44% renewable energy record welcomed by SONI

The old and the new a traditional age near Larne with a modern day wind turbine in the distance.PICTURE KEVIN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA
The old and the new a traditional age near Larne with a modern day wind turbine in the distance.PICTURE KEVIN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA

System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI) has welcomed the news that 44% of Northern Ireland electricity consumption was generated by renewable sources in the 12 months to June 2019.

The figure easily beats Northern Ireland’s renewable target of 40% and occurred one year ahead of its 2020 deadline. In 2005 renewable energy accounted for just 3% of demand.

SONI runs the electricity grid in Northern Ireland and is responsible for integrating renewable energy on the power system.

Jo Aston, SONI Managing Director, said: “The electricity system in Northern Ireland is undergoing a transformation as a result of the growing levels of renewable electricity. Managing this is an incredible achievement and testament to the talented people we have working at SONI.”

Running the Northern Ireland power system with increasingly high levels of renewable energy is a major challenge due to the intermittent nature of wind power and its technical characteristics.

SONI is doing so through its ground-breaking DS3 Programme. This is a world-leading initiative undertaken with its counterparts at EirGrid in Dublin.

“This work is enabling us to run the power system with up to 65% renewable energy at any given time. This has enabled us to reach the 44% average for the 12 months to June. We are not stopping there either: Our ambition is to take that average figure significantly higher in the coming years.

“This is very good news in progressing towards a decarbonised economy, but we must also extract maximum value for our consumers and for this we need to reduce the level of network constraints on the electricity system. The new North South Interconnector has a significant role to play both now and in the future when we will have even greater levels of renewables,” explained Ms Aston.

According to the statistics published by the Department for the Economy, wind energy accounted for 85% of the renewable energy during the period. The remainder was largely solar power, biomass and biogas. The 44% figure is 7% higher than the previous year and is the highest 12-month proportion on record.