‘Baseload’ will be an irrelevant term in the future renewable energy grid

A new report from WWF Australia has questioned the concept of “baseload” energy, arguing that this model of power generation will be made redundant by a 100 per cent renewable energy grid.

The report, published on Wednesday, argues that Australia could completely and effectively replace the nation’s mostly coal-fired “baseload” power generators by harnessing huge volumes of renewable energy – using existing technologies, including battery storage – distributed across the country.

“The reality is that electricity usage is variable, demand changes throughout the day and night, and Australia doesn’t need baseload power generation,” the report says.

“With key market reforms in place to manage the energy transition, Australians can comfortably let go of the mindset of ‘baseload’ and have confidence in a modern, reliable, renewable energy sector powering our future.”

This “mindset” – that renewable energy technologies like solar PV and wind don’t “do baseload” due to the intermittent nature of the resource – has long been a barrier to the wholesale shift to renewables.

But increasingly, energy market analysts and players say that the entire model of baseload energy supply is being made redundant by the shift to cheap and easy distributed renewables and increasingly sophisticated energy management software.

But as the WWF-Australia report also notes, to support this transition further, it is vital that Australia urgently review its energy market frameworks to integrate them with climate change policies.

“In Australia we are used to the idea of ‘baseload energy’ being the energy that ensures we can flick the lights on at any point in the night, but that’s old thinking,” said Adrian Enright, Climate Change Policy Manager at WWF-Australia.

“The problem is the bulk of our baseload energy comes from high polluting, ageing coal fired generators. Some of Australia’s existing baseload capacity was built before man first landed on the moon.

“To enjoy clean air and reduce carbon pollution Australia will need to shift to a modern, 21st Century model, powered by 100% renewable energy by 2035. This is possible, affordable and very popular,” it says.

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