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Giant pylon network 'to cut energy bills by 10pc'

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IRISH consumers may get a 10pc cut in future electricity prices -- but only after 250km of pylons stretching from Munster to Leinster are built.

The Government and EirGrid yesterday promised consumers cheaper electricity as part of a €500m power grid expansion.

EirGrid -- which is responsible for Ireland's electricity distribution network -- confirmed it plans to build a pylon link from Ireland's renewable energy heartland in Cork and Kerry to meet the electricity demands of the Leinster market.

Precise figures aren't available but other EU countries have reduced prices by up to 10pc in real terms by switching from expensive oil and gas power generation to cheaper wind, wave and tidal sources.

The project -- planning permission for which won't be sought before 2015 -- forms part of a €3.2bn investment in Ireland's power infrastructure.

However, EirGrid told the Irish Independent that the precise route from Cork via Waterford to Kildare/Wicklow/Dublin has not yet been chosen.

There are mounting concerns that some community groups will vehemently oppose the giant pylons -- which are designed to carry 400kV power lines -- double the voltage capacity of most existing pylons outside Leinster. Some pylons could be over 45 metres (135ft) high and the plan could involve up to 250 of the steel structures.

Similar pylon projects in the midlands and north generated enormous local opposition.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) warned that affected landowners must be fully consulted. IFA rural affairs chairman Harold Kingston said: "The planned grid development by EirGrid will cause significant disturbance for the many farmers along the route in the counties affected. It is essential that lessons are learned from the recent problems in the midlands.

"Particular attention must be paid to the concerns of farmers at route selection stage."

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte and EirGrid chief executive Dermot Byrne said the new grid -- and its ability to bring "green energy" from wind, wave and tidal energy units to key Irish markets -- will eventually cut prices for consumers.

However, precise figures on the potential consumer savings aren't yet available. Ireland has among the highest electricity prices in the EU -- roughly 20pc above the EU average.

Ireland now generates 19pc of its electricity from wind, wave and tidal sources with the rest coming from coal, gas or peat-fuelled generation plants.

Competitive

"This means a safe and reliable supply of energy into the future -- it means the same for householders as it does for farmers and the industrial sector," Mr Rabbitte said.

"Anything that gets us off an extensive reliance on expensive imported fossil fuels offers the prospect of a better deal for consumers. Some 40pc of our electricity generation by 2020 will come from renewable sources and, in particular, from wind. I think it will undoubtedly result in more competitive pricing for consumers," he said.

EirGrid said it wanted feedback from householders and farmers in potential route areas -- and insisted that they have "a blank sheet of paper" in terms of the final route.

"The transmission grid is the backbone of the power network -- it ensures every house, farm and factory has a safe and reliable power supply," Mr Byrne said.

Irish Independent