New Year, Same Focus

19 January 22

Alan Campbell, Managing Director, SONI writes:

I would like to start this latest update by wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2022. With each new year comes a chance to reflect. It also brings a sense of optimism and an opportunity to focus on what we want to achieve in the time ahead.

Although we are only a matter of days into 2022, I am delighted to say we have already set a new record for the level of wind generation in Northern Ireland as we hit 1037 MW on the morning of 6th January. This is another huge achievement for the industry and is the result of a strong commitment to collaboration, innovation and investment over the last 30 years.

I am of course very proud of the key role SONI have played in this journey; and it shows why we are now seen as world-leaders when it comes to integrating renewable electricity on the transmission system.

Although the new wind record is a great start to the year, we want to continue to challenge ourselves to break more records and facilitate even greater levels of renewables on the system. And that is exactly what we must do to deliver the ambitions set out in the Northern Ireland Executive’s new energy strategy.

Published in December, the strategy includes a challenging new target of at least 70% renewable electricity consumption by 2030. We welcome the ambition shown by the Executive and we are proud to have been part of a range of thematic working groups alongside industry colleagues who assisted the Department for the Economy with their development of the energy strategy.

In anticipation of the energy strategy being released, we published our Shaping Our Electricity Future Roadmap in November 2021. This follows 2 years of analysis including tens of millions of technical simulations and the most extensive public consultation on a strategic programme, which we have ever undertaken.  

The Roadmap provides a pathway for the necessary changes to ready the transmission grid, markets and our operations to meet the Executive’s clean energy ambitions - so that we are ready to hit the ground running.

We do know, however, that the move to a truly sustainable future for Northern Ireland is not without its challenges and it will take even more engagement, collaboration and innovative thinking. That’s why the preparation of our roadmap involved extensive consultation with the public, industry and key partners like the Department for the Economy, local government, NIE Networks and the Utility Regulator. Again, I would like to extend my thanks to all those who participated.

Our planned approach proposes a small number of significant new grid infrastructure projects which will help us to move clean energy produced in the north and west, to the east where more power is used. We will also advance various upgrades to existing electricity transmission lines. This aligns with our commitment to fully utilise the existing transmission grid to minimise cost and disruption to consumers. Local communities and landowners will, of course, be consulted from an early stage before any new grid developments take place.

For us this will mean building on the strong programme of engagement which drove the production of our Shaping Our Electricity Future roadmap and continuing our work with the Department for the Economy, NIE Networks, the Utility Regulator and others. This is among our key areas of focus in this new year and I look forward to collaborating and engaging with all of our stakeholders as we take the journey towards a clean energy future together.