The European Commission has just updated earlier estimates of the external, or social, costs of electricity generation -- the costs to society of coping with the impact of pollution, protection of supply routes, and so on. In its report, ExternE: Externalities of Energy, the EC concludes: "The cost of producing electricity from coal or oil would double and from gas would increase by 30% if the external costs such as damage to the environment and to health were taken into account." The extra costs are quoted on a country-by-country basis. For coal they range from $0.02 to £0.15/kWh, for gas from $0.01 to $0.04/kWh, for nuclear from $0.002 to 0.006/kWh and for wind from $0.0005 to $0.0025/kWh (figure).
If the mid-range of these external costs is added to the mid-range prices for power generation, the real price of coal soars to around 0.09/kWh and even gas looks unhealthy at around 0.05/kWh. In comparison with wind prices from the last round of the UK's Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (around $0.04/kWh), and the more pessimistic wind price from the United States Department of Energy ($0.06/kWh), the positive economic benefits of renewable energy become abundantly clear. Even using the DOE's wind price -- which is higher than wind power prices today in the US -- it still ends up cheaper than nuclear and coal. In comparison with NFFO prices, wind is cheapest of all, by a margin of nearly $0.01/kWh over gas.