Russ Woodman

A day in the life of Russell Woodman

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.

Russell Woodman, a Power System Engineer in the National Outage Planning team, tells us about his varied career at the ESO and how he came full circle back to his role in the national planning team.

How did you come to join National Grid ESO?

I joined National Grid ESO through the Engineer Training Programme. When I joined in 2008 it was the first year that National Grid were running the office based engineer programme rather than substation based.

The training scheme consisted of time spent at University, time out at sites , time on training courses and time at the office.  My time out on site was my favourite as it gave me the opportunity to travel across the country, see how the equipment we operate works, and the issues that the people on site face. 

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

My first role after the training scheme was in the National Planning team, and worked to achieve a Scotland National Planning authorisation. National Planning looks at the power flows across the main interconnected system and how faults, such as lightning strikes, affect these flows. 

Following this, I completed a project role within our commercial team as a Senior Constraint Analyst.  This role exposed me to the costs of network constraints and the commercial solutions that can be used to optimise constraints.  After completing this role I moved back to the National Planning team and trained for an authorisation of the England and Wales network.

After another year working in National Planning, I moved to our Scotland Outage Planning team and authorised in Placement.  Placement looked after the current year outage plan from 52 weeks ahead of real time down to 4 weeks ahead of real time.  In this role I worked directly with our customers to optimise and refine the transmission outage plan.  As part of this role I also represented the ESO on capital schemes being delivered by the Transmission Owners (TO).  This meant working with the customers to ensure that our systems and data were updated prior to new assets and users being connected to the transmission network, reviewing commissioning strategies and ensuring that outages required for commissioning could be accommodated within the current year plan.

In 2017 I took on another project role as an Incentive Development Analyst working across the different teams in the ESO to develop the first forward plan.  The role I ended up undertaking was different to the role that I had applied for.  When I had applied for the role, the ESO was looking at how to manage new and emerging system issues and how it would be funded.  At the same time Ofgems thinking around ESO regulation, reporting and incentives were changing.  This lead to the role changing from looking at specific issues to looking across the entire ESO and how we work.  I really enjoyed this role as it gave me an insight in to every part of the business and how all the ESO teams work together.

After this I returned to Network Access Planning as the Scotland Outage Planning manager for a short period.  I lead a team of 10 engineers working with the TOs to ensure we could facilitate the construction and maintenance work they needed to deliver on the system.  I then returned to the National Planning team, having gained a lot of experience across the business, working with our customers and stakeholders.

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

Im back in the job that I started in with the ESO, though now with a bit more experience and understanding of the transmission system and ESO business as a whole.  I love this job as every day I get to solve problems.  The complexity of these issues varies from simple (that just require a quick look to solve) to more complex (that have to be coordinated across many teams). This involves working with the different levels of the ESO leadership to get their backing and support for what we are trying to do. 

In this role I work to facilitate system access while ensuring a secure network.  What this means is that I look at how power flow across the network changes as we take part of it out of service.  When these power flows change it can cause different issues, from voltages problems to the overheating of equipment.  My role is to make sure that our control room have guidance on how to manage these issues should they occur.  To do this I use our offline analysis tool and set up multiple what-if scenarios to see how the power flows change as we alter generation, demand and outages across the network.  Then I model how faults on the network cause further changes to flows.  All of this work is written in to a document we call the Picasso and provides our control room guidance on what to do in different scenarios.

My experience across the ESO and within the National Planning team has allowed me to support the ESO on many other projects, such as the ESO pathfinders, whist continuing to do the job I love.  I have supported the stability pathfinder and I am currently involved with the Constraint Management Pathfinder.  For this I am providing advice and assessment of constraints across the Scottish and English border.