Wind farm at cen­tre of black­out handed £100,000 pay­out

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Steve Bird and Vic­to­ria Ward

THE wind farm in­volved in last week’s black­out was awarded nearly £100,000 com­pen­sa­tion af­ter be­ing told to re­duce its out­put the day af­ter the power cut, The Daily Tele­graph can re­veal.

About a mil­lion homes and busi­nesses in var­i­ous parts of the coun­try were left with­out elec­tric­ity last Fri­day when Hornsea Wind Farm and Lit­tle Bar­ford gas-fired sta­tion went off grid within min­utes of each other. Af­ter get­ting back on­line, Na­tional Grid or­dered Hornsea to re­duce the elec­tric­ity it sup­plied overnight on Satur­day.

This en­ti­tled its own­ers, Orsted, to com­pen­sa­tion. Although Na­tional Grid, a pri­vate FTSE 100 com­pany, in­sisted the de­ci­sion to cut Hornsea’s sup­ply was not re­lated to any role it played in the black­out, the re­stric­tions were the first to be im­posed on the plant since it went live in Fe­bru­ary.

Na­tional Grid, which owns the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity in­fra­struc­ture, makes mil­lions of pounds of so-called “con­straints com­pen­sa­tion” pay­ments ev­ery year. The sys­tem pays if a sup­plier with a con­tract to pro­duce a cer­tain amount of power is then told less is re­quired. While this af­fects home and busi­ness own­ers’ bills, Na­tional Grid in­sists it is the most ef­fec­tive way of cut­ting costs be­cause it avoids the need to build more en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture.

The pay­out emerged on the day Na­tional Grid will re­veal what trig­gered the black­out. Its re­port is ex­pected to in­form Ofgem, the en­ergy reg­u­la­tor, and min­is­ters how the fail­ure in the North Sea and in Bed­ford­shire blacked out swathes of the UK.

An en­ergy ex­pert told The Tele­graph yes­ter­day of the “strik­ing co­in­ci­dence” that Hornsea was told to re­duce sup­ply just af­ter it ap­par­ently con­trib­uted to the once-in-a-decade black­out, par­tic­u­larly hav­ing never been asked to be­fore.

Dr John Con­sta­ble, di­rec­tor of the Re­new­able En­ergy Foun­da­tion, which

analy­ses the green en­ergy mar­ket, said: “This com­pen­sa­tion raises im­por­tant ques­tions about the way wind farms re­ceive pay­ment for re­duc­ing out­put, par­tic­u­larly so soon af­ter be­ing in­volved in a black­out which is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Our anal­y­sis shows there was a drop in sys­tem fre­quency to be­low nor­mal op­er­at­ing lim­its on Satur­day night, just be­fore Hornsea was told to re­duce out­put. It raises the fur­ther ques­tion of whether this was an­other near-miss.”

A Na­tional Grid spokesman said it con­tin­u­ously “bal­ances the sys­tem sec­ond by sec­ond”, adding how lim­it­ing Hornsea’s sup­ply was “busi­ness as usual” and not re­lated to any in­volve­ment in the black­out.

“There are phys­i­cal con­straints on the net­work and to man­age these we can ask gen­er­a­tors to re­duce their out­put in or­der to main­tain sta­bil­ity and man­age the flows on the net­work.

“Gen­er­a­tors are com­pen­sated via a con­straint pay­ment, the most eco­nom­i­cal way to run the sys­tem, keep­ing costs as low as pos­si­ble for con­sumers.

“Hornsea One re­ceived con­straint pay­ments on Satur­day and Sun­day as part of our ‘busi­ness as usual’ oper­a­tion of the sys­tem. These pay­ments were not re­lated to Fri­day’s power cut.”

An Orsted spokesman con­firmed that Hornsea was asked over the week­end to re­duce its pro­duc­tion of en­ergy, adding it was a con­di­tion of its Ofgem li­cence in­tended to guar­an­tee ef­fi­ciency, se­cu­rity and value for money.

“To put this into con­text, on Satur­day the Na­tional Grid made over 1,600 such re­quests to gen­er­a­tors of all kinds,” she said.

Na­tional Grid was said to have ex­pe­ri­enced three “near-misses” in as many months be­fore Fri­day’s black­out.

A spokesman de­nied here had been three near-misses and said that the sys­tem had re­mained “in safe lim­its” since.

The black­out af­fected Lon­don, the South East, Mid­lands, South West, York­shire, the North East, Cornwall and Wales.

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