Court to decide if €280m North-South power line will go ahead

Saga of Eirgrid’s plans for 300 pylons and electricity line has gone on for 10 years

Members of  North East Pylon Pressure Campaign  opposing the Eirgrid North-South Interconnector development at Kilmainhamwood, near Nobber, Co Meath, in 2008. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Members of North East Pylon Pressure Campaign opposing the Eirgrid North-South Interconnector development at Kilmainhamwood, near Nobber, Co Meath, in 2008. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

The High Court is set to rule on Tuesday on a challenge to a €280 million high-capacity power line connecting the Republic and the North.

Last month locals challenged An Bord Pleanála’s decision allowing State company Eirgrid build 300 pylons and a high-power electricity line between Meath and Monaghan.

The High Court is expected to rule on the case on Tuesday, several weeks before the September-October date that it originally signalled for its verdict.

A ruling in favour of An Bord Pleanála’s decision could pave the way for work to begin on the project, estimated to cost €280 million.

However, if the court were to rule against it, it could lead to further long delays to a plan that is already a decade old.

The line is part of an interconnector that will link Meath with Tyrone and tie the electricity supply networks in the Republic and North closer together.

Eirgrid is building the section that runs through Meath, Cavan and Monaghan while Northern Ireland Electricity will handle the project north of the border.

Locals on both sides of the border fear the possible impact of the lines and pylons on the environment, health and property.

They do not oppose its construction, but want the lines put underground. Two studies found that this would be expensive and technically difficult.

Oral hearing

An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the 400kV line in December last year following an oral hearing.

North East Pylon Pressure Campaign and Maura Sheehy of Donaghpatrick, Co Meath challenged the ruling on a number of grounds.

They included that the Government wrongly appointed An Bord Pleanála as the authority to oversee joint infrastructure projects with other EU states.

Also, that this created a conflict with it existing role as the planning board and gave rise to bias in its decision on the interconnector application.

They said that Eirgrid’s failure to get landowner consent to the development raised legal issues and the planning application itself also raised legal issues.

An Bord Pleanála and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment were respondents while national grid operator Eirgrid was a notice party.

Plans to build the interconnector, a key element of the all-Ireland electricity market, date back to the last decade.

A public hearing into the same proposal in 2010 was abandoned after it emerged that Eirgrid’s planning application gave the wrong height for some pylons in its public notice.

Public consultations

Eirgrid began public consultations on the north-south project and other grid expansions in 2013 and 2014 and ran into further public opposition.

At that point, the State company hoped that the north-south line would be finished and come into operation this year, but it now believes that it could be ready in 2021.

Eirgrid and its subsidiary, System Operator Northern Ireland, argue that the line is needed to boost security of electricity supply on both sides of the border, and would cut prices for homes and businesses.

They also say that it is needed so the two grids can accommodate new sources of power such as electricity produced by wind farms, many of which are built far from population centres that used the energy.

Both employers’ group Ibec and business body CBI Northern Ireland support the project.

They commissioned a study from accountants Grant Thornton which found the power line would help cut electricity prices and ensure secure electricity supplies.