National Grid awards eight more ‘black start’ contracts


National Grid ESO has awarded contracts to eight further providers for Electricity System Restoration Services (ESRS) in the North west, North east and Scotland. Until last year, power engineers knew the measures as ‘black start’ commitments.

The eight contracts, two of them new, total £53.8 million in value. Each bid offers commercial benefits compared to losing bidders and meets options agreed to keep power flowing.

Last year the ESO announced a new tender process for the contracts.  It initially signed deals with six providers for services covering in the South West and Midlands.

Replacing old-style bilateral agreements, the new deals will provide services from May 2022 for three years. Incentives exist to commence earlier if possible, and at the discretion of the ESO.

Historically, big generators capable of kick-starting the system –  typically coal- and gas-fired power stations, maintained individual contracts to re-light the Grid, in the event of a big contributor falling offline.

But as power generation and transmission become decentralised and bi-directional, the NG-ESO is re-orienting its ideas of fail-safe service around Distributed Energy Resources (DER).

The body’s new concept is built around increasing the number of generators able to provide fail-safe services, and reducing the dependence on a dwindling numbers of candidates, a dependency which could lead to inadequate cover.

In 2019, the ESO floated the idea of operating the nation’s power backbone on a zero carbon basis as early as 2025.

Announcing the ESRS deals yesterday ( Tues 4th), it confirmed it is talking to BEIS about the development of an industry-wide standard for system restoration.  The parties aim to establish a minimum restoration capability for all GB zones.

David Wildash, market services senior manager at National Grid ESO commented, “Our control room engineers have never had to implement our national Electricity System Restoration Service procedures.”

“Nevertheless it’s a hugely important backup plan and we’re pleased to be announcing this new suite of contracts”.


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