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Campaign says Government policy statement 'paves way' for underground infrastructure

A group which advocates a proposed electricity interconnector between the North and South be placed underground has welcomed a Government policy statement on the issue.

A GROUP ADVOCATING the placement of high power electric cables underground have said that a recent Government policy statement has paved the way for such technology to be routinely used in energy infrastructure.

The North East Pylon Pressure Campaign (NEPPC) said that a statement published by the Government on the website of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources following reports by the Expert Commission and Joint Oireachtas Committee, had reaffirmed “the imperative to develop and renew our energy networks, in order to meet both economic and social policy goals”.

The International Expert Commission’s ‘Meath-Tyrone Report‘, carried out last year, says that the cost of linking the electricity grids of the Republic of Ireland and the North by means of underground cables would rise from €167 million to €500 million – but would be possible. Following the publication of the report, the Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said that after a brief consultation period he would go back to the government “with a memorandum on Security of Energy Supply, to which Eirgrid and the planning process will have regard.”

‘Slow but steady step’

NEPPC says that it welcomed the Government’s policy statement as “a slow but steady step” towards recognising the importance of its campaign objective of undergrounding the Meath-Tyrone interconnector project.

The proposed interconnector line would be 140 kilometres long, and residents along the Monaghan-Tyrone border have expressed opposition to the construction of electricity pylons across the countryside in their area.

“This is a major step forward”, said Aimée Treacy, chairperson of NEPPC. “Crucially, the Government policy statement highlights the need to include human, environment and landscape impact and public acceptance as key components in analysing the most timely, cost-efficient and sustainable solution.”

“It is our contention that the undergrounding option is the only technology that meets all of these criteria. Lifetime costs show it to be more affordable than the overhead lines option. It is an acceptable technology for landowners and local communities, and so can be established and delivered in a very timely manner.”

The NEPPC welcomed several different points raised by the policy statement, saying it: would encourage EirGrid to objectively examine all technology options for the Meath-Tyrone interconnector; recognises that a new HVDC undergrounding cable would be a feasible solution; recommends that EirGrid is ‘required to address and mitigate, as necessary, human, environmental and landscape impact in delivering the best possible engineering solutions’; and underlines the imperative for early and ongoing engagement and consultation with local communities and all stakeholders.

The group said that the statement also promised that  Government would keep under close review the effectiveness of the consultation processes and stressed that transmission infrastructure programmes needed to be ‘delivered in the most cost efficient and timely way possible, on the basis of the best available knowledge and informed engagement on the impacts and the costs of different engineering solutions’.

Read: Putting North-South interconnector underground more expensive – report

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