EirGrid chief executive sees ‘pros and cons’ for both current options

Slye warns that North-South interconnector between Tyrone and Meath is ‘very urgent’

Underground cables in Denmark


Putting high voltage power lines underground may preclude large-scale multinationals from locating nearby, EirGrid chief executive Fintan Slye has warned.

Mr Slye said 19 of the biggest multinationals take power directly from the transmission system rather than through the distribution system as it is much safer if there is an outage. However, he said such a system was only possible through the existing AC (alternating current) technology which is overground.

The costs of tapping off a DC (direct current) underground is “hugely expensive” and not feasible.

Mr Slye said there were “pros and cons” for both AC and DC options. Some communities may not regard having the option of a major multinational locating nearby as a suitable fit for their locality but others might.

In an interview with The Irish Times conducted before the announcement of the underground option for the Grid West project, Mr Slye welcomed the independent panel which will monitor EirGrid’s decisions in relation to the routes they choose for both the Grid West and Grid Link projects.

Mr Slye said the independent panel was necessary given the opposition to pylons across the country.

The panel was set up by Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte to evaluate EirGrid’s chosen options for both the Grid West route through Mayo and Roscommon and Grid Link which will serve the south and east.

The public consultation in relation to the Grid Link project elicited 35,000 submissions, said Mr Slye, most of which were hostile to the project. There was particular emphasis on potential harm to tourism and equine interests.

“If would be great if the situation existed that the public at large had the necessary trust in EirGrid and that an independent panel is not necessary, but we’re not there yet. The one thing that is absolutely clear is that this is not a simply find the least-cost option irrespective of everything else. This is a complex set of trade-offs to decide what the best option is, and cost is just one factor.”

EirGrid announced last month a number of community gain initiatives for families and communities close to where pylons are located.

For houses within 50 metres, the payment will be €30,000 going down to €5,000 for homes within 200 metres. The Local Community Fund will see EirGrid pay €40,000 a kilometre for communities near 400 kV pylons and stations. The fund will be made available upon completion of the line and will be administered on a ring-fenced basis by the local authority.

He also warned that the North-South interconnector between Tyrone and Meath was “very urgent”. The security of supply margin in the North, the difference between demand and supply of electricity, would be “uncomfortably tight” from 2016 on and “critically tight” from 2020 on because the North was decommissioning a number of stations.