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Rabbitte: 'There must be meaningful engagement with the public over Eirgrid plans'

Minister Pat Rabbitte said tonight that it is the Government’s policy to deliver infrastructure in the most “cost efficient and timely way possible”.

In response to Fianna Fáil’s Private Member’s motion tonight on Eirgrid’s proposals for overhead power lines, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Resources Pat Rabbitte said meaningful engagement is needed with the public.

The motion called on the Government to initiate an independent, international assessment of the Eirgrid proposals to erect overhead pylons around the country.

Rabbitte said he could not accept the motion but said it raised “important issues”.

National interest

However, he said it was the Government’s policy and “in the national interest, not least in current economic circumstances, that infrastructure investment programmes are delivered in the most “cost efficient and timely way possible”.

According to the knowledge available to him from an the International Expert Commission “on the case for, and cost of, undergrounding all or part of the Meath-Tyrone line noted that there is no single right solution”.

However, he said the Commission estimated that the cost of a high voltage direct voltage underground cable would be three times the cost of a traditional overhead line. He added:

But, on the basis of the information available to me, I cannot say for certain that undergrounding other 400kV lines in Grid25 would automatically be 3 times as costly.

Fossil fuels

Rabbitte said Grid25 will reduce Ireland’s dependency on imported fossil fuels but said he was “aware that many people are concerned about the impact that new transmission lines and other energy infrastructure can have on the landscape, the environment and on local communities”.

He added that EirGrid must address and where possible avoid any human, environmental or landscape impact in delivering the best possible engineering solutions for our small and still isolated electricity system, stating that they must adhere to national and international standards.

I am however aware that many people are concerned about the impact that new transmission lines and other energy infrastructure can have on the landscape, the environment and on local communities.

He pointed out that national and international health and scientific agencies “have reviewed more than 30 years of research into EMF. None of these agencies has concluded that exposure to EMF from power lines or other electrical source is a cause of any long-term adverse effects on human, plant or animal health”.

Contrary to recent headlines, Rabbitte said EirGrid is working closely with Fáilte Ireland on Grid25, to ensure they can outline their objectives of protecting key tourism assets and amenities.

Minister Rabbitte’s comments come just hours after chairman designate of Eirgrid, John O’Connor told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications that he personally would not like to live beside an electricity pylon.

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

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