Domestic and business customers across Northern Ireland are being urged by NIE Networks to have their say on the future of the electricity network.
The call comes as NIE Networks – the owner of the electricity transmission and distribution networks in Northern Ireland – today launches a six-week consultation period on its proposed business plan for its next price control period from 2025 to 2031.
Deemed critical to delivering the changes needed on the electricity network to facilitate the decarbonisation goals set out in the Department for the Economy’s Energy Strategy, NIE Networks’ proposed plan is intended to deliver transformational impact for its 900,000 customers across Northern Ireland.
The plan sets out how NIE Networks will facilitate a net zero carbon future, all while providing a safe, resilient network and excellent level of service, but at the least possible cost.
Managing Director, Derek Hynes, said NIE Networks is committed to placing customers at the forefront of the energy transition.
“NIE Networks’ vision is to provide an electricity network that can facilitate Northern Ireland’s overall plan to address climate change, aiming to achieve net zero carbon and affordable energy, by ending our society’s reliance on fossil fuels and its associated price volatility.
“A significant step-change is needed in the level of investment in the electricity network required to facilitate the scale of decarbonisation that has now been mandated by government. Our aim is to strike a balanced position in our future plans, which seek to maximise the potential benefits from investing now and minimising the investments needed in the future to deliver a zero carbon economy.
“Furthermore, a digitalised and flexible network will enable customers to make informed decisions on energy efficiency and opportunities for active participation in new markets. It is in this context that we are developing our next business plan for 2025 to 2031.”
NIE Networks’ ‘A Future Network for All’ consultation document, outlines a series of investments that will be required to facilitate the scale of decarbonisation required – including providing increased network capacity to enable customers to connect low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles, solar panels and heat pumps.
During the next business plan period an extensive programme of network renewal will also be required to replace or update much of the original network, initially developed in the 1960s, in order to maintain reliability of supply.
Mr Hynes continued: “We are embarking on the most significant change in the design, management and operation of the electricity network since rural electrification in the 1960s. A net carbon zero future for Northern Ireland will necessitate a much greater role and dependency on electricity in society, with the expected need for the rapid electrification of heat and transport a key requirement.
“Enabling this change will require significant development in the capacity of the existing network, alongside further development to ensure adequate capacity for the increasingly diverse mix of renewables that will emerge over the coming decades as we reach net zero by 2050.”
Mr Hynes explained that feedback from customers during the six-week consultation period will help inform the development of NIE Networks’ final proposals which are due for submission to the Utility Regulator in March 2023.
“Our plan is designed to deliver meaningful outcomes for all customers – particularly our most vulnerable in society – and we are committed to reflecting the various priorities of domestic, business and agricultural customers.
“As such, our thinking to date has been built on considerable engagement with our stakeholders across all sectors through focus groups, stakeholder events and one-to-one engagement over the past six years,” he said.
“Before we finalise these plans, however, we are urging all customers to give us their feedback on our current view of what this next business plan should deliver. Specifically, we are very keen to know if customers believe we are taking the right approach to and have the right strategy to take us to 2031. All comments and input will be greatly valued.”
The ‘A Future Network for All’ consultation document can be found at www.nienetworks.co.uk/futureplanning
Customers wishing to respond to detailed questions set out in the consultation document, or provide general comments, can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by 17:00 on Monday 7th November 2022.