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National Grid ESO calls for information for new constraint management service

Currently thermal transmission constraint costs from £10 million to £80 million a month.

Currently thermal transmission constraint costs from £10 million to £80 million a month.

National Grid ESO has launched a Constraint Management Pathfinder RFI with the hope of adding a new service to its operations, aimed at reducing the cost of network constraints.

The operator wants to be able to instantaneously remove megawatts from congested areas, and move them to less constrained areas. This would help with the transition to operating carbon free by 2025.

ESO's new services implementation manager David Preston, said they were "really pleased" to be launching the new pathfinder project.

“Our new pathfinder is focusing on engaging with industry to find solutions for managing constraints across the network, particularly to relieve north to south flows at a time when we’re seeing increased generation in the north of England and Scotland to meet southerly demand."

The RFI calls on all technology types including peer-to-peer energy traders, heat sinks, hydrogen storage, wind generators and other potential providers to feedback on the best ways to transform constraint management. It is open to both aggregating assets within the right regions and facilitating the stacking of services.

Participants have until 28 February 2020 to give the ESO its feedback.

Duncan Burt, the ESO’s director of operations tweeted: “If you could build batteries in areas of high wind output that we could use to absorb power, if you could use low cost MWs to make hydrogen when it’s windy, if you could create local markets to heat homes with electricity, then we’re interested in talking to you.”

The ESO is hoping to gage the level of interest from service providers to meet the identified needs, their ability to meet these, the timescale of options and potential framework barriers and restrictions from the RFI.

While nothing is guaranteed, the ESO said that it could currently see a system that includes technologies with a high level of availability year-round within the contractual period, which have a lifespan of a minimum of ten years forming part of the new service.

It has identified at least 200MW for a two hour service duration period where constraint management would be beneficial, and suggested that to simplify implementation, already being connected to existing Control Room communication infrastructure would likely be required.

Such a system would help reduce the current costs of managing constraints, as currently thermal transmission constraints, which are managed using the Balancing Mechanism (BM), trading and contracts, cost from £10 million to £80 million a month.

With intermittent renewables growing as the UK decarbonises to reach it’s net zero by 2050 target, constraints on the grid are likely to increase. The increase already seen has led to cost increases, as the “bid-off” prices for renewables are higher than traditional generation forms.

Preston continued: “Our aim is to reduce the cost of network constraints through a new service which, after a fault on the network, will instantly remove power from congested areas of the grid while injecting power into less constrained areas.

"Improving the speed and flexibility of the system in this way will really support our ambition to be able to operate the electricity system carbon free by 2025, ensuring value for consumers and a secure system of the future. The service will be open to all technology types, and we’re keen to hear from all potential market participants.”

The ESO has therefore laid out two proposed operational strategies, single location and dual location.

Following a Constraint Management pathfinding webinar earlier this year, the ESO clarified what these two scenarios would include:

“With a single location approach, the idea is that energy is absorbed or taken off the grid on the exporting side of the boundary. This results in a saving in the ‘bid off’ price i.e. turning down a generators output. An action would still be required through the BM on the importing side of the boundary to increase generation/decrease demand.

“With dual location, there might be savings on the BM action as energy would be absorbed and injected at the same time, on each side of the boundary, in a mirroring effect.”

During the RFI, the ESO will assess potential constraint management solutions on the basis of cost, availability and speed amongst others. Currently, it is not specifying the exact assessment criteria weightings that will be used to evaluate the solutions.

Burt continued on Twitter: “We think this is a new a tremendous opportunity to help get your project off the ground and to help us all move towards an efficient ultra low carbon grid. It would mean longer term contracts and revenue for you and service to help us manage the grid... please take a look!”

In order to further evaluate options and inform those who wish to participate, the ESO is running a webinar on the 22 January.

The pathfinder was welcomed by those in the industry, such as Amir Alikhanzadeh, practice manager at the Energy Systems Catapult.

“The risk of network constraints on the grid are likely to increase as the UK moves towards its net zero target in 2050 and more renewable energy sources is integrated with the energy system. It is important to note that the nature and characteristics of these network constraints keep changing at different time horizons and locations. At the moment, British consumers are exposed to £10m to £80m thermal constraint costs per month due to the Balancing Mechanism. So looking at a wider pool of solutions, such as procuring flexibility services rather than conventional network reinforcements, has the potential to reduce network constraint costs.

"However, the response time of 150 milli-seconds indicated in the RFI is quite limiting and could potentially exclude some types of solutions. Since the aim of the Constraint Management pathfinder is to alleviate thermal constraints on the network, extending the response time would allow more diverse solutions will be able to participate in this new balancing service and consequently achieve a more competitive environment.

"The proposed long-term commercial contract should provide a level-playing field to allow access to a wide range of service providers such as energy storage systems, local area energy markets for aggregators, and power to gas, etc.”

The Constraint Management Pathfinder RFI forms part of the ESO’s wider Network Development Roadmap, which is hoping to build on its Network Options Assessment. This includes other pathfinder projects looking into high voltage projects, post-fault constraint management commercial solutions and stability. There is also a pathfinder looking into taking a probabilistic approach, which featured in the ESO’s Energy Ten Year Statement.

The operator has introduced a number of changes recently to help manage the quickly changing grid, including its Wider Access Program that saw changes to the BM that will allow access for smaller generators, and its faster-acting frequency response mechanism, which is designed to help manage the flow of energy around the grid.


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