A geographically resolved method to estimate levelized power plant costs with environmental externalities

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Abstract

In this analysis we developed and applied a geographically-resolved method to calculate the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) of new power plants on a county-by-county basis while including estimates of some environmental externalities. We calculated the LCOE for each county of the contiguous United States for 12 power plant technologies. The minimum LCOE option for each county varies based on local conditions, capital and fuel costs, environmental externalities, and resource availability. We considered ten scenarios that vary input assumptions. We present the results in a map format to facilitate comparisons by fuel, technology, and location. For our reference analysis, which includes a cost of $62/tCO 2 for CO 2 emissions natural gas combined cycle, wind, and nuclear are most often the lowest-LCOE option. While the average cost increases when internalizing the environmental externalities (carbon and air pollutants) is small for some technologies, the local cost differences are as high as $0.62/kWh for coal (under our reference analysis). These results display format, and online tools could serve as an educational tool for stakeholders when considering which technologies might or might not be a good fit for a given locality subject to system integration considerations.

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Rhodes, J. D., King, C., Gulen, G., Olmstead, S. M., Dyer, J. S., Hebner, R. E., … Webber, M. E. (2017). A geographically resolved method to estimate levelized power plant costs with environmental externalities. Energy Policy, 102, 491–499. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2016.12.025

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