EirGrid welcomes publication of independent studies into North South Interconnector project

02 October 2018

EirGrid welcomes the findings of two independent studies into the North South Interconnector commissioned by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

An International Expert Commission examined the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the interconnector; the findings support EirGrid’s approach to the project, confirming that an overhead line is the best technical solution and the most cost efficient for consumers.

A separate study examined how compensation is provided to property owners in the vicinity of new transmission infrastructure in a range of countries. It concluded that there is no scientific basis for a claim that transmission lines cause health problems. It also states that there is limited evidence from numerous analyses of sales prices that transmission lines depress the value of the land over which they pass.

EirGrid Group Chief Executive Mark Foley said it was reassuring that the commission endorsed the overhead line solution that has received planning approval in Ireland and Northern Ireland:

“We welcome the publication of the reports commissioned by Minister Naughten, and acknowledge the independence and integrity of the studies.

“We have considered all possible options regarding the delivery of the interconnector and are encouraged that the panel has concluded that an overhead line is the most beneficial way of meeting the need for enhanced power transfer capability between Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

The North South Interconnector is a €286 million investment that will connect the electricity grids of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The 400 kV line will run through counties Monaghan, Cavan and Meath in Ireland, and Armagh and Tyrone in Northern Ireland.

The interconnector will underpin the efficient operation of the all-island electricity market, fixing a bottle-neck that cost millions of euro every year and applying downward pressure on electricity prices.

In 2012, an independent report into the project was published by a Government-appointed International Expert Commission. Today’s study is an update to the 2012 report and examines possible changes in technology and costs which may have taken place in the intervening years.

The study finds that the cost of both the overhead line and underground cable solutions has increased. However the underground solution is more expensive. According to this latest government report, the cost difference is €450 million.

The authors also note that an underground cable solution would not help attract new industrial or commercial investors that need significant amounts of energy, in particular data centres, to the five counties in the North East. However, power can be accessed from the overhead line solution anywhere along the route.

Mr. Foley added:

“Due to its strategic importance, it is crucial that the North South Interconnector provides a highly reliable link between the two transmission systems on the island.

“The only feasible way to underground such a circuit is to use specialised technology with expensive conversion equipment at each end. Although the study acknowledges there have been developments in this area, in our view it represents unacceptable technical risk and hundreds of millions of euros of extra costs.

“This is a critical piece of infrastructure for the island, which we are committed to delivering; and while we work through legal challenges in both jurisdictions, we will continue our engagement with landowners and the community.”

For more information on the North South Interconnector, including FAQs, click here.