East-West Interconnector electricity link between Ireland and Britain opens

20 Sep 2012

Nostag 10 cable-laying ship at Barkby Beach in Wales

The East-West Interconnector, Ireland’s first electricity link with Britain to increase electricity trading between both markets, has officially opened today in Batterstown, Co Meath.

The semi-state company Eirgrid built the interconnector in order to carry electricity both ways, to help improve security of supply and to help spur the growth of renewable energy generation.

The project, which started in July 2010, involved the laying down of underground and undersea cables running for 260km. The undersea link was laid under the seabed at North Beach, Rush, Co Dublin, to Barkby Beach in Prestatyn, North Wales. Overground cables then link to converter stations in Woodland, Co Meath, and in Deeside, North Wales.

According to Eirgrid, the East-West Interconnector will have the capacity to transport 500 megawatts – enough energy to power 300,000 homes.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, was at today’s opening of the electricity link in Batterstown, Co Meath, as was the EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

Dermot Byrne, Eirgrid’s chief executive, spoke today at the opening about how it was a challenge to deliver the “complex project” on time and around €30m under budget (€600m had been allocated for the project).

“The interconnector ties our energy markets closer together. It gives all concerned additional assurance of supply and it is the single most important step in allowing Ireland to exploit and to export its enormous resources of renewable energy. Critically, it also allows us to access energy from Britain and from across the European continent which will result in more competition to the energy market and put downward pressure on prices,” said Byrne.

Energy and Ireland

Ireland’s Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, spoke about the country’s energy infrastructure investment plans.

“This interconnector is part of a series of major grid development projects which the Government has charged Eirgrid to complete over this decade. Delivering such projects on budget and on time is essential so as to keep consumer electricity prices as low as possible,” he said.

The UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, MP, also touched on how the interconnector will improve energy security for both the British and Irish economies: “It will improve competition – bearing down on the price ultimately paid by consumers – and it will allow more of Ireland’s abundant wind energy access to the massive UK customer base.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Oettinger spoke about how the East-West Interconnector would “double” electricity interconnection between the UK and Ireland.

“It is a key part of building a single European energy market,” he said.

Commercial operation of the interconnector is set to begin on 1 October.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic