National Grid signs pan-European balancing agreement

National Grid has joined a major European initiative which aims to implement a platform for the exchange of balancing energy.
Published: Mon 08 May 2017

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Britain’s National Grid has joined 18 European Transmission System Operators (TSOs) by signing a Memorandum of Understanding for the design, implementation and operation of a new manual frequency restoration reserve (mFRR) platform. The project is called MARI which stands for Manually Activated Reserves Initiative.

Among the associated TSOs are APG (Austria), ČEPS (Czechia), Energinet.dk (Denmark), Swissgrid (Switzerland), the Dutch-German TSO TenneT, and the three further TSOs from Germany 50Hertz, Amprion, and TransnetBW.

The integration of pan-European balancing markets seeks to increase collaboration between areas for optimal provision of services. The challenge of increased variability due to wind and other renewables can be tackled by the exchange of balancing services among regional groups within the larger interconnected system.

Despite the UK beginning negotiations to leave the European Union, National Grid says it intends to continue to work alongside their European partners on the project out of necessity. National Grid’s role in balancing the system has become more challenging due to the rapid increase in renewable sources of electricity such as wind and solar power. These resources are beginning to account for a larger portion of Britain's energy mix, impacting the need for balancing reserves. Added to which, a cross-border balancing arrangement will lead to less deployment of reserves for UK.

Pan-European energy trading platform

MARI aims to create a pan-European platform for trading frequency response services via interconnectors. The  TSOs began working on the principles of a common platform last year, aiming to meet the European Commission’s launch date of 2022.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by the TSOs, provides a list of guidelines for the successful implementation of the project. The framework will help enhance the cooperation between TSOs (as well as various other stakeholders like national regulators) around project design and implementation.

Guidelines-finding the right ‘balance’

The European Commission is currently working on the regulation which is needed to establish guidelines for the cross-border trading of balancing services. The guidelines would be in place to support the introduction of platforms to facilitate the exchange of all balancing services, not just frequency response.

According to the draft regulation, its aims include fostering "effective competition, non-discrimination and transparency" in balancing markets; enhancing their efficiency at both the European and national level; "promoting the possibilities for exchanges of balancing services while contributing to operational security"; and enabling electricity grids to take on large volumes of renewable generation.

Connected local energy systems provide balance for fluctuations in energy supply and demand. In the same way, connectivity between systems, and across borders, will certainly help to balance participating countries’ energy needs and enable the necessary transition to renewable energy.