Solar and wind power continue expanding, constituting almost 40% of newly installed power capacity worldwide in 2014. But taking the energy transition to the next level – to a system primarily based on renewable sources – calls for a fundamental change in how power generation, transmission and distribution are planned and managed. In particular, it requires rethinking the concept of “baseload” power plants.
This working paper from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) addresses the oft-heard critique that power generation based on variable renewable resources, such as sunshine and wind, is unsuitable to provide baseload supply. Yet as the paper shows, constructing new baseload power plants constrains the development of the future power generation mix. A flexible generation mix, enhanced grid infrastructure, demand-side options and energy storage can all be combined effectively with variable renewables to ensure reliable power supply.
The working paper was presented during IRENA’s roundtable meeting, “Power System Transformation and the Utility of the Future”, at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Mérida, Mexico, in May 2015.