Alan Campbell, Head of Grid Development, SONI

The North South Interconnector: Upgrading Lines, Upgrading Lives

25 August 2020

Alan Campbell, Head of Grid Development, SONI (Electricity System Operator for Northern Ireland), writes:

"As we move beyond the immediate Covid-19 crisis to a new reality, it is critical that government does all that it can to unlock the potential of the green recovery and a green jobs revolution.

"Coupled with the extensive change needed to deal with the climate emergency, it is vital that Northern Ireland’s electricity system plays its role in meeting these challenges. In this context, the North South Interconnector continues to underpin SONI’s vision for a clean energy system for Northern Ireland."  

Enabling a green recovery

"The North South Interconnector remains SONI’s most important grid development project and is essential to unlocking a green economic recovery.

"It is a multi-million pound project which will create a considerable amount of local construction jobs in the process of its completion.  

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

"It will be a game changer in the island’s response to the climate crisis"

"The North South Interconnector is essential for ensuring local businesses have the power they need to expand and to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), with investors seeking an efficient, green and secure electricity supply.

"The project is, without question, a key enabler for green economic growth as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic."

Helping Northern Ireland 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 emissions by 2050. By removing the significant bottle-neck on the island’s electricity system, Northern Ireland will be able to meet the expected electricity 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 and is in line with the policies within the New Decade, New Approach document related to the climate emergency."

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, when in place, consumers will save in the order of £40m per year by 2030 because the North South Interconnector will remove constraints or bottlenecks on the grid, allowing more renewable power to flow and reducing our reliance on electricity generated from imported fossil fuels.

"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 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.

"For us this is about upgrading lives by upgrading lines"

"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 in either jurisdiction, ensuring a more efficient and secure electricity supply on a sustainable basis."

Time for delivery

"Over the course of the last decade, the North South Interconnector project has been subject to extensive public consultation, including two public inquiries, and has broad support from consumer, environmental, business and industry representatives in Northern Ireland and has strong support from the Department for the Economy. 

"For us this is about upgrading lives by upgrading lines. Everyone in Northern Ireland will benefit from this essential project."