New €570m power line on hold over interference with locals' phones
A NEW power line designed to lower electricity prices is not being switched on because it is interfering with phone lines.
The €570m electricity interconnector between Britain and Ireland was officially launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny last month. But householders in north Dublin starting complaining that the surge of power through underground cables during final tests caused interference on landline calls.
And this means the project cannot go live until the problem is fixed.
Delivered by national grid operator EirGrid, the interconnector is a 260km cable that runs between Meath and Wales under the Irish Sea and allows electricity to be imported and exported between Ireland and the UK.
Electricity generators and suppliers such as the ESB or Bord Gais were due to begin importing power from October 1.
But the plan is now on hold despite the project being officially opened by Mr Kenny at a function attended by EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger and UK secretary of state for energy and climate change Edward Davey.
The problem emerged during routine testing and affects a "small number" of householders and businesses in Rush, Ballyboughal and Oldtown in north Dublin, EirGrid said.
There have also been complaints from householders in Wales who suffered similar problems with their phone lines.
The problem only affects landlines, and arose following complaints from customers to telecom companies, which were passed on to EirGrid.
"Some localised telephone noise was reported," a source said. "It's a pitched sound that's noticeable when someone is speaking on the phone.
"It's like the noise you would get when you put a mobile near a radio. It varies. It's only on some lines, not all."
It is understood the problem emerged towards the end of September, and testing is now under way to try and identify the problem. EirGrid will not take control of the project until it is rectified.
"The target delivery date was the end of 2012, even though we were ready in advance of that. The October 1 date was early and ahead of schedule," a spokesperson said.
"EirGrid has not taken over the interconnector until the conclusion of testing. We've been looking at a robust, long-term and enduring solution."
Firms that bought capacity on the interconnector, allowing them to import power from the UK, will have their fees refunded.
The project cost €570m -- €30m less than expected -- and included a €110m grant from the European Union.
The balance of the cost was funded by a €300m loan from the European Investment Bank, €60m from EirGrid and a commercial loan from Barclays/BNP Paribas.
The 500-megawatt power cable can carry enough electrical power to supply a total of 350,000 homes.
The project involved a cable being laid in a trench beneath the Irish Sea between North Beach in Rush, and Barkby Beach in Wales.
A further 80km of overground cable links the connector to several converter stations, where the power is adapted to suit the relevant national energy grid.
The line will help reduce energy prices for consumers here because power is up to 20pc cheaper in the United Kingdom.