North South Interconnector

This project proposes the addition of a new 400 kV overhead line to our grid, connecting the electricity grids of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is also known in Northern Ireland as the Tyrone to Cavan Interconnector. When built, the project will start at a substation in Turleenan, Co Tyrone. It will then run into Co Armagh and then into counties Monaghan, Cavan and Meath.

The Tyrone to Cavan Interconnector (also known as the North South Interconnector) will start at a substation in Turleenan, Co Tyrone. It will then run into Co Armagh and then into counties Monaghan, Cavan and Meath. It will connect the electricity grids in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

At first, Northern Ireland Electricity (now NIE Networks) was responsible for securing planning consent. Due to European laws, that responsibility transferred to SONI in April 2014.

This is a significant project for SONI and for everyone on the island. It will allow for cheaper electricity generation and will improve the reliability and security of your electricity supply. 

In January 2018, SONI secured planning approval for the new overhead line. The Department for Infrastructure's decision to grant planning permission followed the publication of a report and recommendation by the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) in November 2017. The PAC based its report on proposals which came out of its Public Inquiry into planning applications for the project in early 2017.

On 08 February 2019, the Department for Infrastructure conceded to a legal challenge against the planning permission. This challenge argued that planning approval could not be granted in the absence of an Infrastructure Minister.

In September 2020, following the re-establishment of the Stormont Executive, SONI welcomed the decision by Minister Mallon MLA to approve planning permission for the North South Interconnector, which will be a catalyst for Northern Ireland’s response to climate change, reduce consumer costs and provide a secure long term electricity supply for NI.

The planning approval is now subject to judicial review.  We are hopeful that the Judicial Review process will be progressed efficiently and that an outcome will be reached without delay to allow construction to commence. However, as a result of the extensive planning process and subsequent legal challenge, SONI is now anticipating that the North South Interconnector will be completed in 2025.

The southern element of the project has planning permission following a decision by An Bord Pleanála in December 2016. The project has now cleared all legal and planning hurdles in the Republic of Ireland. Read more here

This project retains its awarded Project of Common Interest (PCI) status by the European Commission. Click here to find out more about PCI status and the European Commission. 

Why is this project needed?

The electricity transmission network operates on an all-island basis. However, there is currently only one interconnector linking both jurisdictions. This restricts the amount of electricity that can flow from north to south and vice versa, creating a bottleneck that adds costs to consumer bills.

The second North South Interconnector will remove this constraint and allow the all-island network to operate much more efficiently. This will have a positive impact on electricity prices and will create significant savings for consumers everywhere.

The proposed North South Interconnector is also required to make sure we have access to enough electricity to meet supply in Northern Ireland in the coming years. As things stand, the Single Electricity Market’s capacity auctions provide short to medium term security of supply. The North South Interconnector remains critical for electricity security in the long term.  

What are the benefits of this project?

Enabling a green recovery

The North South Interconnector is essential to unlocking a green economic recovery as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is a multi-million pound investment which would create significant local construction jobs in its completion.

Once completed, it will be the backbone of the transmission system facilitating the growth of renewables and significant new jobs within the emerging green collar sector, ensuring that the energy transition is just, fair and equitable.

The North South Interconnector is essential for ensuring local businesses have the power they need to expand and to attract foreign direct investment, with investors seeking an efficient, green and secure electricity supply.

By removing the significant bottle-neck on the island’s electricity system, Northern Ireland will be able to freely import and export electricity. With the North South Interconnector in place, we will reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels and can maximise the use of our abundant, clean natural resources, such as wind and solar energy. Again, delivering growth in the green collar sector.

Helping Northern Ireland to combat the climate crisis

It will be a game changer in the island’s response to the climate crisis as it will facilitate the connection of 900MW of renewable generation; enough to power 600,000 homes through green energy.

It is critical to Northern Ireland delivering its contribution to the UK commitment to Net Zero Carbon by 2050. By removing the significant bottle-neck or constraint on the island’s electricity system, Northern Ireland will be able to meet the expected increase in electricity demand, resulting from the uptake of electric vehicles and heat from electricity.

In addition, the project is crucial to the delivery of Northern Ireland’s future renewable energy targets as determined by the emerging Energy Strategy. It will be essential if we are to reach the Economy Minister’s vision of no less than 70% electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Delivering sustainable savings for consumers

Based on recent analysis, the North South Interconnector is expected to create initial savings to consumers of £20 million per year.

We estimate that consumers will save in the order of up to £40m per year by 2030 because the North South Interconnector will remove constraints or bottlenecks on the grid.

The electricity system operates on an all-island basis, with an all-island wholesale electricity market.

A more connected grid will mean a more efficient wholesale market resulting in downward pressure on prices – good news for consumers and businesses in both jurisdictions.

Achieving long-term security of supply

The project will ensure long-term security of supply for Northern Ireland.

Short-to-medium term security issues have been addressed by capacity auctions as part of the upgraded wholesale electricity market. We now need to address long-term security of supply. By its nature, the surplus or supply-gap of generation in a country or region changes over time due to reasons such as population growth, technological changes, increased demand, new government policy and economic fluctuations.

The North South Interconnector is a long-term project and will help Northern Ireland react to changes in supply and demand in the future.

The North South Interconnector is therefore a safeguard against any changes to surplus or supply gaps, ensuring a more efficient and secure electricity supply on a sustainable basis.

Answering Your Questions

In our consultation about this project, we have heard your concerns. Our goal is to address genuine issues from members of the public, particularly in the project area. We’ve put together a helpful guide to answer your questions and explain basic facts about the project. This can be downloaded here.

We’ve also produced webfilms in response to key issues that have risen during our consultations with you. We hope this information allows you to find clear answers to questions that have been raised.