The long-delayed North-South electricity interconnector should go ahead as an overhead line, experts have told the Government.
National grid operator EirGrid has planning permission on both sides of the Border for a 400-kilovolt electricity line linking Co Meath with Co Tyrone, and running through Armagh, Cavan and Monaghan.
An independent report commissioned by the Government says the interconnector should proceed as planned as an overhead line.
Opponents on both sides of the Border have been calling for it to be placed underground, prompting the Government to several times ask experts to look at this option.
The latest report confirms the finding of earlier reviews which stated that the decision to build it overhead remained valid.
“It concludes that the interconnector cannot be undergrounded because it will not provide the reliability and stability that is required,” said a Government statement.
Reports in 2012 and 2018 also confirmed that the line should run overhead as opposed to underground.
The latest review, by energy systems professionals and academics Bo Normark, Ronnie Belmans and Keith Bell, updates those findings and points out that five reports and studies ruled out running the line underground.
The 138km line will link electricity grids on either side of the Border, doubling the amount of electricity travelling between both jurisdictions.
The Government calculates that it should cut electricity costs in the Republic and North with savings across both jurisdictions estimated to reach €87 million by 2030.
EirGrid said it would proceed with the next phase of the project as it already has planning permission.
The company added that it would liaise with ESB Networks, which will build the Republic’s section, and the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities.
“There will be full engagement with landowners, local communities and stakeholders along the route as we proceed with the project,” an EirGrid statement pledged.
The grid operator pointed out that the interconnector was vital to ensuring secure electricity supplies across Ireland, would support economic growth in the northeast and allow the country to hit renewable energy targets.
“The interconnector will underpin the efficient operation of the all-island electricity market, fixing a bottleneck that costs millions of euros every year and applying downward pressure on electricity prices,” the company said.
Locals along the 138km route fear its impact on the environment, health and property. Various groups have gone to court unsuccessfully on either side of the Border to challenge the plan.
Work on the project began in 2007, when the electricity systems on either side of the Border merged.
An Bord Pleanála sent the project back to the drawing board in 2010 after an oral hearing found an error in EirGrid’s original planning application.
Reviews, planning and legal challenges have held up the project since then. It is now timed to be finished by 2026.