SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) Forecasts Stable Electricity Demand For Northern Ireland Over Next Decade

25 September 2019

Electricity demand in Northern Ireland will remain stable over the next 10 years, while demand in Ireland is set to continue to grow.

The differing demand profiles for each jurisdiction are captured in the All-Island Generation Capacity Statement (GCS) which examines the likely balance between electricity demand and supply, during the years 2019 to 2028, across the island.

In preparing the report, the two grid operators on the island, SONI in Northern Ireland and EirGrid in Ireland, consulted widely with industry participants and used the most up-to-date information. A range of scenarios was prepared to forecast electricity demand over the time horizon of the report.

In Northern Ireland, demand is relatively flat with the median scenario showing an increase of 10% over the next 10 years.  While in Ireland, total electricity demand is forecast to grow by between 25% and 47%, driven by new large users, many of which are data centres.

There have been some enquiries and a connection application in relation to data centres in Northern Ireland, which could impact demand if progressed.

The report identifies that a significant amount of electricity generation from Kilroot’s coal-fired plants is due to decommission or become restricted due to emissions legislation.  As a result, the GCS shows that Northern Ireland goes into deficit in 2025 if median and high demand scenarios are applied.

This highlighted shortfall in generation in 2025 will be addressed by a combination of delivery of the North South Interconnector and through the procurement of capacity in the Single Electricity Market Capacity Auction process.

The GCS also reflects the progress made in relation to Northern Ireland’s renewable energy targets; the 40% target having been achieved in advance of 2020.  Through SONI’s innovative work, the power system is now able to operate with 65% renewable energy at any one time.  It is SONI’s ambition to extend this to 95% to maximise the value from renewables, for the benefit of consumers.

Jo Aston, Managing Director of SONI said:

“A challenge to the industry is the decommissioning of more traditional fossil based generator units. This is being driven by ever tighter emissions targets and the decarbonisation agenda. SONI has been informed that coal-fired generation at Kilroot will not be available from 2025. Our report highlights scenarios where Northern Ireland will be in electricity deficit as a result. 

“SONI will of course not let this situation arise, and this challenge will be addressed in two ways: Firstly, through the North South Interconnector which will help by providing a vital link between the two grids on the island. SONI is working to overcome the planning challenges in Northern Ireland and will be endeavouring to bring this critical project to fruition as quickly as possible. Secondly, the Single Electricity Market auctions, which now play a critical role in resolving this issue, will procure sufficient capacity four years in advance of when it is needed, which in turn facilitates investment in new generation if required.”

The All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2019 – 2028

SONI, the transmission system operator (TSO) in Northern Ireland, is required by licence to produce an annual Generation Capacity Statement. Similarly, EirGrid, the TSO in Ireland, has a regulatory requirement to publish forecast information about the power system, including an assessment of the balance between supply and demand.

A range of scenarios was prepared to forecast electricity demand over the time horizon of the report. In our adequacy assessment studies, we modelled the generation portfolio against the demand forecast, using the accepted standard risk. These studies were carried out separately for Northern Ireland and Ireland, and jointly on an all-island basis.

The Generation Capacity Statement is available to download here.