Belfast Telegraph

Cross-border electricity link essential for growth

A new electricity interconnector between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is vital to ensure security of supply for businesses and domestic electricity customers, according to System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI).

Part of the EirGrid Group, SONI is the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland and is responsible for the consistent, cost effective and reliable transmission of electricity across Ireland.

SONI is currently planning a new grid connection between the electricity networks in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

In conjunction with the existing undersea connection to Scotland, this new interconnector will make the network stronger and more secure and will result in cheaper electricity for domestic and business users.

"If the new interconnector gets up and running, savings to customers overall could be up to £45m per year by 2030," said Robin McCormick, SONI general manager.

"There has been an interconnector between north and south since 1995.

"However, now with much more electricity being generated another interconnector is needed.

"Also, new European legislation on emissions is affecting some of the older fossil-fuelled generators which means the amount of power they can generate will be restricted.

"If we don't have the new interconnector in place by 2021, we can't be confident we can keep the lights on.

"SONI have been working with large energy users and the business community to make it clear that the electricity system is not currently working as well as it could and customers (north and south) are currently paying around £14m per year more than they would with the new interconnector.

"We are also in constant communication with politicians, businesses and government bodies.

"People need to understand the critical nature of the project and the absolute necessity of getting the new interconnector delivered - not just to the existing market, but also in attracting new business.

"When foreign investors consider Northern Ireland, one of the first questions they ask is, 'Do you have a secure, quality supply of electricity?'

"If there is any doubt, they will question whether Northern Ireland is a viable option for them.

"The benefits of the new north-south interconnector to the economy are tenfold - stable, secure, and cost efficient electricity will enable business expansion, global investment, job creation and increasing Northern Ireland's use of sustainable energy.

"Securing electricity supply isn't just about making sure you can keep the lights on, it is essential to the future economic growth of businesses and the community."

A public inquiry into proposals for the interconnector is expected to take place early in 2016.

Costing just over £200m the project which will connect an overhead powerline between Co Tyrone and Co Meath, will facilitate everyone across Ireland having the same generation capacity.

"If we get the go-ahead, we believe it is possible to have the new interconnector up and running by 2019," said Mr McCormick.

"The views of the community are important to us, from business to residents, we are on the ground, listening and responding. People across Northern Ireland are calling out for more affordable electricity and the north-south Interconnector is the key to making this happen."

Cross-border electricity link essential for growth

Belfast Telegraph