£0.5bn plan to turn Northern Ireland electricity grid even greener by 2024
Electricity operator SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) is set to invest £0.5bn to design a green energy system for Northern Ireland.
The company, which is responsible for the flow of electricity across Northern Ireland, said the five-year plan to transform the power system here will enable it to handle 95% renewable energy at any one time.
This is a significant increase from the current figure of 65% and is said to be a "world leading level, ensuring maximum value from wind and other sources".
To achieve this, it is expected that the amount of renewable energy connected to the grid will need to double by 2030. At the moment, approximately 1600 MW of renewable energy is connected to the NI power system. SONI managing director Jo Aston said that the strategy was a "direct response to the climate crisis and the UK Government's commitment to zero net carbon emissions by 2050".
"Leading, shaping and informing the energy transition is our priority," she added.
"To do this we must innovate for the next generation while ensuring today's electricity users have a reliable, secure and cost-effective supply.
"Our strategy is shaped by the rapid evolution of the electricity sector and its aims are reflected in our new statement of purpose; transforming the electricity system for the next generation."
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Key aspects of the strategy are SONI's engagement and partnership programmes as it outlines the organisation's goal to continue to work with government, generators, NIE Networks and the Utility Regulator to deal with the "rapid changes to the energy industry", including the move to electric vehicles and electric heating in homes.
The strategy also commits SONI to "deeper and broader" engagement with local communities on the electricity grid infrastructure needed to enable the power system transformation.
Ms Ashton recognised that "homes and businesses cannot 'go green' without the transformation of the electricity system".
"The next 10 years will see the most radical transformation of the system since rural electrification," she said.
"It will allow people who want to make a change to have access to the clean energy they need. SONI will develop the infrastructure and operational requirements to facilitate this shift."