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How Important is Baseload Generation Capacity to U.S. Power Grids' Reliability?

Recently a number of Politicians and Special Interests have advocated that the U.S. Power Sector’s ‘Baseload’ power generation capacity is outdated and rapidly becoming less important to maintaining Power Grids’ reliabilities and efficiencies.  This position appears to be based on a number of recent years’ power systems’ performance factors, including significant power generation-mix changes, technology developments, and continuously sustaining major U.S. Power Grids’ reliabilities.  Major power generation mix changes have included the recent large growth in Wind & Solar ‘Variable Renewable Power’ (VRP) generation, decline of Baseload Coal Power generation to a 34-year low, and very large increases of Natural Gas Power.  Yes, these factors are accurate, but how important has total Baseload Power net generation actually been in supporting past-current Power Grids’ reliabilities and sustaining future reliability?

Baseload Power Importance Political and Special Interests’ Views and Opinions – Power Grids are fairly complex and require many different technologies to reliably met electricity demands with adequate generation supplies.  The sources of power generation supplies have varied over the years and are very important to sustaining Power Grids’ reliable operations and managing costs.

The past Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman has reported “No new Nuclear or Coal plants may ever be needed in the U.S.” and that “baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism”.  These views or assumptions were made during the period when the Federal EPA was aggressively developing new Coal Plant emissions regulations, (reduced Hg, NOx, SOx, PM, etc.), and the Clean Power Plan (reduced CO2 emissions).  The combination of these and other Federal & State regulations (including the recent Paris Agreement) will significantly increase future Coal Power Plants’ costs, resulting in increasing-early retirements.

Special Interest groups, such as the America Wind Energy Association (AWEA), also advocate that “There Is No Inherent Need for ‘Baseload’ Power”.  This position is partially based on an Analysis Group study commissioned (paid for) by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute (AEE) and the AWEA.  A recent AEE/AWEA report states that there is: “No Evidence That Changing Power Mix Endangers Electric System Reliability”.  The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has also developed similar arguments that “Baseload” (is) an Outdated Term for Todays Changing Electricity Grids”.

Yes, even though Wind & Solar VRP have increased to historic highs in recent years and Baseload Coal Power has declined to a 34-year record low, the North America Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC, 2016 Long-Term Reliability Assessment) has determined that U.S. Power Grids have continued to meet needed power grid reliability levels.  The NERC generally agrees with some AEE/AWEA/NRDC views, such as the value of Power Generation ‘diversity’.  The NERC clearly identifies that ‘Single Fuel Dependency’ is a real risk-threat to Power Grid Reliability; i.e. the Power Energy mix is one of the important factors to sustaining U.S. Power Grids’ reliabilities in past and recent years.

The NERC, however, identifies other very important issues that the AWEA/AEE/NRDC reports generally overlook such as the importance of ‘Resource Adequacy’.  The NERC’s recent Reliability Assessment clearly identifies the major importance of adequate Reserve Margins  in enabling all Power Grids’ Operators to sustain required reliabilities.  Required ‘Reserve Power’ totally excludes Wind & Solar PV VRP, which cannot be ‘dispatched on-demand’ as required to properly manage-control short-term Power Grid demand changes.  In other words, Wind & Solar PV VRP are ‘non-dispatchable’ power sources and can actually increase the need for added Reserve Power, such as Natural Gas Power, in order to reliably maintain Power Grids supply-demand balances; depending on the time of day and year, and, weather conditions.

Other factors apparently overlooked by the AWEA/AEE/NRDC is that all Power Grid Owners-Operators are required to fully comply with existing FERC Electric Reliability’ standards-regulations.  These regulations include mandatory NERC standards, developed over many years to maintain and improve U.S. Power Grids’ reliabilities.  Also, somewhat overlooked by some Special Interests has been the past development of ‘Smart Grid’ technologies, which have contributed to significant Power Grids’ reliability improvements by Owner-Operators for decades.  Growing Wind & Solar VRP has also directionally increased the need for past and recent improvements in Smart Grid technologies; developed and installed by Power Grid Owner/Operators, and many Consumers ins some cases.

The AEE/AWEA/NRDC have routinely reported that sustained Power Grids’ reliability is due largely to “gas-fired resources and renewable capacity together providing both around-the-clock power and the flexibility to cycle and ramp as needed to meet and sustain bulk power system reliability objectives”.  Unfortunately, this view/assumption is not fully accurate since the only reliable-fully dispatchable ‘renewable capacity’ that can provide “around-the-clock power…as needed to meet and sustain bulk power system reliability” is Hydro, Geothermal, Biomass (wood + waste) and Solar Thermal power generation; not Intermittent Wind or Solar PV VRP.  These VRP sources absolutely require increased backup/reserve Natural Gas Power currently-continuously in order to reliably provide power to all affected Power Grids 24-7, year-round.

Most Important Operating Factors that have Impacted Baseload Coal Power Generation and Sustained Power Grids’ Reliability – The U.S. Power Sector’s major sources of (net) power generation have changed substantially over the decades as follows:

Data Source – EIA MER Table 7.2b.  Note: NG + Other = natural gas + other gases, and Bio + Geo = biomass (wood + waste) + geothermal.

U.S. Power Sector’s net generation sources have changed substantially over the decades due to a number of factors including evolving technologies (nuclear and renewables developments), regulations (renewables subsidies and mandates that constrain Fossil Fuels Power generation emissions) and market factors (lower cost natural gas and Wind/Solar PV construction costs most recently).  Between 1949-2007 Baseload Coal Power was the major source of total U.S. Power Sector’s net generation supplies; 52% on average.  Since 2007 the combination of lower cost natural gas fuels, increased Coal Power regulatory costs, and growing Wind & Solar VRP generation, led to historic increased Natural Gas Power net generation and major reductions in Baseload Coal Power.  During 2007-16, Coal Power net generation declined to 1982 net generation levels, and, Natural Gas and Wind + Solar Power increased to record highs.  Today, Coal, Natural Gas and Wind + Solar Power provide 31%, 33% and 7% (respectively) of total Power Sector’s net generation.  Nuclear Power continues to be the 3rd largest power source, at almost 22% of the total.

U.S. Power Sector net generation has been reliably supplied by a combination of fully  ‘dispatchable’ power sources, or more commonly called ‘Baseload’ Power, and, a combination of ‘Intermittent’ plus ‘Peaking’ Power generation.  Over the past decades the net generation levels and mix of these major power sources have changed overall as follows:

Data Source – EIA MER.  The Baseload includes all ‘fully’ dispatchable Coal, Nuclear, Natural Gas (from coal-to-NG fuels switching), Geothermal, most of Hydro and large percentages of Biomass and Petroleum.  The balance, or Peaking + Intermittent Power is based on the difference of Total Net Generation Power minus the sum of Baseload Power. 

EIA Power Sector data clearly shows that ‘Baseload Power’ is the major source of electricity that has supplied required Power Grids’ electricity demands, and supported required reliabilities and maximum efficiencies over most years.

Since 1949, the Baseload and Peaking + Intermittent power generation mixes have changed significantly.  For example, refer to the following Baseload Power (net) generation mix:

Data Source – EIA MER.  The above data include 100% net generation from total Coal, Nuclear, and Geothermal, 80% of total Hydro, 50% of total Bio(mass) and Petro(leum), and the balance of coal-to-Nat. Gas fuels switching for displaced Coal Power generation

Not clearly or more thoroughly covered in the most Special Interests’ recent articles is the fact that during 2007-16 ‘fueling switching’ from coal-to-natural gas (NG) power generation, was the primary action that enabled the Power Sector to substantially reduce Baseload Coal Power generation, without risking Power Grid’s reliabilities.  In other words, Baseload Coal was primarily displaced by newly scheduled-operated ‘Baseload’ Natural Gas Power.  The 2007-16 growth in Hydro and Geo+Bio Power was 8% and 24% respectively (each), also helped decrease the need for about 2% of total (2007) Baseload Coal Power net generation.  The above plot includes an average of 80% of Hydropower; primarily due to the fact that essentially all Hydropower is fully ‘dispatchable’ and an average of about 20% is normally used for Peaking Power; similar to the balance of Natural Gas Power generation.

Yes, Wind + Solar Power generation increased substantially since 2007, but these VRP, Intermittent and ‘non-dispatchable’ power generation sources have no or extremely limited capabilities to displace fully dispatchable Baseload Power generation sources.  In order to maintain Power Grid’s reliabilities,  power generation sources must be able to address: peak demand, variable demand & supplies (24/7), and maintain Power Grid’s frequencies and voltages.  Yes, the AWEA has referenced the development of advanced Wind turbine-generator technology, which enable new-future Wind Farms to help adjust power systems’ frequencies as needed to help maintain Grids’ reliabilities.  But, this new technology has fairly limited capability & capacity to adjust Power Grid’s AC power system’s frequencies and voltages/amperages.  To more effectively/significantly control power system’s frequencies & voltages, unfortunately requires reducing wind turbine-generators’ ‘capacity factors’ below maximums, in order to more significantly increase and/or reduce power output as required to help control AC systems frequency & voltage performance; as many Natural Gas, Hydropower and some Petroleum ‘Peaking’ Power Plants routinely are capable.

The balance of Peaking + Intermittent U.S. Power Sector net power generation sources 1949-2016 are as follows:

Data Sources – EIA MER.  Note: Natural Gas, Petroleum, Biomass and Hydropower Peaking/Intermittent Power is based on the balance of net generation not used for Baseload operation(s).  Intermediate Wind & Solar Power covers 100% of these VRP net generation sources.

Even with Natural Gas Power increasingly displacing Baseload Coal Power since 2007, fortunately there is more than sufficient total available Natural Gas Peaking and Reserve Power capacity available to continuously meet Power Grids’ Intermittent & Peaking’ demands; and the minimum required Reserve Power levels as mandated by the NERC standards.

Future of Baseload Power Generation – Even though some Special Interests continuously advocate that Baseload Power capacity is not as important as (Intermittent) Wind & Solar VRP, they appear to imply that variable power sources can directly displace Baseload Power such as Coal.  This assumption is not significantly accurate.  First, fully dispatchable Baseload Coal Power can be and is normally operated continuously at fairly large-constant generation rates for extended periods of time; weeks, up to months.  Wind & Solar VRP is, however, non-dispatchable or reliably schedulable, and this power generation is a function of uncontrollable variables; time-of-day and weather conditions (wind speeds & cloud formations) for most any given day.  Only Peaking Power/Reserve sources, primarily Natural Gas and some Hydropower, can normally be displaced by Intermittent Wind & Solar VRP generation, or provide increase power generation as required when the wind slows or stops, clouds buildup and/or the sun sets.  The above plot/data clearly shows that prior to about 2006 Natural Gas Power generation was the major source of required Peaking and Intermittent power as needed to balance Power Grids’ supply with demand.  Beginning in about 2007 as new Wind Power was built/put in-service.  This Wind VRP generation source generally displaced only and increasing amounts of Peaking/Reserve Natural Gas Power, and possibly some small amount of Hydropower.  Since about 2012, Solar Power began to have significant impact on also reducing the need to Natural Gas/Hydro Peaking Power generation during the sunny part of the days.

The good news in recent years is that Natural Gas Power capacity was high enough to displace all Baseload Coal Power decreases since 2006 (fuels switching), and, enable the growth of Wind & Solar VRP up to almost 7% of total net power generation today.  Based on existing and planned changes-growth to Natural Gas Power generation in the future, there appears to be sufficient Natural Gas Power generation capacity available (per the EIA AEO 2017 ) to enable future expanding total Renewable Power (including Hydro) up to almost 30% total supply in 2050; without compromising U.S. Power Grids’ reliabilities.

In Conclusion – Baseload, fully dispatchable power generation has been the major contributing factor to the Power Sector and associated Power Grids reliabilities, and, keeping costs under reasonable control.  Baseload Power has provided the vast majority of Power Grids’ supplies since 1949, refer to the following data plot:

Data Source – EIA data.  Note: the Baseload percentage is based on the sum total of Coal, (fuels switching to) Natural Gas, Nuclear, Geothermal, 80% of Hydro and 50% of Petro+Biomass divided by total Power Sector net generation.

EIA data clearly shows that the majority of Power Sector electricity supply comes from (fully-dispatchable) Baseload Power historically and today.  Yes, technology and infrastructure improvements have reduced the level of Baseload Power required to reliably meet Consumers’ demand since the late 1980’s by about 10%.  This current level of Baseload Power can and will likely be further reduced in the future (without risking Power Grids’ reliabilities and substantially increased Consumer costs) as further Smart Grids and other technology developments evolve.  These overall technology improvements-upgrades will include increased ‘demand response’ and ‘power storage’, and further upgrading/optimizing ‘T&D lines’ systems and operations controls.  Since these and other Power Systems’ upgrades are costly and will likely take multiple decades to develop and install, Power Grids’ electricity supplies and required systems’ reliabilities will most likely continue to require large levels of Baseload Power generation, well into the second half of this Century.

Yes, Baseload Coal Power will possibly continue to decline, but at a rate and to levels highly dependent on the continued availability of Natural Gas Power, and its current low market prices.  The future of Nuclear Power development and retirements can also impact Natural Gas Power utilization and available-required Reserve Power.  Also, as Wind & Solar VRP continue to expand in the future, at some point possible limited availability of Natural Gas Power generation capacities and/or fuel supplies/increased costs could become a growing problem-limitation to the Power Sector’s reliability and generation costs.  Further developments in fully-dispatchable, Hydro, Geothermal and Biomass Power generation will definitely help, but the future of these technologies is significantly uncertain due to numerous economic, and in some cases, environmental constraints.

Your thoughts?

John Miller's picture

Thank John for the Post!

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Discussions

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 2, 2017 3:27 pm GMT

John, you deserve a medal for undertaking a complex evaluation of the relative merits of baseload power vs. a power-equivalent hodgepodge.

To engineers, of course, the idea of making a complex dynamic more complicated than it needs to be – that of producing a steady supply of reliable electricity to millions across a grid – is antithetical to everything they’ve learned in school. That it’s a loser in both expense and thermodynamic efficiency is obvious.

Raising the question of why some want it to be complicated, a question best answered by federal regulators FERC and the SEC – not science.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 2, 2017 4:58 pm GMT

Bob, thanks for the feedback. What obviously caught my attention to do this detailed analysis were the growing opinions, statements and reports by supposed qualified groups, that were highly inconsistent with system’s control engineering basics. As you are very aware, reducing the number and magnitude of operating variables increases the efficiencies and reduces the costs of operating any complex systems, including power grids. The most likely motive for some politicians and special interest groups was downplaying the importance of Baseload Coal and Nuclear Power generation to achieving what we all need and have grown to expect in the U.S., reliable, ‘on-demand’ and reasonable cost electric power. These objectives have all been strongly supported-accomplished by Coal, Nuclear, Natural Gas and Hydropower in recent decades. What many individuals often are confused by is the fact that Variable Renewable Power (VRP) ‘adds’ to the complexity of reliably maintaining Power Grids. And, that the generally lower wholesale costs of VRP are strongly influenced by Wind Farms and Solar PV Plants’ owner/operators’ incentives (subsidies, maximizing capacity factors, etc.) are to maximize revenues by maximize generation; and leaving balancing power systems supply-demands to Power Grid owner/operators and their growing need for backup/peaking power generation; primarily Natural Gas today.

Leo Klisch's picture
Leo Klisch on Oct 2, 2017 7:25 pm GMT

I guess I favor a high tech grid over high tech generation.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Oct 3, 2017 5:58 am GMT

I agree “you deserve a medal” to confront this topic. Let’s call it the Puerto Rico epidemic; advocating borrowing money for solar and wind energy while sitting on the beach is great politics. But when a hurricane hits and you can’t flush the toilet or eat a decent meal you go looking for a TV camera to demand life support.

Build your foundation solid, then play with the decorations. Infrastructure is, well, infrastructure. Fracking didn’t produce the oil boom claimed, but it did produce more gas than expected, and baseload electric power generation is rapidly getting more efficient.

We can also celebrate lower baseload electric consumption. The next infrastructure in Puerto Rico will require far less wired power to turn the lights back on.

Efforts like yours are great teaching tools. Much to learn, if we try.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on Oct 3, 2017 1:39 pm GMT

John,

Your expose, using the US grid as an example, is a major contribution to sanity.
Wind and solar lack synchronous rotational inertia.
Traditional generators provide the synchronous rotational inertia that serves to stabilize the grid.
There are pro-RE folks who claim rotational inertia is not needed, because it can be artificially provided.
NG plants provide synchronous rotational inertia, plus they provide the peaking, filling-in and balancing, 24/7/365, i.e., whenever variable, intermittent wind and solar are insufficient to meet demand.

I look forward to another expose using the German grid as an example.

In 2016, German gross electricity generation was 648.4 TWh, of which 460.1 TWh was from conventional generators and 188.3 TWh was from renewables, i.e., about 188.3/648.4 = 29% of gross electricity generation was from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, hydro, bio, etc.

Of the 188.3 TWh, about 77.4 TWh was from wind, about 38.2 TWh from solar, for a total of 115.6 TWh. About 21 TWh was from hydro and 51.7 from bio, etc. On an annual basis, wind and solar (stochastic sources) was 115.6/648.4 = 17.8% of electricity generation.

That stochastic percentage is about 3 times greater than the US. If Germany did not have the export/import safety valve, it would have to engage in major wind and solar curtailments to stabilize its grid.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 3, 2017 2:41 pm GMT

Wind, we have developed and installed substantial high tech grids and generation (upgrades) over the years. That’s why U.S. Power Grids are very reliable today compared to the past and most Developed and all Developing countries in the World today. The improvements that Power Companies (T&D and Generation operations) have made over the years is the result of continuous internal company engineering/physical/electronic controls upgrades & modernization, and, required government standards such as those developed and administrated by the NERC. All of these routine operations are major sources of nearly continuous tech innovations/upgrades in most power systems over the years. Yes, further innovations/improvements will definitely be made in the future, particularly as the Power Grids become more complex and require upgrades needed for substantially expanding variable power sources such as Wind & Solar PV.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Apr 5, 2019 7:07 am GMT

Well, from my central european pint of view, the U.S. grid has a very low reliability compared with ohter idustrialised countries. but it was improing a bit the recent years.

What I do not like in the article is the mix of baselode and dispatchable generation with the result of peak load= base load.

The charateristic of baseload is that the power generated (usually with equipment having high costs per kWp) is produced at nameplate capacity practcally all time the generator is available. Which means this kind og generator can only ramp down, but not up.

Similar to wind and solar power, just that the available capacity there is variable.

Which means thatsome dispatchable generation is neccesary, depending on the statistical characteristics of the power generation in the grid. (a world wide grid as state grid china wants to achieve e.g. would supply solar and wind power reliable around the grid, to name one extreme, so the grid size and characteristics of generation in this grid matter a lot for this question) but this generation can be withhigh price fuels and low cost capacity, because it will run only few hours per year. This kind of generation is dispatchable, but does not fulfil the definition of baseload.

 

 

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Apr 9, 2019 8:54 pm GMT

Helmut, yes baseload power generation is normally operated at constant and higher efficiency rates.  This normally includes Coal, Oil and Nuclear; worldwide.  As you noted in another of your comments, yes, Natural Gas can also operate in Baseload; i.e. constant rate, which has increasing become the norm in the U.S. due to lower cost natural gas and associated power generation compared to Coal Power.  However, Natural Gas Power is stilll the major source of 'Peaking Power' in the U.S. as required to balance Power Grids' supply & demands; 24/7.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 3, 2017 3:13 pm GMT

wind, if making either a grid or generation “high tech” makes it more complicated than it needs to be, I guess you favor a system which is more costly, less efficient, and less reliable.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a philosopher who also happened to design airplanes, once said: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 3, 2017 6:01 pm GMT

Rick, thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico’s recent Power System shutdown is largely due to its 1960’s state-of-art infrastructures’ technologies and equipment, and, not reasonably-properly maintaining the Power Systems in recent years. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the U.S., and probably not fully subject to the same FERC and NERC regulatory standards required of all U.S. States; which has helped ensure proper maintenance and upgrades as needed to sustain and improve U.S. Power Grids’ reliabilities for decades. For example, Florida’s recent hurricane Wilma shutdown power to millions for 1-3 weeks. Hurricane Maria will likely shutdown most Puerto Rico power supplies for multiple months or more.

Yes, hydraulic fracking technologies has helped enable increases of U.S. domestic natural gas production-supplies, which has been supportive of displacing Baseload Coal Power (fuels switching) and enabling rapid increases of variable Wind & Solar Power generation in recent years. These benefits have also included continued developments of Natural Gas Power Plants’ gas turbine technologies and increased energy efficiencies. Someday more politicians and green energy special interests might realize that without Natural Gas, sustaining and continuing to expand renewable power sources is likely to be substantially constrained, in the future.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 3, 2017 6:03 pm GMT

Wind, we have developed and installed substantial high tech grids and generation (upgrades) over the years. That’s why U.S. Power Grids are very reliable today compared to the past and most Developed and all Developing countries in the World today. The improvements that Power Companies (T&D and Generation owner/operaters) have made over the years is the result of continuous internal company engineering/physical/electronic controls upgrades & modernization, and, required government standards such as those developed and administrated by the NERC. All of these routine operations are major sources of nearly continuous tech innovations/upgrades in most power systems over the years. Yes, further innovations/improvements will definitely be made in the future, particularly as the Power Grids become more complex and require upgrades needed for substantially expanding variable power sources such as Wind & Solar PV.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 3, 2017 8:23 pm GMT

Willem, you make some excellent points. Germany is often referenced as a major World Leader in building and operating ‘stochastic sources’ or what I refer to as ‘variable renewable power’ (VRP) generation (wind & solar) sources. As you state, and what is rarely covered in the Media today, is that Germany could not reliably operate its current Power Grid with 17.8% VRP sources without their required reliance on neighboring (connected) EU Countries Power Grids’. Other EU Countries’ Power systems, fortunately for Germany, apparently have the capacity/ability to reliably accept Germany’s excess power generation from VRP sources when their domestic power supplies exceed domestic demands. And, many of these same connected EU Countries’ Power Systems, apparently have the flexibility and peaking generation capabilities to supply Germany’s required-added power generation supply when domestic VRP generation (uncontrollably) slows/stops based on weather conditions and the sun; i.e. time-of-day.

Another Germany political controversial action has been their recent plans to phase-out/retire their (zero carbon/Baseload) Nuclear Power plants. While this action was largely based on Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, such a political action has apparently supported/increased the need for Germany’s Baseload Coal Power generation. This situation obviously makes achieving their 40% GHG reduction target by 2020 highly challenging; let alone meeting their future target reduction of up to 95% by 2050.

One added factor most often overlooked by U.S. politicians and the Media is the fact that Germany’s more than doubling renewable power compared to the U.S., has contributed to Germany’s power costs (per KWhr.), which are almost 3-times average U.S. power costs.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Apr 5, 2019 7:13 am GMT

Practically germany is providoing the flexibility to it's neighbours having too much baseload generation (france, belgium especially) and too little flexible generation.

That wind and solar power are transportet from the place of production to the place of consumtion in large grids ignoring political borders is a feature, not a bug.

But some people try to make the narrative that only trading of coal , gas, oil, uranium is good, while trding power is bad. Which does not make sense.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Apr 9, 2019 9:07 pm GMT

Helmut, in the U.S. we have similar Power Grids systems into connections.  There are many regional/multi-state centralized power systems/companies that are connected inter-state and support managing/optimizing national overall power generation and demands, and help minimize costs for most Consumers.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Oct 3, 2017 10:17 pm GMT

John,

Good article on a topic that desperately needs this sort of illumination.

A big confusion factor in discussions about baseload generation and whether it is “unnecessary” and “obsolete” is the ambiguity about just what “baseload generation” actually means.

Activists in the “Pure RE” camp use “baseload is unnecessary” as an attack meme against nuclear power. Nuclear is thought of as the quintessential baseload generation, so arguments against baseload become, by association, arguments against nuclear. The essential feature of “baseload”, by their definition, is inflexibility. It can’t readily be throttled to follow load, and startup and shutdown are drawn out processes that take hours to complete.

You use a different interpretation of “baseload”. As you say in the article, you take it as essentially synonymous with “dispatchable”. (I have to say “essentially”, because peaking units are dispatchable, though nobody considers them “baseload”.) You are addressing the importance of “fully dispatchable” generation for a reliable grid, not baseload generation per se (under other potential interpretations). That’s quite valid, but where you say “dispatchable / baseload”, RE activists would say “flexible / non-baseload”.

Historically, I believe “baseload generation” has been defined as much by economics as by technology. Baseload generation is generation capacity normally kept online at rated output to meet baseload demand. It’s not that it can’t be used otherwise, but that it doesn’t make economic sense. Units designated for baseload service have traditionally been the more efficient generation resources, with high capital and low fuel costs. Their marginal cost for power generated is very low.

The motivation for RE stakeholders wanting to see baseload generation reduced is simple economic interest. If there is less baseload capacity operating, there will be fewer times when high VRP availability drives wholesale electricity prices to near zero. There will be less need for curtailment, so VRP resources will sell more power at higher average prices. Of course VRP stakeholders would want that. But the reduction in baseload generation means that more energy will need to be supplied by peakers or by flexible generation units operating at reduced CFs. What’s good for VRP stakeholders isn’t necessarily good for ratepayers and the system as a whole.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Apr 5, 2019 7:33 am GMT

isn't neccesarily is the correct version, because today it is often good for ratepayers, but not yet always. 

Best approach would be to put external costs (CO" pricing, insurance costs of nuclear for bigger accidents, poisons etc. ) in the taxation of fuels, and see how markets develop with this.

In most countries it is already the case that wind + solarpower+more trade over borders+some low capacity cost - hight fuel cost generation is cheaper than new baseload generation (nuclear, coal). but not yet cheaper than short time variable costs of existing baseload generators. Which means that ne new baseload generation (coal, nuclear) is built without states support, and existing baseload generation is going offline when first bigger repairs or upgrades are needed.

What makes no sense is to support incompetitive baseload generators because "they are neccesary for grid stability". They are not. What is neccesary is some depatchable capacity for some hours per year. for which low capacity cost - high fuel cost generators are much cheaper for the ratepayers. Grid expansions lower the need for such generation.  Especially in te eurasian-african (and maybe soon-australian) interconnected grid.  Taking a globe and looking at the size of interconnected grids, it is obvious it does not make much sense to discuss if power is traded over the german border or not. Or if it makes sense, it would also be neccesary to discuss which measures are neccesary to bring the power exchange between Ney York and New Jerseyto zero. I do not see any sense in this discussion.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Apr 9, 2019 9:15 pm GMT

Helmut, you make some good points.  One factor that needs to be considered in providing clean and safe power is definitely cost.  While safety is generally regulated in most developed countries, other factors that affect conumer costs are debated routinely.  One fact to consider when comparing EU power generation to the US is definitely cost.  On average, EU power costs are 2-3 times the average US.  The reasons of cource vary by country.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 4, 2017 3:10 pm GMT

Roger, your comment raises the question of what defines both baseload power and baseload demand.

Historically, Edison and other electricity generators didn’t have the luxury of maintaining stable line current with generation from different plants dynamically. When load increased lights dimmed, another boiler was brought online, and lights became bright again. That presented reliability/safety issues, but also economic ones: it didn’t take long to figure out boiling more water, then boiling less, etc. wasted coal. So a minimum number of boilers were kept online constantly, and demand variability was matched by more agile resources like natural gas.

With the inclusion of renewables it becomes necessary to divide the challenge of maintaining stable line current into two distinct functions: 1) load following, and 2) supply balancing. When wind and solar obstinately refuse to oblige consumers by ramping up during early-evening peak consumption, load must be met by burning natural gas. But when the wind dies in Altamont Pass or a cloud front rolls over Topaz Solar Farm during hot afternoons, supply must be balanced with natural gas to maintain grid stability.

The need to balance supply presents grid engineers with two new and distinct challenges: unpredictability and temporal variability. Unpredictability must be addressed by maintaining spinning reserves to balance unpredictable changes in the weather. But the temporal variability of renewable sources means the rate-of-change (derivative) of supply from renewables is faster – generation must be replaced or removed more abruptly than that necessary to meet the smooth changes in demand presented by millions of consumers spread over a grid.

In the mad rush to shut down nuclear plants and profit from sales of natural gas, utilities are more than eager to portray nuclear as flat-line, baseload energy which is out of touch with a renewables-rich grid. Conspicuously omitted is the fact carbon-free nuclear plants online in 2017 are entirely capable of load-following the gradual, predictable changes of customer demand. Take away the variable supply of renewables, and the problem goes away.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Apr 5, 2019 7:40 am GMT

the rate of demand increasing or falling is much faster in the european grid than wind poer or solar poer generation rising or falling. Ramp rates to follow wind and solar is quite boring, even the slow lignite plants can do so with ease. This is why so small amounts of gas are used in germany.

Gas in the US is mainly used because it's cheaper than coal.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Apr 9, 2019 8:39 pm GMT

Helmut, suggest you investigate how Germany's Power Grids are operated and managed overall.  My understanding is that they have significant imports (and exports at times) from adjacent EU Countries' Power Grids; which include large amounts of Hydropower (plus hydro storage?) and possibly Natural Gas or Oil Peaking Power plants.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 4, 2017 3:34 pm GMT

Trivia which might be of interest: Kelly Johnson, famous aeronautical engineer and head of Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works in the 1950s/1960s, is credited with coming up with the acronym KISS, for “Keep it Simple Stupid”.

Early in his career, Johnson was the lead designer of Lockheed’s P-38 fighter – the plane in which Saint-Exupéry was killed when he crashed into the Atlantic in 1944 under mysterious circumstances.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 4, 2017 5:09 pm GMT

Roger, you make some good points. Yes, baseload power is ‘essential’ for stabilizing and minimizing the costs of electricity supplies for all power grids. And, peaking power (reserves or backup) is much more flexible than most baseload power plants (nuclear, coal and geothermal), with the exception of many hydropower plants that are not only flexible, but also have the current largest source of power storage, pumped storage.
As I am sure you are aware, baseload coal and nuclear power plants consist of steam boilers, and electric generators driven-powered by steam turbines. These power systems are normally operated at constant-optimal generation rates in order to maximizing efficiencies of the overall heat-power trains equipment; often at/near maximum design rates. Even though coal and nuclear plants power generation can be slowed down somewhat below optimal rates, such an adjustment reduces the efficiency (increased Btu/Watt), takes significant time, and may be very limited based on equipment safety-reliability operating limits.

What most people likely don’t understand or hear in the Media is the fact that baseload coal and nuclear power plants can be feasibly modified/designed to have increased flexibility in power generation rates. In the case of coal plants, they can switch to or add boiler heat/power generation by being able to consume (fuels switch to) petroleum and/or possibly natural gas. In the case of nuclear plants, adding some form of efficient power storage (pumped storage, thermal storage, etc.) can significantly increase the plants’ flexibility. Today, the most flexible power generation source is clearly natural gas, with gas turbines that have capability to adjust power generation between <50% up to100% output over relatively short periods of time. Also, some gas turbine generators also have the design flexibility to ‘fuels switch’ from natural gas-to-petroleum, and the reverse.

Hopefully in the future innovations will be made to reduce the capital costs and operating flexibilities of the only likely most feasible/zero carbon alternative to coal, advanced nuclear power. Yes, geothermal power is another alternative, but the available locations for this heat source are somewhat limited based on current technologies.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 4, 2017 8:53 pm GMT

Bob, very good points. Power supply flexibility and supply-demand response has definitely grown in importance & complexity as Power Grids have expanded geographically, and more recently, substantially increased variable (unpredictable) renewable wind & solar PV power.

Industrial ‘demand response’ (or cutting power consumption manually, on-demand) began significant development and implementation 40-50 years ago. Industrial demand response normally requires cutting manufacturing plants (oil refineries in my personal experience) power consumption upon request/requirements of the local Power Company. This process normally involved cutting processing unit feedrates & associated power consumption and/or full process unit shutdowns; due most often to Power Grid supply equipment failures (in the past). The frequency of this required demand response cutting power action was only about once a year per plant; in my past experience.

As you state, unpredictable variable renewable power (VRP) supplies have significantly added to the complexity of properly maintaining Power Grids’ voltages and frequencies. Unless sufficient natural gas spinning reserve is on line, Industrial demand response isn’t going to be able to react instantaneous in order to keep Power Grids’ voltages & frequencies within safe operating ranges; likely resulting in tripping off of power breakers designed to prevent damaging power system equipment (switch gear, transformers, capacitors, etc.). The end result of inadequate natural gas spinning reserve or excessive/uncontrollable VRP is not only dimming of lights, but likely tripping off motors and shutting down of associated equipment; included in the Industrial, Commercial, and Residential sectors.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Apr 5, 2019 7:50 am GMT

changes in frequency in the european grid have their sourcces in

a) power trade in blocks of time. Ramping up one plant and ramping down another due to contract changes are not perfectly synchronised

b) failing (larger) power stations

c) unexpected load changes.

Only far below you find wind and solar somewhere.  Wind and solar participate in the frequency regulation when regulating output downward is required, they can perorm this better than almost any other power generation mode. They so far participate less or not at all in regulation power upwards. This side is also perfromed by loads which can be switched off.

Spinnig reserves is usually needed to compensate the loss of larger generation units. Wind power can provide this in generation III turbines to a similar amount than usuan synchonus generators and better than synchronus generators in generation IV systems. But it is not required / often not even allowed by grid codes for the connection of wind power to the grid. This is only changing now. Fortunately spinning reserve can be provided by such generators by a software upgrade usually.

Both - synchronus steam powered generators and wind power generators - need primary power regulation upwards after spinning reserve was used to fill up reserves again.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Apr 9, 2019 8:59 pm GMT

Helmut, you make some excellent points.  Yes, wind power can be operated with variable generation.  However, this does result in reduced 'capacity factors', which is the nature of this improved/needed control technology.

Ronald Chappell's picture
Ronald Chappell on Oct 5, 2017 6:51 pm GMT

Excellent power summary. Germany’s ‘failure’ to operate reliably and independently even at grossly increased cost should be fair warning to any green dreamers of intermittant energy waste of public funds.

Ronald Chappell's picture
Ronald Chappell on Oct 5, 2017 6:59 pm GMT

John, I hope you will engage in an equally illuminating discussion of Chinese power grid experience, especially as they move forward into the 21st century with liquid salt nuclear plant designs propelled forward by US technology from the mid last century.
Thank you again!

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 6, 2017 5:15 pm GMT

Ron, Germany’s power grid has been reasonably reliable compared to most developed countries in recent years. This has been due to their domestic peaking power generation supplies, primarily fossil fuels, and their neighboring-connected EU countries’ power grids’ flexibilities and available intermittent/reserve power. Germany’s very high electricity power costs have also strongly encouraged domestic consumers to reduce their power usage via increased structures/equipment efficiency upgrades, smart home technologies, etc.

What will be most challenging will be Germany’s apparent political commitments to shutdown their baseload nuclear & coal power in order to meet current targets to reduce nuclear capacity/operations and future carbon reduction commitments. Yes, their challenge will be accomplishing these political goals without further-substantially increasing future electricity costs, and, possibly wasting public funds.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 6, 2017 8:02 pm GMT

Ron, the challenge in trying to illustrate China’s power sector’s performance is that the available data is somewhat limited and the accuracy sometimes questionable compared to OECD countries. Yes, they have apparently made substantial investments in renewable energy such as wind power in recent years, but unfortunately operating capacity factors are well below average OECD countries’ wind farms, due to less-than-optimal China T&D systems designs and controls systems performance issues. China’s installed wind power capacity apparently exceeds the U.S., but actual net generation may not; on an annual average basis.

It’s curious that with the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Agreement, that many politicians and the media apparently believe that this action will make China the World’s leader in addressing climate change. What is not considered or often overlooked in this leadership role assumption/belief is that China has been the world’s largest source of carbon emissions since 2007, their per capita carbon emissions have exceeded the EU since 2014, and their pledge to control future carbon emissions is to only ‘cap’ them by 2030 to some unspecified level. Also, not covered much in the media is the fact that one of the benefits for China in taking over (stealing?) the South China Sea is likely the large oil & gas reserves contained in this region. Are these actions one would expect of the World’s future leader in addressing climate change?

Sean OM's picture
Sean OM on Oct 6, 2017 9:11 pm GMT

John I do think it was a good article.

However, you never brought storage into the equation, which is rapidly becoming the transformation tool of the grid as costs continue to plummet. It has the potential to change the grid from load following and “best guess” for demand to accurate supply/demand. In doing so, it does replace “baseload” no matter how you define it.

In fact to get the 1MW, 90 day supply you can actually do it with aluminium air batteries. Which have almost no overhead costs and are instant on. You can get 6-8 kw/kg and I forgot which japanese company it was but they were saying the cost was around $1.1/kg so roughly 300M or .15/kwh, which is expensive, but you can recover the aluminium, which is the majority of the cost and it can sit idle for 10+ years which covers the complete disaster 90-day supply scenario. IE the nuclear plant meltdown, or the coal plant blew up, hurricane, NG pipeline issue, sky rocketing prices, etc.

I will say, we aren’t at the point where we have enough storage to make a difference for the entire grid, but I don’t really anticipate it taking more then 10 years before it is extremely commonplace if only for the simple reason it makes the grid easier to operate and cost effective.

Renewables aren’t going away. Grid operators already know they work, and they are cheaper. The coal industry just wants a bail out after refusing to make any improvements for ten years. The money is truly better spent elsewhere because you simply don’t make the grid more resilient.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 7, 2017 4:02 pm GMT

John, the U.S. has never been a world leader at addressing carbon emissions, and there’s no evidence that would change by becoming party to the Paris Agreement. A country whose citizens generate per capita emissions equivalent to five times the world average certainly has no right to claim that distinction.

If it isn’t already, China, with less than half the U.S.’s per capita carbon emissions and 20GW of new nuclear under construction, is poised to become a world leader. But time will tell – signatures on a non-binding international agreement, like the plastic trophies handed out to all players at Little League baseball games, are meaningless tokens which place a higher value on participation than results. As such, they harm more than help.

Sean OM's picture
Sean OM on Oct 7, 2017 5:26 pm GMT

the U.S. has never been a world leader at addressing carbon emissions, and there’s no evidence that would change by becoming party to the Paris Agreement.

Actually the US did they -best- thing they could to help emissions. They developed and scaled out a whole system other countries could replicate. The US has electric cars, utility scale battery storage, HFCs. basically you name it, we tried it. What it did was lowered the cost of alternative technologies that banks use to hand out loans which hadn’t been updated since the 70s.

You don’t have to be #1 to be a leader. simply by demonstrating cost effective alternatives and viable business models to make it work for the rest of the world, while we continue our internal bickering which will go on for another 20 years, because we already have the cheapest energy in the world. The US basically led everyone to the solutions that worked best for the other 180 countries.

The EU fell drastically short because they all picked what technology they were going to sell the rest of the world and make money on. It left huge gaps in the implementation and damn near killed off renewable energy for another 30 years.

It really didn’t cost the US any money. At the end of the day, the investments by all the countries have reduced the price of oil, which saved the US more money then it spent on the whole program and far more emissions then the US could have done by itself.

At the end of the day, the Paris agreement was a terrible deal for the US, but it didn’t have to be good. we just had to get countries especially developing nations like India and China to the table and agree to do something. However, the US has already massively reduced emissions and is on track to achieve the stated goals.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Oct 8, 2017 8:25 am GMT

Which is not much challenge any more on financial side….

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 11, 2017 5:20 pm GMT

Bob, the U.S. has been a world leader in the development of ‘hydraulic fracturing’ technology development and production, which has been the major source enabling reduced U.S. Baseload Coal Power generation; i.e. fuels switching to lower carbon/cost natural gas. Yes, the U.S. is not the leader in per capita carbon emissions, but unlike China, whose total carbon emissions has doubled since 2005, the U.S. has capped and reduced its total carbon emissions by 15-20% since 2005. The real-world leadership in this area appears to be more within the EU Annex 1 countries over the past couple decades, not Asia or the Americas.

The pros & cons of hydraulic fracturing and increased U.S. oil & gas production has been substantially reduced world market costs, which has definitely benefited most world economies, but unfortunately may have been counterproductive of effectively being equivalent to ‘negative’ carbon taxes.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 11, 2017 5:42 pm GMT

Sean, as I am sure you are aware, the problem with the Paris agreement is that it does not legally require signatory countries to fully-reliably comply with their (informal) pledges. While China has pledged to ‘cap’ their carbon emissions by 2030, to some yet-to-be-determined level, India has pledged to work toward eventually capping their emissions, but not tied to a specific future date or timeframe. This is not surprising since India’s Power Grids are highly developmental and likely decades from stabilizing consumer demands/consumption efficiencies. China’s Power Grids are more developed, but still likely decades from duplicating the technology developments currently available in the EU & U.S./Canada and other developed countries.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 11, 2017 6:21 pm GMT

Sean, thanks much for the feedback. As far as near future ‘power storage’, as you may be aware, ‘hydropower pumped storage’ is currently the only industrial scale power storage available to allow ‘variable renewable power’ (VRP) to directly displace Baseload Coal Power. FYI, my Baseload and Intermittent + Peaking data plots assume/estimate 20% of total U.S. Hydropower generation is used for some form of power storage. Yes, aluminium-air (Al-O2) batteries could someday feasibly displace current lithium-ion battery technologies and possibly hydropower pumped storage, but this Al-O2 technology is still highly developmental. In addition to the increased energy density and potentially lower cost of Al-O2, this technology appears to have multiple potential advantages over lithium-ion. Unfortunately, current Al-O2 technology applications are currently relatively limited. Hopefully, the Al-O2 batteries could someday successfully be developed into Power Grid level power storage, equal-to and possibly greater than hydropower pumped storage or developing industrial scale lithium-ion batteries. This could make VRP capable of much more directly displacing Baseload Fossil Fuels power generation, and possibly Nuclear.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Oct 11, 2017 7:59 pm GMT

This actually works more to promote nuclear than than the unreliables.  The round-trip efficiency of aluminum-air is very low (20% max), but production is key.  The electrolysis cells where aluminum is made must be kept in the molten state.  if you have excess power every night you can keep electrolysis cells hot much more easily than if you have extended slack periods.  A big, fat dump load takes away the whole issue of “inflexible” baseload generation as a weakness and makes it into a strength.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 12, 2017 4:29 am GMT

John, though U.S. residential electricity sales are up 4%, and commercial up 7% since 2005, industrial sales are down by 9% due to manufacturing moving offshore. So before giving fracking credit for reduced emissions, we should take into account about half of U.S. reductions aren’t reductions at all but emissions outsourced to Southeast Asia.

Moreover, since 2005 the U.S. has tripled LNG exports. How can a leader at extracting and selling fossil fuel burned elsewhere be considered a leader in reducing emissions?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Oct 12, 2017 8:18 am GMT

This article follows exactly the lino of argumentation a it was presented by the german utilities in the late 1980’a and early 1990’s, culimninating in ths well known advertisment in all mayor newspapers at that times:

We all know the reality today.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 12, 2017 3:29 pm GMT

Bob, yes Power Sector carbon emissions are down 25% since 2005 and a large fraction is due to carbon leakage from replacing lost domestic Industrial durable goods production with imports. But, the largest source of reduced Power Sector carbon emissions is clearly due to fuels switching from coal-to-NG. The LNG exports are likely to only be a short-term action, particularly if EV’s truly become the more dominate source of transportation in the future, and, nuclear baseload power fails to grow at needed rates.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 12, 2017 3:35 pm GMT

EP, good point, integrating Al-O2 power storage with some form of advance nuclear power definitely could be make this technology directionally more feasible.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 12, 2017 3:48 pm GMT

Helmut, this TEC article is based on U.S. DOE EIA data and supporting facts, not political advertisements. German Utilities were of course concerned with increasing costs beginning the 1980’s and possibly systems’ reliabilities. Fortunately for Germany, it is connected to neighboring EU countries’ Power Grids that have the flexibilities and resiliencies to help support Germany’s Power Grids’ increasing VRP generation and reliabilities. With the recent policies to shutdown Germany Nuclear Power, how have the domestic Coal Power plants been doing?

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Oct 12, 2017 4:03 pm GMT

Something that just struck me:  even at 20% round-trip efficiency, Al-air batteries remain attractive if you can get electricity for 2¢/kWh (interruptible rate?) and fixed costs are low.  This goes especially for EVs, as the whole issue of range anxiety goes away if all you have to do is start with fresh aluminum plates.

How do the generators make money in this regime?  Arbitrage and using interruptible loads as spinning reserve.  If you have a large chunk of demand which can respond in half a cycle (meaning 1/6 cycle in practice as the 3 phases are 120 degrees apart and thyristors cut off at the zero crossings), you get amazingly fine control over the supply/demand balance.

What’s the business case for the driver?  The EV owners would probably pay 20¢/kWh for metal-air power, but run most of their mileage as PHEVs using their buffer batteries.  By moving most of the energy through an 80% efficient pathway rather than a 20% efficient one, the waste of electricity and consequent costs are greatly reduced.

Al-air batteries are considerably older than Li-ion.  There was already a demonstration vehicle written up in one of the glossy magazines in the 70’s (Popular Science?) if memory serves; Li-ion was only invented in 1980.  We know how to do this, but the economics haven’t been there.  Maybe they will be soon.

The one detail I haven’t seen anyone deal with is GHG emissions from the aluminum smelting.  IIUC, one of the byproducts besides CO2 is CF4, perfluoromethane.  This is an extremely powerful and stable greenhouse gas.  It would be necessary to capture and destroy CF4 and perhaps recycle the CO2 using something like the molten lithium carbonate electrolysis trick.

Sean OM's picture
Sean OM on Oct 12, 2017 7:16 pm GMT

John,
You missed it. Al-O2 batteries are one time use batteries. In order to get the 90 day supply to participate in the program, you can have a warehouse full of al-o2 batteries as your 90 day supply. phienergy is claiming their last 10 years without degradation.

They don’t -replace- other forms of storage which are used for day to day types of regulation, like hydro, lion, etc. What they replace is a whole power plant that is on standby in case of some massive failure which is why you need the 90 days supply. (another reasons for a 90 day supply for the FF industry is price spikes, but a solar/wind system is a fixed cost.)

it is a warehouse available at a flip of a switch vs a coal generator unit along with 100 people, a huge stack of coal and a bunch of equipment that needs to be maintained.

They do NOT replace other day to day storage used for regulation. So you may need a stack of Lion batteries, pumped storage or something else to handle that that are more expensive initially, but lower cost for the lifetime because they are rechargeable.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Oct 12, 2017 9:21 pm GMT

I did not want to enter this discussion because it is not worth it. But the arguments which lead to that advertisemet were exactly tose “baselode” arguments which you peresent here.
And it’s still the german grid which helps out the neighbours with it’s flexibility, be it France or poland, when either their nuclear fleet is too small, or too much switched off, of if the coal power fleet in poland is insufficent.
But your imaginations about german grid makes you ignore realities.
And about coal: coal power stations are closing down one by one. The last two closing blocks two weeks ago.

Sean OM's picture
Sean OM on Oct 13, 2017 5:54 pm GMT

The idea behind the paris agreement was to get countries to planning on a low carbon future.

If you try to make it legally binding and add a timeline, you would NEVER get anyone to sign. There are just too many variables like region, economies, existing infrastructure, etc that come into play. You would also be messing with a country’s autonomy which isn’t taken lightly because you aren’t showing any respect to other world leaders.

However, if you get everyone just to agree to plan how to implement RE and deprecate their coal plants, etc. They can do it when it becomes an economically viable option on their own terms. Since you are using economically viable, it kind of starts a keeping up with the Jones’ or status symbol type of race that everyone can participate in. The backlash is kept to a minimum.

We have seen backlash in the US, mostly because a tiny group of people have a significant vested interest in the old technology. If you can keep that vested interest from establishing itself in developing countries, over the the long term far fewer fights will occur because they never had the old technology to begin with.

Even if there is backlash like what we see in the US, the rest of the world can pick up the slack to keep driving the technology. It also changes the dynamics of trying to solve the problem. If you get everyone to cut back 20%, it is the cumulative effect of the US or China going 100% which neither country can do in the next decade because of money and logistics. whereas 20% globally is actually possible without tipping over anyone’s economy.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 14, 2017 8:01 pm GMT

Good point, my mistake. Based on some past articles I reviewed a couple years ago, researchers implied that developing technologies would make Al-O2 batteries possibly competitive to Li-ion. This research was obviously flawed and apparently based on unlimited (recycled?) Al anodes. Thanks for the fact-check.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Oct 14, 2017 8:22 pm GMT

It’s very clear that Germany has made excellent progress in growing variable renewable power generation. Baseload power generation still makes up almost half of all domestic power generation today; primarily coal. Baseload Coal Power does not appear to be shutting down very fast. Re: Fraunhofer ISE 2017 data.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Oct 14, 2017 9:22 pm GMT

Well 17 year after start and 33 years before target year it is obvious that some baseload capable capacity is still exisiting. But the nubers of hours a thermal power plant is expected to run is dropping fast, so the existing plants and new capacity are built accordingly. Classical baseload plants with high system and low fuel costs are not a option any more.
The coal plants do not shut down super fast, but they close one by one, several GW per year. Looks like Hard coal output will drop at least 10% this year, maybe 20%. Lignite might have a smaller drop in output too. With the closures scheduled for next year, lignite will reduce output for sure by about 5%, and hard coal maybe more.

Charles Bevington's picture
Charles Bevington on Mar 14, 2019 3:48 pm GMT

"Tesla’s new SUV model shows just how silly the Green New Deal" in today's WASHINGTON POST March 14 2019 referenced this article...so since 2017 has "Power supply flexibility and supply-demand response has definitely grown in importance & complexity as Power Grids have expanded geographically, and more recently, substantially increased variable (unpredictable) renewable wind & solar PV power."? I am curious about the integrity of the "GRID".

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