Overhead pylon plan under review as underground network cost far lower than anticipated
The government plan for overhead super pylons throughout Ireland is set to be reviewed after it emerged that the cost of establishing an underground network is far lower than originally anticipated.
Independent.ie now understands that the cost of developing the country's transmission grid underground is actually €300m less than initially thought.
Original proposed costs for the planned Grid Link, Grid West and North-South interconnector have been reported as €3.2bn.
Eirgrid is set to publish a new draft strategy later today for the infrastructure, outlining new options for planned grid line projects.
Technological advances mean that the 230km Grid Link project between Cork and Kildare can utilise and upgrade existing power lines, according to CEO Fintan Slye.
"We have looked at existing technologies to see how we could make the grid work work for people," Slye told Morning Ireland.
"We want to ensure that we can deliver on the Government policy objectives. We've stress tested the infrastructure out to 2025 and it meets all the demands for network requirements within that time frame."
For the 130km Grid West project, between Mayo and Roscommon, a mixture of overhead pylons in conjunction with 30km of underground cable is now an option.
However, according to Eirgid, going overhead for the North-South interconnector between Meath and Tyrone remains the best possible option.
"The technology just isn't suitable in this case. There are two grids joined by a single circuit so there is no underground existing network to maximise," said Slye.
The original Eirgrid project has been heavily criticised by anti-pylon groups throughout the country.
In December, Eirgrid announced it was to revamp its public consultation process as it seeked to win over communities affected by large-scale electricity projects.
The company announced major changes to how local communities will be consulted, including presenting information in a "straightforward way" and locating staff in affected regions to develop "long-term relationships".
The ESB said: "The availability of sufficient electricity grid capacity, in a timely and affordable manner, is a key enabler of Ireland's economic development.
"The grid development strategy provides an opportunity for open, public engagement on how infrastructure, which is critical to meeting the future electricity needs of society and the economy, will be provided. ESB welcomes this opportunity and supports EirGrid in facilitating this debate."
Alex White, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said the new options show a fresh strategy.
"It will strengthen the electricity grid while ensuring that new infrastructure will be built when a clear need is identified and when all options have been fully explored," he said.
"It also places a much stronger focus on engaging and consulting with local communities on future infrastructure development."
“I encourage everyone to review the proposals put forward by EirGrid and submit their comments on the draft strategy, which is crucial to Ireland’s continuing economic and jobs recovery,” he said.
The draft grid development strategy is now available for review and comment on http://www.eirgridprojects.com/ .