SONI seeks views to shape future strategy

Thursday 6 June 2024

Northern Ireland’s Electricity Transmission System Operator, SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland), has today launched an extensive engagement process for its new multi-year Strategy and regulatory funding submission at its annual business breakfast event with the leaders of Northern Ireland's main business representative organisations.

To commence the engagement programme, the grid operator launched an in-depth survey to ensure the views of consumers, partners and stakeholders fundamentally shape the organisation’s new multi-year strategy and funding submission to the Utility Regulator.

As a regulated organisation, SONI is funded through a multi-year funding envelope known as a Price Control based on a proposed Business Plan.

SONI’s next Business Strategy and Price Control submission will be delivered in the context of Northern Ireland’s 2030 statutory renewable energy targets and the grid operator is expected to prioritise a programme of work which supports the delivery of government policy in a way which balances the needs consumers, partners, stakeholders and customers.

As an independently licenced Transmission System Operator, which does not own any grid assets or generate or sell electricity, SONI hopes to utilise its expertise and experience as a trusted adviser to policymakers to support Northern Ireland’s net zero journey.

Speaking about the launch of the engagement programme, SONI Chief Executive, Alan Campbell, said:

“We’re entering into a new, exciting phase on our journey as Northern Ireland’s Transmission System Operator. The targets to ensure 80% of all electricity consumed comes from renewable sources by 2030, and our wider 2050 net zero obligations, are hugely challenging in their scale, pace and complexity, but they also offer great opportunity. Achieving them will require a further deepening of the collaboration that has made our region a world leader in the past.

“As critical enabling infrastructure, the Northern Ireland high voltage electricity grid needs to be transformed in an unprecedented way, both in a physical and operational context. We also need to develop new innovative solutions to enable SONI to manage an electricity grid being supplied with world-leading levels of weather-dependent forms of generation. Our Strategy 2020-2025 and our Shaping Our Electricity Future Roadmap set out a pathway for ensuring the grid can support Northern Ireland’s renewable energy ambitions and we have made significant progress in the last five years.

“But we know we can’t do this by ourselves. With less than six years until 2030, our new multi-year Strategy and regulatory Business Plan is a vital opportunity to engage meaningfully with all our partners and stakeholders to understand their priorities, reaffirm our mission to enable a cleaner, more secure energy future for everyone in Northern Ireland and position ourselves as a trusted adviser to policymakers.”

In addition to the survey, SONI intends to deliver a comprehensive programme of engagement, in the form of in-depth interviews, workshops, engagement events and formal consultations to ensure its partners and stakeholders have an opportunity to co-develop its plans for the future. The grid operator also intends to commission research with consumers to determine their priorities.

Head of Commercial and Regulation, Kevin O’Neill, said:

“Northern Ireland was among the first power systems in the world to be able to facilitate 75% of renewable electricity on the grid at any moment in time and reached the previous 40% renewable energy target a year early. This was the result of extensive whole system collaboration between SONI, our counterparts in the Republic of Ireland, EirGrid, NIE Networks, regulatory partners and industry.

“As Northern Ireland’s grid operator, we know that we can only collectively achieve this once-in-a-generation energy transition by working together. While the funding made available to SONI makes up a very small part of the electricity bill, we have a much bigger impact on the energy landscape in Northern Ireland and we understand the importance of offering excellent value for money for consumers.

“By engaging extensively and consistently with our partners and stakeholders at the earliest possible stage, we hope to instil the trust and confidence of consumers that their investment in SONI is an investment in a world class Transmission System Operator working for everyone in Northern Ireland.

“This is just the beginning of a comprehensive programme of engagement over the coming months, and I would encourage everyone to come forward and help us co-develop our vision and plans for the future.”

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