“Baseload” is an obsolete pre-energy-transition concept?

“Baseload” is so much twentieth century… It is a concept widely used when demand was not flexible. When there was an uncontrollable consumption and industries were not adapting their production to availability of abundant energy. When the goal was to have nuclear and other conventional power plants running 24/7.

In the twenty-first century, the demand curve is not going to be flat, but is going to be variable and smartly adapted to supply of renewable energy.


The “base load” game. Image from Maria Yan (Yanovski-55776) on freeimages.com

Let’s look at the energy demand to challenge this concept…

Buildings consume around 40% of final energy. However, Smart Buildings must not have “baseload”. Thermal inertia allows the HVAC to run when most interesting for energy costs. Lighting should be regulated according to natural light and complemented with power from local solar PV on the rooftops. Electric loads should be fed from the EVs batteries in the parking lot when interesting or necessary. Besides, these same buildings can be capable of working as isolated microgrids if necessary. Smart homes don’t have a real “baseload” for the same reasons.

Approximately 30% of energy goes to transportation. But electrifying transportation does not bring “baseload”, as the energy is stored in the vehicles. There is in fact going to be enough battery energy storage in electric vehicles that buildings, and even complete countries will be able to run on EV stored energy for periods of time. Maybe there is even no need to have many batteries without wheels after all…

Finally, about 25% of energy is consumed in industries. If industries become more adaptive to abundant energy availability, production will only take place when most economically interesting, making “baseload” production obsolete. Even for industries that produce continuously, local production of energy and storage make the demand from the network flexible.

The main idea I defend is that “baseload” is eliminated at the consumption point. Therefore, when we plan energy systems with a bottom-up approach, or a demand approach this old “baseload” concept becomes obsolete. And, we end up with a more efficient, sustainable and also more reliable system in the process.


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  1. Pingback: 7 Terms to avoid if you need to discuss renewables | Energítaca – Energythaca


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