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    GB firm files new application for £700m electricity interconnector

    May 30, 2023 - Alyson Magee



      TRANSMISSION licence application has been filed for a £700m electricity interconnector project aimed at shoring up energy security in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

      It is one of a number of projects in the pipeline as Northern Ireland transitions towards renewable energy.

      Transmission Investment, a UK firm with offices in London and Inverness, is behind the initiative to develop, construct and operate a new sub-sea infrastructure between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

      It would comprise convertor stations here and Scotland, linked by around 130km of cable.

      Potential routes and locations will be studied with the aim of minimising disturbance to the environment and communities, said Transmission Investment.

      It hopes the project will be operational by the end of the decade, reducing carbon emissions and the likelihood of outages by opening up access to more renewable energy markets.

      It would see LirIC, a company owned by Transmission Investment, provide up to 700MW of further capacity between the Irish Integrated Single Energy Market and the Great Britain wholesale electricity market.

      Power from renewable energy sources could be supplied in either direction, potentially replacing power generation from polluting sources.

      Keith Morrison, LirIC project director at Transmission Investment, said: "The application for a transmission licence is an early milestone in a long process, but it's significant in that it moves us one stage closer towards delivering this very exciting project.

      "We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those with whom we have had very positive engagement so far, including the relevant government agencies, and the local political parties.

      "Over its lifetime, this project will bring real benefits to Northern

      Ireland, and Great Britain.

      "LirlC will increase the opportunities for home-grown renewables to export power to other markets, reduce the curtailment of wind generators, lower the wholesale power price in wholesale markets, which on average is forecast to be higher in Northern Ireland, as well as deliver social economic welfare benefits.

      "This interconnector will help balance out the system so that power can be imported or exported according to market requirements. "There's a long way to go in the process, but we are pleased that we have reached this milestone."

      Transmission Investment, which is developing a similar scheme between England and France, submitted the application for a transmission licence to the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation on May 17.

      "This project will be able to transmit up to 700MW, which is over 40% of the winter peak demand in Northern Ireland," said Mr Morrison.

      "LirlC will help reduce Northern Ireland's carbon emissions, and therefore will directly support the delivery of the national emissions reduction target of net zero by 2050.

      "If all goes well, LirIC will be online around the end of the decade." Martin Doherty of the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy said: "It is vitally important that

      NI strengthens its interconnectivity with our partners both in GB and Ireland.

      "This development is a key step on the path to providing NI with the clean power to transform our economy over the next decades.

      "The level of investment clearly demonstrates a confidence within the private sector that NI is on the correct course with its ambitious plans for moving away from a reliance on fossil fuels."

      Transmission Investment currently manages 4GW of offshore networks, laying claim to experience in development, investment, execution and management of large scale and complex utility infrastructure projects and electricity networks.

      A social economic welfare study indicates its LirlC project could potentially generate £1bn of economic welfare and £900m of welfare benefit to consumers, it said.

      Transmission Investment is among stakeholders set to attend the inaugural Northern Ireland Energy Summit next month.

      Building consensus on how the region can meet its renewable energy targets and net-zero ambitions will be the focus of the one-day conference, to be held on June 21 in ICC Belfast.

      It will also look at how renewables can drive 10X economic growth across innovation, sustainability and inclusion.

      It has been organised by the Centre for Advanced Sustainable

      Energy, and will bring together global experts, government and energy industry leaders.

      Keynote speakers will include a senior US government official, NI Civil Service head Jayne Brady, Scottish Executive director of energy climate change Kersti Berge, International Renewable Energy Agency senior expert Dr Xavier Garcia Casals, European Innovation Council Board chairman Professor Mark Ferguson and Queen's Professor David Rooney.

      Meanwhile, a statutory consul- tation process for redundancies is under way at Kilroot Power Station ahead of coal-fired electricity generation coming to an end on September 30.

      EP UK Investments (EPUK), which acquired Kilroot Power Station (EPK) and Ballylumford Power Station from AES in 2019, has announced it is currently consulting with staff and unions.

      A spokesman said there were 90 full-time employees and 45 term contractors on site at Kilroot. It's understood there are other potential job opportunities as the wider energy park planned for the site moves forward.

      EPUK is converting Kilroot from a coal-fired power station to gas after it had been operating at reduced capacity in order to meet its current environmental permit.

      It is investing up to £1bn in the project, which it said will generate more than 600MW of lower carbon and renewable energy powering up to 500,000 homes.

      More than 200 jobs are to be created during the construction phase, and 150-plus full-time operational jobs, the energy supplier said.

      A complex project to connect Mutual Energy's Belfast Gas Transmission Pipeline to Kilroot is nearing completion to become operational later in 2023.

      A spokesperson for EPK said: "Following extensive engagement with regulatory authorities, EPK served a three-year closure notice in 2020, confirming its intention to close the coal fired electricity generation units, from September 30 2023.

      "In the intervening period, EPK has regularly briefed staff and we have now commenced the formal statutory consultation process for the redundancies, associated with the closure of the units.

      "Since acquiring the power station site in 2019, we have invested over £250m in the transition from coal to lower carbon gas generation, with plans for up to £1bn of investment in the wider Kilroot Energy Park.

      "This represents the largest private sector investment of its kind in electricity generation on a single site, in Northern Ireland. It will ensure Kilroot remains an important source of local employment, keeping electricity generation as a key cornerstone of the local economy.

      "Notwithstanding our commitment to close the coal units, EPK remain very concerned about future security of electricity supply in Northern Ireland.

      "We believe there is a real and material risk to security of supply from this upcoming winter up to winter 2025 when the Combined Cycle Gas Turbines are expected to come online."

      A further project is taking its next step forward this week, with North Channel Wind embarking on a series of consultations with local communities potentially impacted by its two proposed offshore floating wind farms.

      Public exhibitions are to be held from 2-8pm in Glenlough Community Centre, Carnlough on May 31, The Gobbins Visitor Centre, Islandmagee on June 1 and Hamilton Road Community Hub, Bangor on June 2.

      The two wind farms could deliver a third of Northern Ireland's energy needs on a cold day, and generate as much as £2bn of inward investment, according to North Channel Wind.

      A scoping study is currently under way, while the Department for the Economy and Crown Estate has agreed a statement of intent around offshore wind leasing for Northern Ireland.

      'This represents the largest private sector investment of its kind on a single site in NI'


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