Government issues policy statement on Ireland’s energy infrastructure

18 Jul 2012

The Irish Government has issued a policy statement concerning Ireland’s energy infrastructure and in particular the proposed North-South electricity interconnector and the development and renewal of Ireland’s energy networks.

As regards the North-South electricity interconnector, proposals for the transmission line between Meath and Tyrone had been in development since 2006.

However, Eirgrid had suspended its plans the project until the Government had considered the report of the International Expert Commission (IEC), which it had asked to review the case for, and cost of, undergrounding all or part of the 400KV power lines.

The results of that independent report were released back in January when the Commission confirmed that overhead AC lines represented the most cost-effective option for this project. The IEC said that the best alternative technological option, using HVDC undergrounding cables would be at least three times more expensive to construct.

Referring to the North-South electricity interconnector, Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, spoke in the Dáil this afternoon.

“The matter should immediately return to planning in order to meet the delivery date of 2017,” he said.

About Ireland’s energy networks in general, he had this to say: “The Government reaffirms the imperative need for development and renewal of our energy networks in order to meet both economic and social policy goals.”

Rabbitte said that the formal Government Policy statement was agreed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting and will be circulated to all stakeholders.

“Local Government planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála will be required to have regard to this policy from now on.

Next stage for North-South interconnector

As regards the interconnector project, he said he had advised Government colleagues that it is “now an operational matter for Eirgrid” to complete preparations for re-submitting a planning application to Bord Pleanála, adding that such an application would need to take appropriate account of the reports of the Commission and the Committee, including the Government’s policy statement.

He said it would be a matter for Bord Pleanála to address all relevant factors in arriving at a final decision.

Ireland’s energy networks

Other key aspects from the policy statement, from the Government’s perspective, include calls for the “imperative need” for the development and renewal of Ireland’s energy networks, in order to meet both economic and social policy goals.

The Government has also stated that State network companies are required to address and mitigate human, environmental and landscape impacts when delivering engineering solutions during energy projects.

It said that the high voltage electricity transmission system under Eirgrid’s Grid 25 Programme is the most important such investment in Ireland’s transmission system for several generations.

Rabbitte also said that he agrees with the Joint Oireachtas Committee that Eirgrid must respect the need for early, ongoing and transparent engagement with stakeholders and local communities in progressing its planning application for the North South Electricity Interconnector.

Electricity image via Shutterstock

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic