Key takeaways


s energy costs rise and efficiency becomes key, the jump from fossil fuels to renewable energy isn't merely about sustainability—it's a matter of economics. As per Lazard's most recent Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) report, even the cheapest source of fossil fuel generation now costs twice as much as utility-scale solar. This crucial shift is a landmark event for the renewable energy industry.

In this piece, we will dissect why solar power has claimed the crown as the most budget-friendly option, how it fares against fossil fuels, and the future of our energy landscape.

Understanding the Basics of LCOE

Before we get into the specifics, let's clear up what LCOE is all about. It is a method used to figure out the cost of producing electricity from various sources, like solar power, over the entire lifespan of the project. It’s a handy tool for comparing the costs of different energy sources by putting them on the same playing field. To calculate the LCOE, you sum up all the costs associated with building and operating the power plant, then divide that total by the amount of electricity the plant is expected to generate over its lifetime.

Imagine you're setting up a solar power plant. To figure out the LCOE, you first tally up all the expenses involved. This includes the costs of solar panels, installation, maintenance, and any other operational payments. Let's say the total price to set up and maintain the solar plant over 25 years is $2 million.

Next, estimate how much electricity the plant will generate over its lifetime. If you expect it to produce 5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) over 25 years, you divide the total cost by the total electricity generated. In this case, $2 million divided by 5 million kWh gives you an LCOE of $0.40 per kWh.

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Solar Power's Rise to Cost-Efficiency Champion

One of the most impressive highlights in Lazard's report is the dramatic reduction in the cost of utility-scale solar power. The LCOE for utility-scale solar has fallen to between $29 and $92 per MWh, which is an impressive 83% drop from 2009, when it was over $350 per MWh. This sharp decline is fueled by tech advancements, economies of scale, and boosted manufacturing efficiency. Solar power has become so cost-effective that it now beats even the cheapest fossil fuels.

Levelized Cost of Energy Comparison - Version 17.0

Source: Lazard

Fossil Fuels Are Losing the Cost Battle

Solar power has gotten a lot cheaper, but fossil fuel energy still comes with a high price tag. Coal, which used to be one of the most affordable fossil fuels, now has an LCOE between $69 and $169 per MWh. That makes coal nearly twice as expensive as utility-scale solar on average.

Natural gas peaker plants, used to handle peak electricity loads, are even more expensive, with LCOE figures from $110 to $228 per MWh. Nuclear energy isn't any cheaper either, averaging around $182 per MWh. This really shows how much more expensive traditional energy sources are compared to renewables.

Factors Influencing Cost Efficiency

Ever wondered what's the secret recipe behind low cost solar panels? Or why more and more investors are finding this renewable source of energy an economic choice? Let's dive into some of the main reasons:

The Tech Revolution

With rapid improvements in technology, solar systems are now impressively potent. High output PV panels are now more efficient than ever, converting more sunlight into electricity. Innovations in material science and engineering have led to the development of the most efficient solar panels in the world, further driving down costs.

Economies of Scale

The large-scale production of solar panels has ushered in some serious cost-cutting. Manufacturers now effortlessly produce cheap solar modules in large quantities, making solar energy a reality for many.

Lower Upkeep Costs

Comparatively, solar power plants are cheaper to maintain compared to fossil fuel plants. Once installed, solar panels need little upkeep, and the best part? Zero fuel costs!

Government Support

Public policies and incentives have also been central to encouraging the solar shift. With tax breaks, subsidies, and grants, switching to solar has become a financially smart move for both businesses and homeowners.

The Role of Energy Storage in Solar Adoption

Think of energy storage systems as the trusty sidekicks to solar and wind energy - they deal with the intermittent nature of these energy sources and keep the show running. According to Lazard's data on Levelized Cost of Storage (LCOS), the costs of storage solutions have been getting friendlier, which means they're a sturdy support for renewable energy generation. The blend of solar and storage provides a dependable and cost-efficient solution for energy needs, especially during high-demand periods or low sunlight.

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Economic Policies Boosting Solar Power

Economic policies and incentives have been pivotal in promoting renewable energy adoption. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is one such example, providing ample backing for renewable energy projects with its tax credits and subsidies. Thanks to such enticements, solar power has become a hot favorite amongst investors and developers, making renewable energy a more affordable option and boosting its adoption at a larger scale.

The Necessity of a Diverse Energy Mix

Yes, solar power is cost-competitive, but Lazard experts underline that a vast range of energy sources remains the backbone of a steady electricity supply. Also, they note that to really compete, green energy needs “firming resources” like storage and dispatchable generation technologies. This mixed strategy is crucial for meeting our everyday power needs and for dealing with the timing mismatch between when we need electricity the most and when renewable energy is produced.

Historical Trends in LCOE

In Lazard's report, we get a look back at how the costs of renewable energy have fallen. For onshore wind and utility-scale solar, there have been big drops in price over the last decade. Even though the bottom end of the LCOE for these technologies has experienced a slight rise with current solar market trends, the average cost has remained stable, and the overall price range has narrowed. This shows how versatile and economical renewable energy tech can be amidst market turbulence.

Levelized Cost of Energy Comparison - Historical LCOE Comparison

Source: Lazard

The Future of Solar Power

Lazard's research indicates that solar is becoming not only more affordable but is on the verge of dominating the world energy scenario. This trend is confirmed by various studies, including the International Energy Agency's (IEA) Renewables 2023 report, which states that solar PV and onshore wind are now cheaper than both current and new fossil fuel plants. By 2028, these two power players are predicted to fuel a whopping 95% of the world's renewable expansion, all thanks to their lower generation costs.

What’s more, World Energy Outlook 2023 by IEA reveals that renewable energy, especially solar PV, is on track to lead new power capacity additions. The report emphasizes that by 2030, solar alone could contribute to more than half of the new power capacity because of its affordability.


When it comes to energy generation, solar power is the winning ticket. Lazard's latest Levelized Cost of Energy report says it all: solar isn't just sustainable, it's also the most economical route. With the cheapest fossil fuel now costing twice as much as PV, it's pretty obvious that solar is a financial no-brainer. Those investing in solar power stand to win with lower energy bills, a smaller carbon footprint, and improved energy security.

The clean energy revolution is picking up speed, with solar power in the driver's seat. So why wait? Discover the incredible benefits of solar power and jump on the cost-saving, planet-loving bandwagon!


Key takeaways

Solar Now Costs Half as Much as Fossil Fuels

Lazard’s latest report shows utility-scale solar costs half as much as fossil fuels. Solar’s Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) ranges from $29 to $92 per MWh, compared to coal at $69-$169 per MWh and natural gas at $110-$228 per MWh.

Factors Driving Solar’s Cost-Effectiveness:
  1. Technological Advances: Improved PV panel efficiency.
  2. Economies of Scale: Mass production reduces costs.
  3. Lower Maintenance: Minimal upkeep and no fuel costs.
  4. Government Incentives: Policies and subsidies make solar attractive.
Future Outlook

IEA predicts solar PV will dominate new power capacity additions by 2030 due to its affordability.

Jun 21, 2024
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