£3Billion investment in electricity network will facilitate Northern Ireland's net zero carbon future


NIE Networks is to invest “well in excess of £3billion” in the electricity network and create more than 1,000 new jobs over the next 10 years (2023 to 2032) to facilitate Northern Ireland’s net zero carbon future.

At a recent business briefing, stakeholders heard that this is the minimum level of investment required in the electricity network to meet Northern Ireland’s climate change commitments.

NIE Networks Managing Director, Derek Hynes, explained: “A significant step change is needed in the level of investment required during the next 10 years and beyond to facilitate the scale of decarbonisation mandated in the Northern Ireland climate change legislation.

“These are investments that will provide increased network capacity to enable our customers to connect to low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles, solar panels and heat pumps.

“We will also need to invest to provide the network capacity needed to meet government targets for a greater proportion of electricity to consistently and reliably come from renewable sources.”

According to NIE Networks, the investment will not only deliver an electricity network fit to facilitate net zero, but will create greater prosperity in Northern Ireland. It will provide training and long-term careers through apprenticeship opportunities, as well as encouraging talent that has moved away to return to Northern Ireland through the offer of highly skilled and globally competitive jobs.

Mr Hynes continued: “We believe that we will need to create 1,000 new jobs, including 400 apprenticeships in NIE Networks and up to 500 new jobs in our contractors and support partners, between now and 2030.

“This level of investment will also attract additional inward investment into Northern Ireland, alongside encouraging new businesses to come here and existing businesses to grow.”

Details of the investment are set out in NIE Networks Business Plan, which has been finalised following a consultation period last year.

“We have listened extensively to our customers and stakeholders in shaping and refining our Business Plan,” Mr Hynes said.

“They have clearly told us to ensure that the network has sufficient capacity to allow for greater electrification, is reliable enough to maintain confidence that homes and businesses will have electricity when they need it, and to make sure that all new and existing customers can get the connections they need to the network quickly and cost effectively.”

Deemed critical to delivering the changes needed on the electricity network to facilitate the decarbonisation goals set out in the Department for the Economy’s Energy Strategy, NIE Networks’ proposed plan is intended to deliver transformational impact for its 910,000 customers across Northern Ireland.

Mr Hynes explained: “Our plan is designed to improve reliability, support the most vulnerable, cut carbon, as well as creating hundreds of jobs and supply chain opportunities across Northern Ireland.

“But it is important we are transparent with our customers and this investment requires an anticipated increase in network charges of around £10.00 per year for the average domestic customer. It is critical though that we invest now to avoid higher costs in the future.”

The investment announcement was welcomed by Martin Doherty, Centre Manager of the Centre of Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE), who said: “Northern Ireland has set ambitious targets to combat climate change, and these simply cannot be met without a major investment in our energy infrastructure. 

“This news of NIE Networks’ intended investment in the electricity network is therefore welcome and timely news for Northern Ireland, helping to create the capacity and reliability required to meet significantly increased demand for renewable electricity in the coming decades. 

“In the long-term, we would see many benefits being realised through this investment. Alongside the positive economic impact on the supply chain and wider industry, this will go a long way to enabling Northern Ireland to meet the target of 80% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030 which, in turn, could ease the pressure on energy bills.

“The creation of more than 1,000 new jobs is also hugely encouraging, and our education sector is perfectly placed to support the skills and training requirements at all levels required to realise these employment opportunities in what is a very exciting sector.”

NIE Networks’ Business Plan – ‘A Future Network for All’ – was submitted in March 2023 to the Utility Regulator, who will assess the plan and publish a draft determination for public consultation in November 2023. The Regulator is then anticipated to publish a final determination and proposals on licence modifications in October 2024.

The Business Plan can be found by clicking the link below https://www.nienetworks.co.uk/rp7-business-plan

NIE Networks Managing Director, Derek Hynes.

Our plan is designed to improve reliability, support the most vulnerable, cut carbon, as well as creating hundreds of jobs and supply chain opportunities across Northern Ireland.

NIE Networks Managing Director, Derek Hynes.