Friday 19 January 2018

Pensioner still in dark after paying €5,000 power fee

Ralph Riegel

A PENSIONER who has lived all his life in an isolated home without electricity is now hoping the ESB will relent on a whopping connection fee to allow him to enjoy TV viewing in his retirement.

Stephen Hickey (68) paid the Electricity Supply Board (ESB Networks) €5,000 two years ago to connect his isolated cottage in the Nagle Mountains in north Co Cork to the mains supply grid.

However, because of unforeseen issues involving the installation of the power line to Mr Hickey's home, work has been suspended -- and Mr Hickey fears he may now be asked to pay up to €23,000 for the connection.

"I would like to be able to watch a bit of TV -- I'm spending more time than ever before in the house," he said.

The ESB needs to erect a new power line just to reach Mr Hickey's home -- and part of the line runs through a Coillte-owned forest.

It is understood that the initial estimate for the cost of the connection had to be dramatically revised when it became known that the power line had to cross the vast extent of forest.

Under existing national agreements, set costs are applied for the erection of power lines and ESB poles on property.

These fees have substantially increased the cost of extending the mains supply to Mr Hickey's home -- and the ESB wants to have these increased costs covered.

Mr Hickey now fears that, instead of his €5,000 deposit payment covering the connection, he could be asked to fork out another €18,000.

One ESB official admitted to Mr Hickey that connecting his home to a mains power supply would be "a colossal job".

The house is located in the middle of a hillside forest -- and is a considerable distance from all other existing power lines in the area.

In a statement last night, ESB Networks said that it was doing everything possible to hammer out a deal.

"ESB Networks is in ongoing discussions with the parties involved to bring this matter to a mutually satisfactory conclusion," it said.

Coillte stressed that it was hopeful an agreement could be reached.

It has agreements at national level with the ESB in relation to the costs of access or way-leaves through our forests for power lines.

"In this case we are aware of the local situation and have been in discussion with the relevant parties and are continuing to work towards a mutually satisfactory outcome," a spokesman for Coillte said.

Mr Hickey's plight has been taken up by local Cork County Council official Tom Barry (FG), who said that the pensioner should be entitled to the basic comforts offered by electricity connection in his retirement.

Mr Hickey's home is located in an isolated forested area outside Killavullen in north Cork.

Because of its extremely remote location, the house was never connected to the mains power grid -- and his family has relied for half-a-century on gas heating and lighting, candles and battery-powered devices.

If Mr Hickey needs to re-charge his mobile phone, he has to drive to a neighbour's house to enable it to be plugged in.

Mr Hickey -- who has lived in the house for more than 50 years -- similarly has no running water in his home.

Irish Independent

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