For years – actually decades – the conventional wisdom about electric power has gone something like this: clean generation sources like wind and solar power are great, supplementing the energy mix with an increasing share of carbon-free electrons. But their intermittency is a huge issue. We will always need the 24/7 baseload generation powered by nuclear or fossil-fuel (or, where available, biomass or geothermal) generators as the basis of a safe, reliable, and affordable electricity supply. Now jump to June of this year, when Pacific Gas & Electric announced it wants to decommission the 2.2-gigawatt Diablo Canyon nuclear plant when its current license expires in 2025. A decision on the plant closure is pending with state regulators, but cost is not the only issue. “Having a 24/7 nuclear plant, from a grid operator’s standpoint – that is a real problem,” says David Olsen, a member of the board of governors of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the grid serving 30 million people in most of California and a small part of Nevada. “Dealing with 2200 megawatts coming in at every minute – we have to design our grid around that inflexibility. ‘Baseload’ refers to an old paradigm that has to go away.” Olsen’s assessment, which is echoed by many other California grid experts, regulators, and utility executives, completely flips the old paradigm. In a world of minimum or even negative overall load growth, ever-increasing distributed solar generation and energy storage behind the meter, and emerging ‘load-shifters’ like electric vehicles, variable generation resources become more valuable, not less.
Huffington Post 23rd Oct 2016 read more »