SONI – Delivering a cleaner energy future for Northern Ireland

SONI – is delivering a cleaner energy future for Northern Ireland, writes SONI Chief Executive, Alan Campbell. This is paid for advertising.

SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) is the Electricity Transmission System Operator for Northern Ireland. That means we manage the transmission system, or the ‘Grid’ as it is better known, to bring electricity to every part of Northern Ireland.

From our control centre in Belfast, our team of expert engineers balance the supply and demand for electricity every second of every day, ensuring that power flows safely, securely, and reliably to homes, farms, and business throughout the region.

In addition to managing the electricity grid in real time, our expert engineers are responsible for planning ahead to ensure our energy infrastructure meets Northern Ireland’s future energy needs.

We are working to upgrade our power system to help deliver Northern Ireland’s Energy Strategy and reach our target of 80% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030.

Currently, renewables make up approximately 50% of our electricity generation in Northern Ireland. To reach the 80% target we will need to unlock the full potential of wind, solar, and other green technologies, while at the same time, modernising and expanding our electricity grid infrastructure at a much faster pace. 

In addition to managing the electricity grid in the present, SONI also has the crucial task of transforming the electricity system, enabling more renewables on to the grid to help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and support Northern Ireland’s climate action goals.

The pace, scale and complexity of this transformation is unprecedented and has to be delivered while also ensuring a safe, stable and reliable supply of electricity and value for money for consumers.

Increased demand

Our latest analysis shows that electricity demand is forecast to more than double by 2050.

That means we have to make changes to our grid infrastructure and how we use it to introduce more and newer forms of renewable energy.

Northern Ireland is not unique in the challenges it faces. Across the world, electricity systems are changing to adapt to growing populations, new technologies and changing consumer demands.

As part of SONI’s work in planning the future energy system, we recently published Tomorrow’s Energy Scenarios (TES) – a key publication that maps out the future of the electricity grid in Northern Ireland in alignment with government set climate goals.

Published in partnership with EirGrid, the Electricity Transmission System Operator for Ireland, Tomorrow’s Energy Scenarios explores our future energy needs and identifies different paths for enabling a cleaner energy system based on renewable energy by 2050.

The report explores a range of different scenarios from a future with rapid growth of renewable energy across all technologies, to a more constrained scenario which reflects a future where the energy transition proceeds more slowly.

Renewable alternatives

In Tomorrow’s Energy Scenarios, we look at the potential for onshore and offshore wind, large scale solar, rooftop solar, and grid-scale energy storage.

Meeting the energy demands of tomorrow presents many complex challenges and moving towards a more sustainable future will require significant transformation that goes beyond the electricity grid.

Potential jobs boost

The growth of renewables in Northern Ireland also brings many opportunities, such as attracting new industry and development, and creating new highly skilled green jobs.

Transformation of this scale is not without its challenges. Everyone has a role to play, whether that be the considered use of electricity during periods of high demand, or public support of the required new infrastructure.

By working together, we can reduce our carbon emissions, mitigate climate change and ultimately, deliver a cleaner energy future for everyone in Northern Ireland.