A major IT upgrade to help National Grid to keep the lights on and cut costs to consumers is running six years late and is still not working properly. The energy company, which is under scrutiny after Britain’s worst blackouts in a decade last month, has spent more than £100 million on the electricity balancing system (EBS) that was due to start up in 2013. The new system was supposed to automatically instruct power plants to fire up when needed, replacing the “essentially manual” 1980s system. However it is still not fully functioning, raising questions about how effectively National Grid is managing Britain’s energy security. National Grid first proposed replacing its control room’s IT system more than a decade ago. It has said the existing balancing mechanism has “reached ‘end of life’ and requires replacement”, calling it “essentially a manual system originally developed to control a handful of coal units”. The growth of renewables and small-scale “distributed” power generation means it has to handle hundreds of plants, which it has said could be “difficult” during windy conditions. The delay to the balancing system project has left the control room largely reliant on the old IT system. The Times has learnt that on February 8 this old system crashed for hours overnight, leaving engineers to balance supplies via manual processes. National Grid said part of the system to schedule plants in advance was working but “fully automated dispatch as planned in the scope of EBS has not proved to be viable”. It said it had written off £12 million of the £102 million it had spent on the project.
Times 16th Sept 2019 read more »