Generators contribute £9mn to Ofgem fund after UK power interruption

Both the energy regulator Ofgem and the government’s Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) have reached conclusions on the ‘Friday rush hour power cut’ of 9 August last year, which caused widespread disruption, particularly to rail travellers. 

The operators of the two large power stations involved, Hornsea One offshore wind farm (co-owned by Ørsted) and Little Barford gas-fired power station (operated by RWE) have agreed to make a voluntary payment of £4.5mn each into Ofgem’s redress fund. Meanwhile, the E3C unveiled plans to strengthen the GB power network and make it more resilient to outages in future.

Ofgem’s investigation found that the combined loss of two large generators, as well as the smaller loss of generation at a local level, together triggered the subsequent disconnection, loss of power and disruption to more than a million consumers. The regulator says it has worked closely with the Office of Rail and Road, which has published its own findings into rail companies’ roles in the disruption. This found that software flaws on some trains caused extended delays for commuters.

Ofgem also found that local network operators disconnected and reconnected consumers in response to the loss of power as expected. However, UK Power Networks began reconnecting customers without being asked to by National Grid, the Electricity System operator (ESO), which could have jeopardised recovery of the system. UK Power Networks has recognised this technical breach and agreed to pay a further £1.5mn into Ofgem’s voluntary redress fund.

Ofgem says its investigation has raised questions about how the ESO’s management of the system is carried out, and that it will be conducting a review into the structure and governance of the ESO. The incident has underlined the importance of the operator adapting to the complex and changing world it works in.

The E3C report was requested by Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom following the outage. The E3C is made up of representatives from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS); Ofgem; National Grid ESO; distribution and transmission network operators, generators and suppliers; and gas distribution network operators.

Leadsom has confirmed that the action plan from the report will be implemented by the E3C to help prevent and manage future power disruption events, partly by reviewing the pros and cons of requiring National Grid ESO to hold additional back-up generation. The plan will include support for essential services owners and operators to put in place more robust business continuity plans; and for efforts roll out new communications processes to ensure the general public receives regular updates during any future disruptions.

Great Britain has a diverse energy supply and a strong security of supply, which has helped towards halving the number of power outages since 1990, says BEIS. The actions in this report will form part of a package of work already underway across government and industry to ensure the UK’s energy system remains resilient as the country transitions to clean and affordable energy, it adds.

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