Official estimates of capital costs for electricity sources

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I’ve been tracking the actual costs of various electricity projects as I come across them in my reading. Came across a superb source for future reference.

The Energy Information Administration calculates the costs to build a wide variety of generating plants. The 2014 data is here: Table 8.2 Cost and performance characteristics of new central station electricity generating technologies

I’m probably in over my head with this table, but here is what I’ve learned. The total overnight cost is the estimated amount if the project were to be built instantly. I think that represents what most people would consider to be the cost of construction.

Looks like that cost is expressed in unit of output in the Fixed O&M cost. The unit is dollars per kilowatt per year.

There are operational costs for each energy source; those are listed in the Variable O&M. The unit is dollars per megawatt-hour.

I have no clue how to combine fixed and variable O&M to get an estimate of the common-sized cost per unit of output.

Here are the 2014 overnight costs and 2013 O&M amounts for a few sources:


capital Var o&m fix o&m
$/kW $/mWh $/kw/yr
        2,917 4.47 31.16 scrubbed coal
           968 15.44 7.34 Conv Comb Turbine
            671 10.37 7.04 Adv Comb Turbine
        5,366 2.14 93.23 advanced nuclear
        3,659 5.26 105.58 biomass
        1,980 0 39.53 wind onshore
        6,154 0 73.96 wind offshore
       4,052 0 67.23 solar thermal
        3,279 0 24.68 photovoltaic


You can easily adjust that overnight capital cost from kW into mW by considering the amounts as thousands of dollars per mW. Substitute a decimal for the comma and you have the cost in millions per mW.

Rounding we have the following in $M/mW:

  • 0.7 – advanced combined gas turbine
  • 0.9 – conventional combined turbine
  • 2.0 – onshore wind
  • 2.9 – scrubbed coal
  • 3.3 – photovoltaic
  • 4.1 – solar thermal
  • 6.2 – offshore wind

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