0.20 0.15 - -
2007 0.17 0.21 - -
2008 0.25 0.19 - -
2009 0.18 0.16 - -
2010 0.26 0.20 107.8 -
2011 0.31 0.17 76.2 -
2012 0.29 0.17 72.7 -
2013 0.28 0.20 72.5 212.7
2014 0.29 0.20 66.3 190.5
2015 0.29 0.19 55.4 147.2
2016 0.34 0.20 52.2 110.7
2017 0.34 0.21 51.5 94.2
2018 0.37 0.23 42.5 85.8
2019 - 0.23 - 50.1


As of March 2021 for projects starting generating electricity in Turkey from renewable energy in Turkey in July feed-in-tariffs in lira per kWh are: wind and solar 0.32, hydro 0.4, geothermal 0.54, and various rates for different types of biomass: for all these there is also a bonus of 0.08 per kWh if local components are used.[58] Tariffs will apply for 10 years and the local bonus for 5 years.[58] Rates are determined by the presidency,[59] and the scheme replaces the previous USD-denominated feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy.[60]


A 2010 study by the Japanese government (pre-Fukushima disaster), called the Energy White Paper,[61] concluded the cost for kilowatt hour was ¥49 for solar, ¥10 to ¥14 for wind, and ¥5 or ¥6 for nuclear power.

Masayoshi Son, an advocate for renewable energy, however, has pointed out that the government estimates for nuclear power did not include the costs for reprocessing the fuel or disaster insurance liability. Son estimated that if these costs were included, the cost of nuclear power was about the same as wind power.[62][63][64]

More recently, the cost of solar in Japan has decreased to between ¥13.1/kWh to ¥21.3/kWh (on average, ¥15.3/kWh, or $0.142/kWh).[65]

United Kingdom

The Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland commissioned a former Director of Operations of the British National Grid, Colin Gibson, to produce a report on generation levelised costs that for the first time would include some of the transmission costs as well as the generation costs. This was published in December 2011.[66] The institution seeks to encourage debate of the issue, and has taken the unusual step among compilers of such studies of publishing a spreadsheet.[67]

On 27 February 2015 Vattenfall Vindkraft AS agreed to build the Horns Rev 3 offshore wind farm at a price of 10.31 Eurocent per kWh. This has been quoted as below £100 per MWh.

In 2013 in the United Kingdom for a new-to-build nuclear power plant (Hinkley Point C: completion 2023), a feed-in tariff of £92.50/MWh (around US$142/MWh) plus compensation for inflation with a running time of 35 years was agreed.[68][69]

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) publishes regular estimates of the costs of different electricity generation sources, following on the estimates of the merged Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Levelized cost estimates for new generation projects begun in 2015 are listed in the table below.[70]

Estimated UK LCOE for projects starting in 2015, £/MWh
Power generating technology Low Central High
Wind Onshore 47 62 76
Offshore 90 102 115
Solar Large-scale PV (Photovoltaic) 71 80 94
Nuclear PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor)(a) 82 93 121
Biomass 85 87 88
Natural Gas Combined Cycle Gas Turbine 65 66 68
CCGT with CCS (Carbon capture and storage) 102 110 123
Open-Cycle Gas Turbine 157 162 170
Coal Advanced Supercritical Coal with Oxy-comb. CCS 124 134 153
IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) with CCS 137 148 171
(a) new nuclear power: guaranteed strike price of £92.50/MWh for Hinkley Point C in 2023[71][72]

United States

Energy Information Administration (2020)

Projected LCOE in the United States by 2025, as of 2020 (Source: EIA AEO)

Since 2010, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has published the Annual Energy Outlook (AEO), with yearly LCOE projections for future utility-scale facilities to be commissioned in about five years' time. In 2015, EIA has been criticized by the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) Institute after its release of the AEO 2015-report to "consistently underestimate the growth rate of renewable energy, leading to 'misperceptions' about the performance of these resources in the marketplace". AEE points out that the average power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind power was already at $24/MWh in 2013. Likewise, PPA for utility-scale solar PV are seen at current levels of $50–$75/MWh.[73] These figures contrast strongly with EIA's estimated LCOE of $125/MWh (or $114/MWh including subsidies) for solar PV in 2020.[74]

The following data are from the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook released in 2020 (AEO2020). They are in dollars per megawatt-hour (2019 USD/MWh). These figures are estimates for plants going into service in 2025, exclusive of tax credits, subsidies, or other incentives.[75] The LCOE below is calculated based on a 30-year recovery period using a real after tax weighted average cost of capital (WACC) of 6.1%. For carbon intensive technologies 3 percentage points are added to the WACC. (This is approximately equivalent to a fee of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide CO2.) Federal tax credits and various state and local incentive programs would be expected to reduce some of these LCOE values. For example, EIA expects the federal investment tax credit program to reduce the capacity weighted average LCOE of solar PV built in 2025 by an additional $2.41, to $30.39.

Projected LCOE in the U.S. by 2025 (as of 2020) $/MWh
Plant Type Min Simple


Ultra-supercritical coal 65.10 76.44 NB 91.27
Combined cycle 33.35 38.07 36.61 45.31
Combustion Turbine 58.48 66.62 68.71 81.37
Advanced Nuclear 71.90 81.65 NB 92.04
Geothermal 35.13 37.47 37.47 39.60
Biomass 86.19 94.83 NB 139.96
Wind, onshore 28.72 39.95 34.10 62.72
Wind, offshore 102.68 122.25 115.04 155.55
Solar photovoltaic (PV) 29.75 35.74 32.80 48.09
Hydroelectric 35.37 52.79 39.54 63.24

The electricity sources which had the most decrease in estimated costs over the period 2010 to 2019 were solar photovoltaic (down 88%), onshore wind (down 71%) and advanced natural gas combined cycle (down 49%).

For utility-scale generation put into service in 2040, the EIA estimated in 2015 that there would be further reductions in the constant-dollar cost of concentrated solar power (CSP) (down 18%), solar photovoltaic (down 15%), offshore wind (down 11%), and advanced nuclear (down 7%). The cost of onshore wind was expected to rise slightly (up 2%) by 2040, while natural gas combined cycle electricity was expected to increase 9% to 10% over the period.[74]

Historical summary of EIA's LCOE projections (2010–2020)
Estimate in $/MWh Coal
Nat. gas combined cycle Nuclear
Wind Solar
of year ref for year convent'l advanced onshore offshore PV CSP
2010 [76] 2016 100.4 83.1 79.3 119.0 149.3 191.1 396.1 256.6
2011 [77] 2016 95.1 65.1 62.2 114.0 96.1 243.7 211.0 312.2
2012 [78] 2017 97.7 66.1 63.1 111.4 96.0 N/A 152.4 242.0
2013 [79] 2018 100.1 67.1 65.6 108.4 86.6 221.5 144.3 261.5
2014 [80] 2019 95.6 66.3 64.4 96.1 80.3 204.1 130.0 243.1
2015 [74] 2020 95.1 75.2 72.6 95.2 73.6 196.9 125.3 239.7
2016 [81] 2022 NB 58.1 57.2 102.8 64.5 158.1 84.7 235.9
2017 [82] 2022 NB 58.6 53.8 96.2 55.8 NB 73.7 NB
2018 [83] 2022 NB 48.3 48.1 90.1 48.0 124.6 59.1 NB
2019 [83] 2023 NB 40.8 40.2 NB 42.8 117.9 48.8 NB
2020 [84] 2025 NB 36.61 36.61 NB 34.10 115.04 32.80 NA
Nominal change 2010–2020 NB −56% −54% NB −77% -40% −92% NB
Note: Projected LCOE are adjusted for inflation and calculated on constant dollars based on two years prior to the release year of the estimate.
Estimates given without any subsidies. Transmission cost for non-dispatchable sources are on average much higher.

NB = "Not built" (No capacity additions are expected.)

NREL OpenEI (2015)

OpenEI, sponsored jointly by the US DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), has compiled a historical cost-of-generation database[85] covering a wide variety of generation sources. Because the data is open source it may be subject to frequent revision.

LCOE from OpenEI DB as of June 2015
Plant type (USD/MWh) Min Median Max Data source year
Distributed generation 10 70 130 2014
Hydropower Conventional 30 70 100 2011
Small Hydropower 140 2011
Wind Onshore (land based) 40 80 2014
Offshore 100 200 2014
Natural gas Combined cycle 50 80 2014
Combustion turbine 140 200 2014
Coal Pulverized, scrubbed 60 150 2014
Pulverized, unscrubbed 40 2008
IGCC, gasified 100 170 2014
Solar Photovoltaic 60 110 250 2014
CSP 100 220 2014
Geothermal Hydrothermal 50 100 2011
Blind 100 2011
Enhanced 80 130 2014
Biopower 90 110 2014
Fuel cell 100 160 2014
Nuclear 90 130 2014
Ocean 230 240 250 2011

Only median value = only one data point.
Only max + min value = only two data points

California Energy Commission (2014)

LCOE data from the California Energy Commission report titled "Estimated Cost of New Renewable and Fossil Generation in California".[86] The model data was calculated for all three classes of developers: merchant, investor-owned utility (IOU), and publicly owned utility (POU).

Type Year 2013 (nominal $$) ($/MWh) Year 2024 (nominal $$) ($/MWh)
Name Merchant IOU POU Merchant IOU POU
Generation turbine 49.9 MW 662.81 2215.54 311.27 884.24 2895.90 428.20
Generation turbine 100 MW 660.52 2202.75 309.78 881.62 2880.53 426.48
Generation turbine – Advanced 200 MW 403.83 1266.91 215.53 533.17 1615.68 299.06
Combined-cycle 2CTs no duct firing 500 MW 116.51 104.54 102.32 167.46 151.88 150.07
Combined-cycle 2CTs with duct firing 500 MW 115.81 104.05 102.04 166.97 151.54 149.88
Biomass fluidized bed boiler 50 MW 122.04 141.53 123.51 153.89 178.06 156.23
Geothermal binary 30 MW 90.63 120.21 84.98 109.68 145.31 103.00
Geothermal flash 30 MW 112.48 146.72 109.47 144.03 185.85 142.43
Solar parabolic trough without storage 250 MW 168.18 228.73 167.93 156.10 209.72 156.69
Solar parabolic trough with storage 250 MW 127.40 189.12 134.81 116.90 171.34 123.92
Solar power tower without storage 100 MW 152.58 210.04 151.53 133.63 184.24 132.69
Solar power tower with storage 100 MW 6HR 145.52 217.79 153.81 132.78 196.47 140.58
Solar power tower with storage 100 MW 11HR 114.06 171.72 120.45 103.56 154.26 109.55
Solar photovoltaic (thin-film) 100 MW 111.07 170.00 121.30 81.07 119.10 88.91
Solar photovoltaic (single-axis) 100 MW 109.00 165.22 116.57 98.49 146.20 105.56
Solar photovoltaic (thin-film) 20 MW 121.31 186.51 132.42 93.11 138.54 101.99
Solar photovoltaic (single-axis) 20 MW 117.74 179.16 125.86 108.81 162.68 116.56
Wind class 3 100 MW 85.12 104.74 75.8 75.01 91.90 68.17
Wind class 4 100 MW 84.31 103.99 75.29 75.77 92.88 68.83

California Energy Commission (2019)

On 9 May 2019 the California Energy Commission released an updated LCOE report: [87] [88]

Tech Type Method type to Calculate LCOE Min (2018 $/Mwh) Median Max (2018 $/Mwh)
Solar PV Single Axis 100MW Deterministic 33 49 106
Solar PV Single Axis 100MW Probabilistic 44 52 61
Solar Tower with Storage Deterministic 81 159 339
Solar Tower with Storage Probabilistic 128 158 195
Wind 80m hub Hight Deterministic 30 57 136
Wind 80m hub Hight Probabilistic 52 65 81
Geothermal Flash Deterministic 54 138 414
Geothermal Flash Probabilistic 116 161 217
Biomas Deterministic 98 166 268
Biomas Probabilistic 158 172 187
Combined Cycle no duct firing Deterministic 77 119 187
Combined Cycle no duct firing Probabilistic 111 123 141

Lazard (2015)

In November 2015, the investment bank Lazard headquartered in New York, published its ninth annual study on the current electricity production costs of photovoltaics in the US compared to conventional power generators. The best large-scale photovoltaic power plants can produce electricity at US$50 per MWh. The upper limit at US$60 per MWh. In comparison, coal-fired plants are between US$65 and $150 per MWh, nuclear power at US$97 per MWh. Small photovoltaic power plants on roofs of houses are still at 184–300 USD per MWh, but which can do without electricity transport costs. Onshore wind turbines are 32–77 USD per MWh. One drawback is the intermittency of solar and wind power. The study suggests a solution in batteries as a storage, but these are still expensive so far.[89][90]

Lazard's long standing Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) report is widely considered and industry benchmark. In 2015 Lazard published its inaugural Levelized Cost of Storage (LCOS) report, which was developed by the investment bank Lazard in collaboration with the energy consulting firm, Enovation.[91]

Below is the complete list of LCOEs by source from the investment bank Lazard.[89]

Plant type (USD/MWh) Low High
Energy efficiency 0 50
Wind 32 77
Solar PV – thin-film utility-scale 50 60
Solar PV – crystalline utility-scale 58 70
Solar PV – rooftop residential 184 300
Solar PV – rooftop C&I 109 193
Solar thermal with storage 119 181
Microturbine 79 89
Geothermal 82 117
Biomass direct 82 110
Fuel cell 106 167
Natural gas reciprocating engine 68 101
Gas combined cycle 52 78
Gas peaking 165 218
IGCC 96 183
Nuclear 97 136
Coal 65 150
Battery storage ** **
Diesel reciprocating engine 212 281

NOTE: ** Battery storage is no longer included in this report (2015). It has been rolled into its own separate report LCOS 1.0, developed in consultation with Enovation Partners (see charts below).

Below are the LCOSs for different battery technologies. This category has traditionally been filled by diesel engines. These are "behind the meter" applications.[92]

Purpose Type Low ($/MWh) High ($/MWh)
MicroGrid Flow battery 429 1046
MicroGrid Lead-acid 433 946
MicroGrid Lithium-ion 369 562
MicroGrid Sodium 411 835
MicroGrid Zinc 319 416
Island Flow battery 593 1231
Island Lead-acid 700 1533
Island Lithium-ion 581 870
Island Sodium 663 1259
Island Zinc 523 677
Commercial and industrial Flow battery 349 1083
Commercial and industrial Lead-acid 529 1511
Commercial and industrial Lithium-ion 351 838
Commercial and industrial Sodium 444 1092
Commercial and industrial Zinc 310 452
Commercial appliance Flow battery 974 1504
Commercial appliance Lead-acid 928 2291
Commercial appliance Lithium-Ion 784 1363
Commercial appliance Zinc 661 833
Residential Flow battery 721 1657
Residential Lead-acid 1101 2238
Residential Lithium-ion 1034 1596
All of the above

Traditional method

Diesel reciprocating engine 212 281

Below are the LCOSs for different battery technologies. This category has traditionally been filled by natural-gas engines. These are "in front of the meter" applications.[92]

Purpose Type Low ($/MWh) High ($/MWh)
Transmission system Compressed air 192 192
Transmission system Flow battery 290 892
Transmission system Lead-acid 461 1429
Transmission system Lithium-ion 347 739
Transmission system Pumped hydro 188 274
Transmission system Sodium 396 1079
Transmission system Zinc 230 376
Peaker replacement Flow battery 248 927
Peaker replacement Lead-acid 419 1247
Peaker replacement Lithium-ion 321 658
Peaker replacement Sodium 365 948
Peaker replacement Zinc 221 347
Frequency regulation Flywheel 276 989
Frequency regulation Lithium-ion 211 275
Distribution services Flow battery 288 923
Distribution services Lead-acid 516 1692
Distribution services Lithium-ion 400 789
Distribution services Sodium 426 1129
Distribution services Zinc 285 426
PV integration Flow battery 373 950
PV integration Lead-acid 402 1068
PV integration Lithium-ion 355 686
PV integration Sodium 379 957
PV integration Zinc 245 345
All of the above

Traditional method

Gas peaker 165 218

Lazard (2016)

On 15 December 2016 Lazard released version 10[93] of their LCOE report and version 2[94] of their LCOS report.

Type Low ($/MWh) High ($/MWh)
Wind 32 62
Solar PV – crystalline utility-scale 49 61
Solar PV – thin-film utility-scale 46 56
Solar PV – community 78 135
Solar PV – rooftop residential 138 222
Solar PV – rooftop C&I 88 193
Solar thermal tower with storage 119 182
Microturbine 76 89
Geothermal 79 117
Biomass direct 77 110
Fuel cell 106 167
Natural gas reciprocating engine 68 101
Gas combined cycle 48 78
Gas peaking 165 217
IGCC 94 210
Nuclear 97 136
Coal 60 143
Diesel reciprocating engine 212 281

Lazard (2017)

On 2 November 2017 the investment bank Lazard released version 11[95] of their LCOE report and version 3[96] of their LCOS report.[97]

Generation type Low ($/MWh) High ($/MWh)
Wind 30 60
Solar PV – crystalline utility-scale 46 53
Solar PV – thin-film utility-scale 43 48
Solar PV – community 76 150
Solar PV – rooftop residential 187 319
Solar PV – rooftop C&I 85 194
Solar thermal tower with storage 98 181
Microturbine 59 89
Geothermal 77 117
Biomass direct 55 114
Fuel cell 106 167
Natural gas reciprocating engine 68 106
Gas combined cycle 42 78
Gas peaking 156 210
IGCC 96 231
Nuclear 112 183
Coal 60 143
Diesel reciprocating engine 197 281

Below are the unsubsidized LCOSs for different battery technologies for "behind the meter" (BTM) applications.[96]

Use case Storage type Low ($/MWh) High ($/MWh)
Commercial Lithium-ion 891 985
Commercial Lead-acid 1057 1154
Commercial Advanced lead 950 1107
Residential Lithium-ion 1028 1274
Residential Lead-acid 1160 1239
Residential Advanced lead 1138 1188

Below are the unsubsidized LCOSs for different battery technologies "front of the meter" (FTM) applications.[96]

Use case Storage type Low ($/MWh) High ($/MWh)
Peaker replacement Flow battery (V) 209 413
Peaker replacement Flow battery (Zn) 286 315
Peaker replacement Lithium-ion 282 347
Distribution Flow battery (V) 184 338
Distribution Lithium-ion 272 338
Microgrid Flow battery (V) 273 406
Microgrid Lithium-ion 383 386

Note: Flow battery value range estimates

Lazard (2018)

In November 2018 Lazard released their 2018 LCOE report[98][99]

Tech Type Min ($/MWh) Max ($/MWh)
Solar PV—Roof top Residential 160 267
Solar PV—Roof top C&I 81 170
Solar PV—Community 73 145
Solar PV—Crystalline Utility Scale 40 46
Solar PV—Thin Film Utility Scale 36 44
Solar Thermal Tower with Storage 98 181
Fuel Cell 103 152
Geothermal 71 111
Wind – Onshore 29 56
Wind – Offshore *(Only midpoint) 92 92
Gas Peaking 152 206
Nuclear 112 189
Coal 60 143
Gas Combined Cycle 41 74

Lazard (2019)

In November 2019 Lazard released their 2019 LCOE report[100][101]

Tech Type Min ($/MWh) Max ($/MWh)
Solar PV—Roof top Residential 151 242
Solar PV—Roof top C&I 75 154
Solar PV—Community 64 148
Solar PV—Crystalline Utility Scale 36 44
Solar PV—Thin Film Utility Scale 32 42
Solar Thermal Tower with Storage 126 156
Geothermal 69 112
Wind – Onshore 28 54
Wind – Offshore (Only Midpoint cost) 89 89
Gas Peaking 150 199
Nuclear 118 192
Coal 66 152
Gas Combined Cycle 44 68



European PV LCOE range projection 2010–2020 (in €-cts/kWh)[102]
Price history of silicon PV cells since 1977

In 2020, IEA declared that solar PV power is the cheapest electricity in history.[103]

Photovoltaic prices have fallen from $76.67 per watt in 1977 to nearly $0.085 per watt in October 2020, for multi crystalline silicon solar cells and module price to $0.193 per watt.[104][105] This is seen as evidence supporting Swanson's law, which states that solar cell prices fall 20% for every doubling of cumulative shipments. The famous Moore's law calls for a doubling of transistor count every two years.

By 2011, the price of PV modules per MW had fallen by 60% since 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates, putting solar power for the first time on a competitive footing with the retail price of electricity in some sunny countries; an alternative and consistent price decline figure of 75% from 2007 to 2012 has also been published,[106] though it is unclear whether these figures are specific to the United States or generally global. The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) from PV is competitive with conventional electricity sources in an expanding list of geographic regions,[5] particularly when the time of generation is included, as electricity is worth more during the day than at night.[107] There has been fierce competition in the supply chain, and further improvements in the levelised cost of energy for solar lie ahead, posing a growing threat to the dominance of fossil fuel generation sources in the next few years.[108] As time progresses, renewable energy technologies generally get cheaper,[109][110] while fossil fuels generally get more expensive:

The less solar power costs, the more favorably it compares to conventional power, and the more attractive it becomes to utilities and energy users around the globe. Utility-scale solar power [could in 2011] be delivered in California at prices well below $100/MWh ($0.10/kWh) less than most other peak generators, even those running on low-cost natural gas. Lower solar module costs also stimulate demand from consumer markets where the cost of solar compares very favourably to retail electric rates.[111]

In the year 2015, First Solar agreed to supply solar power at 3.87 cents/kWh levelised price from its 100 MW Playa Solar 2 project which is far cheaper than the electricity sale price from conventional electricity generation plants.[112] From January 2015 through May 2016, records have continued to fall quickly, and solar electricity prices, which have reached levels below 3 cents/kWh, continue to fall.[113] In August 2016, Chile announced a new record low contract price to provide solar power for $29.10 per megawatt-hour (MWh).[114] In September 2016, Abu Dhabi announced a new record breaking bid price, promising to provide solar power for $24.2 per MWh[115] In October 2017, Saudi Arabia announced a further low contract price to provide solar power for $17.90 per MWh.[116] In July 2019, Portugal announced a lowest contract price of $16.54 per MWh.[117] In April 2020, Abu Dhabi Power Corporation (ADPower) secured $13.5 per MWh tariff for its 2GW solar PV project.[118]

With a carbon price of $50/ton (which would raise the price of coal-fired power by 5c/kWh), solar PV is cost-competitive in most locations. The declining price of PV has been reflected in rapidly growing installations, totaling a worldwide cumulative capacity of 297 GW by end 2016. According to some estimates total investment in renewables for 2011 exceeded investment in carbon-based electricity generation.[119]

In the case of self consumption, payback time is calculated based on how much electricity is not brought from the grid. Additionally, using PV solar power to charge DC batteries, as used in Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Electric Vehicles, leads to greater efficiencies, but higher costs. Traditionally, DC generated electricity from solar PV must be converted to AC for buildings, at an average 10% loss during the conversion. Inverter technology is rapidly improving and current equipment has reached 99% efficiency for small scale residential,[120] while commercial scale three-phase equipment can reach well above 98% efficiency. However, an additional efficiency loss occurs in the transition back to DC for battery driven devices and vehicles, and using various interest rates and energy price changes were calculated to find present values that range from $2,060 to $8,210[needs update] (analysis from 2009, based on a panel price of $9 per watt, about 90 times the October 2019 price listed above).[121]

It is also possible to combine solar PV with other technologies to make hybrid systems, which enable more stand alone systems. The calculation of LCOEs becomes more complex, but can be done by aggregating the costs and the energy produced by each component. As for example, PV and cogen and batteries[122] while reducing energy- and electricity-related greenhouse gas emissions as compared to conventional sources.[123] In May 2020, the discovered first year tariff in India is 2.90 (3.9¢ US) per KWh with 3.60 (4.8¢ US) per KWh levelized tariff for round the clock power supply from hybrid renewable power plants with energy storage.[124] The tariff is cheaper than new coal, natural gas, nuclear, etc. power plants for base load application.

Solar thermal

LCOE of solar thermal power with energy storage which can operate round the clock on demand, has fallen to AU$78/MWh (US$61/MWh) in August 2017.[125] Though solar thermal plants with energy storage can work as stand alone systems, combination with solar PV power can deliver further cheaper power.[126] Cheaper and dispatchable solar thermal storage power need not depend on costly or polluting coal/gas/oil/nuclear based power generation for ensuring stable grid operation.[127][128]

When a solar thermal storage plant is forced to idle due to lack of sunlight locally during cloudy days, it is possible to consume the cheap excess infirm power from solar PV, wind and hydro power plants (similar to a lesser efficient, huge capacity and low cost battery storage system) by heating the hot molten salt to higher temperature for converting the stored thermal energy in to electricity during the peak demand hours when the electricity sale price is profitable.[129][130] Biomass fuel firing can also be incorporated in solar thermal plants economically to enhance their dispatchable generation capability.[131]

In 2020, solar thermal heat prices (US cents/kWh-thermal) at 600 °C above temperature with round the clock availability has fallen below 2 cents/kwh-thermal which is cheaper than heat energy derived from fossil fuels.[132]

Wind power

NREL projection: the LCOE of U.S. wind power will decline by 25% from 2012 to 2030.[133]
Estimated cost per MWh for wind power in Denmark as of 2012

This cost has additionally reduced as wind turbine technology has improved. There are now longer and lighter wind turbine blades, improvements in turbine performance and increased power generation efficiency. Also, wind project capital and maintenance costs have continued to decline.[134]

Onshore wind

In the windy great plains expanse of the central United States new-construction wind power costs in 2017 are compellingly below costs of continued use of existing coal burning plants. Wind power can be contracted via a power purchase agreement at two cents per kilowatt hour while the operating costs for power generation in existing coal-burning plants remain above three cents.[135]

Offshore wind

In 2016 the Norwegian Wind Energy Association (NORWEA) estimated the LCoE of a typical Norwegian wind farm at 44 €/MWh, assuming a weighted average cost of capital of 8% and an annual 3,500 full load hours, i.e. a capacity factor of 40%. NORWEA went on to estimate the LCoE of the 1 GW Fosen Vind onshore wind farm which is expected to be operational by 2020 to be as low as 35 €/MWh to 40 €/MWh.[136] In November 2016, Vattenfall won a tender to develop the Kriegers Flak windpark in the Baltic Sea for 49.9 €/MWh,[137] and similar levels were agreed for the Borssele offshore wind farms. As of 2016, this is the lowest projected price for electricity produced using offshore wind.

See also

Further reading


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