National Grid ESO - businesswoman reviews reports

A day in the life an EMR Auction Manager

In our role as Electricity System Operator we are the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) Delivery Body, responsible for administering two key mechanisms (Contracts for Difference and Capacity Mechanism) which provide incentives for the investment required in our energy infrastructure.

Bec Thornton gives us an insight into her time at the ESO and tells us what she does as EMR CM Auction Manager.

National Grid ESO - auction manager



How did you come to join National Grid ESO? 

2021 marks my 30th year working for National Grid! I studied Pure and Applied Physics at university and joined the graduate scheme and became an electrical engineer. I chose National Grid because of the diversity of roles available following completion of the graduate scheme. 

Can you tell us about your various roles in those 30 years? 

You can probably imagine that in 30 years I’ve had a range of varied roles! 

Once I’d completed the graduate scheme I spent five years in System Development designing connections to the Transmission System.  Back then the computers were so slow we’d have to run studies overnight and then go and collect the paper printouts from another office round the corner in London! 

I left to have a baby in 2002 and when I returned, National Grid had merged with Transco and we had moved HQ from Coventry to Warwick. I came back to the same department and sharing gas and electricity knowledge across the team, I started doing gas connection contracts as well as electricity. 

In 2006 BETTA was in place when I returned to work after having my second child and I went into the Industry Codes team, where I had responsibility of managing the STC (System Operator Transmission Owner Contract) with the Scottish Transmission Owners.

I then went on to become the European Codes Manager for National Grid and following that took a role in the legal separation of National Grid Electricity Transmission and National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO). I stayed with NGESO and took the role of the EMR Auction Manager role, where I have been for 2 years and I have run 4 Capacity Market Auctions so far.

What does your current role as EMR Auction Manager involve? 

My team is responsible for running the Capacity Market Auctions together with an Auction Monitor, and external auctioneer, to ensure compliance against capacity market Rules and Regulations

We are also responsible for running the Contracts for Difference Auctions. We work BEIS and Ofgem and other EMR teams to ensure we have all the correct information to build the IT systems uses too. 

When all regulatory changes are in place, EMR together with BEIS and Ofgem launch the auction programme and EMR guide potential participants through process to follow to be able to participate in an auction.

Potential participants then apply to EMR through the ER portal and then EMR run a rigorous assessment process over a few months to determine whether an applicant pre-qualifies or not. Once a generator has been pre-qualified, and all mandatory criteria has been met, my team can run the auctions. 

What is the electricity capacity market? 

The Capacity Market is one of the key policies of the EMR programme which aims to ensure the future security of our electricity supply at the lowest cost to consumers by providing a regular retainer​ payment to reliable forms of capacity, in return for such capacity being available when the system is tight. 

For Capacity Market auctions, we run a webinar prior to an auction to run through everything a participant is required to do prior to the auctions and we also run a training session on how to use the Auction System which is made available to participants through the EMR Portal. For Contracts for Difference Auctions, these auctions are run differently using a sealed bid process.

We have just completed the 20/21 Mock Auctions and Live Auctions during which, we send BEIS reports after each round followed by a Provisional Results report following clearing of the auction which is then finalised 8 days after the auction. We are now in the process of preparing for the 21/22 auctions.  

What is Contracts for Difference? 

Contracts for Difference (​CfD) is one of the key mechanisms implemented by the UK Government as part of EMR to provide long-term price stabilisation to low ​carbon plant, allowing investment to come forward at a lower cost of capital and therefore at a lower cost to consumers. Typically CfD auctions have been run every two years, the last one being in 2019 and the next one in 2021.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you? 

The impact for me has been much more on my work than me personally. Being able to work from home was difficult to start with because of Wi-Fi issues, laptop issues but these things were speedily resolved by our IT support team. My children are teenagers so they don’t need the same supervision that toddlers do.  A number of my team have young children and I need to ensure on a daily basis that they are managing and any issues with working from home are resolved

We’re 10 months into some form of lockdown and people seem to have naturally adjusted.