Present Energy Sources

Generating Power

The cost of generating electricity is not the only factor in the selection of a source of energy, but it is certainly a major one. The impact on rising fuel and electricity prices in the last few years is easily visible in Canada, particularly in the winter time when heating costs are even more significant. The cost has prompted many individuals to seek more cost efficient solutions and has caused others to conserve.

With the rise in world temperatures, concern has increased regarding global warming from greenhouse gas emissions. This has prompted the investigation into more renewable and cleaner energy forms. Many of these cleaner renewable are much more expensive, although relative costs are decreasing with increased technology. To ensure security of electricity supply at affordable prices, Canada will depend on a mix of electricity sources including hydro, nuclear and fossil fuels. In 2013, renewable energy represented only a fraction of Canada’s electricity supply.

Electricity Generation Cost Comparison

There have been several studies of electricity generation costs. Usually, the cost is stated per kilowatt hour (kWh) or per megawatt hour (MWh). Most now consider capital costs, fuel costs as well as maintenance and operation costs. The nuclear industry is the only one which includes costs of dealing with their waste products as part of the total cost.

Relative costs of generation technologies - 2003 (Canadian cents per kilowatt hour)
Relative costs of generation technologies – 2003 (Canadian cents per kilowatt hour).

The studies are all generally in agreement that the long term costs of nuclear energy are competitive with (or better than) other conventional energy generation (coal, gas, hydro), although there is some variance. They also agree that solar is at present by far the most expensive. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that there will be a significant reduction in the cost for solar energy over the long term but that it is not competitive at present except in specialty situations.

Sources:

Reynolds, Albert B. (1996) Bluebells and Nuclear Energy. Cogito Books, Madison, Wisconsin, p. 7-16.
Canadian Energy Research Institute. (2008) World Energy: The Past and Possible Futures. Canadian Energy Research Institute, Calgary, Alberta, www.cna.ca/english/pdf/Studies/CERI/CNA_CERI07_EN.pdf.
International Energy Agency/Nuclear Energy Agency, Projected Costs of Generating Electricitywww.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2005/ElecCost.pdf.
International Energy Agency, Energy Technology Perspectives 2006, p. 232.