Ralph Marlow

A day in the life of Ralph Marlow

Our colleagues are at the heart of the ESO, working hard to operate a safe and reliable electricity system all whilst supporting the transition to a greener, and more efficient system for future generations.

Ralph Marlow, who is a Constraint Analyst in the Cost Forecasting and Optimisation team gives an insight into his time at the ESO and what made him embark on a career in the energy industry...

How did you come to join National Grid ESO?

I joined National Grid ESO via the engineer training programme based in Wokingham in 2010.  It was a career change for me when in my forties from being a highway technician doing AutoCAD drawings for highway schemes.  On completion of a contract position in late 2009 there was very little work for highway technicians with the government pulling the money out of roads with the recession during 2010.

I had registered with a lot of search engines for job vacancies and one of them had an advert for National Grid’s engineer training programme.    I put in a speculative application for it not thinking I would get a position as I did not have an electrical engineering background at all.  I got invited to the assessment centre and while there I spoke to someone who worked at Wokingham and he inspired me to the point that I really wanted to work for National Grid.

They came back to me 10 days later with the news I was successful, and I started shortly after that.  National Grid paid for me to do a two-year foundation degree at Aston University in Birmingham and I also did technical and health and safety training at Eakring and Wokingham as well as getting 6 weeks experience at substations and on overhead lines.

Can you tell us about your background and your roles within the ESO?

On completion of school in 1981, I trained as a land surveyor in Australia until 1985 and then I worked mainly in remote parts of Australia until I moved to the UK in 1999.  I did some land surveying work in the UK but mostly did AutoCAD drawings for highway schemes until 2009 after which I joined National Grid ESO on the engineer training programme.

After 2 years completing the engineer training programme, I joined the national planning team for 6 and a half years where I was:

  • Calculating constraint limits for various outage requests in England and Wales out to year ahead and deciding if the outages were manageable.

  • Calculating constraint limits and preparing a visio diagram of daily outages at day ahead to the ENCC.

There was a restructure in 2018 which resulted in me moving to the structuring and optimisation team in 2019.

What does your current role entail? / Tell us about your job?

I work as a Constraint Analyst in the Cost Forecasting and Optimisation team within Networks which was separated from the Structuring and Optimisation team within Markets at the beginning of the 2021/22 plan year.  The constraint analyst role involves:

  • Providing cost forecasts for outage requests not in the year ahead plan and deciding if the placement of the outage request is the most cost-effective time for it to be done.

  • Writing requirements papers for contracting generators during generator outages to ensure there are sufficient generators to manage overnight voltage at these times.

  • Assessing overnight voltage tenders for generators to decide which providers to award contracts to manage overnight voltage during generator outages.

  • Calculating ad-hoc costs for various things such as:

    • Additional constraint costs of new inter-connectors.

    • Cost benefit of returning circuits or reactive gear early.

    • Cost benefit of network reconfiguration e.g., change of running arrangement at a particular substation.

    • Cost benefit of enhanced circuit ratings or permanent circuit up-rating.

  • Assessing tenders to provide enhanced services such as inter-trips.

  • Writing sanction papers to get management approval for any outage requests, voltage contracts and enhanced services contracts with a forecast cost higher than £100 000.

The role of the team is important to procure services and do cost assessments for outage requests to maintain safety and security of supply at the same time as providing the best cost benefit to the end consumers.