A review of the Electricity Connections Policy Framework in Northern Ireland – a response from SONI

Tuesday 10 October 2023

SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) has published its response to the Utility Regulator and Department for the Economy’s joint review of the Electricity Connections Policy Framework in Northern Ireland.

In our response, SONI welcomes the review as a critical step in meeting the targets set by the Northern Ireland Energy Strategy and Climate Change (Northern Ireland) Act 2022 efficiently and at the least cost to Northern Ireland consumers.

We note the review, and the opportunity of meaningful reform, as an important vehicle to address some of the practical issues being faced by those seeking to connect new generation and new supporting technologies to the power system, as well as the issues faced by stakeholders who play a key role in enabling these connections.

In our response, we set out four key areas for potential reform:

  • Working collaboratively with industry to move to a more coordinated, plan-led approach for connections and whole system development and design;
  • Reform of the 3-month connection offer timeline to account for complexities and to facilitate whole system design;
  • Planning permission being used as a prerequisite for applications to connect onshore transmission connections and large-scale distribution connections; and,
  • Planning reform to fast-track and preserve critical electricity system infrastructure that facilitates decarbonisation and demand growth.

Speaking about the review, SONI’s Connections Planning Team Lead, Helen Gallagher, said:

“As Northern Ireland’s Transmission System Operator, we welcome the opportunity this review presents to make practical changes to the connections process to support Northern Ireland’s renewable energy ambitions. We understand the concerns raised by industry in relation to the timescales for connections and we’re committed to playing our part to support changes that can deliver better, more efficient outcomes that are in the best interests of Northern Ireland.”

“Our response proposes a package of reforms which, in our assessment, will better support those who wish to connect new generation to the electricity system and enable a more efficient, coordinated approach to the development of the grid. By working collaboratively with industry to move towards a more coordinated, plan-led approach to the development and design of the whole system, we can be more efficient in our planning for the future as well as delivering more timely connections outcomes in the present.”

You can read SONI’s response here.