SONI forecasts no significant change for Northern Ireland’s electricity demand as the Republic prepares for significant increase

Demand for electricity in Northern Ireland looks set to remain largely unchanged, while demand is forecast to rise in the Republic, as increasing numbers of large energy users, primarily data centres, connect to the grid. The contrasting demand in each jurisdiction is one of the findings from the All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2018 – 2027, produced by SONI in Northern Ireland and EirGrid in the Republic.

The Generation Capacity Statement examines the likely balance between electricity demand and supply during the years 2018 to 2027. In preparing the report the two grid operators on the island consulted widely with industry participants and used the most up-to-date information at the time of publication. A range of scenarios was prepared to forecast electricity demand over the time horizon of the report.

Demand in Northern Ireland has been relatively stable. While SONI has received a number of enquiries and a connection application in relation to a data centre, demand is not expected to significantly increase.

According to the report, Northern Ireland looks set to meet its renewable energy target of 40% by 2020, largely due to the increasing amount of wind on the system. The Generation Capacity Statement also highlights the rapid growth of solar generation in Northern Ireland. SONI, along with EirGrid, are supporting the integration of more intermittent generation sources with initiatives that enable the all-island power system to operate with up to 75% variable renewable energy.

The Generation Capacity Statement identifies the decommissioning of older electricity generators due to de-carbonisation targets as a challenge to the sector. Both Irish and UK governments have ratified the COP 21 Paris Agreement and are committed to ensuring that the global temperature increase stays below 2°C.

The report concludes that the North South Interconnector remains required for security of supply in both jurisdictions, particularly in Northern Ireland, post 2024.

According to the report, the advent of the new Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) on 01 October is likely to have an impact on the fleet of electricity generators across the island. Under the previous electricity market arrangements, all available generators benefited from capacity payments. This is no longer the case and some generators were not successful in the first capacity market auction. 

Read the full report here