Part III Grid Connections
1. During its review of electricity policy relating to security of electricity supply and electricity pricing, the Committee for Enterprise, Trade & Investment became aware of concerns relating to grid connections for renewable electricity developers. The Committee agreed to widen its review in order to investigate the issues and problems faced by developers.
Purpose of the Review
2. The purpose of the review is to:
- Explore the strategic approach to electricity grid investment;
- Explore the relationship between grid strength and connection costs for developers;
- Review processes in place for developers applying for planning permission and grid connection;
- Review any requirements there are for renewable electricity developers to connect to the grid;
- Consider the feasibility of introducing competition into grid connections; and
- To bring forward recommendations on how these problems can be resolved in the interests of consumers, renewable energy developers and the local economy.
Terms of Reference
3. The Committee will critically examine the legislation, the policies and the practices that are currently in place relating to electricity transmission and distribution, including grid investment and grid connections. The review will identify the key issues faced by developers and consumers.
4. Specifically, the Committee will:
- Examine current legislation, policies and practices which are in place for electricity grid investment and connections;
- Assess the extent to which legislation, policies and practices are responsible for the issues and problems faced by developers and consumers;
- Assess the reasons for variations between the two jurisdictions in the Single Electricity Market;
- Assess the reasons for variations between Northern Ireland and Great Britain;
- Identify the actions to be taken by Government, the electricity industry and the Utility Regulator to address the problems identified; and
- Report to the Assembly with findings, conclusions and recommendations on how legislation, policies and practices can be improved in order to provide the most appropriate mechanisms for the benefit of developers and consumers.
Approach to the Review
5. The Committee will call for written and oral evidence from identified key stakeholders including (but not restricted to):
- The Utility Regulator
- The System Operator for Northern Ireland
- The Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment
- Northern Ireland Electricity
- SSE plc.
- The Northern Ireland Renewables Industry Group
- Action Renewables.
6. The Committee will undertake visits, if considered necessary, to gain a practical understanding of the issues involved and the problems faced by key stakeholders.
7. Assembly Research and Information Services will be asked to undertake appropriate research to inform the Committee. Initially, research will be undertaken into:
- Identification of appropriate renewable energy developer representative organisations.
- Legislation, policies and practices which are in place for electricity grid investment and connections;
- Differences in legislation, policies and practices between NI, GB and RoI in relation to:
- Grid connection requirements and charges;
- Requirements for renewable energy developments to be connected to the grid; and
- Competition in the grid connection market;
8. Those providing written evidence to the Committee will be asked to respond by 11th April 2014. Oral evidence will be heard between 1st May and 12th June 2014.
9. The Committee intends to report to the Assembly with findings, conclusions and recommendations by 2nd October 2014.
10. The expected key outcome of the review will be a report outlining the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the review. It is also expected that the report will be debated in separate plenary sessions in the Assembly.