Lazard’s levelized cost of energy analysis

Lazard’s latest annual Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (LCOE 11.0) shows a continued decline in the cost of generating electricity from alternative energy technologies, especially utility-scale solar and wind. 

Unsubsidized Levelized Cost of Energy Comparison


Certain Alternative Energy generation technologies are cost-competitive with conventional generation technologies under some scenarios; such observation does not take into account potential social and environmental externalities (e.g., social costs of distributed generation, environmental consequences of certain conventional generation technologies, etc.), reliability or intermittency-related considerations (e.g., transmission and back-up generation costs associated with certain Alternative Energy technologies)


Unsubsidized Levelized Cost of Energy—Wind & Solar PV (Historical)


Over the last eight years, wind and solar PV have become increasingly cost-competitive with conventional generation technologies, on an unsubsidized basis, in light of material declines in the pricing of system components (e.g., panels, inverters, racking, turbines, etc.), and dramatic improvements in efficiency, among other factors


Additional highlights:


As LCOE values for alternative energy technologies continue to decline, in some scenarios the full-lifecycle costs of building and operating renewables-based projects have dropped below the operating costs alone of conventional generation technologies such as coal or nuclear. This is expected to lead to ongoing and significant deployment of alternative energy capacity.

Global costs of generating electricity from alternative energy technologies continue to decline. For example, the levelized cost of energy for both utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind technologies are down approximately 6% from last year.

Despite the modestly slowing rate of cost declines for utility-scale alternative energy generation, the gap between the costs of certain alternative energy technologies (e.g., utility-scale solar and onshore wind) and conventional generation technologies continues to widen as the cost profiles of such conventional generation remain flat (e.g., coal) and, in certain instances, increase (e.g., nuclear). Specifically, the estimated levelized cost of energy for nuclear generation increased ~35% versus prior estimates, reflecting increased capital costs at various nuclear facilities currently in development.

Although alternative energy is increasingly cost-competitive and storage technology holds great promise, alternative energy systems alone will not be capable of meeting the base-load generation needs of a developed economy for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the optimal solution for many regions of the world is to use complementary conventional and alternative energy resources in a diversified generation fleet.

The increasing economic advantage of renewables in the US has global implications, because in the US, conventional energy technologies are relatively cheaper to operate than in other developed economies. Given the higher costs of conventional energy sources in these other countries, the  economics of alternative energy sources become even more attractive.


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