National Grid Asks for Emergency Powers to Avoid U.K. Blackouts

May 4, 2020, 8:48 AM

National Grid Plc asked the U.K. energy regulator to make urgent rule changes that will allow the network operator to halt solar, wind and small power plants from supplying electricity when demand falls.

The coronavirus pandemic has cut power demand by 20% compared to usual and is causing balancing problems for the grid operator when output from wind or solar is high. National Grid has asked as a last resort it should be allowed to instruct generation that’s connected to local networks to switch off to reduce supply.

National Grid has warned of the urgency of the rule change as without it there will be “supply issues” for consumers. Ofgem is due to decide on the rule change on May 7 ahead of the U.K. bank holiday on Friday which is a particularly risky day, according to the network operator.

“If the modification is not completed there is a significant risk of disruption to security of supply,” National Grid said.

Blackouts can occur when there’s too much generation, not just when there’s too little. National Grid usually adjusts supply and demand through the balancing market which compensates transmission grid-connected participants for turning generation up or down.

Large wind farms connected to the transmissions grid can be turned down or curtailed but National Grid has no control over the increasing amount of solar generation that’s connected to the local distribution grid.

Read more about embedded generation

This chart shows the latest solar forecast:

This chart shows the latest wind forecast:

To contact the reporter on this story:
Rachel Morison in London at rmorison@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

Jeremy Hodges, Andrew Reierson

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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