NationgridESO Distributed ReStart Project Alternative for ‘Black Start’

The NationalgridESO develop a world-first project to explore low carbon alternatives for ‘Black Start’.

The ‘Electricity System Restoration Standard’ Policy was announced by the UK Government, in collaboration with NationalgridESO, Ofgem and affected parties. This gave a legally binding requirement for the ESO to have the systems in place and capabilities to make a speedy and full recovery in the event of a nationwide electricity failure. These systems would be able to make a 100% demand recovery within 5 days and have to be implemented before 31st December 2026.

More information on ‘Electricity System Restoration Standard’ Policy available at:

NationalgridESO says:

“It’s the most important back up plan you’ve never heard of, and we’re transforming it to be fit for a future electricity system.”

Their aim will be to:

  • Implement a backup plan capable of restoring the UK electrical network as per the policy.
  • Utilise auxiliary generators to kick-start a chain of bigger ones.
  • Revolutionise their ‘Black Start’ plan by removing reliance on coal and gas fired power stations and switching to clean energy sources.

What is ‘Black Start’?

‘Black Start’ is the ESO’s current procedure to restore power in the event of partial or nationwide transmission failure. This relies on traditional coal and gas-fired power stations that can start main blocks of generation without the need for external supplies.

During a failure, providers will start their main generators to support demand on the national electricity transmission system and distribution network. They will create and control a ‘power island’ that will eventually be synced to other ‘power islands’. However, not all providers will be required to have this capability and black start services will be procured in advance, typically during a power plants construction.

Distributed ReStart to bring ‘Black Start’ to Net-Zero Standards

As the UK move closer to net-zero ambitions it is more important than ever that our electricity systems generate electricity from green, clean and renewable sources. This includes the systems in place that will kick-start our grid in the event of failure. So the ESO needs an alternative to the current ‘Black Start’ procedure that does not rely on coal and gas-fired power stations.

This alternative is the Distributed ReStart project. ReStart will explore how we can use Distributed Energy Resources (DER) like solar, wind and natural gas to restore the national grid. By using this alternative technology the current procedures can remove their dependence on fossil fuels for the power stations that will be used to kick-start.

DERs are connected to provide power to regional networks instead of the nationgrid transmission system. This allows for improved flexibility of the system as it can draw energy from these sources instead of being reliant on large power stations if required. The ‘Black Start’ procedure will be able to use this to create clusters of local networks that use green sources. By scaling this to high-voltage lines, power will gradually be restored on the nationalgrid.

However, this has been and will continue to be a significant engineering challenge. The Distributed ReStart development started in January 2019 and is expected to be finished by March 2022 for implementation. It has been strongly backed by industry regulation Ofgem with a £10.3 million contribution to the £11.7 million budget. Additional funding comes from the Network Innovation Competition (NIP).

They are now in the live trials stage where partners at SP Energy Network have run the first successful trial. More will commence over the summer period to simulate the restoration situation.

NationalgridESO commented:

“The live trials will really stretch our engineering capability, but success will mean an enormous boost to global decarbonisation efforts”

More information is available by speaking to Jason Thackray on 0333 9000 246 or email :