I was reading the latest issue of High Country News last night and they had an article about the costs of energy with some numbers I thought I'd share with you, because I found it somewhat interesting.
Here are the wholesale prices per kilowatt-hour (kwh), not including subsidies:
Hydropower: 4 to 8 cents per kwh
New geothermal power: 4.5 to 7.5 cents per kwh
New wind power: 5 to 8 cents per kwh
New coal power: 6 to 8 cents per kwh
New natural gas: 6 to 10 cents per kwh
New solar power: 13 to 18 cents per kwh
As you may notice, the costs are all over the map for "cleaner" sources like wind and solar. I suspect that, as these types of energy sources become more available via the grid, the costs will come down. And you'll see natural gas and coal continue to rise (some argue we are seeing peak coal now as well).
So, how to plan going forward? For example, if you have a choice of which kind of energy you buy or if you are planning on replacing appliances such as furnaces or water heaters, you'll want to look into cheaper, greener supplies. Many municipalities have a "green energy" option where you can purchase green fuels for a higher cost now, but as the costs of those fuels become cheaper with volume we may see an adjustment there.
Some fuels I wouldn't count on having much later are oil and coal. Probably natural gas, too. Although there are still large natural gas deposits, I bet that the amount of energy involved to extract them will exceed the energy acquired from the extraction, particularly since cheap oil won't be around to help out.
As a side note, apparently the U.S. is running out of helium as well. The majority of helium is trapped within deposits of natural gas and as we capture natural gas, the helium is released. We are predicted to run out of helium in the next 8 years. Why is this a problem? Well, because we use it for science and technology, the biggest use is as a coolant.
Anyway, if you are looking into long term energy sources and your personal usage, these are a few things to keep in mind. I'm sure a lot of you out there are more expert in these things than I, so if you have comments or corrections, please add them to this post!