Statement on the Connection of Small Scale Generation (February 2013)
The Government in Northern Ireland has set challenging targets for the amount of electricity to be generated from renewable sources, 40% of consumption by 2020. There is the potential to connect up to 6,000MW of wind power generation across the island of Ireland and approximately 30% of this might be installed in Northern Ireland and County Donegal.
This means Northern Ireland’s electricity network would need to accommodate nearly 2,000MW of additional wind powered generation, both from large and small scale generators.
Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE), as the network company, provides connections and is bound by statutory obligations to provide a safe, secure and economic supply for all customers. NIE must therefore ensure the network is developed in a manner which meets these requirements.
Due to the significant increase in small scale generation, access to the 11kV network for small scale generators has become very limited in a number of locations across Northern Ireland, resulting in instances of high connection costs.
Some applicants, who have received an indication of high costs during the quotation stage, have requested variations to the current quotation and acceptance process to allow them to retain an option on capacity in the event that a less costly option is found.
NIE has considered options which might reduce costs for small scale developers, including limited export (sometimes referred to as ‘non-firm’) arrangements. However, while NIE will continue to explore such arrangements, there is no expectation at this point that any viable alternative will be available within the short term.
NIE is committed to providing a fair connections process for all small scale developers. Therefore, NIE will retain the current connections process arrangements and has updated the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Utility Regulator on this basis.
Following receipt of the connection application, NIE issues a connection offer within 90 days. Developers then have a further 90 days to accept the offer. This means that if a developer does not accept NIE’s connection offer within 90 days, their application will not proceed and they will lose their place in the process.
Given the increasing likelihood of network access limitations, NIE will provide information enabling developers to understand, at a broad level, the key issues affecting the network. NIE will update stakeholder groups on how this information will be provided.