Apples with apples: accounting for fuel price risk in comparisons of gas-fired and renewable generation

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For better or worse, natural gas has become the fuel of choice for new power plants being built across the United States. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas combined-cycle and combustion turbine power plants accounted for 96% of the total generating capacity added in the US between 1999 and 2002--138 GW out of a total of 144 GW. Looking ahead, the EIA expects that gas-fired technology will account for 61% of the 355 GW new generating capacity projected to come on-line in the US up to 2025, increasing the nationwide market share of gas-fired generation from ... continued below

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6 pages; OS: Windows XP

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Bolinger, Mark & Wiser, Ryan December 18, 2003.

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For better or worse, natural gas has become the fuel of choice for new power plants being built across the United States. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas combined-cycle and combustion turbine power plants accounted for 96% of the total generating capacity added in the US between 1999 and 2002--138 GW out of a total of 144 GW. Looking ahead, the EIA expects that gas-fired technology will account for 61% of the 355 GW new generating capacity projected to come on-line in the US up to 2025, increasing the nationwide market share of gas-fired generation from 18% in 2002 to 22% in 2025. While the data are specific to the US, natural gas-fired generation is making similar advances in other countries as well. Regardless of the explanation for (or interpretation of) the empirical findings, however, the basic implications remain the same: one should not blindly rely on gas price forecasts when comparing fixed-price renewable with variable-price gas-fired generation contracts. If there is a cost to hedging, gas price forecasts do not capture and account for it. Alternatively, if the forecasts are at risk of being biased or out of tune with the market, then one certainly would not want to use them as the basis for resource comparisons or investment decisions if a more certain source of data (forwards) existed. Accordingly, assuming that long-term price stability is valued, the most appropriate way to compare the levelized cost of these resources in both cases would be to use forward natural gas price data--i.e. prices that can be locked in to create price certainty--as opposed to uncertain natural gas price forecasts. This article suggests that had utilities and analysts in the US done so over the sample period from November 2000 to November 2003, they would have found gas-fired generation to be at least 0.3-0.6 cents/kWh more expensive (on a levelized cost basis) than otherwise thought. With some renewable resources, in particular wind power, now largely competitive with gas-fired generation in the US (including the impact of the federal production tax credit and current high gas prices), a margin of 0.3-0.6 cents/kWh may in some cases be enough to sway resource decisions in favor of renewables.

Physical Description

6 pages; OS: Windows XP

Notes

OSTI as DE00837245

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  • Journal Name: Renewable Energy World; Journal Volume: 7; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Submitted to Renewable Energy World: Volume 7, No.2; Journal Publication Date: Mar./Apr. 2004

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  • Report No.: LBNL--55138
  • Grant Number: AC03-76SF00098
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 837245
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc779517

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  • December 18, 2003

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  • Dec. 3, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

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  • Sept. 1, 2016, 6:45 p.m.

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Bolinger, Mark & Wiser, Ryan. Apples with apples: accounting for fuel price risk in comparisons of gas-fired and renewable generation, article, December 18, 2003; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc779517/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.