Tuesday 10 December 2019

Eirgrid on to a winner

Eirgrids control room in Dublin
Eirgrids control room in Dublin

FINALLY, poor old Eirgrid gets a break. The electricity transmission system has been much lambasted of late – apparently all the fuss has something to do with pylons – but at last it has a reason to celebrate after its East West Interconnector was named 'Engineering Project of the Year' at the Irish Building and Design Awards.

In operation since last May, this interconnector provides a large capacity electricity connection with the UK through an underground cable.

It's great news for Aidan Corcoran, the general manager of the East West Interconnector. He's not had an easy year. He is also the manager of the Grid 25 Programme as a whole, the huge €4bn transmission system upgrade project that includes the far more controversial pylon-based Grid Link, Grid West and North-South Interconnector.

East West is the only one to be finished; the other three are all suspended pending the outcome of a detailed study into pylons. This makes Northern Ireland very vulnerable to power outages, Eirgrid chief Fintan Slye told the Irish Independent recently. Sounds like an engineer's worst nightmare.

Fancy a big job in Finance?

THE Department of Finance is on the hunt for a new assistant secretary to fill the post of head of the international and EU division.

It's certainly a big job. Apparently the department is looking for an "exceptional individual" and the successful candidate should have the "experience, presence and credibility to champion Ireland's agenda in International and EU fora".

The Punt fancies itself as a fairly exceptional specimen, but perhaps not the best champion for Ireland on a full-time basis. So we're ruling ourself out of the game.

The division supports the finance minister at Ecofin and Eurogroup meetings and is involved in all things financial at European level.

Jim O'Brien is currently the second secretary general, but he's stepping down.

Michael McGrath, assistant secretary general, is responsible for EU Affairs in the division and he's off to the IMF shortly to be Ireland's representative there.

The new position will be an amalgamation of the two posts. It's essentially a replacement for Mr McGrath, but also head of the division. The big question is whether the department will appoint an outsider?

If you think you've got what it takes, closing date is May 1.

Cyprus strike takes biscuit

THE pendulum of European affairs has had some wild swings over the past few years. From the financial crisis in Greece to last night's clashes in Ukraine, it's getting harder and harder not to think of the region as, well, frankly a bit unstable.

Of all the unexpected turns in recent years, the latest twist in Cyprus takes the biscuit.

Almost a year to the day since its EU bailout the tiny, divided island could be set to have the last laugh. President Nicos Anastasiades is leading his country's charge away from pariah status, pushing news of a sizeable discovery of natural gas around the island's coast to the international media.

It seems almost one trillion cubic metres of recoverable natural gas has already been discovered off shore. It's potentially enough to supply all of Europe for over two years.

That's not a long-term solution to fuel security maybe, but it's a sizeable strike, particularly at a time when the crisis in Ukraine means there is a real premium on any energy sourced in the EU.

It's good news for the poor old Cypriots – many of whom lost their savings when the country's banks were left to fail rather than be bailed out – and who suffered from a perception the island was being used as a haven for questionable Russian deposits.

Still, we can't help but be a little rueful. Ireland, having faced up to our responsibilities as good Europeans, spent three years jumping through many hoops to crawl out of our bailout.

Can one gas strike really mean Cyprus goes from financial zero to energy hero in 12 months?

Irish Independent

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