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POWER UTILITY | Karen Mesina, Singapore

Renewables vs baseload energy: Why industry experts think renewables can't be used for baseload needs

If not renewables, what then must be used to meet baseload requirements?

If there’s one topic of debate that energy analysts can’t put to rest, it’s whether renewable power generation is suitable for baseload supply. Some say that there appears to be a misconception among the general public that renewable energy would be able to supply base load power.

According to Egor Simonov, ROSATOM Regional Representative in Southeast Asia, there is always a minimum level of the electricity need, regardless of any circumstances, which is called baseload. Baseload power is the amount of power required to meet minimum demands based on reasonable economic requirements.

Ruud Kempener, energy analyst at International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), stays firm that the critique that renewable options are unsuitable for baseload supply, therefore fossil power and nuclear power are needed, is misleading. Baseload is a demand characteristic, not a supply technology characteristic, he explains.

In the future power system, the value of baseload will decrease, he says. “With higher shares of renewable power, particularly from variable source such as wind and solar, supply and demand will be matched in a much more concerted and flexible way.”

Simonov, on the other hand, says that nuclear energy belongs to baseload power sources, while renewables can hardly be considered as baseload. In comparison to other generation types, nuclear energy has a very high capacity factor. “The NPP design we offer on the market today has capacity factor around 90%. Wind farms today can demonstrate only up to ca. 40%, whilst solar farms even lower – about 20-25%.”

Simply speaking, he adds, the wind does not blow and the sun doesn’t shine all the time. For sure, these generation types are good at proving additional supply in peak period. “But you need to be backed by baseload capacities as a sound foundation of the national electricity supply.”

Furthermore, he stresses that the renewable energy sources still represent the most expensive source of electric power. For instance, one kilowatt-hour produced via solar generation is around 5 times more expensive the one produced at nuclear power plants.

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