National Grid ESO’s new IT interface widens balancing mechanism access for smaller generators

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Smaller providers can now more easily access Great Britain’s balancing mechanism (BM) market following the successful roll-out of a new IT interface.

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO)’s new wider access application programming interface (API) went live in its national control room on 17 September, opening up the market for non-traditional participants to join through ‘a more simple, cost-effective, web-based route.’

The API introduces a new way for providers to connect and communicate in real-time with the ESO’s systems and the BM, as an alternative to the fixed line connections that providers have traditionally used for electronic data transfer (EDT) and electronic dispatch logging (EDL).

It marks an innovative way of enabling new technologies to complement the ESO’s established core network.

Roisin Quinn, head of national control and chief engineer at National Grid ESO, commented: “As we shift away from fossil fuel generation to cleaner, decentralised power, new opportunities are emerging to diversify our energy mix and make our electricity system smarter and more flexible.

“Our wider access initiative is helping to drive that change.

“We’re pleased to see our latest developments go live this week, with Tesla using our new API to enable a new provider to access the balancing mechanism for the first time.

“The API will open the market to a wider range of providers and technologies, increase competition for balancing services and bring better value for consumers, and it will take us a step closer to being able to operate the grid with zero carbon by 2025.”

Market participants can develop their own API solutions to interface with the ESO’s new API, with the ESO providing a secure development and testing environment, and certification on completion.

On Thursday Tesla became the first user to go live with the new API, using its automated real-time trading and control platform Autobidder to manage first-time BM access for the 7.5 MW / 15 MWh Holes Bay battery energy storage plant commissioned by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) and Harmony Energy in Dorset.

Peter Kavanagh, CEO of Harmony Energy, commented: “We are delighted to be working with FRV and Tesla and to be the first project come into the GB balancing mechanism using National Grid ESO’s new wider access API.

“The API creates a new opportunity to lower costs and barriers to market participation and we are excited about the role this can play in unlocking the full power of battery storage and renewable energy in achieving a decarbonised society.”

The asset successfully went live in the balancing mechanism that early afternoon, and has already been dispatched by the ESO control room to help balance the system.

The API roll-out marks the latest development in the ESO’s plans to remove barriers to access for a wide range of providers, and to boost the real-time flexibility of the system.

Felipe Hernández, managing director engineering and asset management of FRV, added: “Opening of the BM to new participants through the new API is an exciting moment for renewable and zero carbon flexibility technologies.

“With the increasing market demand for flexibility services, continued progress on National Grid ESO reforms and technological improvements are the best way to allow the participation of new technologies in the BM and other flexibility services.

“The participation of FRV on this project with Harmony and Tesla as partners, is another successful achievement resulting from FRV’s commitment with its stakeholders and its continuous search for innovation.”

Last year the ESO and ELEXON lowered the minimum threshold for taking part in the BM from 100MW to 1MW, to enable entry for smaller and aggregated units in regional networks.

And in April, Flexitricity became the first provider to take advantage of wider access changes to register in the BM as a virtual lead party (VLP) – a new type of market participant exempt from needing a supply licence or paying use of system charges (BSUoS and TNUoS).

Eamonn Bell, Head of Demand Side Response at Inspired Energy, commented on the news: “As the generation component of the electricity market decentralises, and moves away from a small number of large power stations, it is appropriate that National Grid begins to take advantage of the capabilities of smaller units.

“Flexibility on both the supply and demand side of the market will become much more central to the safe operation of the electricity network in the coming years.

“We welcome this development by National Grid to open up the avenues for service and revenues to non-traditional parties.”