Wednesday 17 January 2018

EirGrid in new go-ahead bid for high-voltage line

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

National grid operator EirGrid is to re-apply for planning permission to build a controversial high-voltage power line between Meath and Tyrone.

The €288m North-South Interconnector is one of the three so-called pylon projects planned to upgrade the national grid, and it is understood that EirGrid will meet with An Bord Pleanala in the next month to discuss formally lodging a planning application.

The move comes after the Government was forced earlier this year to appoint an expert panel to rule if the company had properly explored building the line underground to avoid erecting pylons up to 45-metres high.

The group ruled that this option was properly considered, meaning EirGrid can now formally seek permission.

Two other projects - the €500m Grid Link line between Cork and Kildare via Wexford, and the €130m Grid West project between Mayo and Roscommon - are still under review.

The move to seek permission comes after the interconnector was designated a "project of common interest" by the European Commission last October. This is because it has significant benefits for both Northern Ireland and the Republic, will enhance security of supply and allow more renewables onto the system.

A letter from An Bord Pleanala, seen by the Irish Independent, says EirGrid must produce a booklet outlining the project and its history to date so the public are informed of all issues before a formal planning application being decided.

This is the second planning application in relation to the project. The last was withdrawn in June 2010 due to technical reasons and amid stiff opposition from local communities who objected to pylons every 300 to 350 metres.

More than 9,000 objections were made across the entire 140km project area. EirGrid said it planned to go ahead with the project as quickly as possible.

Its northern counterpart SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland), will seek permission for the line in the six counties.

"EirGrid in Ireland and SONI in Northern Ireland are committed to progressing this project urgently because of the need to improve security of supply and to reduce costs for consumers," EirGrid said in a statement.

"A decision on whether this project gets approval would, of course, rest with the independent planning authorities in each jurisdiction."

The move to seek permission comes after the Commission for Energy Regulation said that delays in delivering the project were adding "significantly" to the cost of electricity to customers.

It added that undergrounding the line should only be considered as a "last resort" due to the higher construction costs.

Irish Independent

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