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NI energy regulator to approve over £44m of wind generation investment

Northern Ireland's energy regulator intends to approve over £44 million of investment that would enable wind generators in the north and west of the country to access the national transmission network, it has announced.19 Dec 2012

The proposed investment (12-page / 447KB PDF) would enable Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) to upgrade its network in order to accommodate 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable wind generation. The Utility Regulator will now conduct a short public consultation before making its final decision.

Energy law expert Richard Murphy of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said that the investment was "much needed and long overdue".

"We have just over 450MW of wind connected in Northern Ireland with a further 550MW of renewable generation with planning permission to connect," he said. "Most of this renewable generation is located in the west or north west of the country, where the transmission network is at its weakest. These transmission reinforcements will give the wind industry a big boost going into the New Year."

Around £26m, or more than half of the proposed investment package, would be put towards increasing the capacity of the Tamnamore sub-station to accommodate increased renewable generation. A further £16m would be put towards the construction of a third circuit between Omagh and Tamnamore, including pre-construction and capital works costs, while £2.6m would be used to provide upgrades to the Kells-Coleraine circuit.

The upgrades will likely increase network tariffs for domestic consumers by around 1.5% and for the largest industrial consumers by around 5%, according to the regulator's analysis.

Shane Lynch, chief executive of the Utility Regulator, said that the proposal was "good news for Northern Ireland".

"We are at an important stage in the development of renewable generation in Northern Ireland," he said. "The overall investment ... will be a major boost to the NI Executive's target of 40% of electricity demand being provided from renewable sources by 2020. We estimate that 1000MW of wind on the system can provide 27% of electricity demand in 2020."

The investment case presented by NIE appeared to represent "good value for money", he added.