Relative / comparative costs of wind energy, nuclear energy, hydro power, coal power, natural gas, geothermal energy, and biomass

Latest update: March 30th 2011:

Cost of wind, nuclear and gas powered generation in the UK

The relative generation costs of the principal energy sources in the UK are a source of constant debate. There are numerous ways of approaching the issue. In the following feature, David Milborrow* sets out to compare generation costs from coal, gas, onshore and offshore wind and nuclear using realistic inputs for plant, fuel and operation and maintenance costs, both for now and for 2020. It suggests there is little to choose between gas, coal and onshore wind in either case.

This paper can be downloaded from here:







California Energy Commission reports give costs for power generation from different sources:


US generating costs in May 2008, from the California Energy Commission

NEA / IEA give this:


David Millborrow’s  ( an ex CEGB engineer Central Electricity Generating Board) ) paper on wind costs gives comparative costs ( This link takes you to the file library – look for…….. David Millborrows paper on wind costs » 157.1 KiB – 1,786 hits – 28 March 2009

It is claimed that inherently renewables are on a decreasing cost curve, while non-renewables are on an increasing cost curve.

AN EU ENERGY SECURITY AND SOLIDARITY ACTION PLAN –gives a detailed cost breakdown of many technologies.

for Power Generation, Heating and Transport

A paper by Professor David Elliot give various cost comparisoin summaries. For space reasons the paper is in two sections, the cost data is tin the second link ( Relative costs of renewable energy and other power generation)   and ( relative costs of power generation and other generation 2) in the Claverton Library, section Energy Data and Statistics

In general it can be seen that there is not a lot to choose between the cost of wind energy, and coal, gas or nuclear.s

PV and CSP are considerably more expensive however.

See also:

DECC / BERR equivalent at

15 comments on “Relative / comparative costs of wind energy, nuclear energy, hydro power, coal power, natural gas, geothermal energy, and biomass

  1. I wonder about the data supporting those figures. Since we can produce electricity for about $.06 kW with $50 per ton biomass fuel, it seems that others ought to be able to do the same or better.

    Of course this figure includes capital, operating expenses, maintenance, labor, etc, etc.

    Neal Van Milligen

  2. Nanosolar is now building 16.4% efficient PV’s at a cost of $0.97/watt for panels that will last >25 years. Given that most places in the US have 40%+ sunny days, mulitply by five (to include nighttime), do the math, and you get $.023/kwh. Two cents, not forty(!)

  3. Sergei – remember that panel cost is only one part of the total cost. You’ve also got the inverter, cabling, installation and maintenance. The PV might be 15-25% of total system cost. Nevertheless, if Nanosolar are selling at below us$2 per watt peak, that is interesting.

    That 16.4% is champion cell efficiency; panel efficiency is more like 11%.

    Not sure what your “40% sunny days multiplied by 5” means: please can you translate that into either full-load-hours per year, or capacity factor?

    25 year life for printed CIGS? Hmm, maybe. Sounds optimistic, but we’ll see.

    Nanosolar have been good at talking the talk, while their competitors, most notably First Solar, have been out shipping hundreds of megawatts. I hope Nanosolar, Solyndra, and the other new thin-film kids on the block, do get up to mass production soon: more competition has to be good.

  4. Dear Fellows and Friends

    There is the true cost in loss of Carbon Credits by Gas and Oil
    Finite Fossil Fuel use. The Cost also of relocating Island People
    who have their ship coming in to their front door.

    I am so tired of information like this which is bias and not including
    the Global Climate Change science. Get real.

  5. With such different views,on Globe Warming, solar,wind,nuclear,carbon credits,transmition lines
    Sierra Club,right or lelf, we should go down south to the desart in Mexico. Build nuclear power, that has no down sides. No CO2 and 60 years out of the box. Sell power to the southern states.
    No Global Warming, no getting sued by the Seirra Club, no CARB or whatever requlations Do desaltation do and third party inspections.
    For What half the dollar.

  6. A comparable integrated cost of energy production would have long ago brought renewbales into direct competition with fossil fuels.
    Renewables would, then, not require the massive subsidies that have been in place for more than 40 years.
    Someone always touts a NEW CHEAP renewable, but no one has actually implemented one in spite of the application of BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars. The solution is always just around the corner; a perpetual five year plan.

  7. William, you are clearly deluded. The simple fact is that conventional power gets enormous subsidies, and on a true comparative cost basis wind power, on shore is certainly cheaper than nuclear or gas.

  8. last time i checked the cost of producing 1million btu from various resources.

    coal:one tone of powder mountain coal $9 witch is about 18 million btu or $.50 per 1million btu.

    natural gas: on the wholesale market sell for $3.5 per decatherm witch is 1 million btu

    oil: oil would take about 8 us gallons per 1million btu

    electricity: to produce 1million btu from electricity that uses cheap fossils fule you need about 289 kwh per 1million btu witch comes to about $33.5
    * kwh is 1000 watts used for 1h hour
    *btu is British thermal unit

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