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RMI Blows The Lid Off The “Baseload Power” Myth (Video)

A correct scenario of efficiently balanced renewable energy use (RMI)

Peter Sinclair expressed a great thought in Climate Crocks recently that bears repeating: “Speaking to thousands and thousands of people has convinced me that, if you only talk about the problem, and not the path forward, it’s almost as if people literally, physiologically–can’t hear you.”

There’s a good deal of common sense in what Sinclair says. One of his latest climate crock stories takes on the myth that primary fossil fuel or nuclear generation with renewables and energy storage backup on the side is the only way to choreograph multisource energy use.  To illustrate this point, Sinclair presents a clear, cogent video on the subject from Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute. We liked it so much that we’re repeating it for you.

Lovins very effectively debunks the myth that a reliable electricity supply from renewable resources will need either giant “baseload” power stations or yet untested cheap mass electrical storage. He reviewed this at the international nonprofit Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) 2014 global conference in Vancouver, Canada. (The original talk is scheduled for a TEDTalks release. In the meantime, RMI issued its own interim recording. It’s brilliant.)

Downtimes for fossil and nuclear power plants (RMI)First of all, the RMI presentation reminds us that even the big boys of fossil and nuclear energy have more than 10% downtime.

In plain language and with statistical proof from an hourly dispatch simulator (see graph above), Lovins makes the point that baseload energy does not have to start with fossil or nuclear fuels. In fact, that method appears to be one of the costliest ways to ensure the grid flexibility necessary to counter variable supply and demand. A “renewables first” strategy can both even the power load and keep spilled power to only about 5%. Centralized high-renewable generation now looks something like this map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

High-Renewable Energy Systems NREL)

Give the Lovins model a look. If you already get the point, the presentation of stats in these graphics is really first-rate and may help you educate others less knowledgeable than yourself—or more cynical.

And continue to bear in mind these numbers from the 13th PricewaterhouseCoopers Annual Global Power & Utilities Survey:

  • 94% of senior executives from power and utility companies in countries across Europe (including Russia), the Americas, Asia, Pacific, Middle East, and Africa predict complete transformation or important changes to the power utility business model.
  • 67% expect technology and new supply sources to dramatically reduce dependence on oil and gas-rich countries.
  • 82% see distributed power generation as an “opportunity” versus only 18% rating it as a “threat.”


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Written By

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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