National Grid ESO power cut report: Industry responds

What does the energy sector think of the findings?

Big Zero Report 2022

National Grid ESO has announced the UK’s transmission system protection operated as designed during widespread power outages in August.

The organisation has now published its final technical report into the event, which affected 1.1 million energy customers as multiple generation assets dropped off the grid after a lightning strike.

It suggests a review of security standards should be carried out to see whether it would be appropriate to provide for higher levels of resilience in the system and stresses communication processes and protocols should be reviewed to support timely and effective communication in any future event, particularly during the first hour.

National Grid acted swiftly

Reactive Technologies CEO Marc Borrett said National Grid had acted swiftly to identify the causes of the recent frequency events

He added: “It is clear from its new report that it has taken several steps to ensure it is fit to respond to future system needs, including incorporating technologies and initiatives to facilitate the greater integration of renewables onto the UK grid.

“Reactive Technologies’ recent commercial partnership with National Grid ESO to start providing the first ever direct inertia measurement service based on its unique patented technology is a clear example of its efforts to proactively seek innovative solutions and ensure future system stability at a fair price for consumers. By working with Reactive to directly measure inertia in order to enhance operational decision-making, National Grid ESO is at the forefront of addressing the kinds of challenges all system operators around the world will face as the necessary transition to renewables continues to transform our grids.”

Ofgem has final responsibility

Richard Black, Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said: “The report confirms a lightning strike as the primary cause of the power cut, resulting in loss of generation from three sources – Hornsea One wind farm, Little Barford gas-fired power station and hundreds of smaller generators dotted around the country which tripped out automatically.

“The wind farm issue was an unanticipated effect in the control system and seems to have been remedied. Little Barford had two separate faults, one electrical and the other with the steam circuit and there’s still a lack of clarity around what happened there.

“Perhaps the most interesting of the report’s recommendations centres on the smaller generators which tripped out automatically due to oversensitive sensors. The industry has been aware of this for at least 10 years and yet under current plans it won’t be fixed until 2022, which the report suggest is inadequate.

“What it doesn’t say – because it’s a report to Ofgem – is that Ofgem as regulator has final responsibility for having allowed this fault to persist. It’ll be interesting to see whether MPs or any other body decide to look into the regulator’s apparent lack of interest in the issue.”

Reviews are urgently needed

Anesco Chairman Steve Shine said he welcomed the reviews recommended in the report and noted they are “important and urgently needed”.

He noted: “However, the fact remains that our national grid is vulnerable to power cuts and is getting more vulnerable by the year. Any review must take place quickly and have the full involvement of the wider industry and not be taken as an opportunity to kick the issue into the long grass.

“It is still clear that National Grid were aware that frequency would fall outside of limits, and with more fast response battery storage on the network this power cut could have been prevented. For that reason National Grid should urgently take action to encourage the building of more energy storage to support the UK’s energy security.”

More investment needed

Dr Thom Whiffen from smart meter display provider geo said: “The recent power outage is a reminder of the increasing pressure that the National Grid is being put under as we increase our reliance on renewables. Although we’ve seen power failures in the past, this event has clearly demonstrated the level of investment in providing flexible energy services is insufficient and not future proofed for our ever decarbonising, decentralising grid. These events will become more frequent as we focus on the decarbonisation of power and put distributed generation at the heart of our system planning.”

He claimed homes with connected batteries could have saved the system from going under and stressed real-time connected data of distributed generation is needed to ensure the country is properly protected as it moves away from fossil fuel generation.

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