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North-South Interconnector

Peadar Tóibín: Govt and EirGrid face 'significant resistance' if they try to overground project

A report ruled out the full undergrounding of the North-South Interconnector.

AONTÚ LEADER AND Meath TD Peadar Tóibín has said he doesn’t “believe the North-South Interconnector will be overgrounded”.

He added that “we’re likely to see another impasse which is going to last for years” if EirGrid goes ahead with the overgrounding of the project.

An independent review published yesterday found that the conclusions of a 2018 commission on the decision to build the North-South Interconnector above ground remains valid.

The interconnector will link the electricity transmission networks of Ireland and Northern Ireland via a 138 kilometre long, high-capacity (1500MW) interconnector in counties Cavan, Monaghan and Meath, and in Armagh and Tyrone in the North.

The report ruled out the full undergrounding of the project.

It concluded that the interconnector cannot be undergrounded because it would be more expensive, less reliable and less stable.

A partial undergrounding was also ruled out due to cost considerations.

The maximum length the proposed interconnector could be undergrounded for in one continuous length is 10 kilometres.

However, this would add as much as €75 million to the cost of the project.

With the review’s recommendation that the interconnector be built above ground, and planning already approved in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, the interconnector is now ready to enter the construction phase.

Construction is anticipated to be completed by 2026.

The project, being undertaken by EirGrid and SONI in Northern Ireland, would more than double the power transfer between North and South.

The project is also expected to reduce the cost of electricity to consumers on the island, with forecasted savings and benefits to reach €87 million per year by 2030 (shared between Ireland and Northern Ireland).

‘100% opposed’

Speaking to The Journal, Tóibín said the project has been in the making “for 15 long years” because the government has “ignored the very, very strong will of the people who live in Meath, Cavan, Monaghan, Armagh and Tyrone”.

He added that “people are 100% opposed to this being built in those counties”.

While the project could include specially designed towers rather than the steel lattice towers to reduce its visual impact, this could double the cost of construction.

Tóibín claimed yesterday’s report “simply looked at the EirGrid recommendations and findings and didn’t take submissions from the community organisations”.

He also claimed that EirGrid is using a “completely different measuring stick” to that being used for the Kildare-Meath grid project.

The Kildare-Meath grid update will involve a 400KV underground cable that will run for 53 kilometres.

“The government is looking to build the Kildare to Meath connector underground, so the technology is feasible, we know that, and if you take all of the costs in the round, I have no doubt that it is feasible financially to proceed with this undergrounding.”

Tóibín said the Kildare-Meath project “included the cost to housing, businesses, agriculture and tourism as part of the cost benefit analysis of that project”.

However, he told The Journal that “none of that has ever been included in the North-South interconnector project”.

He claimed that therefore, if the North-South Interconnector is built overground, the properties within 500 metres of this project “will lose value and there will be loss in value in terms of tourism”.

Delays

Tóibín also said that he doesn’t foresee the project being overgrounded due to local opposition, and claimed that delays cost around €30 million per year. “I don’t believe it will be overgrounded,” said Tóibín. “I believe we’re likely to see another impasse which is going to last for years.

“EirGrid themselves have said that it costs €30 million a year not to build this. This particular project has been delayed by about seven to eight years so far.

“So we’re talking about losses perhaps in the region of €210 million because of the length of time it’s taken.”

Toíbín told The Journal that the “pig-headedness of the government in trying to force it overground” has been the major reason for this delay.

“There is no doubt that it would have been built at this stage if it was undergrounded, and I know that the landowners will be delighted to facilitate that,” said Tóibín.

The Aontú leader added that underground lines are “being used commonly throughout Europe” and warned that any attempt to overground the project would likely lead to a “standoff”.

“This is a government decision at the end of the day, and we’d urge the government to rethink their decision.

“The danger now is that 97% of the landowners have said that they are opposed to this project, which means we’re likely to have a standoff between landowners and EirGird in terms of this being built.”

EirGrid CEO Mark Foley previously stated that “statutory power of access” will be used where consent is not granted by landowners.

However, he added that this would only be used “where necessary” and is “subject to a landowner’s statutory entitlement to compensation”.

Tóibín told The Journal that “if EirGrid or the government go down that route, they will meet significant civil resistance”.

“It would be a sign of absolute defeat by the government, if they have to use statutory powers to force themselves onto private property,” added Tóibín.

He called on the government “to change the policy and direct EirGrid to underground the project”.

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