Competitiveness Metrics for Electricity System Technologies

Trieu Mai, Matthew Mowers, Kelly Eurek

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The relative economic competitiveness of power generation technologies is a topic of much interest to diverse electric industry participants. However, assessing competitiveness can be challenging as it requires considering both total costs and total system value of each technology, which are complicated by the (1) numerous and diverse grid services needed to operate a reliable power system; (2) variations in the economic value of the grid services with system state and location, and over multiple timescales, due to the challenges of transporting and storing electricity; and (3) the unique characteristics of different electric system assets. Ideally, metrics designed or used to convey technology competitiveness must consider these complexities, but existing metrics often fall short. For example, the levelized cost of energy does not consider the system economic value of the various technologies nor does it consider services beyond electricity production. Various other metrics have been designed with the purpose of more-accurately communicating the economic viability of electric system technologies. In this report, we summarize the primary sources and components of costs and value and review the known competitiveness metrics by presenting their definitions, applications, advantages, and disadvantages. We also introduce a new set of competitiveness metrics, which we refer to as System Profitability metrics, that more-directly applies the economic principles of return-on-investment to electric system technologies. We use conceptual examples to show how the System Profitability metrics better reflect economic viability and relative technology competitiveness compared with existing metrics. We also describe how competitiveness metrics can be quantified using optimization-based models and demonstrate this capability using a U.S. electric sector capacity expansion model.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages68
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-72549


  • energy econmics
  • integration cost
  • levelized cost of energy
  • system value
  • WMA


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