SONI Publishes Electricity Supply and Demand Forecast for ‘Decade of Transition’

06 October 2022

The longer-term outlook for Northern Ireland’s electricity generation is positive, the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) is forecasting a surplus of generation from 2026 until 2031. However, SONI’s forecast set out in the Generation Capacity Statement (GCS) shows that while there will be a largely stable demand for electricity over the coming years, there will be challenges over the next four years (2022-25), particularly during winter periods.

The analysis is contained in the All Island Generation Capacity Statement 2022-31 (GCS), which examines the likely balance between electricity demand and supply.  It also predicts a surplus of electricity supply out to 2030.

“Northern Ireland is well positioned to lead the way on renewables due to its natural resources and our expertise in technology and engineering”, according to SONI Managing Director, Alan Campbell: “Stormont’s recent Climate Change Act set a target of eighty per cent electricity generation from renewables by 2030. This requirement will help to drive Northern Ireland’s ambitious decarbonisation of power. We are going through a decade of transition and SONI is committed to playing our part in this crucial work.”

The GCS analysis is carried out on an annual basis by SONI in collaboration with EirGrid, the electricity system operator in Ireland. SONI believes that Northern Ireland could also continue to experience situations where the margin between demand and supply is tight. This is a similar position to our neighbouring jurisdictions and across Europe for example In Ireland, 

EirGrid is predicting a challenging outlook in Ireland in the near-term.  Meanwhile, National Grid in GB says it is also expecting challenging supply and demand over winter periods. 

In last year’s GCS we pointed to the likelihood of system alerts over the coming winters in the near term.   A system alert arises when the margin or cushion between supply and demand is very limited.

Alan Campbell, SONI MD: “Northern Ireland is not an outlier here, National Grid ESO in GB, EirGrid in Ireland and electricity system operators globally are all experiencing similar challenges, as we move through the transition from systems reliant on fossil fuels to cleaner systems based on renewable energy.

What is important is that SONI identify the risks and signal our concerns so that the industry, government and the regulator are aware and that the investment signals are transparent and made publicly available.”

Alan Campbell, SONI MD: "SONI’s role is to ensure that all reasonable demands for electricity are met, but we do not generate electricity. It is essential that we inform those who do, of our data, and support preparations for the winters to come.

“However, there are many reasons to be confident about the longer-term. SONI continues to work with DfE, UR and other relevant stakeholders within the electricity system to continue to deliver for consumers, while keeping Northern Ireland’s switch to clean energy on track.”

System alerts happen when the margin or cushion between supply and demand is very limited. There were several alerts in Ireland over the last year which occurred due to a number of technical problems with some power generators, in combination with a low-wind cold snap across the UK and Ireland. While SONI managed the challenging margins and there have been no system alerts in Northern Ireland in this calendar year, the GCS forecasts that the number of system alerts across the island of Ireland could increase.

This GCS report, provides government, regulators and other stakeholders with relevant information to help proactively managing the supply demand balance while helping to secure the transition to renewable energy and support social and economic growth into the future. SONI will continue to do all we can to support our stakeholders in addressing security of supply challenges over the short to medium term.