EirGrid briefs councillors on targets

Cllr accuses semi-state company of changing its 'excuse' for undergrounding

EirGrid is being accused of changing its “excuse” for going overground as the semi-state company intends pushing ahead with plans for a high voltage pylon system between the north and south of Ireland.

Last Monday EirGrid chief executive, Mark Foley, and chief infrastructure officer, Michael Mahon, briefed four members of Cavan County Council on the company’s plans for Ireland’s electricity system but media were not invited to that morning meeting, a point some members took issue with at the council’s monthly meeting later that afternoon.

Cllr Clifford Kelly has a standing motion on the council’s agenda calling for an independent report into the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the North South Interconnector (NSI) that will run 140km of overhead line between counties Meath and Tyrone, running through Cavan and Monaghan. EirGrid, operator of the national electricity grid, met with members of Cavan County Council to “provide information on ‘Shaping Our Electricity Future’ their plan to develop the electricity grid to meet 2030 renewable energy targets”.

The company, along with Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, launched the initiative last month and are embarking on a 14-week nationwide public consultation.

EirGrid has been asked by the Government to transform the electricity system in anticipation of a future without coal, oil, peat and ultimately one with net zero emissions. Specifically, it must redevelop the grid to manage 70% of Ireland’s electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030.

The company recently announced that it is to progress a 400 KV Kildare Meath Line (KML) under ground.

In a statement on this decision the North East Pylon Pressure Committee (NEPPC) said the Kildare-Meath line decision should sound the death knell of the NSI as EirGrid’s decision to run the Grid-West line underground “contradicts their planning application submission oral hearing statements” on the NSI project.

“The big propaganda stick EirGrid used about undergrounding the NSI costing five to 25 times the cost of over head lines, yet the undergrounding of the KML is more cost effective than overhead lines. So much so, that the cost is not a key part of the decision.”

No support from people

Speaking at the statutory meeting of the local authority on Monday afternoon, Cllr Kelly, whose standing motion on the agenda also asks the Executive if they have had any correspondence from EirGrid or their agents, referenced the earlier morning meeting.

“Why were there no media invited to the meeting?” Cllr Kelly asked. “They gave a number of excuses for why it won’t go underground. They changed the reasons for that. They are no longer saying it is a cost issue, but now changed the reason to a technical one.”

Cllr Kelly’s claims were backed up by Cllr Paddy McDonald (SF) who expressed outrage at the EirGrid stance: “They insist they are going to go overground, but they are going to have to get the permission of the landowners. This project will not go ahead if they don’t have the support of the people. They will never get that support so long as they insist they are going overground,” the Sinn Féin rep said.

The morning meeting with the utility company representatives was attended by Cllrs Sarah O’Reilly, Cllr Kelly, Cllr McDonald and Cllr Madeleine Argue. Earlier this month, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party that another review of the NSI is on the cards.

The project has received planning permission south of the Border but permission for the northern segment of the line is facing a judicial review.