National Grid issues innovation ‘call to arms’ as system stability tops priority list
Image: National Grid.

National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) unit has placed system stability at the top of its innovation priority list, while issuing a “call to arms” for the energy industry to collaborate further.

The ESO moved the function to the very top of its 10-strong list of priorities while new entrants – Digital transformation and the Whole Energy System – entered at fifth and sixth respectively for the 2019/20 year ahead.

The system operator late last week published its innovation strategyfor the forthcoming year, unveiled as one of a number of documents released last week as the country’s ESO detailed its direction of travel.

In a league table of priorities, National Grid ESO has moved system stability to the very top, citing a combination of issues surrounding inertia, voltage management and the need to enable more non-synchronous generation on the grid.

In order to achieve its aims, the ESO has said it must identify new ways of enhancing system stability and support the “safe and efficient” operation of the country’s electricity system amidst an evolution in power generation.

As more non-synchronous (i.e. intermittent, distributed generation) comes on-stream, system frequency changes are happening quicker than before, affecting the levels of inertia and voltage variances on the system. This is making it more difficult for the two types of generation to co-exist, requiring a more hands-on operation.

A prime example of this occurred late last month, when an “unprecedented” series of events led to the UK wholesale price dipping into negative pricing for six straight hours, an occurrence which research and analysis firm Cornwall Insight said was likely to become more common over the next 15 years as intermittent generation grew.

New additions to the priority list were identified as the digital transformation and whole energy system challenges, which the ESO has raised previously.

The digital transformation occurring within grids and the electricity system in general is creating a significant increase in the amount of data available as the number of market entrants and generators soars, enough to render legacy systems unable to cope.

National Grid has stressed there to be a need to harness this new level of data, while simultaneously test the application of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and blockchain to extract and share new insights.

In addition, the ESO has referenced the need for heightened security and data resilience within the network, required as a result of its status as a Critical National Infrastructure.

National Grid has also once again stressed the need to investigate the ongoing electrification of heat and transport, and how the gas and power systems can collaborate as both markets change.

In a foreword Kayte O’Neill, head of strategy and regulation at National Grid System Operator, said the last 12 months had seen Great Britain make further advancements with decarbonisation and digitisation.

“The System Operator is evolving to keep up with this rapid change… We have responded to rapid decentralisation and decarbonisation in many ways, including introducing a dedicated distributed energy resource desk into our electricity control room and by taking a leading role in the discussion of decarbonisation of gas.

“To achieve these key transformations, we must innovate together as an industry. At the heart of the energy system, the System Operator is in a unique position to drive many of the changes needed to deliver the future vision we all share.

“[This document]… is a call to arms from the System Operator to the energy industry. We look forward to working with you this year to support System Operator innovation and to help deliver the future. GB energy system.”