SONI putting Mid Antrim communities at the centre of energy transition

19 June 2023

SONI has completed a comprehensive engagement exercise with members of the local community through a unique Citizen Sounding Board initiative to keep community engagement at the centre of energy transition.


The initiative was part of an ongoing consultation process on the Mid Antrim Upgrade; a high-capacity transmission system upgrade between the Kells and Rasharkin Main Substations in Co. Antrim. The upgrade is set to reduce congestion on the grid, strengthen the network and ensure consistent supply of electricity where it is needed. Projects like the Mid Antrim Upgrade will reduce electricity costs for NI consumers in the future and play a vital role in reaching the targets set out in Northern Ireland’s Energy Strategy by ensuring that by 2030 80% of the
electricity we consume is generated from renewable sources.


As the transmission system operator for Northern Ireland, SONI manage the generation
and the demand for electricity second by second via the grid to get electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed. In addition to this, SONI are responsible for facilitating major infrastructure upgrades, such as the Mid Antrim project.


With the aim to deepen meaningful community engagement as Mid Antrim project progresses, a group of 24 residents were selected at random and collectively they became the Citizens Sounding Board. Meeting in December 2022 and June 2023, the group were given space to discuss their values, hopes, concerns, and aspirations for the Mid Antrim Upgrade through the independent facilitation of leading public participation charity Involve. The initiative enabled residents who may not have otherwise participated in the consultation process an opportunity to engage with SONI on proposed changes taking place in their local community.


SONI Project manager, Alicia Trainor said: “As SONI works to develop the electricity grid in the coming years, our goal is to find the best possible solution for consumers. Key to this is understanding local concerns and learning from local knowledge and the Citizen Sounding Board delivered that.

“SONI are extremely grateful to the members of the local public who participated in the Citizen Sounding Board over the past six months. These types of initiatives help us to add an additional layer to our consultation process to ensure that we make decisions with the input of communities.”


Involve’s Head of Northern Ireland, Rebekah McCabe, said: ‘It was a pleasure to engage with the local community on this important topic. As a public participation charity, we are passionate about involving the public in decisions that impact them through high quality, inclusive and accessible processes. This project took an innovative approach and is a great demonstration that even on highly technical issues, the public can bring local understanding, knowledge, and perspectives early in the process to help guide decisions that work best for everyone.”