- Advancing past baseload to a flexible grid
- Electricity Markets, Reliability and
the Evolving U.S. Power System
Also see Bigger is Not Better: Grid Modernization and the Antiquated Concept of ‘Baseload’, and in particular the comment by Gene Grindle to that post.
As some of the coal and nuclear plants face retirement decisions, focusing on their status as “baseload” generation is not a useful perspective for ensuring the cost-effective and reliable supply of electricity. Instead, system planners, market administrators such as regional effectively and efficiently defines and measures system needs and (b) develops planning tools, scheduling processes, and market mechanisms to elicit and compensate broad range of resources
that have become available to meet those needs. Fortunately, planners and operators have been hard at work at such innovations and have moved past the concept of “baseload” to focus on the attributes of resources and the services they provide to the system that help the modernized electricity system operate more reliably, efficiently, and nimbly. While coal and nuclear power plants—as well as a broad range of other resource types—are recognized for providing a wide range of reliability services to the grid, the traditional definition of power supply resource adequacy is being revisited by some system operators and planners. Still, additional work is needed in planning and markets to better recognize and compensate resources for the value they provide to the system, and to incorporate the environmental impacts of electricity generation, including resources’ ability to reduce the system’s greenhouse gas emissions, consistent with public policy goals.
Coal and nuclear plants do not provide unique operational services that are specifically identified by or correlated with the term “baseload” generation. The term does not reflect the broader range of services that various resources can provide. As system planning and electricity market design are modernized, it is becoming increasingly clear that the services and attributes most under-recognized by today’s markets are greenhouse gas emissions in some jurisdictions and operational flexibility. A resource is considered flexible when it can react to operational signals to ramp its power generation up and down to help meet the needs of the system over multiple hours and minute-to-minute. Flexible resources can cost-effectively assist with meeting changing system loads and integrating the variable output of renewable resources. These flexibility needs are rapidly expanding as a result of numerous industry trends: (a) recognition by policymakers that renewable energy resources are needed to meet long-term emissions reductions goals; (b) customers’ increasing desire to voluntarily procure renewable energy or generate electricity on-site; and (c) substantial technological improvements that have driven down the cost of renewable resources to the point where, even before accounting for tax incentives, they are the lowest-cost option for new generating plants in some regions of the country.
(From Advancing Past “Baseload” to a Flexible Grid)