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E3C blackout report questions whether frequency reserve protocols are ‘fit for purpose’

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

The Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) has questioned whether National Grid ESO’s reserve power protocols are “fit for purpose” in its preliminary response to August’s blackout.

The E3C report, submitted in September but only published today, recommends that a review be conducted into the electricity system operator’s reserve and response holding policy, echoing similar calls from National Grid.

In particular, the E3C has suggested such a review explore the largest possible loss to the system and whether or not the reserve capacity can adequately cover consequential loss of embedded generation, a key contributing factor to events on 9 August 2019.

The review should also investigate the increased volatility of frequency deviations within operational limits and the level of inertia on the grid.

The report has been produced by the E3C after consulting with National Grid ESO, the transmission and distribution network operators, Ofgem, generators and other industry stakeholders, with the intent of uncovering possible learnings to take forward from the blackout.

It details the events of the blackout, notably stating that the total loss of generation amounted to around 2,100MW, more than double the amount of reserve capacity National Grid holds under the Security and Quality of Supply Standards (SQSS), which amounts to around 1GW.

The E3C report echoes similar sentiments expressed by National Grid ESO in the wake of the blackout, posing whether or not that regulatory minimum amount of reserve capacity needs to be re-evaluated.

In addition, the E3C has said that more work needs to be done on the compliance process, especially when it comes to embedded generation, which contributed significantly to events after the loss of large-scale generators. The committee is calling for a review of the timescales of delivery of the Accelerated Loss of Mains Change Programme, launched in order to reduce the risk of inadvertently tripping and disconnecting embedded generation in such events.

Low Frequency Demand Disconnection protocols should also be evaluated to determine how essential services can manage similar disruptions in the future, which could include the setting of new minimum standards for critical infrastructure, such as transport systems, so that they can withstand such losses of power.

The E3C has, meanwhile, suggested that communications in the first hour of a stress event need to improve, a matter also highlighted by National Grid ESO’s report published last month. It is calling for communication policies and protocols across not just the ESO and TNO/DNOs, but also generators, government, Ofgem and trade association need to be reviewed in order for communication to the public to be more effective in the future.

The proposals are to be investigated further by the E3C before a final report is published later this year.

With the E3C report now having been published, the only withstanding report is industry regulator Ofgem’s take on the matter.

However this could stand to be the most important, and certainly the most consequential, with the regulator holding the power to penalise entities it finds in breach of licence conditions.

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