Northern Ireland’s grid operator, SONI, is seeking the views of its stakeholders as part of a fundamental review of its approach to engaging with local communities, businesses, landowners, and the energy industry.
As the Transmission System Operator, SONI has the responsibility for planning the upgrades to the high voltage electricity grid infrastructure to facilitate more renewable energy, which is key to supporting the delivery of Northern Ireland’s renewable energy targets.
The Northern Ireland Energy Strategy and the Climate Change (Northern Ireland) Act 2022 set a legal target of 80% of electricity consumed coming from renewable sources by 2030. To enable more renewable energy to be integrated onto the power system, SONI has to strengthen and enhance the grid infrastructure.
The organisation recently consulted on its draft Transmission Development Plan, which sets out the grid infrastructure upgrades needed over the next ten years.
With less than six years until 2030, SONI is seeking views on how it can enhance its engagement with local communities, landowners, businesses, and the energy industry.
To support a review of the grid operator’s engagement processes, SONI has issued a “Call for Views” in three key areas: 1) SONI’s overall Stakeholder Engagement Strategy; 2) its approach to public engagement through its public engagement model; and, 3) its approach to landowner engagement through a Landowner Charter.
SONI Managing Director, Alan Campbell, said:
“In addition to ensuring everyone in Northern Ireland has a secure, reliable supply of electricity in the present, SONI has the responsibility for delivering a cleaner energy future for homes, farms, and businesses across Northern Ireland. This means we have to transform the electricity grid and how we use it to facilitate more renewable electricity to support Northern Ireland’s clean energy targets.
“We understand that local communities, landowners, businesses and industry partners are at the heart of this unprecedented change in our electricity system and that’s why SONI is leaving no stone unturned to ensure we are engaging and working collaboratively as best we can in delivering our role to support the energy transition.”
SONI Senior Communications and Engagement Lead, Heather Henry-Wilson, said:
“SONI’s grid development process is consultative, collaborative, and deliberative and we already go far beyond what is required by planning policy. We engage with industry partners, local communities, elected representatives and landowners on a daily basis across many different projects. Our goal is to find the best possible solution through understanding stakeholders’ concerns and affording them the opportunity to help shape our plans.
“To support the timely delivery of Northern Ireland’s 2030 energy targets, we are redoubling our efforts to ensure local communities, landowners and industry partners are at the heart of everything we do. That’s why we want to hear the views of our stakeholders about how we can enhance our engagement at every level and ensure our processes are first class.”
SONI’s Senior Landowner Engagement Lead, William Sufferin, said:
“Rural communities and landowners play a crucial role in meeting Northern Ireland’s energy needs, particularly when it comes to hosting this vital infrastructure for the benefit of everyone, and it is important this role is recognised. At a time when many rural communities are facing significant challenges, it is important that we listen to their views and ensure they feel meaningfully involved in planning the electricity grid for the future.”