System operator to triple in size

The future system operator could grow to be three times the size of the existing Electricity System Operator (ESO).

The incoming chair of the National Energy System Operator (NESO) Paul Golby confirmed that the organisation’s headcount could expand to up to 3,000 employees.

In preparation for the launch of NESO, the ESO’s chief operating officer Kayte O’Neill previously told Utility Week that the operator’s headcount would increase from 1,000 to 1,800 by the autumn.

Golby – a former chief executive at Eon – told MPs that figure could eventually increase by another 1,000 to 1,500 employees.

Speaking at a committee hearing, Golby said the ESO has many of core competencies it requires, “especially in electricity”.

However, he said the new body is currently short of capabilities and competencies in other areas, such as gas and planning.

As well as the National Grid ESO’s existing roles and responsibilities, the new body is also taking on National Gas Transmission’s long-term forecasting and strategic planning functions.

Other new and enhanced responsibilities include central planning of the electricity transmission network and providing expert advice to the government and Ofgem.

Pressed on how the NESO will secure additional budget to meet its headcount needs from Ofgem, which will overview the organisation’s budget, Golby admitted it is “not going to be easy”.

“We need to attract some of the brightest and best people. This will be a key focus to recruit those people. Some of them we can already identify, others will be more difficult to find,” Golby said.

“The assumption is that the budget is there to recruit the right amount of people.”

He said a key part of his role as NESO chair will be to manage the inevitable “tensions” in the relationship between the new organisation and Ofgem, which alongside the government will form a “triumvirate” overseeing the energy system.

However rather than acting as a “fat controller”, the NESO will be a “thin conductor” orchestrating investment into the energy system, he said: “We need when tasked to produce a spatial plan to identify where connections need to be made and policies required to encourage that private investment.”

The relationship between the National Air Traffic Services, which he currently chairs, and its regulators in the Civil Aviation Authority is “similar” to that between the NESO and Ofgem.

Prior to NATS, Golby’s other roles include chairing engineering firm Costain. He was chief executive of Eon from 2002 to 2011, presiding over its rebranding from Powergen in 2004 following the German company’s acquisition of the privatised electricity generation business.