Researchers at the University of New South Wales' Institute for Environmental Studies have published the results of a simulation showing how renewable energy could have met the actual electricity demand in Australia's National Electricity Market during 2010.
The simulation found that existing "off-the-shelf" wind, photovoltaic, biofuelled gas turbines and hydroelectric sources, together with concentrated solar thermal power with thermal storage (which is in limited commercial production) could have met all of the electricity demand in 2010.
The study concluded that the best way to meet the demand for electricity is to abandon the idea that current "baseload" power sources need to be replaced by alternative "baseload" sources. Instead, reliability can be maintained by having storage and as great a diversity of locations as possible, together with the capacity to meet large peak loads.
One of the paper's authors, Dr Mark Diesendorf, told the ABC that the model did not assume any improvements in demand management even though "we are are very close to having a smart grid". He pointed out that "currently, if supply fails to meet demand, it is possible to offload very big consumers of electricity, like aluminium smelters, for up to two hours."