The potential of renewables versus natural gas with CO2 capture and storage for power generation under CO2 constraints

Machteld Van Den Broek*, Niels Berghout, Edward S. Rubin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The costs of intermittent renewable energy systems (IRES) and power storage technologies are compared on a level playing field to those of natural gas combined cycle power plants with CO2 capture and storage (NGCC-CCS). To account for technological progress over time, an "experience curve" approach is used to project future levelised costs of electricity (LCOE) based on technology progress ratios and deployment rates in worldwide energy scenarios, together with European energy and technology cost estimates. Under base case assumptions, the LCOE in 2040 for baseload NGCC-CCS plants is estimated to be 71 €2012/MWh. In contrast, the LCOE for electricity generated intermittently from IRES is estimated at 68, 82, and 104 €2012/MWh for concentrated solar power, offshore wind, and photovoltaic systems, respectively. Considering uncertainties in costs, deployment rates and geographical conditions, LCOE ranges for IRES are wider than for NGCC-CCS. We also assess energy storage technologies versus NGCC-CCS as backup options for IRES. Here, for base case assumptions NGCC-CCS with an LCOE of 90 €2012/MWh in 2040 is more costly than pumped hydro storage (PHS) or compressed air and energy storage (CAES) with LCOEs of 57 and 88 €2012/MWh, respectively. Projected costs for battery backup are 78, 149, and 321 €2012/MWh for Zn-Br, ZEBRA, and Li-ion battery systems, respectively. Finally, we compare four stylised low-carbon systems on a common basis (including all ancillary costs for IRES). In the 2040 base case, the system employing only NGCC-CCS has the lowest LCOE and lowest cost of CO2 avoided with CO2 emissions of 45 kg/MWh. A zero CO2 emission system with IRES plus PHS as backup is 42% more expensive in terms of LCOE, and 13% more costly than a system with IRES plus NGCC-CCS backup with emissions of 23 kg CO2/MWh. Sensitivity results and study limitations are fully discussed within the paper.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1296-1322
Number of pages27
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 28-May-2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Abbreviations CAES compressed air energy storage
  • CC combined cycle
  • CCS CO capture and storage
  • CF capacity factor
  • CHP combined heat and power production
  • CSP concentrated solar power
  • EPC Engineering, Procurement, and Construction
  • ETP Energy Technology Perspectives (biannual study published by IEA)
  • ETS greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme
  • EU European Union
  • EWEA European wind energy association
  • FGD flue gas desulphurisation
  • GHG greenhouse gas
  • HHV higher heating value
  • IDC interest during construction
  • IEA International Energy Agency
  • IGCC integrated gasification combined cycle power plant on coal (and biomass)
  • IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • IRES intermittent renewable electricity generation technologies
  • LCOE levelised cost of electricity
  • LHV lower heating value
  • NGCC natural gas combined cycle power plant
  • NPV net present value
  • O&M operating and maintenance
  • PC ultra supercritical pulverised coal (and biomass) fired power plant
  • PHS pumped hydro storage
  • ppm(v) parts per million - by volume
  • PR progress ratio
  • PV photovoltaic systems
  • TCR total capital requirement
  • UCED unit commitment and economic dispatch
  • WEO World Energy Outlook (yearly study published by IEA)

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