With or without subsidies, wind and solar are still cost-competitive, report says

Even in the absence of government subsidies, certain renewable energy technologies remain cost-competitive with conventional generation technologies like gas peaking, nuclear, coal, and gas combined-cycle, according to a new report.

The report from global asset management firm Lazard compares the levelized cost of energy (LCEO) of certain renewable energy technologies with conventional generation technologies by $/MWh.

When subsidized, utility-scale solar averages $27/MWh and utility-scale wind averages $25/MWh, while coal averages $42/MWh, nuclear averages $29/MWh, and combined-cycle gas generation averages $24/MWh.

“The costs of renewable energy technologies continue to decline globally, albeit at a slowing pace, reflecting reductions in capital costs, increased competition as the sector continues to mature and continued improvements in scale and technology,” the Lazard report notes. “When U.S. government subsidies are included, the cost of onshore wind and utility-scale solar continues to be competitive with the marginal cost of coal, nuclear and combined cycle gas generation.”

More than half of the global utility solar projects planned for 2022, meanwhile, could be delayed or canceled due to a worsening supply chain, according to a new analysis.

Rystad Energy estimates that 56% of projects — or 90 gigawatts of solar capacity — are threatened by commodity price inflation and supply chain bottlenecks. Costs for solar PV modules “have surged from below $0.20 per watt peak (Wp) in 2020 to between $0.26 and $0.28 per Wp in the second half of 2021 – a near 50% increase in a year,” the report notes.

A 300% increase in the cost of polysilicon is driving the module cost surge, while the costs of raw materials have also rapidly increased since the beginning of last year.

“The utility solar industry is facing one of its toughest challenges just days ahead of COP26,” Rystad Energy senior renewables analyst David Dixon said. “The current bottlenecks are not expected to be relieved within the next 12 months, meaning developers and offtakers will have to decide whether to reduce their margins, delay projects or increase offtake prices to get projects to financial close.”

Rystad Energy analysis found that the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for new projects has increased 10-15% when comparing last year’s module and shipping costs with current project costs.

U.S. solar panel imports, meanwhile, declined 27% in the third quarter of 2021, the largest quarterly decline since 2018, amid supply chain pressures and the proposed expansion of tariffs.