EDF reduces output from Sizewell B as part of National Grid ESO’s new tools to manage COVID-19

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NATIONAL Grid ESO is today outlining a number of new tools and measures to manage the unprecedented situation caused by COVID-19 and reduced demand for electricity.

The additional options for ESO’s control room engineers to draw on are aimed at enabling the continued supply of safe, secure and reliable electricity in any situation, and will ensure the ESO operates the electricity system as efficiently as possible for consumers.

As part of a series of additional tools to address reduced demand they have agreed a one-off, fixed term contract with EDF to reduce output from Sizewell B nuclear power station, as opposed to daily payments to reduce output via the Balancing Market.

The agreement, which will run in parallel to the ESO’s existing balancing of all forms of electricity generation, is a more cost efficient and secure outcome for consumers.

It also gives additional options to the ESO’s control room engineers to manage the key properties of the electricity system such as stability, frequency and voltage.

Matt Sykes, Managing Director for EDF’s Generation business, commented on the announcement: “EDF is pleased to have responded quickly and positively to National Grid ESO’s request to help stabilise the energy system during this time of very low electricity demand.

“EDF has agreed with the Grid to halve output from the Sizewell B power station in Suffolk for the next six weeks, and potentially longer.

“This demonstrates the versatility and reliability of nuclear power, particularly of pressurised water reactor nuclear plants.

“While not normally desirable to reduce such a major source of low carbon power, these are exceptional times that require different and flexible approaches.”

In addition, the ESO has launched its Optional Downward Flexibility Management service, additional commercial agreements which cover small scale renewable generators and give ESO’s electricity control room additional flexibility in balancing supply and demand during the current period.

These partnerships, which are voluntary temporary agreements, will allow it to work with a wider range of generators connected to distribution networks to reduce their output to help balance the system.

Earlier this week the ESO also sought to clarify its ability to manage small scale generators in the unlikely event of an emergency situation.

The ESO’s ability to be able to instruct these generators to reduce their output has always been in place in the Grid Code (the technical and legal framework that helps govern electricity), but given the unprecedented situation posed by lower demand it has raised this again with industry via a modification to the grid code, to make sure everyone is clear on the roles and responsibilities.

This process would only be deployed in the unlikely event of an emergency situation and is there to help ensure that, even in such cases, the ESO can maintain supply of electricity.

ESO Head of National Control and Chief Engineer Roisin Quinn added: “Great Britain relies on us to keep the lights on and I want to reassure everyone that we have robust plans in place to keep our system working throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

“Our control engineers have decades of experience balancing supply and demand in all conditions and scenarios, including reduced demand, and we do not anticipate any issues in continuing to reliably supply electricity.

“The tools and processes the ESO control room currently has in place to balance supply and demand mean Great Britain’s electricity System is one of the most reliable in the world.

“But we can’t be complacent, and we’ve put in place additional tools for our control room engineers to help us to manage this unprecedented situation.

“These are aimed at enabling the continued supply of safe, secure and reliable electricity in any scenario and mean we can operate the system efficiently as possible for consumers too.

“It’s also important to note that alongside these short-term measures we remain committed to our ambition of being able to operate the GB system carbon free by 2025.

“Our long-term projects, such as our Stability Pathfinder, are allowing more renewable generation to operate and ensuring system stability at lower costs, as well as delivering long term solutions to manage the issues associated with lower demand.”