Rabbitte objects to FF motion on pylons

Minister ‘not opposed’ to independent assessment of EirGrid proposal

Pat  Rabbitte:  “We are in the middle of a public consultation.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Pat Rabbitte: “We are in the middle of a public consultation.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne


Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte is not opposed to independent assessment of the EirGrid proposals to construct overhead electricity pylons as part of its Grid25 project.

He said last night, however, that “we are in the middle of a public consultation” as he objected to a Fianna Fáil Private Members’ motion calling for such an assessment. He said it prejudged the outcome of the consultations and he opposed it.

During the debate, Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin claimed the “real cost of delivering the North-South interconnector totally underground, as opposed to overground, would amount to five pence sterling per household bill per year over the 40-year lifespan of the project”.

Underground cables
Rejecting the EirGrid claim that underground cables would cost three times more than pylons, he said his party had commissioned an industry expert to advise on the likely difference. “Now I invite EirGrid to prove him wrong,” he said.

Fianna Fáil energy spokesman Michael Moynihan, who introduced the motion, called for an independent assessment to address concerns raised by Fáilte Ireland about the erection of overhead pylons and the possible impact on tourism, especially in places such as the Comeragh mountains in Waterford.

Mr Rabbitte said they should wait for the completion of the consultation process.

The €3.2 billion investment over 15 to 20 years would facilitated both conventional generation and renewable energy projects and it would support future international interconnection, he said.

Expert commission
Mr Rabbitte noted the report of the international expert commission on whether pylons should be underground or overground for the Meath-Tyrone line. It noted there was no single right solution and that technical solutions had to be project-specific, he said.

The commission noted that the cost of a high-voltage underground cable would be three times the cost of a traditional overhead line.

“But on the basis of the information available to me, I cannot say tonight for certain that undergrounding other 400kV lines in Grid25 would automatically be three times as costly,” he said.

The Minister said overground transmission was the norm in Europe although there was a small fraction of such infrastructure underground for various reasons.

“This does not obviate the fact that undergrounding remains the much more expensive option and it is considered to reduce system security.”

EirGrid had said underground cables were less reliable and more costly and could introduce technical difficulties.