A leaked report that was prepared for the European Commission shows that wind is far and away the cheapest energy source in Europe, completely demolishing presumably dirt-cheap coal and natural gas. Politicians who oppose incentives for solar and wind energy routinely highlight the added expenses associated with clean energy in comparison to its fossil-fueled counterparts, but apparently these claims are untrue.
A truly honest comparison of the costs shows that that renewable energy sources are often far cheaper than their carbon-emitting competition. The report demonstrates that when you take into account the cost of mining, pollution, and the adverse health impacts that coal and natural gas cause, wind power is hands-down the cheapest source of energy.
According to the report, “For every megawatt hour (MW/h) of electricity generated, onshore wind costs roughly €105 ($130) per MW/h, compared to gas and coal which can cost up to around €164 ($208) and €233 ($295) per MW/h, respectively.” The report added that “Nuclear power, offshore wind and solar energy are all comparably inexpensive generators, at roughly €125 ($158) per MW/h.”
The problem is that the added costs associated with health and the environment, which are known as “externalities” by economists, aren’t paid for by energy companies, they’re paid for by you, the taxpayer, which makes them difficult to address.
Energy companies are used to dumping excess costs on others by using the atmosphere like a sewer to dump pollution in to. The energy company doesn’t pay for the negative health effects that are caused by this, you or your insurance company do. In 2011, Harvard’s Paul Epstein published a study that found that coal inflicted between $345-500 billion worth of damage on the United States economy annually.
“This is not borne by the coal industry, this is borne by us, in our taxes,” Epstein told Reuters at the time. “The public cost is far greater than the cost of the coal itself. The impacts of this industry go way beyond just lighting our lights.”
Read more about the story at The Guardian.