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Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017 - Summary

  • Text
  • Renewable
  • Solar
  • Electricity
  • Onshore
  • Projects
  • Lcoe
  • Offshore
  • Irena
  • Technologies
  • Commissioned
After years of steady cost decline for solar and wind technologies, renewable power is becoming an increasingly competitive way to meet new generation needs. Erscheinungsjahr: 2018 Herausgeber: IRENA


RENEWABLE POWER GENERATION COSTS Three main cost reduction drivers have emerged for renewable power: 1) technology improvements; 2) competitive procurement; and 3) a large base of experienced, internationally active project developers. Historically, technology improvements have been vital to the performance increases and installed cost reductions which have (in addition to industrialisation of the sector and economies of scale) made solar and wind power technologies competitive. Competitive procurement — amid globalisation of the renewable power market — has emerged more recently as another key driver. Along with this comes the emergence of a large base of experienced medium-to-large project developers, actively seeking new markets around the world. The confluence of these factors is increasingly driving cost reductions for renewables, with effects that will only grow in magnitude in 2018 and beyond. Continuous technology innovation remains a constant in the renewable power generation market. Indeed, in today’s low equipment cost era, technology innovations that unlock efficiencies in manufacturing, as well as power generation equipment — in terms of performance improvements or installed cost reductions — will take on increasing importance. Bigger wind turbines with larger swept areas harvest more electricity from the same resource. New solar PV cell architectures offer greater efficiency. Real-time data and ‘big data’ have enhanced predictive maintenance and reduced operation and maintenance (O&M) costs. These are just a few examples of the continuous innovation driving reductions in installed costs, unlocking performance improvements and reducing O&M costs. Technology improvements, therefore, remain a key part of the cost reduction potential for renewable power. At the same time, the maturity and proven track record of renewable power technologies now reduces project risk, significantly lowering the cost of capital. 3 These trends are part of a larger dynamic across the power generation sector, prompting a rapid transition in the way the industry functions. In many parts of the world, renewable power technologies now offer the lowest cost source of new power generation. In the past, typically, there was a framework offering direct financial support, often tailored to individual technologies (e.g., solar PV) and even segments (e.g., varying support for residential, commercial and utility-scale sectors, sometimes differentiated by other factors such as whether they are building-integrated or not). Now, this is being replaced by a favourable regulatory and institutional framework that sets the stage for competitive procurement of renewable power generation to meet a country’s energy, environmental and development policy goals. Around the world, medium-to-large renewable project developers are adapting to this new reality and increasingly looking for global opportunities to expand their business. They are bringing, not only their hard won experience, but access to international capital markets. In competition with their peers, they are finding ways to continuously reduce costs. The results of recent renewable power auctions – for projects to be commissioned in the coming years – confirm that cost reductions are set to continue to 2020 and beyond. In addition to the IRENA Renewable Cost Database, which contains project level cost data for around 15 000 utility-scale projects, IRENA has compiled a database of auction results and other competitive procurement processes for around 7 000 projects. Although care must be taken in comparing the results of these two databases, as an auction price is not necessarily directly comparable to an LCOE calculation, 4 analysis of the results of the two databases provides some important insights into the likely distribution of renewable electricity costs over the next few years. 3. The generally low cost of debt since 2010 has combined to enhance this effect as not only have risk margins fallen, but the base cost of debt as well. 4. At a minimum, the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is not going to be the same. For an LCOE calculation, the WACC is a fixed and known value, whereas the WACC of a project in an auction is unknown and subsumed in the range of other factors that determined the price bid by an individual project developer. 6

2017 Record low auction prices for solar PV in 2016 and 2017 in Dubai, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia have shown that an LCOE of USD 0.03/ kWh is possible from 2018 and beyond, given the right conditions. These include: a regulatory and institutional framework favourable to renewables; low offtake and country risks; a strong, local civil engineering base; favourable taxation regimes; low project development costs; and excellent solar resources. Similarly, very low auction results for onshore wind in countries such as Brazil, Canada, Germany, India Mexico and Morocco have shown that onshore wind is one of the most competitive sources of new generation capacity. For CSP and offshore wind, 2016 and 2017 have been breakthrough years, as auction results around the world have confirmed that a step change in costs has been achieved and will be delivered in projects commissioned in 2020 and beyond. Indeed, auction results in 2016 and 2017 suggest that projects commissioned from 2020 onwards for both technologies could fall in the range USD 0.06 and USD 0.10/kWh. Competitive procurement, particularly auctions, is spurring further cost reductions for power from solar and wind power technologies. Still, achieving low costs depends on supporting factors, such as access to low-cost finance, a conducive policy environment and good auction design. The key policy drivers (outlined in IRENA, 2017, Renewable Energy Auctions: Analysing 2016) are confirmed by the latest auction results. Electricity from renewables will soon be consistently cheaper than from fossil fuels. By 2020, all the power generation technologies that are now in commercial use will fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range, with most at the lower end or even undercutting fossil fuels. Even by 2020, projects contracted via competitive procurement will represent a relatively small subset of annual new renewable power generation capacity additions – and trends in auction results may not remain representative of LCOE trends at a project level. Nevertheless, recent auction results show that cost reductions will continue for CSP, solar PV, onshore and offshore wind through 2020 and beyond. While the validity of comparing LCOE and auction prices for individual projects must be done with caution, the volume of data available and the consistent trends between the two datasets provide some confidence in the overall trend. 7

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