train clapham junction

Investigation launched into cause of last week’s massive power cut

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An investigation has been launched into the cause of a widespread power cut on Friday 9 August that resulted in travel chaos and left almost one million electricity customers without power.

Electricity generation from a gas-fired plant and an offshore wind farm was lost, resulting in the closure of two of London’s busiest train stations which included Clapham Junction, often claimed to be the busiest station in Europe.

Business secretary Andrea Leadsom said the incident was not linked to the variability of wind power but that the cut demonstrated the need for a diverse energy mix.

National Grid called the power cut “a highly unusual event without precedent in the past ten years”.

The frequency of the grid is supposed to stay at 50Hz and will automatically cut off for safety reasons if this deviates by one per cent either way.

A gas-fired power plant at Little Barford and the Hornsea offshore wind farm went out almsot simultaneously, causing the grid frequency to drop below safe levels and triggering a shutdown.

While the grid has a safety net composed of a matrix of privately owned small generators, the power they provided on this occasion was not enough to maintain optimal grid frequency.

A committee met for the first time on Monday to look into the causes of the outage and whether correct procedures were followed, as well as whether improvements are needed in future.

Much of the infrastructure underpinning the grid was built before renewables became a major contributor to the UK’s energy mix and questions remain as to whether National Grid has done enough to ensure that the intermittent power from these sources has been satisfactorily integrated into the system.

The committee will report its initial findings in five weeks, and provide a full report within 12 weeks, the government said.

Leadsom said: “Friday’s power outages caused significant chaos and disruption to hundreds of thousands of people.

“National Grid is urgently reviewing what happened and will shortly report to Ofgem to consider what action may need to be taken.

“National Grid has already confirmed that the incident was not linked to the variability of wind power, a clean, renewable energy source that the Government is investing in as we work towards becoming a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

“Friday’s incident does however demonstrate the need to have a diverse energy mix.

“I have formally commissioned the Government’s Energy Emergencies Executive Committee to review the emergency response and recovery procedures for our energy system.”

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