Using the EIA's LCOE figures, coal-fired power plants with CCS have an average cost of $65 to $139 per megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity produced, according to the EIA. That compares with natural gas-fired plants with a cost of $58.1 per MWh of electricity; nuclear power with a cost of $102.8; onshore wind with a cost of $64.5; solar with a cost of $84.7 and hydroelectric with a cost of $67.8.
Tyler Ogden, a solar analyst with Lux Research, projects 12 gigawatts (12 billion watts) of solar generating capacity in the U.S. by 2020.
Last year, the levelized cost (or cost per megawatt of utility-scale solar power) utilities was $60 to $70 per compared to $65-150 for coal (not including transportation and storage), Ogden said.
And, in the last few years, renewables -- especially wind and solar -- have gained substantial momentum with rising installations and rapidly falling costs, competing with fossil fuels directly, according to Prabhu.
Solar power system prices continue to decline and module prices have fallen by almost 30% this year alone.
"Contrary to election rhetoric, it's not regulation or renewable subsidies that are killing coal; it's actually natural gas, which is cheap and abundant. Electric utilities purchase generation sources based on economics not politics and it is difficult to see how utilities would suddenly start buying coal," Prabhu said.
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