Issues

Clean Energy

Always On: Reliable electricity in an age of coal plant retirement

The idea that we need traditional fossil-fuel and nuclear-fired power plants to continually provide the minimum amount of electricity that we need—called “baseload power”—is becoming increasingly obsolete.

The electricity system that developed during the last half of the 20th century in the United States has relied on large, centralized coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric plants to supply cheap and reliable power to local regions. Also, rapid and consistent growth in demand for electricity allowed companies to finance construction of large expensive power plants fairly smoothly over several decades.

Today, as the electricity market changes, these two paradigms are being shaken up—and a clean energy system that offers significant economic, health and environmental benefits will emerge.

In “Always On: Reliable electricity in an age of coal plant retirement,” Fresh Energy and the Izaak Walton League of America explain market forces that have caused traditional baseload electricity sources to have less value in the 21st-century electricity system. The narrative defines a “new market,” demonstrating how current energy market forces, such as state renewable energy standards, lower building costs for wind and solar generation, and a transition from localized distribution networks to regional transmission systems, are paving the way for cleaner, more efficient ways to obtain the minimum amount of electricity we need.

“Always On” is available today. Download the pdf.

 

Fresh Energy and the Izaak Walton League of America explain market forces that have caused traditional baseload electricity sources to have less value in the 21st-century electricity system.

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