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Yes, renewable energy plants are cheaper to operate than non-renewables

In North Carolina, solar is the top-renewable investment for power companies like Duke Energy.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the month of March, the United States generated 18% of its electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar, according to a new study from Ember, a global energy think tank.

Some people want to know if renewable energy saves money as well as the environment.

THE QUESTION

Is renewable energy cheaper to generate than non-renewable energy?

OUR SOURCES

THE ANSWER

   

This is true.

Yes, renewable energy is cheaper to generate than non-renewable energy.

WHAT WE FOUND

First, it's important to define what renewable energy is. According to DOE, they include:

  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Geothermal
  • Hydro-electric

Non-renewable energy sources include natural gas, nuclear, and coal.

Of the two kinds, a 2021 report from the International Renewable Energy Agency found renewables were cheaper.

In fact, the report said emerging economies could save up to $156 billion over the lifespan of renewable projects.

According to data from the North Carolina Utilities Commission, there are significant changes in energy production capacity over time.

In the chart below, the colored portions reflect those changes, by type of plant. Of note is the substantial increase in installed natural gas and solar, while the amount of coal generation has decreased substantially.

Credit: North Carolina Utilities Commission

The utilities commission also said renewables are cost-effective.

"In that there is no fuel that has to be purchased and burned with renewable sources," McLawhorn said.

That's despite renewable energy plants being unable to constantly generate peak power.

"There could be some other cost of that, it could come from having to re-dispatch other power plants to accommodate the renewables," McLawhorn said. "But certainly for solar and wind, there is no fuel to purchase, no coal, no natural gas or oil."

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