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Power plant O&M: how does the industry

stack up on cost?
Operations and maintenance costs vary widely between different forms of power
generation but form an important part of any power plant's business case. Power
Technology ranks average O&M costs in the energy sector to find out which
generating facilities are the cheapest to run and maintain.

Gas turbine ($20 per kW)

Gas-fired power generation is known for having relatively low O&M costs when
compared to other generation methods, and the IEA's stats bear this out. Power
plants equipped with simple-cycle combustion turbines, the most common - and
least efficient - gas-fired technology, have reached an average annual O&M cost of
just $20 per kilowatt (kW) produced, making this technology the cheapest O&M
option in the industry.

According to the IEA's figures, more sophisticated gas plants also benefit from
favourable economics in this sense - combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT)
technology can boost efficiency from 39% with simple turbines to 60% at an
average O&M cost of $25 per kW, while the cogeneration achieved by CCGT plants
with combined heat and power (CHP) pushes efficiency to more than 80% for a
similarly modest rise in O&M cost.

The upkeep of an effective lubrication system for gas turbines is a major

consideration for gas-fired plants as a preventative maintenance measure, and
forms a vital component of their O&M spending. In a wider sense, as renewables
become a larger part of developed economies' energy mix, gas-fired plants, with
their ability to quickly ramp output up or down as needed, are becoming more
important as a reliable and variable supplement to intermittent renewable supply.
This growing requirement makes flexible generation a paramount concern, and the
strain caused by frequent starts and stops will likely drive gas-fired O&M costs as
renewables take control of a growing portion of the energy supply mix.

Large-scale solar photovoltaic ($25 per kW)
It's a testament to the ongoing development of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology
that, at $25 per kW, large-scale PV installations are among the cheapest power
generation technologies for O&M. Of course, the relative simplicity of solar PV is
the defining factor here - cleaning and removing debris from PV cells along with
careful monitoring of inverter units and AC subsystems are the primary
maintenance tasks. The IEA also projects steeply falling initial capital costs for
these projects up until 2035, meaning that solar PV is rapidly catching up with fossil
fuels as an enticing financial proposition as well as an environmentally responsible

Concentrated solar power (CSP), on the other hand, is a more sophisticated and
novel technology that has not yet benefited from the collective build-up of research
and development that is driving down costs for solar PV. With sky-high capital costs
and an O&M burden of $290 per kW in Europe, CSP is currently incredibly
expensive to run and maintain, but economies of scale, more resilient materials and
declining component costs are expected to bring a significant O&M cost decline in
the coming decades; the IEA expects O&M at CSP plants to be $183 per kW by