A group of researchers from UT Austin says they’ve created a way to measure the true cost of power in the hopes of guiding America’s energy future.
The study takes into account the fact that the price we pay on our electric bill does not always reflect electricity’s true cost. Some power is subsidized. Some electric sources create public health and environmental problems that aren’t included in the cost. Then there’s the expense of building and maintaining infrastructure to consider.
The team, from the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute released the findings in a study called “The Full Cost of Electricity.” One of the big takeaways is that wind power appears to be the cheapest electricity sources in most of the country, followed by power from natural gas, though, it varies by region.
“[What's] probably not too surprising [is] the center part of the country, where the wind resources are good, that is where wind appears to be the cheapest technology,” says Carey King, assistant director of the institute.
Other findings? Kings says the fossil fuel industry actually gets about as much in subsidies as the renewable energy industry, and that consumers usually pay between $600 to $900 dollars a year simply for the upkeep of the electric grid, not for electricity itself.
“It sort of makes you think,” he says, “Even if I didn’t consume another kilowatt hour of electricity, this is how much the grid is currently costing to operate.”
The researchers hope the methods used in the study, looking at the cost of electricity county-by-county, can guide national and local decisions about what types of power make the most sense economically.