The electrical sector in any given region will produce power at all hours of the day, every day, with limited (sometimes zero) tolerance for downtime. What this means for a power producer is that a variety of technologies have to be leveraged to ensure there is continuous operation within a region.

Why Are There So Many Generation Types?

A large mix of power generation types is normal for most countries. Governments and system operators make use of multiple generation types to keep power flowing at all hours.

Figure 1: A typical outline for power generation data. (Source: ZE Powergroup Inc.)

Nuclear power, while difficult to initiate or shut down, provides a supply with very little variation in output.  This type of supply is typically used as a ‘base load’ generator. Nuclear plants supply a minimum level of power at a steady rate to meet most customer needs.

Some energy technologies are inherently unsteady, with generation that needs to be supplemented by other sources. Wind farms, for example, generate much more power at night, while solar farms will naturally be dependent on daylight. To achieve steady power generation, these sources have to be run in conjunction with other generation plants to have more control over their output. Most often, these sources are renewable generation methods.

Plants based on gas and coal can be fired up and turned off in a matter of hours. The ability to control their output in a short span of time makes them ideal for handling marginal demand. While coal plants still require a few hours for initialization, they often sit alongside gas facilities as marginal generators.

Of course, all generation types depend on regional availability, and a particular region’s generation mix will be different from other areas. Along with availability, regulations also make an impact on regional generation. With more focus on reducing carbon emissions, renewables are often preferred over other methods.

What Is A “Generation Stack”?

A generation stack is a visualization of various power generation types within a region. Regional system operators and governmental agencies often publish these breakdowns of different generation types within their jurisdictions.

Figure 2: Electricity generation data by type (Data Source: Eurostat). Graph generated in ZEMA.

Figure 2: Electricity generation data by type (Data Source: Eurostat). Graph generated in ZEMA.

 

At a glance, generation stacks provide a quick view of data that makes it easy to spot trends in energy usage. Figure 1 above plots the overall European generation data from Eurostat with information from various fuel types. Right away, it’s apparent that some fuel types have grown more than others. In this case, the largest change would appear to have occurred in natural gas, where generation has increased substantially since 1990.

Simply stated, generation stacks are a great way to compare year-on-year trends within a region. With renewable portfolio standards taking hold around the world, performing quick assessments of a region’s generation mix is becoming more and more important. Generation data is published by Independent System Operators, government bodies and private data publishers across the globe.

As increasing levels of generation data becomes more and more difficult to manage and validate, users need to seek out better enterprise data management solutions to normalize, stack and analyze this information with little effort.  The ZE Market Analyzer product provides traders, analysts and researchers with quick and centralized access to generation data, so that it can be easily viewed and analyzed.