The perfect storm?

The growing use of renewables is a factor putting the grid ‘at risk’, alongside increased demand and climate issues.

In August 2019, a simultaneous malfunction caused by lightning, at an offshore wind farm and gas facility located more than 100 miles apart, caused a power cut in the UK. The lightning strike was one of many to hit the national grid on the day. The simultaneous outages occurred independently at Hornsea offshore wind farm and Little Barford gas power station. Such a vast outage has not occurred in more than a decade.

The total generation lost from these two transmission-connected generators was 1378mw, according to the National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO). The scale of generation loss meant that the 1000mw level of “backup” power held under regulations was insufficient.

As a result, the system automatically disconnected customers on the distribution network. Around five percent of electricity demand was turned off to protect the other 95 percent.

The NGESO reports that a lightning strike would not be expected to trip off or de-load and this occurrence appears to represent an ‘extremely rare and unexpected event’ but with increased energy generation sources, switching in and out more often, coupled with increased overall demand, power supply is inherently less stable than even five years ago.

The UK is in an energy and gas crisis, with prices surging for consumers and dozens of suppliers already gone bust since September due to the record-high natural gas prices.

The unfolding energy crisis has coincided with the grid’s annual assessment of Great Britain’s resilience to disruption to electricity supplies, with the key “margin” figure falling to its lowest in five years. The grid’s electricity system operator (ESO) said the amount of reserve electricity supply that could be called upon was expected to be 6.6 percent of demand but could fall as low as 4.2 percent.

Planned shutdowns at gas plants and the retirement of two nuclear reactors are also factors in the tighter margin for the winter and growing uncertainties within the power sector.

In recent months, it has become clear that serious strains are now being placed on energy security in the UK. At the same time as spiralling gas costs, electricity supplies are now threatened because most of the UK’s ageing nuclear reactors, which currently provide 20 percent of our electricity, face closure in the next few years with little prospect, at present, of new atomic power plants being ready to fill the gap in lost output.

The UK looks to prevent power outages next winter season by setting a higher target for the 2022-23 power capacity auction than the one recommended by the grid. Yet, coal closures and no immediate replacements for nuclear power have exposed the UK’s vulnerabilities to the whims of the weather, with cold winters stoking natural gas demand and still weather lowering wind power generation.

A sudden loss of power will disrupt most business operations, and in some cases lead to a total inability to trade. Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) provide short-term emergency backup power in the event of any disturbances or disruptions to the mains electricity supply.

A UPS system protects computers, IT equipment, telecommunications networks, and other vital electrical equipment, infrastructure, and machinery against unexpected problems with the input power source. Clean, continuous power is an essential requirement of 21st century day-to-day life, with sectors as diverse as banking, utilities, manufacturing, transportation, retail, healthcare, and entertainment all dependent on complex computer and communications technologies.

A UPS provides the protection for short term outages and when used with a generator will provide clean uninterrupted power for an indefinite time to ensure that businesses continue to operate even when the grid is badly disrupted in the way described.

Any unexpected power disruption to these mission-critical networks can lead to damaging downtime and data loss, costing businesses thousands of pounds a minute in sales and hours of lost productivity. Even worse, it could even lead to death and serious injury.

Uninterruptible power supply system’s reduce these risks and form a fundamental part of any organisation’s continuity planning. KUP prides itself on delivering industry-leading UPS power protection solutions combined with UPS service excellence to ensure uninterruptible power supplies are ‘always on’.

To find out more about KUP’s range of modular UPS systems and UPS maintenance programmes, please get in touch by calling 01256 386700.

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