Energy watchdog backs €1.5bn power line investments

Two cables connecting Ireland with France and Wales a step closer after CRU move

The two cables will carry enough electricity to power more than 800,000 homes. Photograph: iStock

The two cables will carry enough electricity to power more than 800,000 homes. Photograph: iStock

 

Regulators have moved the prospect of a €1.5 billion investment in two power lines connecting the Republic with France and the United Kingdom a step closer.

Privately-backed Element Power is planning a €500 million electricity cable, dubbed Greenlink, tying Wexford with Wales, while State-owned Eirgrid and its French counterpart intend spending €1 billion on the Celtic Interconnector, linking Cork with Brittany.

The State’s Commission for Regulating Utilities (CRU) has told Eirgrid to begin processing both projects’ application for connection to the national electricity grid.

The CRU’s direction, issued this week, indicates the watchdog’s approval for both developments and moves them to the next stage of development.

Between them the cables will carry enough electricity to power more than 800,000 homes, and their backers say they will help cut energy prices by opening up new sources of supply to the Republic and other jurisdictions involved.

Provide cheap energy

Both developments have projects of common interest status, which means Brussels regards them as essential to completing the Europe’s internal energy market, designed to provide cheap and secure energy across the European Union.

The EU recently pledged to pay €4 million towards the Celtic Interconnector’s planning costs. Element Power points out that the EU is “firmly committed” to its projects of common interest status, despite Brexit.

Element Power estimated its interconnector could cut €800 million off Irish electricity bills over the project’s lifetime.

Its chief executive, Mike O’Neill, welcomed the regulator’s decision. “This is one of the critical pieces in the jigsaw of a project with wide-ranging political support,” he said.

Eirgrid operates the national grid, the backbone of the Irish electricity network. It will have to treat grid connection applications from its own joint venture and Element Power equally.

Cork- and London-based Element Power is an independent operator that manages and builds renewable energy generators, interconnectors and electricity storage.