Wed, Aug 21, 2019 - Page 10 News List

UK renewables mix faces scrutiny in blackout probe


Electricity pylons supplying the national grid rise above the Barking substation in east London on Friday last week.

Photo: AFP

National Grid PLC is to investigate how to better incorporate the UK’s increasing share of renewable energy in the power mix after a blackout earlier this month saw more than 1 million homes lose power.

The probe was sparked by the Aug. 9 blackout that also caused havoc on the transport networks, after a lightening strike north of London led to Orsted A/S’s giant Hornsea One offshore wind farm failing at about the same time as RWE AG’s Little Barford gas plant.

Renewable energy, which is mainly intermittent, accounted for one-third of the UK’s power last year.

The blackout came at a time when the UK’s power industry is facing increased political scrutiny.

The opposition Labour Party has promised to renationalize some parts of the network if it wins the next general election, and the government is concentrating on leaving the EU, which would upend trade ties and the case for badly needed investment in the nation’s energy infrastructure.

“The evolution of the electricity generation mix in Great Britain since 2008 has been significant,” National Grid said in its preliminary report to the British Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem). “Wind generation, solar and interconnectors are different to the conventional electricity generation sources.”

The sudden shutdowns resulted in as much as 1.3 gigawatts suddenly going offline, National Grid said in a preliminary report to Ofgem published yesterday.

That is about the size of a modern nuclear reactor.

The grid was restored within a few minutes with backup sources as 1.1 million households were without power for as long as 50 minutes, but train networks were thrown into disarray during the Friday evening rush hour, leaving commuters stranded.

Ofgem would also probe whether National Grid held sufficient backup generation, and whether RWE and Orsted breached their legal obligations to the grid, it said.

“We believe there are still areas where we need to use our statutory powers to investigate these outages,” Ofgem Executive Director of Systems and Networks Jonathan Brearley said.

A final, detailed technical report by the grid must be delivered to the regulator by Sept. 6, Ofgem said.

National Grid said in its report that it welcomed the move to commission the government’s Energy Emergencies Executive Committee to review the incident.

National Grid plans to develop new frequency response services and inertia monitoring systems to help stabilize the grid.

Orsted’s Hornsea One is the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

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