Planning granted for a ‘crucial’ cross-Border electricity interconnector

North-South 400kv overhead line will run from Co Tyrone to Co Meath

Planning permission has already been approved for the Republic of Ireland section of the line.  Photograph: iStock

Planning permission has already been approved for the Republic of Ireland section of the line. Photograph: iStock

 

Planning permission has been granted for a “crucial” cross-Border electricity line.

The North-South Electricity Interconnector is a 400kv overhead line which will run from Co Tyrone to Co Meath.

The North’s Infrastructure minister, Nichola Mallon granted planning approval for the 34km-long Northern section of the line on Monday. It will begin at Moy, Co Tyrone and cross the border near Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

Planning permission has already been approved for the Republic of Ireland section of the line.

The Interconnector will provide a reliable, high capacity link between the networks on both sides of the border.

Ms Mallon said the Interconnector was of “strategic importance for our island economy” and was “crucial to handling growing demand across the electricity transmission systems across the island of Ireland.”

This, she said, would promote greater competition and protect the security of supply.

Applications had previously approved by the department in 2018, but two applications were quashed following a legal challenge.

Ms Mallon said she had “carefully reconsidered the proposal and the up-to-date environmental information and have concluded that planning permission should be granted”.

The scheme had been opposed by some landowners along the route of the Interconnector, and there were more than 6,000 letters of objection to the original proposals.

The chairman of Safe Electricity Armagh and Tyrone, Jim Lennon, told the BBC the group was disappointed by the “premature decision” in advance of the publication of the Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland next year.

“We are not anti-development, but we believe any proposal must be evidence-led and properly take account of the impact it will have on local people,” he said.

However the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland, SONI, welcomed the decision, saying it would be a “catalyst for Northern Ireland’s response to climate change, reduce consumer costs and provide a secure long term electricity supply for Northern Ireland”.

SONI’s managing director, Jo Aston, described the Interconnector as “undoubtedly the most important infrastructure scheme on the island today” which she said would “deliver very real benefits to domestic and commercial consumers”.

“The project is, without question, a key enabler for economic growth as Northern Ireland emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It will create local construction jobs through its delivery programme; will help reduce the cost of electricity and will provide a route to market for renewable energy at a time when the green collar sector needs it most,” she said.

Chief executive of Retail NI, Glyn Roberts, said the construction of the Interconnector would ultimately lower energy bills.

“This is excellent news for our economy as it is an investment in the future of our energy infrastructure and securing electricity supply,” he said.

“I hope that we will now see rapid progress for this vital project in Northern Ireland and no more unnecessary delays.”