Transmission Development Plan for Northern Ireland

10 November 2020

SONI, the Electricity System Operator for Northern Ireland operates and plans the electricity grid. The electricity grid brings power from where it is generated to the NIE Networks’ distribution network that supplies every home, farm and small business in Northern Ireland.

To ensure the Northern Ireland grid is efficient, strong and reliable we develop a ten year programme of work known as the ‘Transmission Development Plan for Northern Ireland’. This considers those areas of the grid which need to be upgraded and provides recommended solutions, which may be adopted. 

We consult on our plan and update it annually; we are now seeking views on our outlook to 2029.

Northern Ireland has the potential to be a market leader in new, low or zero carbon energy solutions, such as hydrogen, off-shore wind and other renewable generation. The Economy Minister, Diane Dodds MLA, has recently outlined an ambition for a new target of no less than 70% renewable electricity generation by 2030; so that this can happen, we must make the grid ready to move the large amounts of clean power we expect to come onto the electricity system in the next decade.

The way consumers use electricity is also rapidly changing. As more of us move to electricity to heat our homes and power our vehicles it is important that the grid has the capacity to meet this demand.

We also need to make sure Northern Ireland continues to have a high quality, secure electricity supply to facilitate inward investment and the growth of indigenous businesses.  This means upgrading the grid in places and replacing some of the equipment which carries electricity.

For all of these reasons we are proposing a number of essential upgrades to the Northern Ireland grid including:

  • Modernising parts of the grid in the Belfast Metropolitan area so that it can fuel long-term economic growth in the city centre
  • We are also looking to mid-to-north County Antrim, here the grid is at capacity and we need to strengthen it to increase the flow of electricity from renewable sources 
  • The North West is another key region for works. We want to strengthen the grid here to support economic development and to facilitate decarbonisation of Northern Ireland’s electricity supply.

As SONI advised in autumn 2019, the investment required in NI grid to make it ready for increased volumes of clean energy, to reduce costly constraints and to strengthen it for economic development is c£500m over the next decade.

Welcoming the publication of the Transmission Development Plan for Northern Ireland 2020-2029’, SONI’s interim Managing Director Alan Campbell said:

“This is a pivotal time for the power system in Northern Ireland. We are in a period of revolutionary change and a strong, flexible grid is essential to boosting Northern Ireland’s renewables profile while ensuring security of electricity supply is not compromised.

“The projects proposed in our ten year plan will have significant socio-economic value, particularly in the context of a green recovery. 

“SONI has no vested interest in adding to the grid; we do not own the assets and we only propose new infrastructure such as underground cables, overhead lines, pylons and substations when they are absolutely needed.

“It is important that we hear a wide range of opinions about the proposals within our Transmission Development Plan for us to move forward. This will allow SONI to facilitate the sustainable development of a high-quality transmission grid to serve the existing and future needs of Northern Ireland.”

The consultation runs from 10 November 2020 to 11 December 2020; following this we will update our plans before submitting it to the Utility Regulator for consideration.

Submissions can be made by email to info@soni.ltd.uk. Please include “Response to TDPNI Consultation” in the title of any email response. If sending by post, please address to: TDPNI 2020-2029, SONI Ltd, 12 Manse Road, Belfast, BT6 9RT.