Distributed ReStart

On this page, you can find out about the Distributed ReStart project which explores how Distributed Energy Resources (DER) can be used to restore power in the unlikely event of a blackout.

What is the Distributed ReStart project?

The Distributed ReStart project is a partnership between National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), SP Energy Networks (SPEN) and TNEI. The project has been awarded £10.3 million of Network Innovation Competition (NIC) funding.

Distributed ReStart explores how Distributed Energy Resources (DER) in Great Britain can be used to restore power in the highly unlikely event of a total or partial blackout of the National Electricity Transmission System.

Examples of distributed energy resources (DER) include:

  • natural gas turbines
  • biomass generators
  • embedded hydro-power stations
  • wind turbines
  • solar panels.
Distributed ReStart offers a cleaner, greener alternative

A benefit of DER is that they provide a cleaner and greener alternative to generating electricity; though the scale of production is typically smaller than traditional energy resources.

The enormous growth in DER presents an opportunity to develop a radically different approach to Black Start, however, there are significant technical, organisational, and commercial challenges to address.

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How will the project work? 

Black Start is the process of restoring power to consumers following a blackout.

It’s envisaged that the Distributed ReStart project will demonstrate a world first – coordinating a bottom up from distribution networks to transmission level to provide a safe and effective Black Start service.

This will increase competition in the market and deliver reductions in both cost and carbon emissions.

Project description

Black Start is currently a transmission-led approach of starting large generators and energising a skeleton transmission network.

Our electricity system is undergoing a revolution driven by decarbonisation and decentralisation, and Black Start services need to evolve accordingly.

The key problem that Distributed ReStart aims to resolve is how to bring the organisational coordination, the commercial and regulatory frameworks, and the power engineering solutions together to achieve Black Start from DER.

Solving the problem (method and solution)

The method used to find the solution:

Distributed ReStart will develop and demonstrate ground-breaking new approaches to open the market to DER by designing and then testing technical, organisational, procurement and regulatory solutions.


The solution from applying the method:

Enabling DER to provide Black Start services will open a new market for DER (key to a low-carbon, decentralised electricity system), will increase competition and diversity in the market, and contribute to adequate Black Start provision in the future.

The benefits of the project

Our analysis shows the Distributed ReStart project can deliver 0.81MT CO2 reduction (cumulative) by 2050.

The NPV of the project is expected to be £115m by 2050 due to increased competition and reduced costs associated with large generator readiness.

This would be passed on to consumers through reduced BSUoS. This ground-breaking approach would be the first of its kind in the world, creating the blueprint for international adoption.

What is the project approach? 

The project is a three-year programme (Jan 2019 – Mar 2022) that will develop and demonstrate new approaches to enabling Black Start services from Distributed Energy Resources (DER).

Case studies on the SP Distribution (SPD) and SP Manweb (SPM) networks will be used to explore options and then design and test solutions through a combination of:

  • detailed off-line analysis
  • stakeholder engagement and industry consultation
  • desktop exercises
  • real-life trials of the re-energisation process.

The four areas of work that will cover the wide range of issues to enable Black Start from DER are below.

Power engineering and trials

The power engineering and trials work stream is concerned with assessing the capability of distribution networks and installed DER to deliver an effective Black Start service.

It will identify the technical requirements that should apply on an enduring basis.

This will be done through detailed analysis of the case studies and progression through multiple stages of review and testing to achieve demonstration of the Black Start from DER concept in ‘live trials’ on SPEN networks.

Organisational, systems and telecommunications

The organisational, systems and telecommunications work stream will consider the restoration process including different roles, responsibilities and relationships needed across the industry to achieve Black Start from DER at scale.

It will specify the requirements for information systems and telecommunications, recognising the need for resilience and the challenges of coordinating Black Start across many parties.

Procurement and compliance

The procurement and compliance work stream will address the best way to deliver the concept for end consumers by:

  • exploring the options and trade-offs between competitive procurement solutions and mandated elements
  • making recommendations on the procurement strategy aiming to be as open and transparent as possible while reflecting wider industry discussions on related topics like the DSO transition and Whole System Planning
  • feeding into BAU activities to make changes as necessary in codes and regulations.

Knowledge and dissemination

Knowledge and dissemination is a fundamental aspect of the innovation project.

Our aim is to ensure stakeholders understand the outcomes and any impacts/opportunities for their respective organisations.

Our project partners 

The Distributed ReStart project is being run in partnership with National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), TNEI and SP Energy Networks.

Ofgem have provided much of the funding for the project, however, all three partners will share the remaining costs between them. Each partner is bringing expertise and experience to the project, find out more about them below. 

SP Energy Networks

SP Energy Networks (SPEN) is a licensed Electricity Distribution Network Operator (DNO) for central and southern Scotland and parts of England and north Wales. SPEN also operates the Transmission Network in central and southern Scotland. 

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TNEI is an independent specialist energy consultancy firm with a range of skills tailored to answer the challenges and opportunities associated with increased distributed renewable generation, and the integration of low carbon technology.

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