Rabbitte to examine ‘parity of treatment’ of energy projects

Government denies extension of pylon review to include North-South line ‘a climbdown’

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte is to answer questions in the Dáil this morning about pylons. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte is to answer questions in the Dáil this morning about pylons. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Thu, Jan 30, 2014, 11:06

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte is to ask the chair of the expert panel he has established on pylons to include an analysis of work to date on the North-South interconnector in its work.

Mr Rabbitte said he would ask he would ask former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness to consider what work, if any, the panel might usefully undertake to establish whether or not there was “parity of treatment’’ between the North-South transmission line project and the issues the panel is to examine relating to Grid Link and Grid West projects into the future.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Mr Rabbitte said he recognised that the public would be reassured if they knew the overhead and underground options for the North-South project had both been investigated and that the already published studies were sufficient to enable a similar comparison to be made by An Bord Pleanála when it came to decide on the merits of the planning application.

His comments came after the Government denied a climbdown on the contentious pylons issue. The panel was established initially only to look into the Grid Link and Grid West projects but Cavan-Monaghan TD Seán Conlan yesterday said the Taoiseach had told him and other Fine Gael TDs that the North Sosuth interconnector would be included in the panel’s remit.

Mr Kenny later confirmed he would like to see the remit extended to cover the North-South line, which Mr Rabbitte denied was a u-turn.

Mr Rabbitte today said that detailed studies had already been conducted for the North-South project, most recently by the independent international commission of experts appointed in July 2011 arising from a commitment in the programme for government. A specific underground analysis found that it would significantly exceed the cost of overhead cables by at least three times.

“The North-South transmission line is a critical and strategically urgent transmission reinforcement and is of critical importance in the broader North-South context,’’ he added.

“This is because as well as reinforcing the grid in the north-east region of the State, the transmission line will be a vital link in maintaining the security of electricity supply for Northern Ireland into the future.’’

Mr Rabbitte said that the health issue was a matter for Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.

“There is no question of the health issue not being included in the panel,’’ he added. He said there was optimum co-operation between Mr Hogan and himself on the matter.

Mr Rabbitte said Mr Hogan was arranging for expert advice to bring a 2007 report up to date.

He made his remarks, in reply to questions from Michael Moynihan (FF) and Joe Higgins (Socialist Party) during scheduled ministerial questions in the House this morning.