Report: Nuclear and other low-carbon generation becoming cost-competitive

December 17, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

The levelized costs of electricity generation from low-carbon technologies, including nuclear, are dropping and are increasingly below that of conventional fossil fuel generation, concludes a new report from the International Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

The 223-page report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity—2020 Edition, the ninth such jointly produced analysis, includes plant-level cost data on power generation from nuclear, natural gas, coal, and a variety of renewable sources, including wind, solar, hydro, and biofuels. The report provides data from 243 plants in 24 countries.

A first: Making its debut in the 2020 edition is cost information on the long-term operation of nuclear power plants (as well as information on the cost of storage technologies and fuel cells). While noting that the cost of electricity from new nuclear plants remains stable, the report states that “electricity from the long-term operation of nuclear power plants constitutes the least-cost option for low-carbon generation.”

What they’re saying: “All countries have the right and responsibility to do what they think is right for their citizens,” said NEA Director General William Magwood in a December 9 statement on the report. “But decarbonization commitments made as part of post-COVID-19 economic recovery must be approached with a full understanding of the costs and impacts of various technologies in the electricity system as a whole. From an economic and sustainable standpoint, it is crucial to have the right balance of variable renewables and dispatchable resources, such as nuclear and hydro, in order to enable a resilient long-term energy infrastructure.”

A second first: The report for the first time is accompanied by a levelized cost of electricity calculator—an online device that, according to the NEA, “allows for easy download of all data tables in the report and empowers the user to examine the impact of changing select variables, such as the discount rate, fuel prices, or the cost of carbon.”

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