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National Grid ESO launches Stability Pathfinder follow-up for Scotland

Image: Andy Beecroft.

Image: Andy Beecroft.

National Grid ESO has set its sights on a broader range of technologies as the second phase of its Stability Pathfinder gets underway.

It has released a request for information (RFI), looking at procuring the most economic and efficient stability solutions in Scotland specifically.

Eight locations have been identified, with a total requirement for 8.4GVA across them for regional short circuit level stability solutions. The operator’s Future Energy Scenarios work has identified that short circuit infeed may be needed between 55% and 85% of the time to keep the grid stable in the future.

This follows phase one of the Stability Pathfinder, which saw five flexibility tenders worth £328 million awarded in January to Drax, Statkraft, Triton, Rassau Grid Services (Welsh Power) and Uniper. They will provide inertia but not electricity across the whole of the nation, in what was hailed as a world-first approach at the time.

These were the result of a technical RFI launched in the summer of 2019, which led to an accelerated tender process.

Now the second phase is asking stakeholders for feedback on a number of key points, including a broader range of technologies, with voltage levels of 132kV or more, capable of providing stability. There will be a feasibility stage built into the tender timeline to ensure technical capability can be demonstrated.

Participants are expected to be available 90% of the time as the precise need for the stability services will not be known till almost real time, increasing the need for a broad range of providers.

Unlike the last tender process, there will be no 0MW export pre-qualification condition, as National Grid ESO has identified that it can have an adverse impact on market distortion from bringing on active power alongside stability.

The need for greater stability tools on the Great Britain’s grid has been thrown into a sharp light in recent months, as the COVID-19 lockdown has caused demand to fall to record low levels.

As a result, the Balancing Mechanism was used twice as much throughout April and May 2020 as the previous year, and balancing costs have skyrocketed to ~£500 million more than predicted for the period.

As part of launching the pathfinder, the grid operator has highlighted a number of lessons it has learnt from the first phase, including standardising terminology, increasing transparency through the assessment process and extending the delivery timeline.

Successful tenders will need to be able to start to provide services from between July 2021 and April 2024, and run until April 2030 at the latest.

Following on from the pathfinder and the next tendering process, National Grid ESO expects this to develop into an annual procurement process for stability services.

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