Excluding North-South link from pylon review defended

EirGrid plan has already been examined by international experts, says Minister for Energy

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has rejected Opposition criticism of the Government's decision to exclude the proposed North-South electricity connector from the review of EirGrid's plans to erect a network of pylons.

The Minister announced yesterday that a panel of experts would examine whether planned high-voltage cables in Munster and Connacht can be put underground.

However, the plan for a North-South connector, which is at a far more advanced stage, will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála within the next three weeks.

Mr Rabbitte told The Irish Times that a team of international experts had already examined the North-South plan and concluded it would cost €810 million to put the cables underground, compared with €140 million over ground.


“Apart from the question of money there is a technical issue about meshing the two systems which means that the cables cannot go underground. These issues do not arise in EirGrid’s plans for Munster and Connacht,” he added.

Vociferous opposition
He expressed surprise that Fianna Fáil was being so vociferous in opposition to the North- South link given that the interconnector was started by former minister Noel Dempsey.

Mr Rabbitte announced yesterday that he had informed his Cabinet colleagues of his intention to establish the expert panel to decide terms of reference for “comprehensive, route-specific studies of fully underground options for both Grid Link and Link West”.

Both the overhead and the underground options will be published side-by-side in objective and comparable terms before the project proceeds to the next stage of public consultation, he said.

The chairwoman of the expert panel will be former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness. The other members are John FitzGerald of the Economic and Social Research Institute, Prof Keith Bell of the department of electronic and electrical engineering at the University of Strathclyde, Dr Karen Foley, head of the school of landscape architecture at UCD and the economist Colm McCarthy.

Michael Moynihan, Fianna Fáil spokesman on communications, energy and natural resources, expressed his disappointment over what he termed "the lack of a fully independent review" of the Grid Link and Grid West projects, despite the 35,000 submissions received by EirGrid.

“The Minister’s proposed independent panel will only be able to examine the studies produced by EirGrid. This is not an independent assessment,” he said.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times