Skip to main content

Cardiff Professor chairs world-first low carbon restart project

10 January 2022

Professor Nick Jenkins is the Chair of the Stakeholder Advisory Group for the Distributed ReStart project – a £10m initiative to explore the potential for low carbon restart of the power system.

The £10.3 million Ofgem-funded project, known as Distributed ReStart, began in January 2019. Led by National Grid ESO, SP Energy Networks and consultancy TNEI, the world-first initiative has explored how distributed energy resources such as solar, wind and hydro, can be used to restore power to the transmission network in the unlikely event of a blackout - a process known as black start. This would remove our dependence on large and costly fossil fuel generators to provide a black start service and create the blueprint for international adoption.

The current plan in place for a national outage of power takes a top-down approach, reflecting the current highly centralised generation system. But as we move to more distributed power – ESO has pledged to run a decarbonised grid by 2035 – it is essential to test and plan for this very different scenario. Though the probability of a nationwide outage of services is considered unlikely, the impact should it happen and not be restored quickly, could be potentially catastrophic.

Professor Nick Jenkins, leader of the Centre for Integrated Energy Generation and Supply Research Group, observes:

“The project is answering a fundamental challenge, and with the goal of making the electricity network net zero by 2035 this is something that needs to be addressed now.”

In the Utility Week report ‘Ready for low carbon restart?’ the Stakeholder Advisory Group takes stock of the project and the blockers to progress. The group examine topics such as how far the project has brought us in understanding the technical and commercial feasibility of distributed restoration services and explores stakeholder views on whether this progress is enough to secure their confidence in such an important system failsafe.

The project will run to the end of June 2022 after two more trials have been completed.

In terms of the future of the project, Professor Jenkins thinks the answer is for the project to continue being developed: “There is a long way to go before it’s business as usual. There are still major technical and communication issues, and also there is a need to establish a market-based mechanism. Putting that together in three years was always extraordinarily ambitious.”

Professor Jenkins says the project would be worthy of being awarded additional financial support to develop it further. “I would certainly encourage more innovation funding because the problem is so great – and the need is so important.” 

Find out more about the project at the National Grid website.

Share this story