National Grid ESO has awarded Black Start contracts in the South West and Midlands as part of a new competitive tender.

Six providers have been awarded contracts with a combined total £84 million, as part of the new tender process for awarding such contracts, with five of the six being new contracts.

Having launched the tender in February 2019, the new agreements – which will run instead of bilateral agreements – will provide services from July 2022. This will last for five years, with an incentive to start earlier if possible and at the discretion of National Grid ESO.

Historically, generators such as coal and gas-fired power stations that could re-start the system after a blackout – known as a Black Start – have individual contracts to provide these services, however with the energy system shifting from large, centralised power stations and towards Distributed Energy Resources National Grid ESO has had to rethink its approach.

The new competitive tender process is aimed at broadening the number of generators able to provide services, which will then reduce the dependence on the traditional providers of Black Start services, National Grid ESO said, warning that reliance on these could “lead to inadequate cover and inefficient contracts”.

It announced its plans to switch up its procurement process for Black Start in 2018, outlining its intentions to trial the approach in 2020.

It is also running the three-year Distributed ReStart project, which hit its halfway point in June 2020. The project is exploring how DERs can be used to restore power in the event of a total or partial shutdown of the electricity transmission system, with results expected in March 2022.

Alongside this, National Grid ESO is working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on the development of an industry wide restoration standard, which aims to establish a minimum restoration capability for all GB zones.

David Wildash, market services senior manager at National Grid ESO said: “Our control room engineers have never had to implement our national Black Start procedures but nevertheless it’s a hugely important backup plan and we’re pleased to be announcing this new suite of contracts.

“These new agreements will widen the pool of generators who can help provide the service and offer cost efficiencies too.”

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