This is a chart I produced using Google Sheets using data sourced from –
BM Reports. Rolling system frequency – historic
The National Grid’s Interim and Final Report
The National Grid’s interim report includes a higher-resolution frequency vs time graph, part of which I have extracted and annotated.
The National Grid was in breach of its licence obligations (to keep grid frequency above 49.5 Hz) within 5 seconds of the first events which precipitated this power cut crisis.
Operationally, the National Grid should contract for generators (while not actually generating at full load or at all) to run in spinning reserve for frequency response service and to add “inertia” or rotational kinetic energy to the synchronous generators system which is drained by any supply-demand power deficit, moderating the rate of frequency slowing.
The National Grid should contract for a margin of excess demand-side response capacity too.
Those cheap and cheerful measures could be done very quickly and would keep the lights on securely while considering the best investment decisions to suit the transition to renewable energy, most likely supplementing the UK’s 2.9GW of pumped storage hydroelectricity short term operating and fast reserve with fast-response electrical energy storage, be that from super-capacitors / ultra-capacitors and / or batteries to supply a short burst of fast-reserve power of no more than about 2.9GW – to sustain the supply power and maintain frequency while the UK’s pumped storage hydroelectric schemes are reaching full power output from their highest state of readiness, ideally spinning reserve.
The National Grid reports it has 472MW of batteries already so investing in another 2.4GW of super-capacitors should complement the UK’s 2.9GW of pumped storage hydroelectricity nicely to create a high specification renewable energy reserve power supply that could power up instantly and last for hours if necessary, even in the event of a power shortage crisis that was twice as bad as the one just suffered.
Re-nationalising the National Grid?
In May 2019, the BBC reported that the Labour Party unveiled plans to take the National Grid into public ownership.
After this power cut, the Guardian asked “Does this strengthen the case for nationalising the National Grid?“.
Maybe it does because the suspicion must be that the privatised National Grid has hived off its grid management to a separate “Electricity System Operator” company limiting its liability with respect to OFGEM fines, with a shoddy frequency response service, risking power cuts in order to profiteer with predictable consequences for grid reliability.
My view – re-nationalise the National Grid with extreme prejudice. 😀