Great Britain on track for periods of zero carbon electricity in 2025

Great Britain on track for periods of zero carbon electricity in 2025

Great Britain’s electricity system is on track to be powered free of fossil fuels
and at 100% zero carbon in just four years’ time according to a new National Grid Electricity
System Operator (ESO) report. This is a key enabler for a zero carbon electricity system by
2035, in line with the 6th Carbon Budget.

Data released ahead of the COP26 climate summit in November, along with recent
electricity records, illustrates the growth in renewable electricity generation and
progress towards periods of zero carbon operation of the GB electricity system, an ambition
the ESO first announced in April 2019.

At present its control room needs to draw on conventional power plants (typically gas) to
deliver system reliability and manage properties such as voltage and frequency. By 2025 it
will have transformed its operation of the electricity system, so that when there is enough
zero carbon generation available, it can deliver electricity to Great Britain without using any
fossil fuels.

Since 2016 Britain’s electricity has been over two-thirds zero carbon for 5,000 half hour
periods, over 100 days cumulatively. In 2019 zero carbon sources outstripped fossil fuelled
electricity generation for the first time ever and 1.30pm on 17th August of that year saw the
highest share of zero carbon power ever seen at 85.1% (wind 39%, solar 25%, nuclear 20%
and hydro 1%). Wednesday 12 February 2020 saw the highest ever output from zero carbon
generators– 28.8GW – enough to power 10m homes for a week.

This latest update on progress towards zero carbon forms part of a new National Grid ESO
report ahead of the COP26 climate summit on November which showcases how Great
Britain’s electricity system has decarbonized in recent times, charting the key industry and
policy developments that have made it possible.

Fintan Slye, National Grid ESO Executive Director said:

“We’re confident that by 2025 we will have periods of 100% zero carbon electricity,
with no fossil fuels used to generate power in Great Britain. As with coal free
operation of the grid these may be short periods at first but will still be a significant
milestone on the road to net zero, and these periods will quickly extend.

“The growth in renewable sources of power, with record levels of wind and solar,
means there will be enough zero carbon generation to meet demand. A
key challenge is ensuring the electricity system is ready to accommodate that power.
Our engineers are deploying innovative, world first approaches to transform how the
power system operates, such as removing the need to draw on
fossil fuel based generation for critical stabilizing properties.“There’s still plenty of hard work ahead but it’s an exciting time and getting to this
position has been a huge team effort from everyone across the entire energy

“We look forward to the opportunity that COP26 brings and sharing GB’s progress
towards zero carbon with countries around the world. Electricity systems are at the
forefront of the energy transition and have the potential to be a catalyst to accelerate
decarbonisation on a global basis. Now is the time to come together, share learnings
and bring about lasting change.”

Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:

“The UK is leading the world in cleaning up our energy system and we continue to
break new records in wind and solar power, while coal has all but been eliminated
from the grid.

“Today’s report shows that the industry and the public’s hard work to drive up
renewables is paying off and we are on the cusp of achieving periods of 100% zero
carbon electricity generation with no fossil fuels used.

“There’s still some way to go, which is why we are powering forward with our
ambitious commitments to increase renewable power across the UK and invest in
new, green technologies so that we build back greener from the pandemic and tackle
climate change.”

May 23rd 2020 presents an example of how the ESO must transform the operation of the
power system ready for zero carbon.

On the day, the electricity market provided a near-100% zero carbon solution –
but the ESO’s control room had to intervene to ensure system stability, pulling back some
wind and hydro and replacing it with synchronous plant like gas and biomass which provided
sufficient inertia. That reduced the zero carbon proportion of the generation mix to around
83% over the day.

Its Stability Pathfinder project is finding new ways to source inertia, through synchronous
compensators, hydroelectric power stations or repurposed gas turbines, which means that
by 2025, if the market again presents 100% zero carbon power, it will no longer need to
reduce zero carbon generation.

More recent electricity records and statistics include:

• At 1pm on Easter Monday 5th April 21 the carbon intensity of electricity – the
measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed – dropped to 39 gCO2,
the greenest Great Britain’s electricity grid has ever been.
• Coal generated only 1.6% of electricity in 2020, compared with almost 25% five years
• Spring 2020 saw Britain’s longest run since the industrial revolution generating
electricity without using coal, stretching almost 68 days (1,630 hours) between April
10 and June 16.• The record for the highest ever level of wind generation and proportion of the mix
was broken on 21st May 21 (17.7GW and 62.1%)
• At 1pm on Easter Monday 5th April 21 the carbon intensity of electricity – the
measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed – dropped to 39 gCO2,
the greenest Great Britain’s electricity grid has ever been.
• Early afternoon on Sunday 11 June 2017 was the first time zero carbon power
contributed over 75% to Britain’s electricity mix.
• The same month – June 2017 – saw zero carbon power outstrip fossil fuel generation
across a month for the first time ever.

About National Grid ESO
National Grid Electricity System Operator – a legally separate business within the
National Grid Group – operates the electricity transmission system in Great Britain,
balancing supply and demand for electricity 24/7.
It does not own or operate any electricity generation or transmission but it’s engineers
and National Electricity Control Centre play a central role in managing electricity, liaising
with generators and regional distribution networks operators. Central to this is managing
key properties of electricity such as frequency and voltage ensuring a safe, secure and
reliable supply across Great Britain.

More on the ESO’s Zero Carbon ambition
In 2019 the ESO initiated a series of ‘pathfinder’ projects to identify and trial solutions to
procuring new services to provide frequency response, voltage, stability, restoration of
power and thermal constraints. This approach encouraged the market to come forward
with solutions – to bring in new sources of capital spend, new players into markets, and
new technologies. This contrasts with the typical approach in the rest of the world
whereby a monopolistic transmission owner identifies its preferred solution and builds it

For example, under the stability pathfinder, Drax has been contracted to provide inertia
through its Cruachan hydroelectric pumped storage plant located in a hollowed-out
mountain in Scotland, Welsh Power is installing a synchronous condenser and flywheel
at its site at Rassau in Ebbw Vale. Statkraft is developing two “Greener Grid Parks” in
Liverpool and Keith, Scotland. These new or modified assets will draw energy from the
grid to power their turbines and create inertia – rather than inertia being a by-product of
producing electricity. So, the same generators can continue providing inertia for the
system, but with dramatically reduced need to burn fossil fuels. It also means that wind
and solar power can stay online, rather than being paid to switch off, saving consumers
more than £100 million over the six-year duration of the contracts.

The ESO’s wider access programme has removed barriers to entry for a wider range of
technologies to access Great Britain’s balancing mechanism (BM) market. The BM isone of the main tools the ESO uses to balance supply and demand on the electricity
system in real-time, alongside balancing services like frequency response and reserve.
Through the BM, providers can offer to increase or decrease their generation or demand
to help balance the system.

‘Wider access’ enables the ESO to accept offers and bids from smaller providers, a
change that will improve system flexibility, allow more renewable power to contribute to
balancing the grid, and bring better value to consumers.

Late in 2020 the ESO also launched Dynamic Containment, the first in a suite of new
fast-acting frequency services to be introduced by the ESO to maintain the system close
to 50Hz – the frequency Britain’s grid must be kept at by balancing electricity supply and
demand second by second.

It’s designed to act rapidly when triggered by a fault on the system – for example the loss
of a generator – with providers, typically battery storage, injecting power into the grid to
catch and ‘contain’ the resulting deviation in frequency


First Synchronous Condenser System to Stabilize Irish Grid

First Synchronous Condenser System to Stabilize Irish Grid

The Moneypoint Synchronous Compensator with flywheel is a cost-effective, zero-carbon solution to strengthen the stability and resilience of the Irish grid.

Siemens Energy will supply a synchronous condenser system to the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), Ireland’s energy company. The grid stabilizing system will be developed at the Moneypoint power station located in South-West Ireland near Kilrush, County Clare.

The ESB recently announced the launch of Green Atlantic @ Moneypoint, an ambitious plan to transform the County Clare site into a green energy hub, where a range of renewable technologies will be deployed over the next decade with the capacity to power 1.6 million homes.

The synchronous condenser, a key component of the ESB’s Green Atlantic @ Moneypoint project, will be the first in the country and incorporate the world’s largest flywheel used for grid stability. The facility will enable an increased integration of wind power into the Irish grid by providing sufficient inertia for frequency support, short-circuit power for system strength, and reactive power for voltage control. Commissioning of the new plant is planned for mid-2022.

Paul Smith, head of asset development at ESB Generation and Trading, said: “Because of the intermittency of wind energy in particular, grid stabilization technologies have an increasingly important role in a successful energy transition. We are pleased to bring forward the Moneypoint Synchronous Compensator with flywheel as a cost-effective and zero-carbon solution in strengthening the stability and resilience of the Irish grid. Siemens Energy provided an optimum technical and competitive solution for Moneypoint in its continuing key role in Ireland’s electricity system.”

Siemens Energy will deliver the synchronous condenser system, providing engineering, procurement, and construction. Key components are a control system that optimally fits to the overlaying grid automation system, a synchronous generator with circuit-breaker, and a flywheel.

Siemens Energy will also provide the preventive maintenance for 10 years with remote diagnostics. The synchronous condenser will, in turn, help the management of Ireland’s transmission system with a reduced dispatch of fossil fuel plants under constraints and reduced costs of transmission operations.

Synchronous condensers are an important building block for mastering the transition to climate-neutral, CO2-free power generation,” said Beatrix Natter, executive vice president transmission at Siemens Energy. “We are proud that the ESB has chosen us to build the first system of this kind in Ireland. Our solution will provide the maximum possible inertia and reactive power to stabilize the Irish grid, helping the country press ahead with its ambitious plans for the expansion of renewable energies.”

Nick O’Mahony, managing director, Siemens Energy, Ireland, said: “The energy transition is happening at pace and to make sure the grid can keep up, we need to look at innovative solutions to keep the grid stable. I’m delighted we have been able to support the ESB with this project, bringing this key technology to the country.”

With the rising share of renewable power and the shutdowns of conventional plants, synchronous condensers are playing an increasingly important role in the grid. By means of the rotating mass of a conventional generator, the solution adjusts conditions on the transmission grid, provides the necessary inertia to support the grid frequency and short-circuit contribution while also providing or absorbing reactive power. In addition, synchronous condensers can diversify revenue for owners and operators while providing an important cash flow contribution.


UK’s second electricity link to France starts flowing at full capacity

UK’s second electricity link to France starts flowing at full capacity

IFA2, National Grid’s second electricity interconnector linking the UK and France, is now able to flow low carbon electricity between the two countries at full capacity.

Wholesale power traders started buying capacity to transport power across the 149-mile subsea power cable, which stretches along the sea floor between Fareham, Hampshire in the UK and near Caen, Normandy in France, yesterday.

A joint venture with French Transmission System Operator RTE, IFA2 increases the amount of clean energy that can be shared between the two countries.

With a capacity of 1000MW, the high voltage direct current (HVDC) power cable can provide enough energy to power 1 million British homes and is expected to meet 1.2% of Britain’s electricity demand.

By importing lower carbon electricity from France, we estimate the project will have prevented 1.2 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 from entering the atmosphere – equivalent to planting 50 million trees – in its first full year of operation.

Jon Butterworth, managing director of National Grid Ventures, said: “IFA2 is the latest feat of world-class engineering helping to transform and decarbonise the electricity systems of Britain and its European neighbours. We’re delighted to have been able to again work with our partners RTE to strengthen the connection between the French and British power grids.

“Together we are now able to help deliver cleaner, more secure, and more affordable energy to consumers at both ends of the cable. Our first interconnector together, IFA, has been successfully operating for more than 30 years. We look forward to working together with RTE over the next 30 years, to support the delivery of net zero targets to fight climate change across the UK and Europe.”

Since construction began in 2018, IFA2 has seen more than 1,000 engineers and specialists work a total of around 3.2 million working hours to date.

National Grid’s portfolio now has four operational interconnectors – two to France (IFA and IFA2), one to the Netherlands (BritNed) and one to Belgium (Nemo Link). Two further projects are under construction – Norway (North Sea Link, operational 2021) and Denmark (Viking Link, operational 2023).

By 2030, 90% of electricity imported via National Grid’s interconnectors will be from zero carbon sources. Between 2020 and 2030, we estimate that our interconnectors will prevent more than 100 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

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Uniper appoints Siemens Energy to deliver grid stability at UK power stations

Uniper appoints Siemens Energy to deliver grid stability at UK power stations

Siemens Energy has been awarded contracts by global energy company Uniper to provide rotating grid stabilisation technology at two sites in the UK.

This new technology will enable Uniper to deliver grid stability services to British energy system operator National Grid ESO, through generating inertia which helps balance grid frequency, without generating power.

This follows Uniper being awarded four six-year contracts by National Grid ESO earlier this year, to provide inertia services and voltage control to the grid under phase 1 of its Stability Pathfinder.

Two steam turbine generators will be repurposed and flywheels installed at the Killingholme site, and two new synchronous condenser units will be built on the site of the old oil-fired power station at Grain. These units will be connected to the existing grid connections at each site. Siemens Energy will be responsible for installing and commissioning synchronous condenser units at both facilities.

The services provided by Uniper through this innovative solution will make an important contribution by keeping the power system stable and the electricity supply at the required frequency as more renewable generation comes online.

Traditionally, inertia has been provided as a by-product of generating electricity at thermal power stations with large synchronous spinning generators. However, as many of these facilities reach retirement, the job of managing grid stability has become more challenging for National Grid ESO, as renewable generation is not connected to the grid in the same way and cannot provide inertia.

Working together with Siemens Energy, Uniper has developed a custom designed solution for each of the facilities that will provide the same grid stabilising services to National Grid ESO without the need to generate power – this is a significant step forward in helping to deliver a net zero future for the UK.

Mike Lockett, Uniper UK country chairman and group chief commercial officer power, commented: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to work closely with Siemens Energy to create a bespoke solution that meets the needs of National Grid ESO, and which is the right fit for our Killingholme and Grain facilities.

“The services provided by Uniper will make an important contribution in supporting the energy transition by maintaining grid stability and security of supplies whilst enabling more renewables to be integrated into the energy system. Creating these innovative solutions based at our sites, puts Uniper at the forefront of this market, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to meeting the challenge of a zero-carbon future.”

“As the energy transition in Great Britain continues along a path toward a zero-carbon future, innovative products and solutions such as these are taking center-stage,” said Karim Amin, executive vice president, generation, Siemens Energy. “And as GB’s electricity generation system moves to more decentralized, renewable power, projects like this which provide inertia without generating any power, will be even more important for the energy system of the future. We salute Uniper for their commitment to a more sustainable energy future.”

Uniper will be the biggest provider of dedicated inertia and voltage control, and will deliver services at both Killingholme and Grain up to 2026.

Work to build the synchronous condenser units at both facilities is due to start later this year with contracted services to begin from 2021.

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Main contractors announced for UK’s first Greener Grid Park

Main contractors announced for UK’s first Greener Grid Park

Statkraft has awarded a contract to Powersystems with civils subcontractor Knights Brown to undertake the electrical and civil engineering works for a £20 million greener grid park project in Moray, Scotland.  AECOM have been appointed Owner’s Engineer.

Construction is expected to start in the coming months and is due to reach operational stage in autumn 2021.

The project, located near the Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks transmission substation at Keith will include two large rotating stabilisers designed to provide stable flows of energy through the grid network, helping to increase the amount of renewable energy transmitted on the system and prevent power blackouts.

The rotating stabilisers are being manufactured in Rugby by GE Power Conversion, with steel casting and forging specialist Sheffield Forgemasters manufacturing the key component of the main rotator shaft and hub.

Statkraft was awarded the stability contract as part of National Grid’s Stability Pathfinder Project to meet its ambition that by 2025 the electricity system can be operated at zero carbon. The contract with National Grid provides grid stability services when there are no fossil fuel generators on the system to provide this. There will be an increased demand for this service as the amount of renewable energy generated increases.

The two machines at Keith are expected to be up and running in autumn 2021, with another project in Liverpool to follow.

Statkraft will manage the construction and operation of the project.

Statkraft UK Managing Director, David Flood said: “We are at the forefront of an emerging area for global energy systems. The UK are world-leaders in their approach to grid stability and we can showcase this expertise to other countries looking to do the same as their renewables capacity increases.”

Guy Nicholson, Statkraft UK Head of Grid Integration said: “Our grid network needs to keep up with the rapid progress renewables has made in the UK. Sometimes National Grid, as the electricity system operator, has been forced to shut down wind farms and run gas power stations to keep the system stable. More projects like Keith Greener Grid Park will mean that will become a thing of the past.”

Statkraft has received a strong response to a call for local suppliers made in conjunction with Moray Chamber of Commerce, with over 75 registrations of interest received in the first week. Local businesses can add their name at

Europe’s largest producer of renewable energy, Statkraft have consent to build a similar project in Liverpool, and have three other projects in the consenting process across Wales, England and Scotland. The company also have an extensive wind development pipeline in the UK including 400MW in planning.

Notes To Editors

About Powersystems

Powersystems UK Ltd are a specialist High Voltage electrical engineering company established in 1977.  Powersystems have grown by reputation to become a major force in the design and installation of high voltage infrastructure across the whole of the United Kingdom.

As one of the first Lloyds National Electricity Registration Scheme ‘s accredited Independent Connection Providers we are capable of delivering contestable grid connections at voltages up to 132kV.

For more information contact Jules Daly, Marketing and Communications Manager at Powersystems UK. Email Telephone 01454 318 000

About Statkraft

Statkraft is a leading company in hydropower internationally and Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy. In the UK, the Group own and develop wind power, hydropower, solar power and Greener Grid ParksTM. It is also involved in the trading and origination of power from its own projects and those of third parties.

Statkraft has 4,000 employees in 17 countries and has operated in the UK since 2006.

Since 2006, Statkraft has invested £1.4 billion in the UK’s renewable energy infrastructure and facilitated over 6 GW of new-build renewable energy generation through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). With a portfolio now exceeding 10 TWh per year from almost 300 customers, Statkraft is the leading provider of short and long term PPAs in the UK.

As a state-owned utility, Statkraft is a solid, dependable partner, committed to playing a leading role in the UK energy market.

About Keith Greener Grid Park

In January 2020 Statkraft was one of five companies to agree a contract with National Grid ESO, worth £328 million over a six-year period, in a new, innovative and world first approach to managing the stability of the electricity system. The Keith Greener Grid Park is part of that agreement.

The project is located off Westerton Road, Keith, and was approved by Moray Council in May 2020. For more information visit 6 July 2020

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National Grid ESO debuts new fast frequency service

National Grid ESO debuts new fast frequency service

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) will launch its new fast frequency response service  to enable it to respond rapidly to disturbances in the flow of energy around the grid. Dynamic Containment is first in batch of products to help balance a UK power grid featuring more variable generation

The ESO’s new sub-second, post-fault response capability, called Dynamic Response, will go live in the national control room. The tool is the first in a suite of new fast-acting frequency services to be introduced by the ESO to maintain the system close to 50Hz.

Six tenders have been received and two battery energy storage units accepted in the first round to provide 90 MW of fast response services over 24 hours, with six units and 165 MW available to compete in tomorrow’s day ahead tender.

The soft launch of the new service will see the ESO running tenders for Dynamic Containment seven days a week, procuring from 11pm-11pm.

This moves the frequency response market closer to real-time in a similar arrangement to the model the ESO has been trialling through its frequency response auction trial.

Initially 500 MW of low frequency response will be bought from providers, which is set to evolve to 1 GW next year and to include high frequency response.

All technology types can participate, with batteries anticipated to make up the majority of providers in the early phase while the service is being developed in conversation with industry, said National Grid ESO.

The new service will sit alongside the ESO’s existing frequency products for now, rather than replacing any.

Dynamic Moderation and Dynamic Regulation products will complete the suite later, with the former designed to manage sudden frequency imbalances in intermittent generation (for example during gusting winds) and the latter to manage small deviations when frequency is close to 50 Hz.

Rapid and real-time management of frequency is becoming increasingly important as the ESO operates a system with more renewable generation and less inbuilt inertia – inertia being a key influencing factor in how quickly frequency will change when there is a system imbalance.

The dynamic product suite’s frequency response capability will complement the ESO’s stability pathfinder initiative, which is already finding new ways to provide inertia without relying on it as a by-product of electricity generation through fossil fuel plants.

In July Drax Group’s Cruachan plant started providing inertia without generating power, while providers Statkraft and Welsh Power are installing new equipment at their Keith and Rassau sites respectively to provide grid stability services.

National Grid ESO national control head and chief engineer Ro Quinn said: “This summer gave us unprecedented insight into what operating a zero carbon electricity system with low inertia could look like.

“Although at times we needed to take more actions to make sure we kept the system secure, I’m proud that our control room proved equal to the engineering challenge.

“Dynamic Containment will be a game-changer.

“The boost the new service will bring to our frequency response capability will further strengthen the system and our ability to maintain a safe and secure electricity supply.

“It will also allow us to bring more renewable generation into the electricity mix, meaning more progress towards our zero carbon ambition.”

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