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Comparing the Costs of Intermittent and Dispatchable Electricity Generating Technologies


  • Paul L. Joskow


Economic evaluations of alternative electric generating technologies typically rely on comparisons between their expected "levelized cost" per MWh supplied. I demonstrate that this metric is inappropriate for comparing intermittent generating technologies like wind and solar with dispatchable generating technologies like nuclear, gas combined cycle, and coal. It overvalues intermittent generating technologies compared to dispatchable base load generating technologies. It also likely overvalues wind generating technologies compared to solar generating technologies. Integrating differences in production profiles, the associated variations in wholesale market prices of electricity, and life-cycle costs associated with different generating technologies is necessary to provide meaningful comparisons between them.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul L. Joskow, 2011. "Comparing the Costs of Intermittent and Dispatchable Electricity Generating Technologies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 238-241, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:3:p:238-41

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timothy D. Mount, Surin Maneevitjit, Alberto J. Lamadrid, Ray D. Zimmerman, and Robert J. Thomas, 2012. "The Hidden System Costs of Wind Generation in a Deregulated Electricity Market," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
    2. Boccard, Nicolas, 2009. "Capacity factor of wind power realized values vs. estimates," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 2679-2688, July.
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