Ireland’s Brexit-proof electric lifeline gets €530m in EU backing

2 Oct 2019

Electricity powerlines. Image: American Public Power Association/Unsplash

An EU grant of €530m will be put into the €1bn Celtic Interconnector project to link Ireland to Europe’s electric grids via an undersea network.

Fears over a potential electricity crisis in a post-Brexit world have seen Ireland turn to its EU neighbours for assistance through the Celtic Interconnector project.

The Government confirmed today (2 October) that the EU will contribute €530m out of a total cost of €1bn into the project, which will link the Irish electricity grid with Europe via France through an underwater network. Once completed, its 700MW capacity is expected to power 450,000 households.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, and Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, TD, said the Celtic Interconnector was not only vital to the Government’s goals as part of Project Ireland 2040, but also the State’s future grid security.

Once the UK leaves the EU, Ireland will have no electricity interconnection with any member of the EU.

“This is a really significant investment for Ireland and will help us to conduct a magnificent feat of engineering,” Varadkar said.

“The Celtic Interconnector will help to lower electricity prices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide greater energy security. It’s a signal of European solidarity at this crucial time.”

Fracking issue

The project is being jointly developed by EirGrid and its French counterpart Réseau de Transport d’Électricité. EirGrid CEO Mark Foley said that this grant will help construction start in 2022, with the goal of having it completed by 2026.

Bruton added that the Celtic Interconnector will be crucial to Ireland reaching its Climate Action Plan targets set out by the Government in June.

“We can also expect consumer prices to come down as operators work in a more competitive market,” he said.

Elsewhere today, the Government was criticised by climate campaigners for its plans to seek EU special approval for the construction of fracking gas import terminals on the west coast. Friends of the Earth has called on the Government to delay the decision until further scrutiny of the plans has been undertaken.

The organisation’s deputy director, Kate Ruddock, said: “Ireland banned fracking two years ago because of the terrible impacts it has on local communities and because of the significant contribution to climate pollution.

“To now build infrastructure for importing fracked gas into Ireland and exporting it across Europe is morally reprehensible.”

Electricity powerlines. Image: American Public Power Association/Unsplash

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic