North-South Interconnector: Incessant doomsday claims by Establishment of lights going out in Northern Ireland exposed as fiction

November 29, 2018

Strategic need and scale of project significantly undermined by latest EirGrid/SONI Report

They shoved it down our throats. It was emphasized ad nauseam for the last 12 years. At every opportunity. Again and again and again. It was relentless and repetitive – from all establishment bodies and organizations. It was always choreographed and structured for maximum public effect. It carried the fear factor in every message. It was used as the critical reason and justification for ignoring all objective rational debate and public concerns. It was why the DCCAE was tweeting: ‘A simple message – we must get the North-South Interconnector across the line’. It was the cornerstone argument in justifying the need for the project.

What was it? It was the incessant claim that without the North-South Interconnector (NSI) ‘the lights would go out’ in Northern Ireland. There even would be a ‘risk to life and limb’ if it did not go ahead immediately. Note the breadth of organizations that were brought out to sing from the same hymn sheet (see Appendix 2):

 ‘Modelling the balance of demand and capacity, he said, made one issue very clear – that over the next five years the province will face an electricity generation deficit. “What that means is that as the system operator, I cannot be confident that we would be able to ‘keep the lights on’,” he said. (SONI General Manager, Sept. 2016)

 ‘The proposed north-south interconnector must be in place by 2019if the lights are to stay on,” the Utility Regulator has said. “The problem can be addressed by delivering the North South Interconnector, which is now absolutely critical and cannot suffer any further delay” (NI Utility Regulator, October 2015)

Halting a planned new £200m cross-border electricity line could see Northern Ireland’s “lights go out” by 2021, the High Court heard yesterday…Barrister Charles Banner, for the Department, described the interconnector scheme as having “profound urgency and importance”. He told the court work is on hold amid uncertainty due to the legal challenge. “The lights could go out in 2021 if this project doesn’t proceed,” Mr Banner claimed. (Dept. for infrastructure NI, 08 June 2018)

The need for the long-awaited North South electricity interconnector is “irrefutable” and critical to the long-term security of supply for Northern Ireland, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has claimed. (Dec. 2015)

“It is worrying, to say the least, that Northern Ireland is facing an electricity supply deficit by 2021, if North South electricity flows are not safeguarded” (IBEC, April 2017)

 The business community is justifiably concerned that Northern Ireland is projected to face an electricity supply deficit from 2021 (CBI, April 2017)

‘This puts Northern Ireland into a deficit from around mid-2020 onwards based on expected power demand’ (Eirgrid communication to DCCAE , Oct 2017)

This doomsday message was used in two planning applications by EirGrid and two planning applications by SONI. It was used in Court proceedings by the Department of Infrastructure for NI. It was communicated frequently to DCCAE senior civil servants. It was presented at Oireachtas Committee hearings on many occasions, including by the then CEO of EirGrid. It was given as a dire warning by the general Manager of SONI to political Assemblies in Belfast and Westminister. It was stated as gospel by the NI Utility Regulator, despite the fact that this organization is supposed to be independent in its statements.

Lo and behold what has just been published quietly by Eirgrid and SONI recently is their annual 2018 generation capacity report, which should be compared with their 2017 annual report to see the stark contrast in forecasted available supply.

http://www.soni.ltd.uk/media/documents/Generation_Capacity_Statement_2018.pdf

http://www.eirgridgroup.com/site-files/library/EirGrid/4289_EirGrid_GenCapStatement_v9_web.pdf

In the blink of an eye the security of supply issue in NI has disappeared (see Appendix 1). The situation has gone from a predicted deficit in power supply to a generous oversupply situation, even when key generating plants such as Kilroot close. There has been nothing short of a miraculous turn-around in availability of generation capacity numbers, with a now solid security of supply.

Looking at 2024 scenarios, which is what the 2017 Report used as its benchmark:

  • The 2017 Statement Report predicted a deficit of -220MW in a median demand situation, leading to major security of supply issues.
  • The 2018 Statement Report, predicts a surplus of 480 MW, even allowing for Kilroot closure. A positive turn-around of 700MW, in a market size of c. 1500MW.

This raises serious questions and conclusions on a whole number of fronts:

  • The competency of EirGrid/SONI is in tatters. This is the company who produced the ‘Grid 25 strategy’ for the island of Ireland. The 3 key projects were ‘Grid Link’, ‘Grid West’ and the NSI. There have been complete U-turns on Grid Link and Grid West and now we see that the need argument for the NSI has gone up in smoke.
  • The NI Utility Regulator has been a major advocate in supporting and preaching the ‘lights going-out’ argument for many years, alongside SONI and EirGrid. The competency of the regulator in understanding its own market should be called into question. The recent U-Turn on Kilroot power plant is also relevant in this regard.
  • There have been significant statements of evidence made on the record at critical decision-making events, such as the statutory Planning Oral Hearings in ROI, the PAC inquiry in NI, the High Court proceedings North and South, that are now fundamentally called into question. All of these planning approval related processes have a huge potential material effect on affected communities’ livelihoods and future decisions. What redress does the public have when critical statements are now shown to be completely unsustainable? What accountability is there for those who make such wild statements to help advance their arguments?

 

  • How long do affected communities have to stomach the corruption of democracy and the blatant PR spin management of information to the public. Two relevant recent examples:
    • The Government Independent expert reports were due to be published in January 2018. The then Minister was repeatedly asked about their publication but kicked for touch. The reports were issued on 3rd October, 2018 to a blaze of PR activity by EirGrid, including the Eirgrid CEO on national airwaves, and all related proponents. It turned out, under questioning to the then Minister, that Eirgrid had been given the report over 6 months earlier.
    • The Annual Generation Adequacy Report, which is normally issued in April, curiously was not published until 17th October 2018, two weeks after the spin exercise on the Government studies. There was not a word in the media from the EirGrid or SONI CEO’s despite the dramatic changes in the supply numbers and the significance of these in relation to security of supply. Bear in mind that SONI is required by licence to produce an annual Generation Capacity Statement and likewise EirGrid, has a regulatory requirement to publish forecast information about the power system, including an assessment of the balance between supply and demand.

NEPPC has stated from the outset of this project that the EirGrid proposal for a 1500MW interconnector was completely overengineered and unnecessary. The latest annual report confirms this analysis.

NEPPC is calling on the new Minister in the DCCAE to initiate a complete review of the NSI, in an adult manner, with objective analysis of the facts. The culture within the DCCAE of consensus without challenge has served the public very poorly. The uncontested propaganda combined with the wanton misuse of taxpayers’ monies by EirGrid and SONI can no longer be tolerated. Under the previous Minister EirGrid was running the Department on all matters related to the NSI. When the Department spoke it was EirGrid speaking. When the Minister spoke it was EirGrid speaking. If there is any learning from the complete turn around in numbers it is that the DCCAE needs to take responsibility for what is a strategic project of significance.

Time to step up Minister. Man or mouse?

Ends –

Further information:

087 233 43 81/087 855 03 63;www.nepp.ie

APPENDIX 1

2018

All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2017-2026 REPORT 17 OCTOBER 2018, page 13

 

2017

All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2017-2026 REPORT April 2017, page 16

 

 

APPENDIX 2

 

 Dire warning to MPs over future of electricity supply

SONI general manager Robin McCormick intends to be blunt when he addresses MPs on supply risks for the province

06:00Tuesday 06 September 2016 – BELFAST TELEGRAPH

 

Failure to move forward with the North South elecricity interconnector and the loss of present generation is threatening future supply to Northern Ireland MPs in Westminster will hear today.

The stark warning comes from NI Grid Operator SONI which will tell the NI Affairs Select Committee that the province is on the verge of an electricity supply crisis.

The committee has been holding an inquiry into the NI electricity sector over the summer, seeking evidence on a series of significant challenges facing it.

But in a session today MPs are expected to take evidence from both the Ultilities Regulator Jenny Pyper and Robin McCormick, general manager at the System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI) who will tell them the interconnector is now critical for the secure delivery of power to industry and homes.

“It is important that Westminster has a clear understanding about what is confronting us, and I very much welcome the opportunity to explain the situation,” said Mr McCormick.

“The facts are clear; Northern Ireland is facing an electricity supply crisis as old conventional fossil fuel generators retire.”

Modelling the balance of demand and capacity, he said, made one issue very clear – that over the next five years the province will face an electricity generation deficit.

“What that means is that as the system operator, I cannot be confident that we would be able to ‘keep the lights on’,” he said.

“The problem can be addressed by delivering the North South Interconnector, which is now absolutely critical and cannot suffer any further delay. “With the interconnector in place, customers in Northern Ireland will benefit from having access to the most economic generation capacity available on the island and we can then be confident that we can ‘keep the lights on’.” The proposal for the project, which is currently in planning, aims to provide a high- capacity connection between the electricity grids north and south, ensuring that Northern Ireland has the secure supply it needs.

“The interconnector has been in the planning process since 2009 and we are hoping to see a full planning hearing into the project by the end of the year,” said Mr McCormick. “It is critical and essential to the NI Economy; to businesses large and small and to domestic users. It is fundamental that Westminster appreciates the urgency and does all it can to support the project.”

 

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21 October 2015

Fears of energy crisis by 2019 without an interconnector in place

 

THE proposed north-south interconnector must be in place by 2019 “if the lights are to

stay on,” the Utility Regulator has said.

Jenny Pyper spoke at the Eir-Grid Group conference in Belfast yesterday, where she said

businesses and households would “pay dearly” if the interconnector is not put in place.

And she said it was a “myth” that building an underground inter-connector was a

solution to the planning row surrounding the infrastructure. Campaigners against the line

in border areas north and south have said it should be built underground.

Ms Pyper described the north-south interconnector as “the single most important energy

issue”. She added: “What is clear is that the option of undergrounding the interconnector

would not only jeopardise the expected delivery date of 2019 but it simply could not be

delivered by 2021 when our electricity capacity margin becomes critical.

 

“We need to make a choice. Do consumers and businesses want the lights to stay on and

as cheaply as possible? If so, the interconnector that is in planning is the only option,”

she stressed.

Robin McCormick, general manager at the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI),

which runs the grid, said “politicians, business and the community need to grasp the

critical need for the interconnector if Northern Ireland’s lights are to stay on”.

 

The north-south interconnector is a joint project between SONI and its equivalent in

the Republic, EirGrid.

 

The overhead line would link the electricity networks in Northern Ireland and the

Republic in a £204m capital investment, crossing Tyrone, Armagh, Monaghan, Cavan

and Meath.

————————————————————————–

North-South Interconnector: North’s ‘lights could go out’ by 2021 if electricity line is halted, court hears

08 June, 2018 15:17

HALTING a planned new £200m cross-border electricity line could see Northern Ireland’s “lights go out” by 2021, the High Court heard yesterday.

Counsel for the Department of Infrastructure stressed the urgency surrounding a legal challenge to its decision to approve the north-south interconnector.

Up to 6,000 people who own land or live along the proposed route of the pylons and lines are seeking to have the planning permission judicially reviewed.

In January the Department announced it was giving the go-ahead for the Northern Ireland section of the overhead scheme between Tyrone and Meath.

But a group formed under the name Safe Electricity A&T (SEAT) issued proceedings in a bid to have the decision quashed.

They claim a development of such regional significance was wrongly approved by a senior civil servant in the absence of a minister.

In a separate case last month the High Court held that a permanent secretary did not have power to give the green light for a £240m waste incinerator at Mallusk on the outskirts of north Belfast.

That ruling is being appealed in an attempt to clarify the authority of civil servants without a functioning executive.

However, based on the current legal interpretation, the Department’s lawyers accepted SEAT has established an arguable case at this stage on the constitutional point.

It was contended however, that a second ground of challenge about the potential impact to wildlife should be dismissed.

Barrister Charles Banner, for the Department, described the interconnector scheme as having “profound urgency and importance”.

He told the court work is on hold amid uncertainty due to the legal challenge.

“The lights could go out in 2021 if this project doesn’t proceed,” Mr Banner claimed.

The overall initiative to join electricity grids in the two jurisdictions has also approved in the Republic.

It will involve 85 miles of overhead cables and lead to new pylons being built.

Business chiefs have backed the joint scheme between the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) and EirGrid in Ireland to reduce costs and ensure electricity supplies.

But residents in border areas who objected to the interconnector instead wanted undergound cables for health an environment reasons – an option dismissed as unfeasible.

SEAT’s challenge is centred on approval for more than 100 towers and high-voltage transmission lines.

They also claim the scheme lacks the scientific certainty required under a habitats directive that no harm will be caused to wildlife.

The hearing on whether to grant leave to seek a judicial review was adjourned for amendments to the legal papers.

Mr Justice McCloskey emphasised the need for clarity and certainty “given the obvious major public interest.”

Outside court solicitor Paul Farrell of McIvor Farrell, who is representing SEAT, claimed 6,000 landowners were adversely affected by the planning approval.

He added: “For such a decision to be taken by an unelected and politically unaccountable civil servant should cause the public grave concern and will form part of out further submissions to the court.”

————————————————————————————————————————–

North South interconnector ‘vital component for growth’

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell with SONI general manager Robin McCormick, centre, and Fintan Slye, chief executive of the EirGrid Group, right, at the companys control centre at Castlereagh

19:03Wednesday 09 December 2015

The need for the long-awaited North South electricity interconnector is “irrefutable” and critical to the long-term security of supply for Northern Ireland, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has claimed.

Speaking during a visit to System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI), he said the importance of the project went beyond delivering savings on bills and supporting the Executive’s renewable targets.

“European energy policy is about harmonised and integrated trading across Member State markets,” he said referencing the European Commissions recent ‘State of the Energy Union 2015’ paper. On infrastructure projects it said all states must step up their work to facilitate delivery.

“Turning specifically to those projects which it has designated as critical to European energy policy, it further stated that they require “urgent political push” with too many facing delay due to permitting and consenting procedures which are taking too long to be effective,” he added.

“Today I’m giving that push and I call on others to do so.”

Accepting concerns about large infrastructure projects and their potential impacts, he said appropriate environment for consideration of those issues remained the planning process.

“It is therefore imperative that dates are set for the planning hearings as soon as possible,” he said.

Welcoming the Minister’s support for the project, SONI general manager Robin McCormick said: “The Minister has recognised the urgent need for the North South Interconnector, because Northern Ireland’s long term electricity supply, in the next decade, is hanging in the balance.

“Fossil fuel generation capacity is being reduced and older units at Northern Ireland’s power stations are being retired – together this means that by 2021 we may quite simply not have enough electricity.

“The North South interconnector is a vital part of the solution. Northern Ireland needs the interconnector to secure the electricity to homes, businesses and our economy.

The Minister’s support is welcome and we would encourage everyone to get behind this project.”

Mr Bell’s words were also welcomed by business group the FSB.

“FSB NI welcomes Mr Bell’s ‘urgent political push’, in response to the delays around permitting and consenting procedures around the construction of the North South Interconnector to ensure lights stay on in Northern Ireland after 2021,” said FSB NI policy chair Wilfred Mitchell.

“Furthermore, the construction of the interconnector has the potential to reduce the burdensome costs incurred by local businesses, paying on average 10% more for electricity than in the rest of Europe.
Read more: http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/ni-business-news/north-south-interconnector-vital-component-for-growth-1-7108738#ixzz3tuhJupKA

 

——————————————————————————————————

North-south interconnector: Could delay lead to power cuts?

By Stephen WalkerBBC News NI Political Reporter

27 March 2014

There could be power cuts in Northern Ireland if a north-south electricity interconnector is not built, an assembly member has said.

Steven Agnew, a Green Party MLA, was commenting about plans to build a cross border link jointly proposed by Northern Ireland Electricity and Eir Grid in the Republic of Ireland. The link was meant to be ready by 2017 but the earliest it will now be built will be 2019.

There are concerns that the delay could lead to power cuts because of a shortfall in the availability of electricity.

Speaking to the BBC NI’s, The View, Steven Agnew warned that Northern Ireland could be facing “energy insecurity ” and in “quite extreme circumstances the lights would go off in some places”.

The utility regulator, Jenny Pyper, also cautioned that any proposal to take the cross-border link underground would be expensive.

She told the BBC: “There are technical difficulties with it as well in terms of access, the costs increase very considerably – the costs could be anything up to 10 times the cost of overhead lines, depending on how much is undergrounded”.

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Filed under: Press Releases 2018


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