Lazard has conducted this study comparing the levelized cost of energy for various conventional and Alternative Energy generation technologies in order to understand which Alternative Energy generation technologies may be cost – competitive with conventional generation technologies, either now or in the future, and under various operating assumptions, as well as to understand which technologies are best suited for various applications based on locational requirements, dispatch characteristics and other factors. We find that Alternative Energy technologies are complementary to conventional generation
technologies, and believe that their use will be increasingly prevalent for a variety of reasons, including RPS requirements, carbon regulations, continually improving economics as underlying technologies improve and production volumes increase, and government subsidies in certain regions.
In this study, Lazard’s approach was to determine the levelized cost of energy, on a $/MWh basis, that would provide an after – tax IRR to equity holders equal to an assumed cost of equity capital. Certain assumptions (e.g., required debt and equity returns, capital structure, etc.) were identical for all technologies, in order to isolate the effects of key differentiated inputs such as investment costs, capacity factors, operating costs, fuel costs (where relevant) and other important metrics on the levelized cost of energy. These inputs were originally developed with a leading consulting and engineering firm to the Power & Energy Industry, augmented with Lazard’s commercial knowledge where relevant. This study (as well as previous versions) has benefited from additional input from a wide variety of industry participants.
Lazard has not manipulated capital costs or capital structure for various technologies, as the goal of the study was to compare the current state of various generation technologies, rather than the benefits of financial engineering. The results contained in this study would be altered by different assumptions regarding capital structure (e.g., increased use of leverage) or capital costs (e.g., a willingness to accept lower returns than those assumed herein).
Key sensitivities examined included fuel costs and tax subsidies. Other factors would also have a potentially significant effect on the results contained herein, but have not been examined in the scope of this current analysis. These additional factors, among others, could include: capacity value vs. energy value; stranded costs related to distributed generation or otherwise; network upgrade, transmission or congestion costs; integration costs; and costs of complying with various environmental
regulations (e.g., carbon emissions offsets, emissions control systems).
The analysis also does not address potential social and environmental externalities, including, for example, the social costs and rate consequences for those who cannot afford distribution generation solutions, as well as the long-term residual and societal consequences of various conventional
generation technologies that are difficult to measure (e.g., nuclear waste disposal, environmental impacts, etc.).