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Eirgrid CEO Fintan Slye speaking to the committee today.

Eirgrid CEO: I'd have no issue living next to a pylon - I know it's completely safe

The CEO was grilled by an Oireachtas committee this morning, one day after the incoming chairman of the company admitted he did not want to live beside a pylon.

THE CEO OF Eirgrid, Fintan Slye, has told an Oireachtas committee that he would have “no issue” living next to a pylon, the day after the incoming chairman of the company admitted he would not want to live beside one.

Yesterday John O’Connor told the committee on Transport and Communications that he “would not like to live close to a pylon”. However, when asked the same question by committee chair John O’Mahony, the company’s CEO said:

In terms of my personal view, I would have no issue living next to a pylon. In the first instance, I know it’s completely safe – I have no issue with that.

He said another reason he would have no problem with it is because of the necessity for servicing the grid and for the jobs and infrastructure of the community.

Syle pointed to “a wealth of studies” that indicate pylons do not cause any health issues and the fact that we are 50 times below the limits set out in World Health Organisation guidelines.

Representatives for the company are before the committee to discuss and address issues in relation to three projects that the company is working on across the country – the North/South Interconnector in Meath, Gridwest from Carrick-on-Shannon to Mayo and Gridlink which will stretch from Cork to Wexford and on to Kildare.

Going underground

On the issue of the visual impact of the pylons, Slye said Eirgrid works with communities and individuals during and after the consultation process to come up with solutions but said that for significant distances, “it is not possible to underground”.

He said this would require inserting large converter stations “larger than Croke Park” around the country and would involve considerably higher costs.

With all three largescale projects under discussion, if they were to go underground instead of building pylons, Slye said it would “add about €2 billion to the cost of electricity” and this would in turn add to bills for consumers.

The CEO told the committee that Eirgrid as “no vested interest in any particular technology solutions”.

Get down and dirty

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley was critical of Eirgrid, which he said was “less forthcoming” on some of the impacts that transmission lines will have on communities and individuals, like the potential effect on property values.

Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath urged the company’s CEO to “get down and dirty, as I say, with the people, and stand in the people’s kitchens.

Take off the suits and get on the wellies and go into the farmyards and asked the people and talk to them instead of talking over them and at them.

Michelle Mulherin, Fine Gael TD for the Mayo constituency, which is included in plans for one of the three projects, said “at the very least – and you don’t need to be an expert for this – they don’t look nice.”

She said Eirgrid should lay out the pros and cons of all of the options to give people a full evaluation.

“Let people see the upsides and the downsides for themselves,” she told representatives.

Slye said that the need for more details on this, and in particular an assessment of undergrounding as an option, is becoming clear in the consultation process for the Gridlink process and that is something the company is looking at.

He said he would be happy to address the committee again to update them after the consultation process is over in January next year.

Read: Rabbitte: ‘There must be meaningful engagement with the public over Eirgrid plans’>

Read: ‘I wouldn’t like to live close to a pylon, but who would?’ – Incoming Eirgrid chair>

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