FF seeks alternative to overhead pylon interconnector

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says residents in Meath, Monaghan and Cavan are outraged over the controversial plan to construct a North-South Interconnector 400kV AC overhead line through the heart of their communities.

Deputy Smith said Fianna Fáil is committed to achieving community consensus for the project, and his party will work to upgrade existing infrastructure alongside ensuring the new transmission line is placed underground.

“After much consideration, Eirgrid now accepts that Grid Link West and Grid Link South can now proceed on the basis that the lines be put underground. Eirgrid has recognised that it is feasible to do this due to the latest technological advances and the reduced costing associated with undergrounding transmission lines. The technology has changed quite significantly since the North - South Interconnector was first proposed and this must now be taken into account.

“People in counties such as Meath, Monaghan and Cavan feel let down as their own proposals as outlined for the proposed North South Interconnector are being ignored. They feel they are not being treated equally as new transmission line projects in other parts of the country are proceeding with construction taking place underground. Despite this similar proposals for the North-South Interconnector are being overlooked. This is inherently unfair.

“The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White has side-stepped a series of parliamentary questions my colleague Michael Moynihan has tabled on this very issue. I have continually pressed him for his views on proposals to underground the North - South Interconnector. This can be achieved by deploying high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology. However I am yet to receive a straight answer from the Minister on this matter.

“At a recent all-party committee meeting on transport and communications, Eirgrid again confirmed that it was technically feasible to underground the North-South interconnector using an underground alternative which employs HVDC technology.

“HVDC technology is currently employed in the East–West Interconnector between Ireland and the UK consisting of an underground and undersea cable.  In addition, average overhead line construction costs for Grid Link projects are on par with the average cost per kilometre for the East West connector.

“Community groups in the path of the North-South Interconnector have demonstrated that the Grid 25 review strategy document shows that the cost of undergrounding has reduced close to 1.5 times as compared to the cost of overhead lines. This a big climbdown from the Eirgrid commissioned report by Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB Power) in 2013 which estimated the cost of undergrounding to be 6 times as much as constructing overhead pylons.

“In Fianna Fáil’s energy policy launched this year, we outlined that grid development such as planned under the North South Interconnector should be subject to a full economic review in light of our reduced energy needs. Fianna Fáil has consistently maintained that undergrounding the North-South Connector is the most preferential route along with upgrading existing infrastructure,” he said.