By Fergal Keenan, Agricultural Liaison Officer, SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland)
STRONG economies are underpinned by modern and reliable infrastructure. Local businesses and employers need a secure and efficient supply of electricity.
At SONI, a key aspect of our role is making sure ‘the lights stay on’. We work to ensure electricity gets from where it is generated at wind farms and power plants to the homes, farms and businesses that need it. We also look at where the grid needs strengthening to ensure that Northern Ireland has the electricity required to power economic growth. Key to all of this is the North South Interconnector.
When built, the Interconnector will provide a 400kV overhead link between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This will ensure we have enough electricity to meet demand in NI in the coming years. It will also create savings for consumers, north and south.
Some of you will be aware that planning permission for the project was announced by the Department for Infrastructure earlier this year. This is a significant milestone for SONI and brings us a step closer to delivering very important benefits to domestic and commercial consumers throughout Northern Ireland.
So, what does this all mean for you as landowners and farmers?
With planning approval now in place, we are continuing our engagement with landowners to ensure that you are fully up-to-speed with the progress of the project and also to discuss what happens next.
In the future we will be handing the project over to NIE Networks who will be responsible for building the line. It is expected that construction will take around three summers.
In the meantime, working closely and constructively with the agricultural community remains our priority. As an Agricultural Liaison Officer, I know that ownership, control and use of land are very important to all landowners and farmers and it is my job to develop the North South Interconnector in partnership with you.
To help you, we have a Landowner Charter which sets out the quality of services that you can expect from us in a set of ten clear promises:
1. Build a trusted working relationship with landowners.
2. Encourage a two-way flow of information.
3. Respect people and their property.
4. Act with integrity, honesty and fairness.
5. Minimise impacts to farms and farming operations.
6. Fairly compensate landowners for costs and losses arising from our proposals.
7. Never compromise on safety.
8. Hire people who are best suited to the job.
9. Consult meaningfully and regularly with landowners.
10. Be accountable for our actions by providing a complaints process.
These 10 commitments are important to me and I hope they will be important to you. Over the next few months I will be based in Armagh and south Tyrone, working with landowners and farmers on the North South Interconnector route. I’m here to help, so please get in touch by contacting me directly on my mobile 0796 693 0844 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org