Nuclear and wind power are already competitive energy alternatives to coal-fired power, a new report reveals, leaving the door open to reignite the nuclear debate.
The Australian Energy Technology Assessment Report - released on Tuesday by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and developed by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) - compared the cost of generating electricity by 40 different technologies projected until 2050.
Australian National University energy change institute director Ken Baldwin, a member of the steering committee, said the detailed study was the first to use carbon pricing to compare the levelised cost of electricity generated by technologies.
It would allow decision-making on the transition to a carbon-free economy, Professor Baldwin said.
The report threw up a few surprises, indicating a number of technologies including nuclear and wind power were already competitive, with other renewable technologies including solar-cell farms joining the energy mix in the future.
Solar and onshore wind production could produce some of the lowest electricity generation costs domestically by 2030, with other technologies expected to improve and rival coal and gas in the same timeframe.
The price of commercial solar cells had dropped dramatically in recent years, Prof Baldwin said.
Coal is gradually being costed out of the market in future decades, reflecting a transition to a market shaped by carbon pricing.
"These figures are really indicating we are moving into a carbon pricing environment and also that things are shifting very rapidly in terms of the alternative forms of energy generation," Prof Baldwin told AAP.
"These two things combined together show that coal doesn't really have the long-term future many decades out."
When it came to fighting climate change, having restrictions on alternative energy such as nuclear was "like fighting the climate change challenge with one arm behind your back", Prof Baldwin said.
"Really all the studies show that in order to reach the targets that we want to achieve ... we're going to need everything at our disposal to make that happen," he said.
"By ruling out one or other forms of electricity generation we are going to make that job that much harder."
Nuclear, along with combined cycle gas and nuclear power, offer the lowest levelised cost of electricity of non-renewable technologies in the report.
Biogas and biomass technologies were also identified as some of the most cost competitive forms of electricity generation at the moment.
Clean Energy Council deputy CEO Kane Thornton said the report confirmed the way Australia generated and consumed energy was quickly changing.
"By building renewable energy now we are able to create the diversity of sources we need to have low cost and reliable energy in the future," Mr Thornton said.
Mr Thornton said every government in the country had underestimated the ability of renewable energy to improve in efficiency and come down in cost.
"This report goes some way towards addressing the balance," he said.