From power plant to wall socket: calculating the cost

To identify and quantify the full-system cost of electric power generation and delivery—from the power plant to the wall socket, ‘The Full Cost of Electricity’ is an interdisciplinary initiative of the Energy Institute of the University of Texas. Its purpose is to inform public policy discourse with comprehensive, rigorous, and impartial analysis.


The generation of electric power and the infrastructure that delivers it is in the midst of dramatic and rapid change. Since 2000, declining renewable energy costs, stringent emissions standards, competitive electricity markets, and a host of technological innovations—coupled with low-priced natural gas post-2008, have combined to change the landscape of an industry that has remained static for decades. Heightened awareness of newfound options available to consumers has injected yet another element into the policy debate surrounding these transformative changes, moving it beyond utility boardrooms and legislative hearing rooms to everyday living rooms.

The Full Cost of Electricity (FCe-) study employs a holistic approach to thoroughly examine the key factors affecting the total direct and indirect costs of generating and delivering electricity. As an interdisciplinary project, the FCe- synthesizes the expert analysis and different perspectives of faculty across the University of Texas at Austin campus, from engineering, economics, law, and policy.

In addition to producing authoritative white papers that provide comprehensive assessment and analysis of various electric power system options, the study team developed online calculators that allow policymakers and other stakeholders, including the public, to estimate the cost implications of potential policy actions. A framework of the research initiative, and a list of research participants and project sponsors are also available on the Energy Institute website.

To introduce the FCe- study and associated white papers to our EnergyWise audience, IEEE Spectrum will be posting blogs from the team from now through April as each white paper is released and hosting all of this material on a special FCe- project page currently in the works. Interactive calculators and other tools developed as part of the study will be linked so that readers can do their own calculations and add to the discussion. We hope the debate is lively over the coming months.

More information: IEEE Spectrum

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