EirGrid chief leaving to set up National Grid UK subsidiary
Fintan Slye to run gas and electricity networks at UK grid operator
Fintan Slye will leave EirGrid at the end of December, with close to two years of his contract to run. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill
Fintan Slye, chief executive of EirGrid, the company that runs Ireland’s electricity grid, is leaving to create and run a new subsidiary at the equivalent organisation in the UK.
EirGrid confirmed on Monday that Mr Slye has told the board that he intends leaving the State company at the end of the year. He will be taking up a new job with National Grid UK running its gas and electricity networks.
Speaking after the announcement, Mr Slye said that regulators want National Grid UK to separate its electricity and gas supply network businesses from its other operations.
This will require it to establish a new subsidiary to house those activities. “They want me to set all that up and to manage that operation which will run that system operator for both gas and electricity,” he said.
Mr Slye will leave EirGrid at the end of December, with close to two years of his contract to run, and take up his new position in the new year. He joined EirGrid as director of operations in 2007 and became its chief executive in October 2012.
His time at the national grid manager included a turbulent period in 2014 when the organisation’s plans to develop the network met protests from groups around the country.
Protestors feared the impact that the new pylons and high-capacity power lines that EirGrid intended building in the west, south and northeast would have on the environment, health and property prices.
Permission for one of three key projects involved, a north-south interconnector linking Meath with Tyrone, is facing a judicial review in the Republic while planners in Northern Ireland have yet to decide on it.
Mr Slye hopes that both jurisdictions will rule on their element of the interconnector around October-November. Assuming that happens, he believes it could be completed in 2021.
EirGrid has replaced proposals for a 230km line tying Cork, Wexford and Kildare with plans to boost existing high-voltage link running from Moneypoint, Co Clare, to Dublin.
The organisation is reassessing the need for a third project in Mayo and Galway. Developers of large windfarms in the region, that this was designed to accommodate, have scaled back their plans.
Mr Slye listed the change in approach to public consulting that EirGrid took following the protests as one of the key things that the company achieved during his time.
“Another was our initiative around integrating renewables into our power system, effectively making it a more sustainable system,” he said. “The third was our acquisition of the system operator for Northern Ireland and becoming a group that operated across the island of Ireland.”
EirGrid did this deal in 2010, but as operations director, he played a key part in the transaction.
He has also been overseeing proposals for a power line joining the Republic with France which EirGrid wants to build in partnership with the French national grid operator Réseau de Transport d’Électricité (RTÉ).
Mr Slye’s new employer is listed on the London and New York markets. Two-thirds of its business is in the UK with the balance in the United States. It has assets of £40 billion sterling.
The electricity network is about 10 times the size of Ireland’s. The business is adapting to a market where consumers have more choice, but also where there are fears about squeezes on supplies of both gas and electricity.
Mr Slye said: “One of the challenges is that, as consumers become more powerful, how does that change how you think about running, managing and planning a power system?
“How do you ensure that the lights are going to stay on, how do you manage that transition in terms of the climate challenges that are there?”