Dire warning to MPs over future of electricity supply

SONI general manager Robin McCormick intends to be blunt when he addresses MPs  on supply risks for the province
SONI general manager Robin McCormick intends to be blunt when he addresses MPs on supply risks for the province

Failure to move forward with the North South elecricity interconnector and the loss of present generation is threatening future supply to Northern Ireland MPs in Westminster will hear today.

The stark warning comes from NI Grid Operator SONI which will tell the NI Affairs Select Committee that the province is on the verge of an electricity supply crisis.

The committeehas been holding an inquiry into the NI electricity sector over the summer, seeking evidence on a series of significant challenges facing it.

But in a session today MPs are expected to take evidence from both the Ultilities Regulator Jenny Pyper and Robin McCormick, general manager at the System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI) who will tell them the interconnector is now critical for the secure delivery of power to industyr and homes.

“It is important that Westminster has a clear understanding about what is confronting us, and I very much welcome the opportunity to explain the situation,” said Mr McCormick.

“The facts are clear; Northern Ireland is facing an electricity supply crisis as old conventional fossil fuel generators retire.”

Modelling the balance of demand and capacity, he said, made one issue very clear - that over the next five years the province will face an electricity generation deficit.

“What that means is that as the system operator, I cannot be confident that we would be able to ‘keep the lights on’,” he said.

“The problem can be addressed by delivering the North South Interconnector, which is now absolutely critical and cannot suffer any further delay.

“With the interconnector in place, customers in Northern Ireland will benefit from having access to the most economic generation capacity available on the island and we can then be confident that we can ‘keep the lights on’.”

The proposal for the project, which is currently in planning, aims to provide a high- capacity connection between the electricity grids north and south, ensuring that Northern Ireland has the secure supply it needs.

“The interconnector has been in the planning process since 2009 and we are hoping to see a full planning hearing into the project by the end of the year,” said Mr McCormick.

“It is critical and essential to the NI Economy; to businesses large and small and to domestic users. It is fundamental that Westminster appreciates the urgency and does all it can to support the project.”