Great British blackout: How National Grid is being investigated over three ‘near misses’

Blackouts on Friday, August 8, saw nearly one million homes without power during rush hour, as generators cut off unexpectedly around 5pm. Operators said the outages were “incredibly rare” and traced the disruption to two generators unexpectedly going offline. The National Grid is now subject to investigations by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM). According to the watchdog, they are demanding an “urgent detailed report” following the blackout, which left traffic in gridlock and 900,000 people without power.

OFGEM is now demanding answers from the National Grid after last week’s blackout, as the utility company assures it has started its own investigations.

The National Grid said disconnections at the Bedfordshire-based Little Barford gas-fired power station and Hornsea offshore wind farm in Yorkshire caused the blackout.

According to the Guardian, while this event may be regarded as a “fluke” by some, there have been severe dips in the grid’s frequency from its normal 50Hz range since May 2019.

Industry sources revealed grid frequency fell below 49.6Hz on three separate occasions, and when the blackout happened on Friday frequency tumbled to 48.88Hz.

A national grid spokesperson said they would cooperate with OFGEM to “understand the lessons learned”.

Duncan Burt, director of operations at the National Grid Electricity System Operator, said any interim findings from the internal investigation would go straight to the government regulators.

He said: “We are conducting a thorough internal investigation and will report our interim findings in detail to Ofgem by the end of this week.

“We can and must learn lessons from Friday’s events – however rare their occurrence – as National Grid and as an energy industry.”

According to Steve Shine, chairman of battery company Anesco, the National Grid has been aware of the potential issue for “many years”.

He told the Guardian: “It would be easy for National Grid to write this incident off as a fluke event, but they have actually been aware of this potential issue for many years.”

Mr Shine said widespread effects from just two generators was “worrying”.

He continued: “What is needed is a greater volume of faster response services, which can be called into action when the frequency drops.”

“This would have prevented the need to turn the power off.

“It’s worrying that with just two generation sources dropping out of the supply mix, National Grid was still unable to deliver power to all areas, with no proper contingency plan in place.

“It’s exactly this kind of scenario the UK needs to be prepared for.

“These recent events demonstrate how important it is to have more, faster response services available, which can be called into action when the frequency drops.”

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