Future of GB’s Electricity National Control Centre

Ever wondered what happens in Great Britain’s Electricity National Control Centre (ENCC)? What sort of decisions are made every day and how the Control Centre is evolving to enable a low carbon future? We’ve just published the first part of a report into the future of the ENCC that offers an insight into what we do, how we do it and why our role is pretty unique.

In the last 5 years, we have moved from managing a network largely powered by fossil fuels and where we can see all the power being generated (controllable transmission connected generation) to a world where lots of renewables are coming onto the system that go straight onto the local distribution networks.

A total of 15GW of wind and 10GW of solar has connected in recent years and this causes real challenges for us.  We can’t be certain whether “invisible” renewables have come onto the system, or if there has been a reduction in demand. It might not sound important, but as the Electricity System Operator we need this oversight so we can balance, model and forecast correctly.

We have only been able to cope with these changes because of our dedicated and experienced team of engineers who work 24/7/365. They ensure homes and businesses have power when its needed. They manage over 1bn data points a day and make around 200 despatch instructions to the 300 - 400 generators that participate in the balancing market every hour.

As we look to operate a zero carbon electricity network by 2025, the role and complexity of the system operation will only increase. We’ll need visibility of vast numbers of generators and we’ll need to balance it all as we lose the large rotating mass of conventional power stations.

Look out for the next part in this series of documents which will explain what we need to change in the real-time operational environment of managing the GB Electricity System.

Julian Leslie

Head of National Control ESO