Baseload power is not the answer to the variability of renewable energy, a German energy official said Friday, and energy storage may not be the answer either.
Germany has achieved moments in its Energiewende, or Energy Transition, in which renewables met 100 percent of demand without the aid of baseload power or batteries, said Thorsten Herdan, a director general for energy policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Germany was able to do that, he argued, because of its system’s flexibility.
1. Flexibility Trumps Baseload
“What we need for this fluctuating renewable energy in the electricity mix is not baseload. Baseload is poison for our electricity transition in Germany,” Herdan said in a briefing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. “What you need is flexibility, because the sun is shining and then you have PV production, wind is blowing and you have wind production. So it’s not according to demand, it’s according to weather conditions, which means they are there in any case and then you need to have flexibility to fill the gap.”
Baseload power was traditionally supplied by coal and nuclear plants, with peaks in demand met by natural-gas plants.
But flexibility can displace the old notion of baseload and peak, Herdan said, and flexibility can take many forms, including gas peaker plants, batteries, demand management or regional exchanges. It’s most important to keep in mind, he argued, that flexiblity is the goal, not any one of the forms it takes.
2. Flexibility Trumps Storage
Herdan appeared in a briefing on Germany’s Energy Transition hosted by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. Asked whether an energy transition like Germany’s will increase the demand for energy storage, Herdan said, “I don’t know whether the demand for storage will increase. What I know is the demand for flexibility will increase, will increase dramatically… and if storage proves to be the cheapest flexibility, and the market chooses storage, then of course storage will increase.
“It’s always coming down to flexibility. That’s what we need and storage is one sort of that.”
But other sorts may prove cheaper: