What's happening with pylons?
Commercial semi-state EirGrid has been involved in upgrading the national grid since 2010 under a project called Grid 25. It involves building up to 1,300 pylons across the country, many of which will be up to 45m high.
Why is it in the news now?
The company has announced details of specific projects. Communities are concerned about the impact the towers will have on their area, and are lobbying to have the lines placed underground.
What are the projects?
One is the €500m 230km Grid Link line which runs from Cork to Kildare via Wexford across nine counties, and will involve the erection of up to 700 towers. The second is the €280m North-South interconnector from Meath to Tyrone, of which 105kms will run in the Republic and will cost €180m with 300 towers. The final large-scale project is the €240m Grid West line in Mayo and Roscommon which will run for 100km and involve up to 300 pylons.
Why can't the lines be placed underground?
EirGrid says it makes maintenance more difficult as faults cannot be easily detected, and repairs will take longer. The costs are also prohibitive, and could treble the final bill. Critics say it has previously said the costs are five to six times higher, and many don't believe the company.
What about health effects?
There are concerns about non-ionising radiation from power lines, but much of the scientific research is inconclusive. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organisation, concluded there was a possible risk of cancer. An expert group reported in 2006 that power lines should be sited away from heavily populated areas to keep exposures low.
So what's the problem?
There's a sense that lip service is being paid to communities, and they are not being listened to. EirGrid says it will take on board any concerns, but that it must upgrade the grid. It has recently extended its public consultation for the Grid Link project until the end of January.
What more can it do?
Incoming Eirgrid chairman John O'Connor said he was not opposed to having experts look at the projects to see if they were needed, and if so, if the lines could be placed underground. If the specialists are seen by communities as being wholly independent, it could go some way to counteracting fears. However, people will still have to decide if they can live with the pylons.