IMERA, the private company which is developing two electricity interconnectors between Ireland and Wales, has asked the Competition Authority to investigate the energy regulator's handling of a public tender for the construction of an electricity link between the two countries.
It has also branded as "ludicrous" the cost of the rival power link with Wales being built by the state-owned Eirgrid.
The company said that in 2006 the Government requested the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) to arrange the design of a competition for the construction of an interconnector between Ireland and Wales. However, it said this never happened and instead the CER appointed Eirgrid to develop the project at a cost of some €600m, a price which Imera described as "ludicrous".
In a statement issued to the Irish Independent yesterday, Imera said: "Irish taxpayers and electricity consumers are entitled to ask both the CER and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources why the Eirgrid project should go ahead at a cost of over €600m in a time when funding for vital public services is being reduced. The Eirgrid project will have to be paid for by consumers, increasing everyone's bills."
Imera said it was developing two interconnectors for a fraction of this cost and has already won licences from the UK regulator Ofgem to build two electricity interconnectors between Ireland and the UK.
Imera said the first of its two Ireland-Wales interconnectors would cost €200m or one-third of the cost of the Eirgrid interconnector.
It said the EU has granted Imera a regulatory exemption because of the commercial risk, "yet the CER is allowing the Eirgrid project to proceed at three times this cost".
"The CER continues to fail to act independently and shows ongoing bias towards the Eirgrid project. There appears to be a deliberate thwarting of any private sector investment in this area in order to protect the 'semi-state' monopoly over such assets and Imera has asked the Competition Authority to investigate this matter," the company said yesterday.
Eirgrid has awarded the contract to design, manufacture and install its East West Electricity Interconnector to Swedish Engineering firm ABB.
Eirgrid is set to receive €110m in EU funding, aid which has already been announced by Energy Minister Eamon Ryan. But Imera claims it is entitled to a majority of this EU funding.
"EU grant aid money has not been directly allocated to the (Eirgrid) project. In fact, the EU funding is to promote all interconnectors between Ireland and Wales," the company said.
"Imera has written to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the EU Commission in relation to this and intends to ensure that it receives these funds. Imera intends to make a formal complaint to the European Commission regarding the failure of the CER to act as an independent regulator.
"Imera is calling on the CER to either start regulating the Eirgrid monopoly in the interest of consumers, and renewable generation investors, or to step down in favour of someone else who will try to protect the interests of consumers."