Always On: Reliable electricity in an age of coal plant retirement
The idea that we need traditional fossil-fuel power plants to meet our nation's minimum electricity needs—called “baseload power”—is becoming increasingly obsolete.
The electricity system developed during the last half of the 20th century relied on large, centralized coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric plants to supply cheap and reliable power to local regions. Rapid and consistent growth in demand for electricity allowed companies to finance construction of such 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 is already emerging.
In “Always On: Reliable electricity in an age of coal plant retirement,” the Izaak Walton League and Fresh Energy explain market forces that have caused traditional baseload electricity sources to have less value in the 21st-century electricity system. The report demonstrated how current energy market forces—such as state-based 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 meet our energy needs.