Changing market conditions have made natural gas, wind and solar energy the lowest-cost technologies for new electricity generation for most of the U.S., according to updated research released today by The University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute.
The research features a series of maps that have been revised to reflect shifting market conditions, a new policy environment and other factors affecting the cost of electricity generation in counties across the U.S. The updated version also displays the same data for congressional districts.
The original analyses supporting the maps is contained in a white paper titled "New U.S. Power Costs: by County, with Environmental Externalities." The paper is part of a comprehensive study coordinated by the Energy Institute, the "Full Cost of Electricity (FCe-)," initially issued in December 2016 and updated for today's release with additional research.
Researchers analyzed data for the most competitive sources of new electricity generation. Wind again proved to be the option with the lowest cost, on a levelized basis, for a broad swath of the country, from the High Plains, the Midwest and Texas, and even portions of the Northeast. Solar power is the cheapest technology in much of the Southwest, and, based on updated data, also in the eastern and northern regions of the U.S. Natural gas prevailed for much of the rest of the country.
Joshua Rhodes, a research affiliate at the Energy Institute and lead author of the paper, said the research assesses multiple generation technologies including coal, natural gas, solar, wind and nuclear. The maps released today feature updated prices for natural gas and renewables.
"The new maps present a more accurate reflection of current market conditions, including revised prices that indicate the cost of various generating technologies," Rhodes said.
Researchers examined existing studies to enhance a formula used to calculate generation costs known as the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE). The formula factors in "externalities" such as the public health and environmental effects associated with electricity generation – which the LCOE formula typically does not include – to calculate truer costs for each generation technology.
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