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Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The cost of building and operating renewable electricity plants has dropped below the expense of keeping coal-fired plants running under some circumstances, according to a new analysis.

Why it matters: The financial advisory firm Lazard's report is another data point showing that wind and solar are increasingly competitive with traditional power sources without tax subsidies, which widen the edge but expire in coming years.

  • As the Financial Times' Ed Crooks points out, "The calculations suggest that closures of coal-fired plants are likely to continue, eroding US demand for coal and jeopardising [President] Trump’s ambition to 'put our coal miners back to work.'"

Where it stands: The latest data on falling renewables costs released yesterday solidifies what started becoming apparent in last year's data from the firm.

  • In their latest report, they find the average so-called levelized cost of energy of utility-scale solar voltaic projects fell another 13% and the costs for onshore wind dropped another 7%.
  • The low end of the unsubsidized costs for onshore wind are now $29 per megawatt hour, while "the levelized cost of utility-scale solar is nearly identical to the illustrative marginal cost of coal, at $36/MWh," a summary notes.

Details: The levelized cost is basically an all-in comparison of the costs of building, running, supplying and maintaining different types of facilities over time.

But, but, but: Lazard cautions that the analysis does not include certain costs, such as transmission and grid integration for new projects. Nonetheless, Lazard's George Bilicic, who leads the firm's power, energy and infrastructure group, said in a statement:

"Although diversified energy resources are still required for a modern grid, we have reached an inflection point where, in some cases, it is more cost effective to build and operate new alternative energy projects than to maintain existing conventional generation plants.”

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
39 mins ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.