ORIGINAL REPORTING: The disruptive power of low cost of New Energy
Will lower cost renewables and natural gas accelerate PacifiCorp's generation transition? A new study shows 20 of the utility’s coal units may not be cost-competitive.
Herman K. Trabish, Aug. 2, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Findings in the study reported here were confirmed by PacifiCorps its recent announcement of a rethinking of the coal holdings in its resource portfolio.
New data adds to the growing evidence that new renewables are a better buy for utilities than old coal. The generation from 11 PacifiCorp coal plants costs more than it would for the utility to buy power in energy markets. The generation, on a net present value (NPV) basis, from 12 of PacifiCorp's coal units costs more than the NPV for solar PV power purchase agreements (PPAs). And wind PPAs beat the generation from 20 PacifiCorp coal plants. These are conclusions from a June 20 Energy Strategies study for Sierra Club, which used data from the utility's own 2017 reports to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
PacifiCorp is making major strides toward addressing this concern. Its most recent planning documents show much of the coal fleet scheduled for retirement in the late 2020s and 2030s and significant additions of renewables. But Sierra Club argues the utility is unnecessarily imposing costs on customers and the environment by keeping its coal plants in service. Since 2009, the cost of wind generation has dropped 38%, the cost of utility-scale solar has dropped 77%, and the cost of battery storage is down 79%, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) found. Newer data show both wind and solar costs dropped 18% in just the first half of 2017. Battery prices are forecast to fall another 67% by 2030. Bids to Xcel Energy Colorado put wind-plus-storage projects at $21/MWh and solar-plus-storage was $36/MWh. But July EIA all-in prices for renewables generation are lower than just the fuel costs for natural gas generation, $23.11/MWh, and coal generation, $28.16/MWh. This shows that the cost of building renewables projects, which have zero fuel costs once they are in service, is lower than the cost of supplying fuel to existing coal and natural gas plants… click here for more
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