Pat Rabbitte calls for interconnector construction 'as soon as possible'
ENERGY Minister Pat Rabbitte has called for a controversial high-voltage power line between Meath and Tyrone to be built "as soon as possible".
Speaking at the launch of the Government's Green Paper on Energy, he said North-South Interconnector was "essential" and should go ahead.
An independent expert panel is to examine two planned interconnector projects - Grid West and Grid Link - and will compare the technical and financial costs of building the lines overhead and underground.
The North South project is expected to cost €288m, and the panel said it would consider if it could be considered for its study.
It comes after a 2012 study found it would cost three times as much to place the lines underground, and that there would be associated technical challenges involved.
This morning, Mr Rabbitte said it was a priority project and should be built as soon as planning permission was received.
"The North South Interconnector in particular is essential to all-island energy security and should be built as soon as possible, following re-submission to the planning system," he said.
But he said the concerns of communities - around interconnectors and renewable energy projects including windfarms - also needed to be addressed.
"Involving the citizen in debates on energy and climate change must be central to policy development," he said.
"In developing balanced and far reaching policies on areas such as grid development, the use of wind resources and the streamlining of public permitting and consent procedures, it is important that past lessons are learned."
Valid public concerns on the impact of policies on the environment, health and safety had to be addressed, he added, while at the same time ensuring security of supply and cost effectiveness.
About 100kms of the line is in the Republic, and the €288m project was launched in autumn 2007.
Running between Woodland in Co Meath and Turleenan in Tyrone, it is designed to provide a second high-capacity electricity transmission line between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
A planning application was submitted to An Bord Pleanala in December 2009, but withdrawn in July 2010 due to a technical error in the planning notice.