Public consultation on how NI can meet green energy targets

A public consultation has been launched as Northern Ireland works towards ambitious green energy targets, while maintaining an affordable and secure electricity supply.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 8th March 2021, 6:15 am
SONI managing director Alan Campbell
SONI managing director Alan Campbell

In a report issued on Monday, grid operator SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) lists four main approaches that could result in up to 20 significant projects to transfer renewable electricity from the north and west to the east, including to the Belfast area where demand is greatest.

SONI managing director Alan Campbell is asking everyone interested in Northern Ireland’s energy future to consider the approaches, and to provide feedback through the public consultation.

“The economy minister has stated an ambition for Northern Ireland of at least 70% electricity from renewable sources by 2030. While future energy policy is being developed, the change needed to the electricity system must begin today,” he said.

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“It is important to reflect on what has been achieved to date, latest figures from the Department of the Economy show almost 50% of the electricity used last year came from renewable sources; we have been proud to play our part in this success, but we have much to do.

“The amount of renewable generation connected to the transmission grid will need to double in a decade and so the grid itself, requires unprecedented change: It must be made stronger and more flexible in order to carry increasing amounts of clean energy like wind and solar. The change will affect every one of us and will sometimes be difficult.”

The four approaches set out by SONI in the report are:

1. Generation-Led: Government policy would influence where renewable energy is generated – favouring locations where the grid is already strong

2. Developer-Led: In this approach, we continue to connect new sources of renewable electricity as requested in any location

3. Technology-Led: This approach uses technical solutions to make the grid more resilient so it can better handle the variable nature of renewable energy

4. Demand-Led: Government policy determines where future large energy users such as big industry and data centres would locate in Northern Ireland

Each of the four approaches requires investments in grid development projects throughout Northern Ireland, with costs ranging from £113 million to £535 million.

Over the next fourteen weeks, SONI will hold a series of workshops, meetings and forums to inform people and to “gather feedback that will directly influence the final roadmap for the transformation of the grid,” which is due to be published before the end of the year.

The consultation process can be accessed visiting www.consult.soni.ltd.uk. You can also participate by emailing [email protected], or by post to Shaping Our Electricity Future, SONI, 12 Manse Road, Belfast, BT6 9RT.