Lemgare Mass Rock  Pic: Blackquarterfox (own work)                                                                                                         (Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)


This section dealt with cultural heritage

Shirley Clerkin, heritage officer, represented Monaghan County Council along with senior planner Toirleach Gourley. At the start of the proceedings the presiding inspector was asked to allow a consultant archaeologist for EirGrid Declan Moore to add new information regarding four monuments, one of them in Co. Monaghan and the others in Meath, to the environmental impact statement.


Mr Moore explained that a new cultural heritage monument had been added to the archaeological survey database since completion of the evaluation of the North/South interconnector. The site was uploaded to the National Monuments Service historic environment viewer on 25th January 2016 by Michael Moore (archaeologist with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht).

Lemgare Mass Rock is located to the east of a prominent rock outcrop known as the Lemgare rocks in the townland of Lemgare, Co. Monaghan (beside the border with Co. Armagh). The Mass Rock is approximately 30m to the east of one of the proposed pylons and approximately 25m from the overhead power line on an elevated site overgrown with gorse and furze (separate field). The site is located just down from the summit of Lemgare Rocks.

A west-facing rock face is the traditional location of a venue where Mass was celebrated in Penal times and possibly as early as the mid-1700s, according to a survey carried out by Rev. Pádraig Ó Gallachair in 1957 on behalf of the Diocese of Clogher. The information regarding the exact location of the Mass rock was scant; a ‘Report on the state of Popery of 1731’ identifies the site as being in the Parish of Clontibret and the entry reads ‘one Altar made of earth & stones uncovered’. The precise location was unknown at the time of the compilation of the EIS.

Declan Moore’s evaluation is that there will be no direct physical impact. The sensitivity of the site to impacts on setting was found to be high. The magnitude of the impact on the site was found to be substantial. The overall significance on the impact of the proposed interconnector on the setting of the site was considered to be significant.


According to the EirGrid consultant, three recorded monuments in County Meath were added to the archaeological survey database since he completed his evaluation of the North-South interconnector at Teltown Church, the importance of which was to be raised later in the proceedings. A cross, a cross-inscribed stone and rock art (located in the graveyard) were uploaded in January. Despite these additions the overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown Church remained ‘moderate negative’, as noted in the environmental impact statement.


In a submission about the impact of the EirGrid plans, Monaghan County Council heritage officer Shirley Clerkin said there were 15 archaeological sites containing 34 megalithic tombs that would be permanently impacted. Two demesnes at Tully House and Shantonagh would be affected and the company’s response had been insufficient. One of the proposed access routes for construction of two towers passed beside a protected circular fort at Latnakelly. There was a high risk that the perimeter wall would be damaged by increased heavy traffic on the laneway. The EirGrid archaeologist said in this location the contractor would be made aware of the monument to ensure no damage occurred and would be required to use lighter machinery to reduce vibrations from construction traffic.

The heritage officer pointed out that on the proposed route, there was a particular cluster of megalithic tombs in the area from Cornamucklagh South going northwards to Lennan. There might be added potential for archaeological evidence of neolithic settlement or other monuments in this area. She stressed that it would be important a photographic analysis of the visual impact was provided before the development went ahead. EirGrid said the portal tomb at Lennan (situated prominently on a drumlin) was about 250m away from the route of the power lines in an area not accessible by the general public. The overall impact of the development on the setting remained the same as stated in the environmental assessment, namely significant.

Monaghan County Council has been leading a regional Black Pig’s Dyke project since 2014. This Bronze Age or Iron Age fortification was a recorded monument on the national register. There were obvious surface remains along some of its length in County Monaghan, at the east, south of Lough Muckno and to the west of the county below Scotshouse. The extensive lines of ditches which spread into neighbouring counties are considered to be amongst the oldest, largest and most celebrated land boundaries in prehistoric Europe.

The EirGrid report by consultant archaeologist Declan Moore said the site was believed to have been a single defensive earthwork running from Sligo to Louth and presently was untraceable for most of its length. Parts of the earthwork had been identified in County Cavan just east of Bellananagh and in County Monaghan. The company said it was possible that the proposed line route might pass over the subsurface remains of this earthwork.

Mr Moore was asked by the presiding inspector to outline measures that would be taken to protect historic monuments that were near proposed towers and access routes. He explained what would be done in specific cases such as at Latnakelly fort and Corrinenty.


A leading Irish archaeologist from Co. Meath who excavated the passage tomb at Knowth informed the hearing that it would be a travesty to put power lines near the equally historic Bronze Age site at Teltown (Tealtainn). The assessment of Professor George Eogan from Nobber was read into the record by architect John Clancy from Batterstown.

Professor Eogan said the Tealtainn/Donaghpatrick heritage complex comprised one of the treasures of early Ireland and was rich in archaeology and history. The unspoilt rural landscape reflected that important heritage which he said must be preserved for present and future generations.

Professor Eogan continued: “I have consulted the plans for this proposed project and the prospect of eight massive pylons traversing this beautiful landscape is unthinkable. Not only would the pylons be a massive visual intrusion, but the ground works involved in their construction and erection will have a very detrimental effect on the hitherto undisturbed archaeological deposits.”

“The proposed erection of pylons with their massive visual and destructive intrusion on this unspoilt landscape would be a travesty for which no possible justification can be made. I sincerely hope that permission will not be granted for it to proceed”, Professor Eogan stated.

According to his assessment, Tealtainn is particularly important as it was where significant ecclesiastical and secular events took place in the past. Going right back to the Bronze Age examples of rock art of the period have been discovered in the ancient graveyard there, which also contained a font and sundial of the Early Christian period. In late prehistoric and early historic times the famous Tealtainn games were held annually, presided over by the High King. Professor Eogan said it was vital that the area be left undisturbed so as to allow for further investigation.

Donaghpatrick was another important element of the complex. The modern church incorporated the remains of  a 14th- 15th century tower house. St Patrick established a church there, hence the name. Across the road from the church were very impressive remains of a triple-banked ring fort, Rath Aithir.

Professor Eogan’s letter to the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society was quoted by the Society’s Past President John Clancy from Batterstown when he made a submission to the Bord Pleanála oral hearing, now in its fifth week. Meanwhile in Dublin, a High Court challenge by the North East Pylon Pressure Group continued last Thursday and was again adjourned.

Mr Clancy, an architect, told the presiding inspector that the proposed interconnector route a few kilometres from the Hill of Tara and near other important archaeological sites would have a serious cost to our landscape and heritage and no benefit for electricity consumers. He explained that he lived 180m from a route of pylons near the ESB sub-station at Woodland, where the proposed 400kV interconnector will link into the transmission system. The pastoral landscape had been changed forever when the towers carrying six cables for a 220kV line were erected, he said.

When future generations wrote the history of how they had treated Meath’s heritage, Mr Clancy wondered if the insertion of pylons and transmission lines would be seen as yet another mistake similar to the M3 motorway as the infrastructure passed through the Teltown landscape and near the archaeological complexes of Brittas, Cruicetown, Rahood and Raffin. Although it was a major piece of important infrastructure, there was no proper provision for it in the Meath County Development Plan 2013-19. The route through Meath should therefore be excluded when Bord Pleanála made its determination, he told the presiding inspector.

Mr Clancy referred to photomontages provided by EirGrid showing what pylons would look like in key areas such as the Hill of Tara, Brittas and Bective Abbey. He said they were insufficient to arrive at a clear view of the true visual impact and further studies were required, as had happened with the N2 Slane Bypass inquiry. Consultant architect for EirGrid Joerg Schulze said all photomontages had been produced to the current best practice guidelines.

Meath County Council Heritage Officer Loreto Guinan said the Hill of Tara contained 150 recorded monuments and was one of the most culturally significant places in Ireland. It was a candidate for designation as a UNESCO world heritage site. The proposed interconnector development posed key questions as to whether it was likely to comproise the nomination made in 2010. She told the presiding inspector an independent world heritage expert should be asked to make an impact assessment, based on international standards and benchmarks.

Consultant archaeologist for EirGrid Declan Moore went through the environmental impact assessment for various sites close to the line of the proposed route. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of the Tara Complex would be minor. Should the development proceed, it would have a permanent, slight, negative impact on the setting of Tara.

In the Teltown area, no known archaeological monuments would be directly, physically impacted upon by the proposed development. Because of its high archaeological potential and as previously unrecorded archaeological remains could be found during the construction of the towers, mitigation measures were recommended.

The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of Rath Dhu, the fort thought to be the centre for the ancient Teltown funeral games, was considered to be minor with the overall significance of the impact on the setting of the monument deemed to be slight.

Although the proposed power lines were almost 700m from Teltown church, a number of the towers associated with the development would be visible as it passed to the east. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development was found to be substantial. The overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown church was found to be moderate negative.

EirGrid is suggesting that a licensed archaeologist supervises any excavations in advance of the construction of towers, thereby ensuring the early identification of archaeological deposits and minimal loss to the archaeological record. The National Monuments Service of the DAHG and the National Museum of Ireland would be consulted immediately should archaeology be discovered. An archaeologist would also monitor site access and construction works.

EirGrid’s assessment said the proposed development would not directly inhibit any tourist and amenity activities along the route of the power lines. However the reduction in the visual amenity of a local area might be perceived as reducing the attractiveness of an area used for tourist and amenity related activities. There would be a direct though localised visual impact on a short section of the Boyne Valley driving route, as the line crossed this route at two locations close to Bective Abbey and Gibstown. There would be direct but limited visibility when viewed from specific locations within Bective Abbey.

Other outdoor amenity areas and activities, including the location of Gibstown Drive-In Bingo, were in close proximity to the proposed development. While the overhead line would be visible from these areas and there might be a reduction in the visual amenity, it was unlikely to prohibit recreational activities continuing at these locations.



This section dealt with human beings: tourism and amenity

Dympna Condra, tourism officer Monaghan County Council told the presiding inspector the proposed pylons and power lines would affect their ability to sell Monaghan as a tourist destination, especially for angling. Landscape and the natural environment were important elements in attracting visitors to County Monaghan. She pointed out that the development had the potential to impact adversely impact on tourism in Monaghan in general, owing to the visual impact upon the landscape.

A line of pylons constituted a visual intrusion on the landscape. The promotion of Monaghan as a destination for outdoor activities such as angling, walking, cycling, golf, horse riding and forest parks would be impacted by the proposed development, particularly in terms of visual impact.


The tourism officer said angling was an extremely important niche product for Co. Monaghan. The Council’s submission had outlined their concern about the visual impact in the Castleblayney, Ballybay and Carrickmacross lakelands area, and particularly at Lough Morne and Lough Egish. Their view was that this visual impact might adversely affect angling visitor numbers. She said EirGrid’s response that this was unlikely to prohibit activities continuing at these locations lacked detail as to how this conclusion had been arrived at, she said.

Dympna Condra pointed out that Monaghan County Council had invested hugely in the angling product in recent years, particularly, but not exclusively, at Lough Muckno. This had led to a huge increase in the numbers of angling tourists to Monaghan in the last three years, with Lough Muckno being the key attractor.

However, anglers tended to move around to fish at different lakes in the vicinity and the proposed development ran through a substantial part of this area. Lough Muckno has moved from having one or two dwindling angling festivals in 2012 to having twelve festivals scheduled for 2016, most of which attracted international anglers, who spread out to other lakes in the area. In addition, an angling festival is being revived in Carrickmacross and this would also augment the number of anglers to this wider area. In our experience over the last number of years, these were repeat visitors as Monaghan had a growing reputation for catering for the angling visitor.


EirGrid had stated that ‘whilst the visual effects of the construction of the pylons are assessed as being “temporary and locally significant” this would be unlikely to be significant for tourism owing to a number of factors. These included the generally transitory nature of tourists during an Irish rural holiday stay, moving between locations rather than remaining in one place for an extended period of time. Monaghan County Council maintains that this does not apply to the repeat angling visitor.

The tourism assessment by EirGrid was based on the general tourist market and an effort was made to locate the proposed development away from these facilities. However, the plethora of lakes in the Ballybay-Castleblayney area were key assets to the angling visitor and this did not seem to have been taken into account, according to the tourism officer.

Dympna Condra noted that it was Failte Ireland’s view that tourism factors (in particular the landscape) had been insufficiently developed in EirGrid’s assessment and that a further evaluation of the potential development on the landscape character of the area should be undertaken. She said the Council concurred with this view that tourism and landscape character were closely aligned. A group of angling journalists from the UK had visited Lough Egish last week making videos. So the visual aspect of the landscape was important for them.

The County Council’s submission to An Bord Pleanála last August pointed out there were a number of small lakes in this angling heartland. It expressed concern that the proximity of the line of pylons to some of these lakes might impact significantly on the angling amenity.

Lough Egish – this 117 hectare lake is a valuable pike fishery.

Lough Morne – this 45 hectare lake is a good game fishery and contains brown trout. Examples of other lakes in the general vicinity of the proposed line include:-

Corlatt Lake/Shantonagh Lake – these lakes drain into the Knappagh River and the River Annalee. It must be noted that the majority of these waters contain most of the coarse fish species with the exception of bream and tench but are regarded as very good pike fisheries.

Tonyscallon Lake – this lake covers an area of approximately three hectares and contains very good bream.


The Monaghan Way is a 56.5km long distance walking route between Clontibret and Inniskeen. It is a stimulating combination of quiet country roads, cross country trekking, riverside walkways and lakeside approaches. Reflecting the Monaghan countryside, the walk mixes gentle sloping hill gradients with flat stretches of open countryside. There are no long or steep climbs and the route reaches a maximum altitude of 317m at the summit of Mullyash.

Eirgrid has accepted that along a 2km section of the Monaghan Way which runs parallel to and then crosses the power line route, walkers “will experience open views of towers at close proximity where there is no intervening vegetation, resulting in localised significant visual effects”. The tourism officer said this was a particular worry for those walkers choosing to start in Clontibret and it might have a significant impact on the numbers using the route.

Toirleach Gourley senior planner Monaghan County Council said there would be knock-on effects for visitors and on the landscape setting with its many lakes. He expressed fresh concern that two of the photomontages displayed by EirGrid showing the impact on the Monaghan Way at Lemgare Rocks near Clontibret and at Lough Morne near Lough Egish did not show the two most prominent pylons along the route which were both situated on high ground.

Brendan Allen a senior planner with ESB International said in making their assessment for EirGrid, they had identified the chief tourism assets in Monaghan from Failte Ireland records and the Co. Monaghan development plan, as well as various tourism websites. The Irish Trails website had provided them with information about the Monaghan Way which showed it started in Monaghan town and it was therefore described as being 64km in length. He said it had not been possible to obtain visitor statistics for the walking route, unlike many other trails where volunteer counters were used to compile the figures.

He said the environmental impact statement had acknowledged that fishing and angling tourism were important for Co. Monaghan. He told the hearing the setting of some of the lakes would be changed by the interconnector project. Regarding the impact of construction activity, Mr Allen said this would be broken up over short periods of time at various locations. The effects would pass over time, he added.

He said it was important to point out that in the route selection they had avoided the main tourism assets that were identified in the county plan. But it was not possible to avoid fully all tourism assets, such as the road where the power lines cross the Monaghan Way at Lemgare Rocks. Mr Allen said they had given due consideration to the visual impact at this point and at Lough Morne. According to the company, “any impact on local tourism resulting from the construction and operation of the proposed interconnector…must be considered in respect of the strategic need for and importance of the project, and the careful consideration of alternative routes.”

Tourism and leisure consultant Ken Glass for EirGrid said the impact statement had concluded that “the operation of the proposed development will not directly inhibit any tourist and amenity activities along its route.”

This section dealt with air (noise; vibration; climate)

An environmental health officer with Monaghan County Council Dermot McCague said they would have to discuss construction noise at the stage the pylons were being erected. He hoped they could come to an agreement with the developer to consult the Council about measures to be taken to reduce the impact on residents at each tower location. Work would be carried out during daylight hours and would have to be with the permission of the Council.

Barry Sheridan an acoustics consultant for EirGrid said the mitigation measures to be taken had been listed in the application and the response to submissions. It was predicted that the construction phase would result in a moderate, temporary and transient noise impact. Portable noise barriers would be used to screen the noise from machinery and piling work. Mr Sheridan was asked a series of questions by the presiding inspector about how the noise levels were measured.

The consultant explained the impact of operational noise on the power lines, such as turbulent wind noise (which occurred rarely on 400kV lines) and potential corona discharge. The latter became higher and might become audible in wet weather and in close proximity to the line. But on such occasions the background noise level of rainfall and wind tended to mask the noise from the transmission line.

EirGrid said no significant noise impact on animals was predicted to arise from the operation of the proposed line. Noise from the construction phase of the project would be similar to any other building site and should not cause any significant impact to livestock. Regarding operational noise such as gap sparking on the power lines, an equine specialist Michael Sadlier said most animals became habituated to noises. Once they realised there was no threat then they no longer responded.

A consultant occupational and environmental physician Dr Martin Hogan from UCC on behalf of EirGrid said the potential health aspects of noise had been dealt with in the environmental impact assessment. The standards and guidelines used in the appraisal were very stringent and designed to protect the most sensitive and vulnerable, he said. Dr Hogan was asked about the potential effect of the power lines on a person with autism. He said there was no real reason to suspect that people with ASD would be adversely affected by the project.

The hearing resumes this morning (Thursday) at the Nuremore Hotel in Carrickmacross with a module on cultural heritage. Officials from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are due to give their opinion about the impact of the interconnector on various sites in Monaghan, Cavan and Meath.


The presiding inspector Breda Gannon said she intended to continue the hearing on the following days (the schedule is usually posted daily on the Bord Pleanála website):

Week 5  Monday to Thursday  4th-7th April

Week 6 Monday to Thursday 11th to 14th April

Week 7 Monday to Wednesday 18th to 20th April

Week 8 Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th April

Week 9 Tuesday 3rd to Thursday 5th May

Week 10 Monday 9th to Friday 14th May (dates updated on 20/04/16)


The North East Pylon Pressure Campaign will today (Thursday) before Mr Justice Humphreys at the High Court in Dublin continue with an application for leave to apply for a judicial review. Lawyers for the group have twice requested the presiding inspector to adjourn the hearing. But she has decided to continue with what she described as an “information gathering” exercise and said she would be reporting back to the Planning Board.




This section dealt with human beings: land use

The inspectors heard from the Meath IFA Chairman Diarmuid Lally (also representing the IFA in Monaghan and Cavan), Kingscourt IFA (Eugene Lambe a dairy farmer from Cordoagh) and the ICMSA President John Comer and local representative Lorcan McCabe from Bailieborough. Lorcan Mc Cabe who is Chairperson of the ICMSA Farm Business Committee and is a Cavan man who is here today with me to represent the views of our members in the North-East.

Diarmuid Lally claimed there had been inadequate consultation with farmers by EirGrid. There had been an inadequate consideration of alternatives such as undergrounding. The cost of undergrounding had started off at 25 times the cost of an overhead line, but now the cost was almost equal, he said.

Mr Lally claimed there was no need for the interconnector. It was about sending electricity to Northern Ireland and had absolutely nothing to do with the North East. He said the NI Assembly had not yet clarified its plans for the power stations at Coolkeeragh and Ballylumford and there might be no need for transferring the extra electricity produced in the Republic to Northern Ireland. He wondered why a coastal route had not been chosen along the eastern seaboard, at the time the machinery had been in place to lay the underground cable connecting Rush in Co. Dublin to Prestatyn in Wales (the East-West interconnector).

The IFA Meath Chairman said the approach of EirGrid to the farming community had been arrogant. There was no engagement with the community. Mr Lally raised questions about the effect of the line on the health and wellbeing of farm families and workers. He also wondered what the effect would be on the single farm payments received by farmers for working their land, if EirGrid constructed one or more pylons on their property. Who would be compensating the farmer?, he asked.

He also made a number of points regarding health and safety on farms and asked what studies the company had done about potential crop disease or soil problems arising from the construction work. He wondered how farmers would do their business because of disruption during the eight to twelve weeks it took to construct a pylon on their land. He also asked EirGrid about the effect the power lines might have on the use of GPS equipment in machines such as combine harvesters.

The ICMSA President John Comer said the interconnector plan was of major concern to their members in the North-East and they opposed it. He said the identified route mainly traversed open countryside, having been designed to avoid towns and villages and clusters of rural housing. The proposed route would have the vast majority of the pylons erected in existing farmland and the power lines would overhang farm land. Mr Comer said there was deep frustration in rural communities on this issue and how it had been managed to date.

He said the ICMSA believed that the importance of the agri-food sector to export driven growth in the economy could not be underestimated with the total value of food and drink exports from Ireland in 2014 reaching a record of €10.5 billion. There had been considerable investment and energy expended over many years on promoting the very successful “Clean and Green” Irish brand abroad. The Association believed there was potential for considerable damage to Ireland’s reputation by the erection of large pylons through some of the most productive farmland in the country.

One of the main contentions was the reluctance by EirGrid to examine alternatives to the construction of the pylons, which would dominate the landscape and tower above homes and landscape features. The ICMSA was acutely aware of the importance of a properly functioning electricity network in terms of promoting foreign direct investment and jobs for the region, but it believed this must not be at an unnecessary cost to farm and rural families and their livelihoods. In this context, the ICMSA supported the undergrounding of cables to ensure minimum impact on the rural environment.

Mr Comer said the people who depend on it for a living believed a detailed independent cost-benefit analysis should be carried out and published on undergrounding before any final decision was made. In addition, the ICMSA believed a comprehensive independent Environmental Impact Study must be carried out which specifically addressed the impact from a farming, agri-economic and rural perspective.

ICMSA believes that all major farming enterprises including dairying, beef, sheep, equine, horticulture, forestry, tillage and poultry would be impacted by the proposed scheme and has concerns regarding the fact that not one single study of farming activities has been carried out and no alternative measures have been proposed. In addition, this proposal was likely significantly to devalue agricultural holdings. The construction of the transmission lines and associated large structures would significantly disrupt farming operations on an ongoing basis. Agricultural land would be rendered sterile along the 1km wide corridor which would traverse the countryside, Mr Comer said.

He called for further research to be done on the impact of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on living organisms. EMF was a particular concern for dairy farmers and the possible impact on somatic cell count and the associated costs. The ICMSA President pointed out that there were health and safety issues that needed to be addressed.

He continued: “It is a widely held view that that these high voltage power lines and pylons are the most objectionable form of public utility infrastructure on land. In addition to farming related issues they impose significant negative effects in relation to visual and environmental impact, land and property devaluation, and health and safety concerns. The ICMSA, on behalf of its farming members, supports the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign and their legitimate objective of demanding that these lines be placed underground.”

Responding to the points raised by the IFA and ICMSA representatives a property consultant for EirGrid Tom Corr repeated his view that the development of overhead lines was not expected to have any effect on farmland prices. There was no evidence of farm prices being impacted by the more than 400km of 400kV lines and 1800km of 220kV power lines already in existence in the Republic. He said international research showed that the impact of overhead lines diminished with time.

Mr Corr said that coming as he did from County Monaghan, it was his own experience over more than 30 years that he best customers were not out off by a property for sale that had an overhead power line.

Aidan Geoghegan, project manager for the EirGrid interconnector, told the hearing he could say with confidence that overhead lines did not interfere with GPS systems and the conductors would not affect the system signals.

Agricultural consultant Con Curtin for EirGrid said the concerns over electromagnetic fields around the lines had already been dealt with. The farmer would continue to have use of the land under the 400kV lines without any significant change. He said safety at sites could be managed and that farmers already had to operate machinery under overhead lines such as telephone wires.

Regarding the possible spread of animal disease such as TB from badgers, Mr Curtin said the risk was imperceptible. Vehicles used by contractors at a farm would be disinfected where required. Livestock would not be allowed to stray between holdings, he added. Regarding claims that Ireland’s green image for food could be affected, Mr Curtin said there was no reason for it to be affected. EirGrid pointed out that there were agri-food ventures in other counties such as Clare that had overhead high voltage lines.

Finally, another mapping error was revealed. Mr Curtin corrected a land use evaluation in the application by EirGrid surrounding a proposed tower no. 125 near Annagh in Co. Monaghan. The pylon would be located in a 1ha field and it was assumed that it was part of a particular holding, but the wrong one was outlined on the map originally provided. The impact of the tower on the corrected holding is now said to be slight adverse and in the adjoining land parcel it is now described as imperceptible.


This section dealt with landscape and visual impacts

Joerg Schulze consultant landscape architect for EirGrid responded to comments on day nine by Toirleach Gourley, senior planner Monaghan County Council, about eight photomontages taken at points along the line in Co. Monaghan having limited legibility of pylons. He also replied to comments about the effect on the Monaghan Way at Lemgare Rocks near Clontibret.

Mr Schulze explained the process by which the photomontages had been assembled, using computer software with a 3D model of the proposed structure. If this picture was enhanced then it would produce an image that was not as close to reality.

He accepted that a small part of the Monaghan Way walking route would be affected. In selecting the route for the pylons, he had walked along parts of the Monaghan Way including the section at Mullyash mountain that were within the study area. He accepted that one pylon (tower 109) where the line crossed a local road at Lemgare Rocks near Clontibret would have a significant localized impact. 


The proposed interconnector from Woodland in Co. Meath to Turleenan in Co. Tyrone using overhead power lines “will not have a significant impact” on views from the important site at the Hill of Tara, according to EirGrid. But a consultant for Meath County Council claimed there would be high or very high impact on a view of national significance.

The differences emerged at the Bord Pleanála oral hearing in Carrickmacross into the plan for what is said to be one of the biggest ever pieces of infrastructure in the state. Joerg Schulze, consultant landscape architect for EirGrid, said that seen from the hill, the transmission line to the east would not dominate the landscape. It would be located in the middle distance, with the closest pylon being 6.29km away and would not be immediately apparent from that standpoint.

Concerns were also expressed by Meath County Council planners about the effect on Brittas demesne near Nobber, where a 74m wide swathe of mature woodland would have to be removed to make way for the overhead line.

The Hill of Tara with its Iron Age hilltop enclosure is Ireland’s ancient capital. It is a candidate UNESCO world heritage site, nominated by the government in 2010 on a list of properties considered to have cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value. Tara is one of five royal sites that represent ‘unique expressions of Irish society’ as places of royal inauguration, ceremony and assembly, representing each of the five provinces of ancient Ireland.

EirGrid says that in identifying a potential route for the interconnector it took into account key constraints such as architectural and archaeological heritage sites. Landscapes sensitive to visual impact and soil type, areas designated for nature conservation and the location of dwellings and buildings were also considered.

Meath County Council engaged Conor Skehan of planning and environmental consultants CAAS Ltd to assess all designated scenic viewpoints that were included in the County Development Plan. He concluded that seven views including Tara and at Bective Bridge would be affected by the proposed development.

EirGrid says the viewpoint in close proximity of Lia Fáil within the Tara Complex was located outside the 5km study area for the line route but had been included due to its elevation and available panoramic views. It states that “The landscape in this unit forms part of the cluster of low flat hills that includes the Hill of Tara. The flat nature of the surrounding landscape means that panoramic views are possible even from slightly elevated areas. The landscape is man altered and made up of medium to large scale fields within a network of roads including three regional roads and hedgerows which generally limit views into the landscape.” The magnitude of change and impact caused by the proposed development is considered negligible and not significant, the company concluded.

Landscape architect Joerg Schulze for EirGrid acknowledged that while he agreed with most of the assessments made by Mr Skehan, there was a considerable difference of opinion with Meath County Council regarding the effect on Tara. He said that in preparing photomontages from that viewpoint, he had very clearly attained what was and was not visible.

He showed the photomontages to the planning inspectors along with a picture that by using standard computer software superimposed the line of the pylons. Mr Schulze pointed out that an existing 220kV line from Gorman to Maynooth that was only 1.25km away was not immediately apparent and was barely discernible in the photomontages. The proposed 400 kV development would be located approximately 4.5 to 5km further away from this 220kV line and would be seen entirely against the land, which would reduce the general visibility of this type of development significantly further, according to EirGrid.

But Mr Skehan for Meath County Council was of the opinion that in this area the transmission line and associated towers would have an effect under many different lighting conditions.

In winter, he said, in conditions of low light and clear skies, the development would be noticeable over a wide area. In summer, with lots of clouds moving over the landscape, and partly light, it would also become noticeable.

EirGrid was also questioned by the presiding inspector about the effect of the proposed line on demesnes in Co. Meath, especially Brittas near Nobber. Mr Schulze revealed that the visual impact of the line had been assessed from public roads only, as many private properties were not accessible. The impact on the landscape at Brittas had been found to be significant as the planning included the removal of mature woodland.

Approximately 2.7 acres of mature woodland might have to be removed to allow for a maximum 74m wide corridor. The line route runs parallel to the public road in this location, and whilst the road was generally heavily vegetated, intermittent views into the estate were possible. At a gate lodge at an entrance to Brittas estate, the conductors would be visible crossing the road (as shown in a photomontage) and towers would be partially visible from the local road adjoining the estate in locations where boundary vegetation was thin, according to the landscape and visual impact assessment.

EirGrid had been asked earlier in the hearing why it had not included in this photograph the nearest pylon, which was 245m away from the gate lodge. The NEPPC had argued that the photomontages were not representative of the impact of the proposed infrastructure on the environment. The reply was that all the photography and photomontages had complied with Landscape Institute guidelines.

Mr Schulze explained that taking the overhead line through the Brittas demesne would have the least impact on being able to view it from public roads. If the route was moved away from the woodland it would be closer to the village of Nobber. But Meath County Council architectural conservation officer Jill Chadwick said the line would have a significant impact on Brittas House.

The EirGrid consultant was also asked about an option that had been examined for putting underground a short 3km section of the route between ten proposed pylons, instead of removing the woodland at Brittas. The company’s assessment was that there were no impacts of such significance envisaged, including those on landscape, which would introduce the need for consideration of partial undergrounding for the proposed development at this location. The inspector also asked EirGrid about the effect at Ardbraccan demesne.

Questions to presiding inspector by two Co. Monaghan residents Mary Marron and Margaret Marron from Shantonagh. Mary Marron asked when EirGrid would be producing maps for the nineteen landowners where the company had revealed it would require a new access point to their land for construction work, because of anomalies in the maps supplied in the original application last year. She claimed that people were being denied information that they needed in order to make a proper submission to the hearing. She also wanted to know the size and capacity of the machines to be used in construction, and how long the temporary matting to be used for some access roads into fields would remain in place. Landowners did not know physically how their holdings would be affected.

Margaret Marron said landowners were “up in arms” over EirGrid’s approach to the hearing. They did not have the expertise available to them that the company did. They needed to have the full information before them.

Responding for EirGrid Jarlath FitzSimons SC said the company would provide landowners within the week the new information containing 25 access route modifications. (These were hand delivered by courier on Good Friday). He said construction would take place over a period of three years but it was not a programme of work. The company would deal with individual issues as they arose when the hearing came to examine the concerns of specific land holders. The relevant experts would be made available at the stage required, he said.

Tom Corr, a consultant for EirGrid, (native of Killeevan, Co. Monaghan) is one of the authors of a report commissioned by the company into the potential relationship between property values and high voltage overhead transmission lines in Ireland, published last month. He told the inspectors that farmland process along the proposed interconnector route were not expected to be affected at all.

Working with Professor of Statistics at the University of Limerick Dr Cathal Walsh, their survey found that the presence of pylons or overhead lines had “no significant impact” on prices of residential and farm properties. It concluded that “the perception of potential decreases in sales value as a result of high-voltage overhead lines close to property far outweighs the reality borne out in actual sales data”. Where negative impacts were found there was evidence to suggest that they generally decreased with time, the study said.

An EirGrid policy consultant on compensation William Mongey revealed that the company is providing €4 million for a local community fund to be administered in conjunction with local authorities. EirGrid will contribute €40,000 per kilometre for communities in proximity to new 400kV pylons and stations. For owners of property there would be a proximity payment of €30,000 for residences at 50m from the proposed line. This would decrease to €5,000 at 200m. EirGrid said it sought to locate new lines at least 50m from homes but in exceptional cases where this was not achievable it would deal with the affected property owners on an individual basis. The total set aside for this compensation is €4.6 million.


This section dealt with construction, including temporary access routes

At the start of the hearing on Wednesday, presiding inspector Breda Gannon said she understood the concerns and difficulties expressed the previous day about the new information on temporary access routes that had been presented by EirGrid. She said she had decided to continue the hearing, the purpose of which was to act as an information gathering exercise to explore complex matters. She repeated her comments on the opening day, that the ultimate decision on the application rested with An Bord Pleanála, which would consider all matters raised and would have a number of options open to it. Her role was not to make a ruling on an item by item basis, she said. She invited observers and EirGrid to continue discussion on the construction module.

A lawyer for the NEPPC Michael O’Donnell BL said he had to accept the ruling but asked the inspector if she would agree to adjourn proceedings to allow an application to be made in court. This was rejected. The inspector said the NEPPC could continue to participate at any stage.

Robert Arthur of ESB International gave more details of the type of towers along the line, including a number of angle towers. Another ESBI consultant Jarlath Doyle explained details of the construction process, including the types of vehicles that would be used to bring concrete into fields where the steel pylons would be erected. It was also explained that ‘durabase’ matting was to be laid where necessary to provide access for vehicles in fields. These could be left in place for the duration of the construction process.

As an affected landowner with a pedigree Charolais herd on the family’s farm, Mary Marron of the CMAPC wanted to know if that meant the matting would be there for a span of three years. She called on EirGrid to be more specific about the fences that would be used to keep livestock away from the construction sites. Who was going to be responsible for the livestock and to whom could they address any queries relating to construction issues. It seemed that EirGrid was expecting each landowner to take responsibility for their animals and that was unacceptable.

Nigel Hillis of CMAPC pointed out that the type of fencing proposed along access routes was unsuitable for an agricultural setting. The pictures provided by EirGrid showed individual units of steel fencing joined together and anchored in blocks. He said such fencing was designed to keep people out, not animals and it would not stop a bull knocking it down. There was no proposal by the company to put up staked fencing with barbed wire, which is what farmers would use on their land.

Regarding the methodology used by the EirGrid consultants to investigate proposed access routes, Mr Hillis asked one of them if he had put on wellingtons and walked the dotted line shown on one of the maps leading to a proposed pylon site. He declined to answer the question. Some of his colleagues gave details later of how aerial photography combined with more recent Google mapping had allowed them to examine the possible routes, without having to contact landowners and access individual holdings.

Mr Hillis observed that the methodology of getting access to pylon sites was totally wrong. He explained that their committee had met on Tuesday evening and had decided they would not be returning as a group to the first part of the oral hearing.

Before departing Mary Marron said landowners should have been made aware of proposed changes. She asked EirGrid to provide proper photos of the type of machinery that would be used to access the pylon sites and asked for maps to show where matting would be laid. She requested the company to provide specific information on these issues.

Monaghan County Council senior planner Toirleach Gourley raised a number of questions with EirGrid about the details shown in some of the maps they had provided about the route of the line. He said the company had made an insufficient response to the concerns the Council had raised in their response to the planning application last August. Mr Gourley claimed a number of photomontages had limited legibility, such as one showing the point where the interconnector would cross the main N2 road at Annyalla.

A consultant landscape architect Joerg Schulze for EirGrid explained how he had drawn up the proposed route for the line, taking into account the relevant constraints such as avoiding residential areas where possible, sites of archaeological importance and loughs. In the drumlin landscape of County Monaghan it was not possible to avoid all drumlins but he believed he had found the best routing possible.

Mr Gourley said he was not convinced that putting pylons along the top of drumlins such as near Lough Egish was the ultimate choice. The planner also pointed out that Monaghan County Council had received no drawings showing the height and colour of the temporary buildings (portakabins) which EirGrid proposed to erect at a construction material storage yard beside the N2 at Monaltyduff/Monatybane outside Carrickmacross.


This section dealt with construction, including temporary access routes

Following a request by EirGrid’s lawyer Brian Murray SC, the presiding inspector allowed a change in how the modules had operated until then. The County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee had been due to begin Tuesday’s proceedings with comments on the plans for construction of the 299 pylons in the Republic. Robert Arthur, transmission lines manager with ESB International who are acting as consultants for EirGrid, made a presentation in which he gave details of nineteen modifications to temporary access routes for tower sites. These are in addition to six routes which had been identified by an EirGrid representative at the start of the hearing.


For all these ‘modified access routes’ he said they would be making use of existing access onto land and no new land holdings would be involved. He said 95 landowners had made submissions by January when they had been asked to identify issues regarding temporary access routes of which there were 584. But no direct contact had been made with any land owner.

In a document produced for the inspectors Mr Arthur described what he said were mapping anomalies that had arisen primarily from discrepancies in the translation of site vantage survey records onto the Environmental Impact statement drawings. In other words, while an access route might have been identified from an existing field gate, the access route from this existing gate to a tower location was incorrectly captured on the EIS mapping.


A barrister for the NEPPC Michael O’Donnell BL told the inspectors the oral hearing had turned into a farce. He said the hearing could not proceed any further and called for it to be abandoned. He claimed that a new public notice would now have to be issued about the development and this was the only appropriate manner under the planning act. The responses by Mr Arthur had been entirely inadequate and inappropriate, he said.

Counsel for the NEPPC Esmond Keane SC described some of Mr Arthur’s replies as an insult to the integrity and intelligence of every member of the public. Some replies were ‘rubbish’ and he had not given a meaningful response. Mr Keane said it appeared EirGrid had produced utterly radical changes and was planning to go through to the pylon construction points using access to private homes in a number of cases, despite the company’s own environmental guidelines. He said there were many difficulties with the planning application, including some technical drawings that had been provided for the route design plan and profile. On one of them the scale was shown as a tiny bar at the top of the page. It also left ordinary members of the public guessing where ground level was shown.

This was different he said from the detailed drawings of the proposed towers and conductors produced by ESB International for the corresponding application in Northern Ireland by the EirGrid subsidiary SONI. In Tyrone and Armagh, stone roads were proposed to be constructed on just over half the 102 tower locations.

He also questioned Mr Arthur in detail on a proposal for washing down vehicles to remove mud and organic material from vehicles exiting tower sites. The ESB International representative said it was his understanding that vehicles would be washed down before they entered the temporary work area around the pylons. “That doesn’t make sense”, Mr Keane remarked.

Padraig O’Reilly of the NEPPC said the hearing had developed into a charade second time round and called on the inspectors not to go ahead with it. Unless Bord Pleanála responded in a meaningful way then his group would not be taking any further part.

Mary Marron of CMAPC said nineteen landowners did not know where access roads would be going over their land. They had no faith in any sense of fairness if the oral hearing continued and the Monaghan group fully backed the NEPPC stance.

EirGrid lawyer Brian Murray SC said the hearing should go ahead as only 19 out of 584 access routes were involved and EirGrid could begin notifying the affected landowners during the next week. The second part had been set aside to hear from individual landowners.

Michael O’Donnell BL for the NEPPC claimed this amounted to an acknowledgement by EirGrid that the hearing could not proceed, as it would now be necessary to issue a new public notice so that all affected landowners along with neighbours and members of the public could be informed.

But Jarlath Fitzsimons SC for EirGrid pointed out that development consent was not required for access routes. These had been included in the documentation. They formed part of the project and must be looked at by the Planning Board when they were considering the totality of the application. There was no requirement for a new notification, in EirGrid’s view.

The presiding inspector said she would give a decision on whether the hearing would continue when the proceedings opened on Wednesday.



This section dealt with the impacts of the project on health

The third week of the oral hearing opened with presentations on the impacts on health of the interconnector. The County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee told the hearing local residents were terrified about the proposed 400kV line and felt they had been bullied and intimidated by EirGrid.


Margaret Marron from Corbane, Shantonagh said the fact that the proposed line was going so close to their homes had already had a detrimental impact on their lives. The perceived risk of constant exposure to radiation sent shivers down their spines, she said. They had genuinely held concerns and fears about health issues arising from the planning application.

They knew their property would be devalued; they would not be able to provide (building) sites for their children; it would impact negatively on their work and farming practices; it would produce annoying noise. They were terrified it would affect their own physical health and more especially that of their children. This was the reality of life for people along the proposed route in Co. Monaghan.

They were very angry and felt that they had been bullied, intimidated and treated as second class citizens by EirGrid, she said. Almost 800 submissions to the Planning Board had referenced health as a huge issue. Farming including milking of cows would be totally unsustainable as there was no time frame on the project, no telling what time of year construction would start or finish and a farmer could not do his work without free and unrestricted access to his land.

Margaret Marron said there were a number of families with children with autism living in tranquil rural locations that were in close proximity to the proposed line. The quality of their lives would change irrevocably if the interconnector in its proposed format went ahead, she told the hearing.

Children with autism were highly sensitive to noises such as those emitted from power cables. One parent with a pylon construction site entrance 10 metres from the boundary of her home was absolutely terrified about the possible effect on her child with autism.

EirGrid’s spin doctors and PR consultants had failed miserably over the past eight years to assuage people’s concerns and fears regarding exposure to electromagnetic fields, a feature of the overhead high voltage power lines.

There were many landowners in the Monaghan area who were fitted with implanted medical devices (pacemakers) who worked in the open air and would have to work under and around the power line. This seemed to be potentially a serious health risk and EirGrid had just swept it under the carpet.

She said the committee believed that an EirGrid commitment not to place an overhead line within 40 metres of a dwelling house as a precautionary measure was simply not good enough. She hoped EirGrid would comply with any new pylon policy and siting guidelines that were currently being drawn up by the Department of Environment, which is updating a report published in 2007. The project is due to be completed this year.

The EirGrid CEO Fintan Slye had said he personally “would have no issue living next to a pylon” because he knows “it is technically safe and I have no problem with that” (December 2013). If that was the attitude of the CEO then it was no wonder all health concerns had been totally dismissed by EirGrid, the CMAPC representative said.

She concluded: “He is entitled to his view, the same as anyone else, but I can assure this hearing that it is not the view of CMAPC or of the landowners, residents and communities that we represent”.


Padraig O’Reilly said there had been no stakeholder input on the routing of this major new power line, despite a recommendation in the March 2007 report to the Environment Department by an expert group on health effects of electromagnetic fields. In the contention of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign the application sought to impose wholly unacceptable and unnecessary risks on local communities in Meath, Cavan, Monaghan, Armagh and Tyrone.

He claimed EirGrid had failed to provide the Planning Board with an objective analysis of the documented risks relating to electromagnetic fields and high voltage power lines. Because EirGrid had failed even to consider mitigation against any of the risk factors, it left no option for the Board but to refuse the application.


A County Meath couple claimed the cancer they were diagnosed with had been brought on by living “in a toxic environment” beneath a high-power voltage power line for over three decades. Paula and Mike Sheridan used to live at Curraghtown, near Dunshaughlin, in a house that is 35 metres from a 400kv high voltage line from Moneypoint running directly above their back garden towards a sub-station nearby at Woodland. Both of them were diagnosed with different types of cancer in recent years and have now moved to rented accommodation. Mrs Sheridan who is a medical scientist raised her concerns about the impact on health of electromagnetic fields.

She said they believed there was a connection between their ill health and their long-term exposure over thirty years to such high levels of an electromagnetic field. During all their suffering, the response from EirGrid had been appalling, they said. The company’s attitude along with the ESB during this sad and stressful period was to ignore and dismiss their concerns. This was despite a visit to their home by a senior EirGrid representative in August 2013 when the couple raised all their health issues.


EirGrid said there was an absence of any proven harm from electromagnetic fields. International experts brought in by the power transmission company explained that the scientific consensus was that there was no credible way to explain how electromagnetic fields could cause cancer. The overall results of scientific research on this issue did not confirm this fear, or explain how it could happen, according to EirGrid.

Dr William Bailey, one of two scientific consultants brought in from the United States, is an expert in applying assessment methods to environmental and occupational health issues. He explained how it was useful to understand the role of scientific research about electromagnetic fields and health. He said EMF fields could not reasonably be taken to be a carcinogen. He pointed out there was a difference between health hazards (such as being hit by a car) and health risks and the terms had to be used correctly. Along with Dr Gabor Mezei a senior managing scientist with over 25 years’ experience in health research, they set out to answer some of the points raised by the Sheridans.

EirGrid’s explanation in its supporting documentation is that electric and magnetic fields, or EMFs, are present in both natural and man-made environments. People everywhere are exposed to EMFs wherever they live. EirGrid says it operates the transmission grid to stringent safety standards set by national and European regulators. They set guidelines on the maximum amount of EMFs that the infrastructure can emit, and we work well within these limits.

EirGrid acknowledges that the issue of EMFs is an emotive and contentious one, powered by fears about health that are strongly held by some people. The company says some people fear that EMFs cause cancer. However, the overall results of scientific research on this issue do not confirm this fear, or explain how it could happen, according to the company. The concern that electric power lines may cause childhood cancer arose in 1979. It started with a single epidemiological study. Since then, many large-scale studies have investigated this initial finding. These studies have not convinced health authorities that EMFs are a cause of cancer, EirGrid points out.






This section dealt with the consideration of alternatives

Michael Fisher     Northern Standard

Kevin Traynor from Martry, Kells, County Meath, whose home is close to where the proposed interconnector would cross the River Blackwater, challenged Eirgrid’s assertion that undergrounding of this project was not a valid option to be considered.

His submission asked EirGrid to consider undergrounding all cables associated with the infrastructure in a full and properly costed way. He used the analogy that to build such an important piece of infrastructure in the provision of the nation’s future needs for electrical power, without considering the option of undergrounding, would be the equivalent of building the Eiffel Tower (Paris) in brick without considering iron as a construction material.

  1. Feasibility and technical ability to execute undergrounding.

We keep hearing from EirGrid that undergrounding of this project is not feasible or economically viable. We have been blinded with studies and reports from various sources which purport to support EirGrid’s case that an overhead line (OHL) 400kV interconnector is the only show in town. They all say that undergrounding of the project is not the optimum solution.

Following a joint report in 2004 by the Commission for Energy Regulation and its NI counterpart, the CER Director of Energy Networks confirmed in March 2006 in writing to EirGrid that the 400kV line was justified on the basis of both its higher energy transfer capability and its ability to be upgraded in the long run more practically and economically. This is when the decision was made to have 400kV as the optimal transmission. It is implied that this was to be an overhead line. What followed thereafter was a litany of reports commissioned by EirGrid to justify this decision.

It is factually wrong for EirGrid to claim that the decision to choose 400kV was arrived at after considering all the reports and industry standards that are prevalent in electrical power transmission. The decision had already been made in March 2006 prior to the published dates of all these reports used by EirGrid that have formed the grounds of their decision to construct overhead 400kV AC transmission line.

EirGrid has considered using an underground DC interconnector. In their evaluation their published conclusions did not justify this as being a potential solution for the building of the project. It did not consider the most up-to-date state of technology available in DC transmission capable of providing an underground DC interconnector now or in the near future.

For example, the recently commissioned 65km interconnector from Spain to France through the Catalan Pyrenees exploits new technologies in creating a 320kV 2000MW underground transmission. This is inclusive of having to drill a tunnel of 8.5km through the mountain and all at a cost of €700 million. The HVDC link was built as a joint venture between the French and Spanish grid operators RTE (Paris) and REE (Madrid).

The very fast control and protective intervention capabilities of the power converters provide for a high level of stability in the transmission system, which primarily serves to reduce grid faults and disturbances in the three-phase AC network. This significantly increases supply reliability for utility companies and power customers.

Mr Traynor continued: “I would have thought that many of the perceived technical problems that EirGrid have published about creating an underground DC solution for the North-South Interconnector are answered, or at the very least greatly reduced, by the employment of new technologies in this now commissioned France-Spain interconnector. There is also a Norway-Germany interconnector at an advanced stage.”

  1. EirGrid’s commitment to analysis of undergrounding other projects.

Grid West Project

On the 21 July 2015, EirGrid published details of underground and overhead options for the Grid West project, as outlined in its report to the Government-appointed Independent Expert Panel. The Grid West report sets out, in detail, the technical, environmental and cost aspects of three technology options:

  • a fully underground direct current cable;
  • a 400kV overhead line and;
  • a 220kV overhead line with partial use of underground cable

Grid Link Project

Eirgrid has confirmed that the original proposed overhead powerline from Cork to Kildare will not go ahead. An Independent Expert Panel said that the company is more likely to use a ‘regional model’. This would involve the strengthening of the existing infrastructure. It meets the needs of the project without building new large scale overhead infrastructure, according to the company.

EirGrid’s regional option alternative uses a technology known as ‘series compensation’. This would be the first time it will be deployed on the Irish transmission grid. It is an advanced, smart grid technology that will enable more power to flow through existing lines, and so does not require new 400 kV overhead lines.

The East-West Interconnector (EWIC)

The EWIC, which links the electricity transmission grids of Ireland and Great Britain, has been voted ‘Engineering Project of the Year’ by the Irish public in an online vote in the fourth annual Engineers Ireland excellence awards, in association with ESB. At 264km in length, some 187km of which is beneath the Irish Sea, the EWIC transports energy from a converter station in Co. Meath to North Wales. It is the largest voltage-sourced conversion scheme currently in operation in the world.

Fintan Slye, chief executive of EirGrid, said the interconnector was a key enabler towards meeting the ambitious target set by Government to generate 40% of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. It is the largest project of its kind to be undertaken in Ireland. He said: “The benefits to the community are immense and the boost to Irish competitiveness has meant that jobs that could have been lost to other countries have remained at home”.

  1. Upkeep and Maintenance Cost Effectiveness

Grid resilience is increasingly important as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of severe weather. All overhead transmission lines are exposed to more risk to extreme weather conditions as compared to correctly installed underground cabling. Underground cabling has an enhanced protection to weather events and affords significantly reduced risks of power transmission failure. Modern underground cables also offer superior performance characteristics and lower losses in bulk power transmission. Underground cable and its associated technologies can also enhance national security by bolstering the nation’s defences against cyber-attacks and terrorism.

  1. Future expansion capability

Because connection of wind farms, solar farms and other renewable forms of energy offers so many challenges in providing bulk power transmission and its intermittent mode of generation, DC power transmission and its associated DC convertor stations is largely becoming the preferred methodology. In addition, future connections by Ireland to any part of the European Grid system will necessitate the use of DC undersea cables with the associated DC Convertor stations to transmit and receive power from the European Grid system. As time elapses, and the investments increase across Europe in this preferred technology, we will find ourselves in a good position if we make the correct decisions on our current project like the North-South interconnector.

  1. What is the best option for all?

Any professionally designed and costed project of this magnitude would evaluate all the options and methodologies that could be used to provide its construction. It could then be objectively demonstrated the advantages and disadvantages of each option, the associated costs, their negative and positive impacts on the countryside, property, economy, environment and society. When options are discarded without such scrutiny, the project suffers because potential innovative technologies are not considered, cost savings may not be realized and the nation may get an inferior product which may not be fit for purpose or obsolescent in a few short years. Smart economies and smart businesses do not make these mistakes!

Undergrounding has not been scrutinized as yet in this manner and certainly not in the public arena for this project. It should be properly assessed and with the advancement of new cable technology and groundbreaking projects across the world, there is ample information and evidence available to actively consider this alternative.


Mark Norton EirGrid’s Network Planning Manager explained in response that the North/ South interconnector was sized correctly. He said it was designed with a 1500MW capacity in line with the company’s statutory obligations to develop a sustainable solution. This point was reinforced by the Commission for Energy Regulation and the Single Electricity Market committee.

He said similar projects across Europe were designed to transfer more power than what the actual network could supply. This additional capacity was designed to allow for intermittent nature of renewable energy and to develop solutions that are sustainable and therefore can accommodate future growth.

Mark Norton showed a table comparing nine projects of common interest. It detailed the designed capacity of a project and the corresponding capacity the grid has to transfer. The table showed the proposed north south interconnector had a grid transfer capacity of 73% – the highest of all the projects.

EirGrid put a huge amount of time and effort into assessing alternative technology options. This included the commissioning of independent reports into undergrounding and consideration of government expert reports, he said. Mr Norton added that after considering all this information and technology developments EirGrid believed the overhead line proposed was the best solution for this project.

Jarlath Fitzsimons SC for EirGrid replied to comments by a lawyer for the NEPPC about environmental impact assessments. He said recent case law indicated that an assessment of alternatives by the developer was not required. He said the EIS they had provided was more than adequate. There had been more than adequate consideration of route options by the developer and in preparing the planning application clear reasons had been given for the choice.


Nigel Hillis of CMAPC asked Aidan Geoghegan of EirGrid about the costs of the project. The Project Manager confirmed that the construction cost was €286m for the whole route and allowing for landowner compensation. But this did not include a figure of €8.7m for what the company describes as ‘community gain’. Under the local community fund EirGrid pays €40,000 a kilometre for communities near 400 kV pylons and sub-stations.

Asked about the merits of underground technology instead of overhead lines, Mr Geoghegan pointed out one of the reasons EirGrid had proposed the overhead option was because it could take 25 days to repair a fault on a high voltage DC underground cable system.

Colin Andrew for the NEPPC said apart from capital expenditure the costs of the project had never been broken down sufficiently. He said the costs must include the impact on the local community, which was resolutely opposed to the development, as EirGrid was well aware.

Following a question from the presiding inspector, Mark Norton of EirGrid gave an explanation of some of the technical terms that had been raised. But Nigel Hillis suggested what was needed was for Bord Pleanala to arrange to bring to the hearing the three members of the International Expert Commission who had drawn up a report on undergrounding opt





This section dealt with the consideration of alternatives

Michael Fisher    Northern Standard


A senior planner from Monaghan County Council Toirleach Gourley talked about alternative routes for the proposed interconnector. He told the two planning inspectors from An Bord Pleanála there was a lack of robust consideration of alternative routes along the West Louth and South Armagh corridor near Crossmaglen. He said the preferred route chosen in the application had gravitated towards the County Monaghan area. Furthermore there was a pre-defined border crossing (into County Armagh at Lemgare near Clontibret) and no alternative had been given.


EirGrid senior planner Des Cox in response to Mr Gourley said the routing alternatives had been subject to a detailed re-evaluation following the initial proposal in 2005. The content of the documents published then had been re-visited. The technical needs and environmental constraints had been taken into consideration in the Cavan/Monaghan study area. There were a number of urban areas near the proposed route such as Carrickmacross, Castleblayney and Ballybay which the engineers attempted to avoid in drawing up the line. He explained why the company proposed to divert the line through County Monaghan.

Regarding the proposed crossing point into Northern Ireland at Lemgare near Clontibret, Mr Cox said the planners had identified the Battle of Clontibret site as a heritage area. Because of the heritage, roadside housing and the high ground there were significant environmental constraints in that area.

Mr Gourley questioned why EirGrid did not decide to identify an alternative line that would run close to the existing interconnector that crossed the border near Crossmaglen in South Armagh. He appreciated that there had to be separation between the lines but said the company had not given robust consideration to an alternative.

Mr Cox said he was satisfied EirGrid had considered the options at strategic level and that the options were dealt with. But Mr Gourley repeated that no consideration had been given to an alternative border crossing and said Monaghan County Council was not satisfied on this issue. The response from Mr Cox was that EirGrid had considered the alternatives and “we’re satisfied it (the line) can’t avoid Monaghan”.


Nigel Hillis of the County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee said they did not speak or give any evidence on this subject at the previous oral hearing in 2010. They were not experts on transmission systems or interconnectors, indeed how could they be expected to be, nor did the committee have the funds to employ any such experts. They had to approach this module from a discrete prospective and glean whatever knowledge from published documents such as relevant technical studies and public records of meetings.

He reminded the inspectors about the history of the project, pointing out that formal discussions about increased cross-border transmission reinforcement between Northen Ireland Electricity and ESB-NG started around 2001 and culminated in December 2005 with a joint decision paper entitled: ‘Additional North South Interconnector Selection of Preferred Option’.

Out of five options, the preferred route was stated as Kingscourt in Co. Cavan to Drumkee near Coalisland in Co. Tyrone. This was the least cost option which complied with the criteria for additional interconnection:

  • increase transfer capability significantly in both directions;
  • the additional interconnector must avoid situations where a single event could lead to system separation.

The report did not decide on the voltage or whether the line would be single or double circuit. The final recommendation was to go for a 400kV single circuit at 900MW capacity having the potential to expand to 1500MW at any time in future if the demand was there. It was to be linked into the planned Dublin to North East 400kV line utilising the planned substation at Kingscourt. So what started out in reality as two different projects for different needs then joined up at the proposed Kingscourt substation.

Mr Hillis said all the alternatives considered to that point in time were for traditional overhead lines. He said no information could be found that undergrounding was in any way considered. “I do not believe it even entered their heads – although I am absolutely open to correction by EirGrid on that. And as we know an overhead 400kV line along three alternative routes in Monaghan, not sure how many in Meath, was presented to the public at the end of 2007”.

There was then a massive public outcry and immediate calls to underground the line to the extent that forced the Energy Minister at the time Eamonn Ryan to commission an independent report into undergrounding early in 2008. The report by German energy systems consultants ECOFYS report ‘Study on the comparative merits of overhead electricity transmission lines versus underground cables’ never really gained much traction and like a lot of government reports it ended up on the high shelf gathering dust. There seemed to be general dissatisfaction with it in all quarters, according to Mr Hillis.


A local quarry owner, Phil Connolly from Carrickamore, Corduff, Carrickmacross, explained that he had land in the route corridor and his dwelling is 200m above sea level and 500m from the proposed line. His quarry is 100m from the corridor. “We will be able to view, at a conservative estimate, twenty (proposed) pylons from our holding”, he said.


He said this was a totally new application for a project from Tyrone to Meath and differed greatly from the 2009 application.

“Critically this new application does not contain a sub-station in Cavan at all. Why? Is it piece meal development or will it likely, never be required at all? If it’s the first it’s wrong in planning, if it’s the latter it would have opened up this project to a far greater choice of options for area and route selection.”

*The needs outlined for the 2009 application are totally changed in the second.

*There is no strengthening of the network locally as previously stated.

*An expert independent commission has reported in 2011 that undergrounding, using D.C., is feasible for the project.

Therefore, starting with Stage 1., of Eirgrids development and consultation road map, this new project warrants a whole new scoping and appraisal of firstly the study area, then route corridors and then preferred route corridor. Not a re-evaluation of old obsolete and discredited information.

Did Eirgrid consult with stakeholders on routes B and C in Monaghan and Cavan for this new application? No! Simply put, no consultation was carried out for this project in the three corridors.

To compound matters the so called consultation carried out in 2007 is generally considered to be useless and totally inadequate. It only lasted for a few short months over the Christmas period. My first knowledge of the project and experience of meeting with Eirgrid representatives was at a public meeting in late 2007 in Monaghan town. I had stated that I would allow Eirgrid to access my land to carry out undergrounding of the lines but that I certainly would not want them on my lands to erect overhead lines. An Eirgrid representative then told me and my then teenage family that QUOTE “We will come in the front door of your home and out the back door if we have the need and you won’t be able to stop us.” That was the level of consultation we received.

Stage 2 of the road map is to “consider all feedback from Stage 1” and is based on nine year-old consultation from a different project! Again to put it in perspective, if I was to apply to MCC for planning on my quarry using 2007 consultation reports I would be laughed at.

How many people have emigrated, passed away, moved house, might be affected by Community Gain or changed their views in nine years on routes B and C? How many people on lines B and C routes know that it is all one project now? Not two sections? No sub-station in Kingscourt? That undergrounding is feasible?

This application is like building a house with no foundations. No matter what amount of cement you put in the walls it will still sink.  All those tables covered with folders are useless if the basics are wrong. It is impossible to choose a preferred route corridor without consultation with all three corridors.


When you examine this old route constraints report 2006/07 you will find; no consistent, transparent or reliable method was used in Route Corridor Selection and it contains many inaccuracies, for example; In county Meath a 10% difference in route length resulted in a negative rating for that route, while in Monaghan a 10% difference in route length was ignored. WHY?

Cultural Heritage: The red line in Monaghan, is identified as having the greatest impact on cultural heritage however they then enter a bizarre paragraph in an attempt to neutralise this. “There is a possibility that those sites that are directly impacted may in fact not be, and vice versa those sites which are indirectly impacted may actually be directly impacted”. It’s like a line straight out of a farcical comedy. What use is that?

Land Use: In their calculation of the number of dwellings, AOS states that their findings are “subject to erroneous data”, “by no means definite” and only an “approximate idea”. Route selection should not have been chosen using this type of unreliable data.

Visual impact: Examination of their data shows that the main difference, incorrectly given, between both routes is the medium to high assessment given to the 8km stretch of the B route where it crosses the R178 and the low assessment given to the similar stretch of the A route where it crosses the R178. Why did the B route get this high rating? What visual receptors were used? In this section of the B route there are no areas of population, scenic routes or lakes affected and as they were unsure of the number of dwellings within 100 meters then it is reasonable to assume that they had no acceptably accurate assessment of how many dwellings there were within the 1km wide corridor or further away. This section of the A route, on the other hand, is clearly visible for miles from the R178. I believe a proper independent assessment would show route A to have a greater visible impact along the R178. It is also in close proximity to 2 churches, a factory and a number of dwellings. The simple fact is that Route A if visible from a far greater length of the R178 than Route B.

Economic Impacts: With regards route selection in the EIS (section 5.3), Existing quarries, in County Meath route A gets a blue rating for Trim quarry located 0.8km and Keegans quarry 0.3 km away from this indicative route. In relation to County Monaghan it gives no negative rating on any of the three routes for existing quarries.

I own a substantial quarry at Carrickamore, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan. It is within 0.1 km of route A, the selected route. It was not mentioned nor taken into account but should obviously have resulted in a blue rating for route A if there was any consistency in the methodology used. Furthermore it bizarrely states that there are 12 quarries within 6km of all three routes. I would like them to name these quarries in all 3 cases as this information is substantially wrong.

These are just a sample of the inaccuracies. Did the re-evaluation report correct these and factor in correct data to enable their choice of preferred route?? The re-evaluation report is just a useless paper exercise, this application still relies on 10 year old incorrect, ancient data.

In 2012 Eirgrid announced 2 new 400kv projects i.e. Grid Link, 300km and Grid West which is 100km long, similar to this project. When you look at “needs and justification “outlined by Eirgrid for these projects, you will see they are very similar in a lot of ways to this project.

  1. The existing transmission infrastructure in the two regions needs substantial investment.
  2. To facilitate wind energy development
  3. To meet E.U. targets
  4. Will help all regions to attract the type of industry that requires a secure high voltage supply

Up to 2014 they had progressed both projects the same as this one and had 3 route corridors for overhead lines chosen. In Grid West there was an emerging preferred route. The only major difference being that the consultation was carried out with the public at a far earlier stage and to a far greater extent than this project.

As with this project, undergrounding was put forward by the affected stakeholders and the reasons given by EirGrid for not considering it as follows:

  1. It does not deliver future flexibility/ extendibility.
  2. It does not deliver same security/ reliability of supply when compared with overhead A/C.
  3. It causes additional operational difficulties
  4. It is untried and untested as part of an integrated A/C network
  5. It would be cost prohibitive to tap in or avail of the power in D/C line

And on these grounds it was not feasible.


IN January 2014 due to local and regional pressure in the West and South from public who were now aware of the massive long term impacts of overhead pylons, Minister Rabbitt set up an independent expert panel (I.E.P.) to look into both projects.

The panel’s terms of reference were for a  “comprehensive, route specific studies/ report of fully undergrounding and overhead options for both projects including assessments of potential environmental impacts, technical efficiency and cost factors.”

Then later that year the Minister, after pressure from local politicians in this area, reluctantly asked the same group to give an opinion on this project just to see if the compatibility of the methodologies to be employed on the North South link compare with those on Grid Link and Grid West, critically, up to May 2nd 2014

This consisted of the panel, on May 7th, asking EirgGid to submit an assessment of the extent to which in EirGrids view, the methodologies used were compatible. So we get EirGrids view on how EirGrid was carrying out the three projects. We didn’t need an expert panel to answer that question at that stage as EirGrid had progressed Grid West to an emerging preferred route stage for pylons and undergrounding was not considered as feasible.

When EirGrid quote the findings of the I.E.P. several times in the application that the compatibility of the methodologies used were the same in Grid link and Grid West as the North South, it means nothing. Only that at that stage of the projects, 2nd May 2014, they had treated the people of the West and South somewhat like they had treated us.

The I.E.P. then, in July 2014, got involved in both Grid West and Grid Link projects, using this wide terms of reference for the studies/reports and overseen Eirgrid carry them out. Then everything changed. In Grid Link by October 2014 Eirgrid had dropped plans for a 400kv line and put forward a new plan, with no new poles. As the I.E.P described it “But a new option” not previously known or anticipated by the panel.

In Grid West the I.E.P. report allows for undergrounding and overhead options to be compared against each other, hence a new underground feasible option that would cost just twice the amount of overhead lines is part of this projects proposal. The compatibility of the methodologies used would not have been the same if they were compared in September 2015.

Reading the I.E.P report it clearly shows me and hopefully An Bord Pleanala that:

  1. EirGrid changed everything when they were challenged by a body with the right Terms of Reference
  2. Underground D/C is feasible, even in the middle of a small total A/C network, at twice the cost, when you identify a proper route.

This is totally at odds with what EirGrid states in this application.

  1. When the general population who are directly affected and become aware of the massive long term impacts of overhead lines on their region, they are rightly, totally opposed to them.

So it’s not just us in the North East.

  1. Technical, costs and other excuses or reasons put forward by Eirgrid don’t stand up to expert scrutiny
  2. That we here in the North East are being treated unjustly and that a proper, realistic and definite underground D/C alternative solution must be part of this proposal from an early stage. I believe, with this standard of alternative, not made available in this application that it doesn’t meet planning regulations. There is a genuine, reasonable, workable, cost effective, alternative option proven to be available.

We deserve and demand to be treated with equality. This expert group should have been given the same terms of reference as Grid Link and Grid West.

The review from the international expert commission in 2011 confirmed what we had said at the last oral hearing. That is, that a high voltage D/C solution is a feasible option for this project and that it would not cost anywhere near the 10-20 times extra that Eirgrid has wrongly been touting for years. The report also quotes Gridlink report from 2009 that states technical difficulties can be overcome and that this will be the 2nd all Ireland interconnector and this makes balancing power etc. very possible. Even the C.A.O at Eirgrid has, under pressure, recently admitted that D/C is a feasible option.

I have been a self-employed business man all my adult life. I am very much in favour of progress and development to benefit our communities and our country. I also believe in peoples’ rights to be treated equally and fairly. With regards to this project, the Stakeholders of the North East have not been given the same regard as those in the West and South. We have been subjected to miss information, wrong information, wrong data, cost exaggerations and poor consultation for 8 years.

The I.E.P. did EirGrid a favour when they forced change in Grid West and Grid Link. Both these projects will likely progress quickly without prolonged aggravation for the people of the regions and long term damage to the countryside. I believe at this point that this application should be suspended and an expert group taken in. They should be given the similar terms of reference as the I.E.P. This would save this community many more years of aggravation and indeed save EirGrid time and money



Padraig O’Reilly  NEPPC  Pic: Michael Fisher

Padraig O’Reilly of the NEPPC claimed EirGrid had failed to consider objectively all realistic alternatives. There was also a failure by the government and Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to ensure an objective examination of realistic alternatives. From 2007 onwards EirGrid had made policy statements about an overhead line. Their initial statements on undergrounding had been misleading and they then made reluctant concessions to examine ‘the barriers to undergrounding’. They claimed incorrectly to have examined realistic options.

Mr O’Reilly said no real examination of changes in the marketplace had occurred and there was no allowance for the reduced need in the market. He pointed out that underground cable technology was advancing rapidly, with a progressive reduction in costs. It was of proven reliability, producing no electric field. It was being used increasingly in other countries. There were no issues surrounding health, devaluation of property, agriculture, noise, tourism or the landscape.

According to the NEPPC, up to this day an appropriate high voltage DC underground cable alternative along public roads had never been identified, consulted on or costed.


The company confirmed the cost of the proposed line from Woodland in Co. Meath through Cavan and Monaghan to Turleenan in Co. Tyrone would be €286 million, consisting of construction expenditure and compensation to landowners. An EirGrid representative told the inquiry he would have a look at getting a breakdown of the figures but that he couldn’t see what that had to do with alternatives.

The North East Pylon Pressure Campaign and Co. Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee pressed EirGrid on why an environmental impact statement regarding the proposed infrastructure had not considered and costed an underground alternative. A consultant brought in by EirGrid said in response to their questions a high voltage DC underground cable was certainly a possibility.

Padraig O’Reilly of NEPPC asked again if the possibility of placing such cables alongside public roads had been considered. He said there was a serious deficiency in the company’s application as such an analysis was not included. But consultant engineer Dr Norman MacLeod responded that considerable excavation would be required for underground cabling. It would require either two trenches on one side of the road or one trench on either side and the verges would have to be dug up and the large swathe along the 135km route would have to be protected.

Aidan Geoghegan of EirGrid said Ireland’s local and regional roads were simply not wide enough to accommodate such construction.


Proposed Interconnector Vital for Society and Economy in North East: EirGrid

 Michael Fisher     Northern Standard


 This section dealt with the need for the development

Nigel Hillis addressed the oral hearing on behalf of the Co. Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee. He said up until now the group had never challenged the need for the project. But in the light of the unbelievable scrapping of the 400kV overhead line for Grid Link and the downsizing of Grid West to an alternative 220kV with multiple underground options they now had the right to and indeed must challenge the need for the project in its current form.

“How did EirGrid get it so very wrong with regards to those other two flagship projects. Can they now be trusted when they say that this project can only be delivered as an overhead 400kV line or is this all just a huge face saving exercise?” he said. “There is now no doubt that the need for this interconnector is not our need – it is Northern Ireland’s need”.

EirGrid’s Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tommorow states: “In the Re-examination of generation assumptions carried out in this update, the requirement for increased power to flow between Ireland and Northern Ireland in future years is confirmed. This is mainly driven by changes to the future all-island generation portfolio, plant retirements and the relative operational costs of generation plant in each jurisdiction.

The plant retirements referred to here are in Northern Ireland where very dirty plant must close down by 2021 and other, lets say, not quite so dirty plant must be restricted from 2023 onwards.

It is clear from the statements and speeches made by high level politicians and the Ulitility Regulator in Northern Ireland, in recent months, that panic has now set in regarding this situation which seemingly can only be addressed by the delivery of the North South Interconnector.

No provision is being made to address this security of supply issue within their own jurisdiction by way of replacing these dirty plants with modern clean ones. Indeed, the utterances and statements that have emanated from political, regulatory, business and economic commentators on both sides of the border but particularly from Northern Ireland, since this application was lodged with An Bord Pleanala, have been persistently vociferous to the extent that if this were a legal case it would be totally prejudiced at this stage.

This is clear proof that there is only one game in town with regards the need for the project and that is security of supply for Northern Ireland to prevent the “lights going out”. There is no talk about how it will be of mutual benefit to us down here – it’s all about Northern Ireland. Some of the statements have been hysterical to the extent that there would be a risk to life and limb in the absence of the Interconnector.

It would seem to us that all this has been a carefully orchestrated and choreographed effort intended to bring maximum pressure to bear on the respective decision makers and put them in a position whereby they could not possibly refuse permission.

I want to give you some examples of what I am talking about. EirGrid have often used the analogy of a three legged stool with regards to this development and the three legs are:

Security of supply; to facilitate increased renewable energy (mostly wind); to enhance the operation of the Single Electricity Market.

Security of supply

At the 2010 oral hearing EirGrid gave clear evidence that the security of supply in the North East region would be below acceptable standards by 2012. This was why there was a critical need for the sub-station at Kingscourt to link into the North East. In fact it was stated that even if planning permission for the interconnector was refused in Northern Ireland, the section from Woodland to Kingscourt would still be required to reinforce the North East. So it was with complete astonishment that in May 2011 less than a year after the previous oral hearing collapsed EirGrid stated in their Preliminary Re-evaluation Report that the sub-station at Kingscourt would not be required for at least 10 years. That would have brought us up to 2021 at that time. Their stated position regarding the sub-station in these application documents is the exact same – it will not be required for at least 10 years bringing us now up to 2026.

Will it ever be required? In March 2015 EirGrid published a series of consultation documents entitled “Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow”. A discussion paper on Ireland’s Grid Development Strategy.

In Appendix 1 entitled EirGrd Technical Analysis page 34 with regards to the North East region it states “The north east region has renewable energy resources and conventional generation sources. There is an excess of generation in the area”. The need for the sub-station in the Kingscourt area now seems to be an unanswerable question.

The renowned economist Colm McCarthy is on public record many times in many different forums, television, print media and public meetings as saying that Ireland is “awash with generating capacity” and any more whether it is wind, gas, biomass or whatever is simply not needed and makes no economic sense whatsoever.

How did EirGrid get it so wrong? In effect EirGrid applied to An Bord Pleanala in 2009 for permission under the Strategic Infrastructure Act for permission to construct a large 400kV sub-station that was not needed then, is not needed now and may never be needed in the future. But yet they built a technical and needful case for it at the oral hearing in 2010 that on the face of it could not be challenged. In fact, whatever about EirGrid’s record regarding public consultation and all the other discrepancies in the previous application no-one, at the previous oral hearing ever questioned their assessment of the need for the development or the sub-station – only the form in which it should be delivered i.e. overhead or underground. However this time the need for the development insofar as it is of benefit to this jurisdiction must be questioned.

A second link to Northern Ireland has nothing to offer us with regards to security of supply as they simply just want the interconnector to replace the old dirty generating plants that have to be retired. The CEO of EirGrid supported by his senior management team appeared twice last year in front of the Oireachtas Committee for Transport and Communications on the 21st April and 4th November.

The April meeting was specifically to discuss the North South Interconnector and the November meeting was to discuss Grid Link but ended up with most of the discussion on the North South Interconnector. At both meetings the one thing that the EirGrid could not explain to the satisfaction of the Committee members was why the proposed second interconnector needed to be rated at 1,500 MW. The big picture that the members of the Oireachtas Committee saw straight away was that there was already a double circuit 1,200 MW interconnector in place that could easily be upgraded to 1,500 MW. The existing Moyle interconector from Scotland to N. Ireland is rated at 500 MW. EirGrid’s own East West interconnector from Wales to Dublin is 500 MW and the new interconnector from France to Ireland is proposed to be 700 MW. Why did the second interconnector linking into Northern Ireland, which only has a peak daily demand of approx 1,200 MW, need to be rated at 1,500 MW.

The Oireachtas members did not question that there was a need for extra connectivity but they did robustly question the need for it to be at 1,500 MW. It did not make sense to them the need for effectively two interconnectors both to potentially carry 1,500 MW to link into the Northern Ireland grid that has no demand for anything close to that amount of power flow. It must also be said that Colm McCarthy, despite his opposition to any more generating capacity being built does recognise that there is a need for some sort of enhanced connection between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but nothing to do with security of supply down here.

If we have extra generating capacity down here then nobody wants to deprive our fellow citizens on the island from sharing in it to meet their needs and “keep the lights on”. However, the figures that I have seen would suggest that approx 400 megawatts of dirty plant will have to be retired but 250 megawatts of that will be replaced when the Moyle interconnector is repaired (on schedule of the middle of this year last I heard) which leaves a security of supply deficit of approx. 200 MW. Indeed EirGrid’s own graph bears this out.

Building a second 1,500 MW interconnector to address this deficit is like taking a hurley stick to swat a fly. This deficit could easily be addressed by a 500 or 700 megawatt HVDC underground cable laid along public roads which is one of the options for Grid West and was an option for Grid Link before it was scrapped altogether. It must be remembered that both Grid West and Grid Link were brought forward as 400kV 1,500 MW overhead lines to address the perceived need of both those major projects.

Now Grid Link has been scrapped and no line either overhead or underground is needed at all and Grid West can be downgraded to 220kV overhead line or an underground 500 MW HVDC cable. In this light it is right and proper to question EirGrid’s assumption that an overhead 400kV 1,500 MW line is needed. This has not been satisfactorily or clearly demonstrated. Unfortunately the question must be asked in the light of now no requirement for the sub-station at Kingscourt, in the light of the unbelievable volte face regarding Grid Link and the multiple options now on the table for Grid West – the question must be asked can EirGrid be believed regarding the need for a 1,500 MW interconnector?

This was the question posed by the members of the Oireachtas Commmittee last year and this is the question we are posing now at this oral hearing. We accept that there is a need for enhanced power flow into Northern Ireland but not at this level. Grid Link was initially proposed as a 400kV overhead line but that was not needed. Initially EirGrid proposed to underground it using VSC HVDC at a power rating of 700 MW costing 1.57 times the cost of overhead. And then it was scrapped altogether.

What is required here is an Interconnector defined by EirGrid as an electrical link, facilities and equipment that connect the transmission network of one EU member state to another. We would submit that the additional electrical link required to address the security of supply issue in Northern Ireland does not need to be 1,500 MW. Once this is accepted then other alternatives open up which will be addressed in the next module.

Renewables (wind)

Power lines are required to conduct electricity from one place to another on demand. It is a demand and not a supply driven system. Maybe smart grids and smart devices in home appliances may change that somewhat is the future but that is quite a long way down the road. So at present what we have is a demand driven power system and the available supply at any one time must meet the demand to, in EirGrid’s favourite colloquialism, “keep the lights on”.

Conversely it cannot be more than the demand or load will have to shed somewhere along the line. Unlike water it cannot be produced and stored in a large reservoir and drawn down as required. It must be produced in real time to exactly meet the demand. So on the island of Ireland we have a daily peak demand usually in that 5 – 7 pm time frame that must be satisfied and obviously a much reduced demand during the night hours.

The power that flows in the lines is normally a mix produced from various generating plants i.e the base load plants such as the coal burning Moneypoint, peat fired plants, the peaking plants such as gas, we have a little bit of hydro and of course wind. Hydro, wind and biomass are lumped in together under the heading of renewables but by far the biggest one is wind. The amount of wind in the mix obviously varies according to how windy it is but on my last electricity bill from ESB Networks it was 19.4% renewables which is mostly wind. I would hazard a guess that the full 19% was wind and the 0.4% hydro.

So, it does not matter in the slightest how much wind is available or none at all, whatever the demand is at that particular time of the day then that is all the electricity that is required. There may be the potential to produce twice the demand or even three times the demand but it cannot be produced because it cannot be stored to any great extent. Storage is what is referred to in the industry as the holy grail.

The only reason that an upgrade of a power line or a new power line is required is that wind has what is called priority dispatch. In other words because of CO2 targets wind energy must be prioritised and allowed onto the system to the greatest extent that can be safely accommodated without risking system failure. So for example in Grid West the need for the power line is allow priority dispatch to get the potential wind energy out of Mayo which the existing lines cannot carry.

Now of course in giving priority dispatch to wind means that other plant, invariably gas plants have to close down or more likely ramp down but still keep what is called a spinning reserve in order to come in again quickly when the wind dies down. It seems now that unless the wind farms in Mayo receive planning permission, bearing in mind that a large one has already been shot down by ABP, Grid West will go the way of Grid Link and not be required at all.

So in that regard it was very much a bespoke power line to cater for priority dispatch of wind from a single outlying area in Mayo. The planned overall wind energy production in the Mayo region was approx. 640 Megawatts, before this large wind farm was shot down. 140 Megawatts can be accommodated on existing 110kV lines and therefore the new line is required to carry 500 Megawatts. This is exactly the power rating of the HVDC underground option for Grid West. It is essentially a one way street.

With regards to the North South Interconnector there is no wind power in the midlands that requires any such bespoke power line to cater for wind. However as we have already seen there is the RIDP in the North West waiting in the wings, so to speak with a potential of up to approx 500 MW, much the same as Grid West, if it was fully developed between now and 2025. The RIDP as I have said is situated in the North West of N. Ireland and in Donegal and will require grid reinforcement which as Mr Fitzsimons pointed out last week has been superficially addressed in EirGrid’s Grid 25 SEA Implementation Report but only within the jurisdictional boundaries of the ROI.

The RIDP, if it is developed to its fullest extent, and I say if because there are obviously other factors in play here, has essentially nowhere to go without the North South Interconnector. So again this is very much the same scenario as Grid West – to get wind power from an outlying region to the market. However, it is unlike Grid West in this regard. If 500 megawatts of wind power from Mayo could be got onto the grid and I am not at all sure that it could for technical reasons. EirGird DS3. It would simply act like the East West Interconnector from Wales and just in simple terms shoot 500 megawatts up the line straight into the substation at Flagford. That is not what would happen with regards to the RIDP if 500 megawatts were to be produced from wind because due to the fact that it will be taken onto the existing grid, which has to be reinforced, as outlined in the SEA report, then a lot of that 500 megawatts would be disappeated onto the local grid before it got to the interconnector.

So, the point I am making is that regardless of where the power comes from only so much is required at any one time to meet demand and a second interconnector at 1,500 MVA is not required to meet demand nor is it required to meet priority dispatch of wind either from ROI or NI.

The Single Electricity Market SEM

The SEM went live on the island of Ireland in 2007. It is a pool system whereby all generators over 10 Megawatts come together in a wholesale market pool and essentially the retail providers draw out of that pool by what is called an order of merit. In other words the cheapest are taken first. Now on the face of it that seems like a good system except that every generator in merit gets paid the marginal rate. So how does this marginal rate work? EXPLAIN. There are approx 80 generators participating in the market pool etc.

And then we have wind energy – now wind does not participate in the pool because wind is free. Or so the wind lobby would have us believe. As we have already seen wind has priority dispatch and it gets paid at that marginal rate, the highest rate. So as more wind comes onto the system it will start displacing other generating plants, which may reduce the marginal rate because they will be taken off line from the top down. However, if the marginal rate drops too much then a floor price kicks in to support wind. It just depends what the marginal rate is at the time if there is any actual saving or not.

Indeed a recent report commissioned by IWEA dated March 2015 entitled the Value of Wind Energy to Ireland concluded that when all factors were taken into account wind was cost neutral on the system. This report concludes that wind generation will decrease wholesale prices, resulting in savings to the consumer, but will be offset by other system costs. The report states:

It is not transparently clear what proportion of EirGrid’s planned investment in the electricity network is required solely for the development of wind capacity. Nor has it been determined how the system services outlined in the DS3 program will be paid for. But if all these are passed through to customers, they offset the wholesale price benefit, meaning household and industrial electricity prices rise slightly”.

EirGrid say that there will be an immediate saving of €20 million per annum and rising over the years depending on various visions within the wholesale market. These forecasts have been reviewed by the CER and in evidence given to the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications in June last year they said they were happy with at least a saving of €10 million. However, this saving is only in the wholesale market by way of “pass through” costs but the CER cannot guarantee that these savings will be passed through to the consumer in the final analyses. When energy prices started to fall dramatically in 2014 it eventually took a direct intervention by Minister Alex White to put pressure on the retail suppliers to ensure that even a small percentage was passed back to consumers by way of direct reductions.

In the UK the utility regulator Ofgem has referred the energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority CMA for a full investigation. In the light of this what confidence can the consumer have that any savings with regards to these hidden pass through costs will be passed back in any transparent and verifiable manner. I would confidently say absolutely none whatsoever. Remember these savings, if they actually exist at all are in the wholesale market and we are totally at the mercy of the half dozen or so retail suppliers to pass them back. Their track record to date in this respect is not encouraging to say the least.

In any event just to do some maths let us be generous and give the benefit of the doubt to the higher number €20 million. There are approx. 2.5 million electricity consumers (bill payers) on the island of Ireland. 1.8 in the South and 0.7 in the North. Just do simple arithmetic and divide €20 million by €2.5 million = €8 per year or 2 cent per day. We have just withdrawn the 1 cent and 2 cent coins because they were worthless. Take the average annual domestic electricity bill to be €800 – its actually around €900 but lets keep the maths simple. A saving of €8 represents 0.01% of the annual bill.

Let us do the maths another way. The value of the electricity market last year on the island of Ireland according to the SEMO website was €1,854,638,645. If my calculator is giving me the right answer then €20 million represents 0.01% of that market value. We have done the maths two ways and we get the same answer 0.01% saving and that is assuming it is even passed back. How do you see a saving of 0.01% on your electricity bill never mind verify it is totally beyond me.

These figures of €20 million rising to €40 million by 2030 that EirGrid and the Regulator in N. Ireland are bandying about may seen nice chunky figures but they are absolutely miniscule in the context of the overall market. Both Grid Link and Grid West were initially confirmed as 400kV overhead lines on the basis of long and extensive studies costing tens of millions.

Now the situation is that Grid Link as a 400kV 1500 MW line or indeed even as a 700 MW underground cable is no longer needed. What increased power flow can Series Compensation cater for? 200 MW 300 MW whatever it is then that was all that was realistically needed in the first place.

Likewise for Grid West when the need changed the options changed as well.

From our prospective there is no need for this development in its current form as we do not see any tangible benefits accruing to the consumers on this side of the border. It is not needed to “keep the lights on” down here. The scale of it is not required for renewables and in our opinion the savings are illusionary. If there is a need for it from Northern Ireland’s perspective, which there undeniably seems to be, then that need can be solved by underground cabling.

EirGrid’s statutory brief as they constantly remind us is to operate and ensure the maintenance of and, if necessary, develop a safe, secure, reliable, economical and efficient electricity transmission system, and to explore and develop opportunities for interconnection of its system with other systems, in all cases with a view to ensuring that all reasonable demands for electricity are met and having due regard for the environment;

Statutory Instrument 445 (2000)

We do not believe that this SI applies to Northern Ireland and we would contend that in that context all reasonable demands for electricity in this state are currently being met with absolutely no danger of the “lights going out” due to generation or transmission inadequacies in the foreseeable future.

A second interconnector of 400kV 1500 MW has not, in our opinion, been robustly justified to satisfy the need for the development which in our view is simply to get power into Northern Ireland to replace generating plants that must be retired to meet EU emissions legislation.


EirGrid Manager of Transmission Network Planning Mark Norton told the oral hearing this afternoon (in response to the issues raised by observers) why the company needed to develop a second North/South electricity interconnector. Answering a question from Nigel Hillis of Co. Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee, he revealed that the main flow on the interconnector operating at near its capacity (1100MW) would be for one to two hours per year.

Mr Norton explained why there had to be a sustainable solution for a long-term  economic benefit and provide flexibility for future regional and national development. If the network in the Republic was not meshed this way with the system in the North then there could be a system-wide loss of capacity if it was not built to cater for a 1500MW flow. It would instead be necessary to have multiple routes in order to match existing capability.

Mr Norton said that for long-term planning the interconnector would provide sufficient capacity for the market to make best use of the generation portfolio in both jurisdictions. It was the equivalent of building a motorway in order to cater for the traffic expected today and into the future.

The EirGrid representative said it would help to increase the network capability in the North East in order to meet demand and economic growth. Continuing the transport analogy he said it would act in the same way as a road by-pass, diverting power for the regions network. A high capacity line would permit the development of large-scale industry, he said.

In summary, Mr Norton said a second interconnector was required because modifying the existing smaller interconnector would not address future need. It would ensure security of supply. It would ensure an efficient single electricity market. It would integrate the generation of renewables. Finally, it would serve in the long term to reinforce the position of the North East area (of Cavan/Monaghan) in the Republic.


Nigel Hillis of County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee claimed that in his presentation Mr Norton had failed to show that EirGrid had provided a detailed cost benefit analysis for the project, taking all the facts into consideration such as the option for undergrounding compared to the costs of an overhead line. No details had been produced for example about the economic impact on tourism in County Monaghan. The type of analysis they had used was not a business model that would be sustainable in any other sphere, he said.

Mr Norton said that the semi-state company had complied with the statutory requirements and had looked at the wider impact.

Nigel Hillis asked Mark Norton about how often the proposed interconnector was to be used at full capacity for transferring electricity, 1500 MW in either direction S/N or N/S. Mr Norton explained that according to their modelling it would generally run up to 1100 MW total transfer capacity. When pressed by Mr Hillis how frequently it would be required at this level, the EirGrid representative revealed it would be between one and two hours per year. So on that basis (of one to two hours per year) EirGrid intended to construct a 1500MW high voltage interconnector, Mr Hillis said, adding that this was “unbelievable”.


A representative of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign was also surprised at the revelation by Mr Norton. Colin Andrew used the analogy of EirGrid proposing to build a three-lane motorway for use by a bicycle.


Mr Andrew who is a chartered engineer said the group was not objecting in principle to the proposed EirGrid overhead electricity interconnector. But it was opposed to the technology applied, along with the associated giant pylons that would carve the heart out of the community in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.

Colin Andrew told the presiding planning inspector Breda Gannon that over the past nine years since the project was initially made public, NEPPC believed EirGrid had singularly failed to demonstrate conclusively beyond any reasonable doubt the real need for the interconnector. This failure had involved contradictory statements more designed to provide arguments against counter proposals to use underground cabling or even alternatives such as the use of HTLS conductors on existing infrastructure.

Mr Andrew said an “open cheque book” proposal had been brought before the Planning Board that EirGrid could not cost as they had no land owner agreements and they did not know the cost of legal actions for devalued properties nor the costs associated with a vastly extended construction period due to access difficulties.

EirGrid have claimed that delay costs equate to €30 million per annum but refuse to accept that such annual costs are very likely to continue indefinitely as the project faces almost universal community and landowner opposition, until alternative technological proposals are presented to communities along the route.

Mr Andrew said the NEPPC believed that the need for the link had not been unequivocally demonstrated and thus any plans for such an interconnector were premature, ill-founded and unachievable.

Referring to EirGrid media and public statements about the ‘lights going out’ in the event of the delayed construction of the interconnector, Mr Andrew accused the company of scaremongering and being irresponsible. These scare tactics were being used to manipulate people into believing that life and limb would be put in danger if it did not go ahead.

He claimed that the second interconnector would be of no real benefit to the North-East area in the Republic. He also criticised EirGrid for failing to provide any economic model and hiding behind the veil of commercial sensitivity.

NEPPC contend that EirGrid have singularly failed to demonstrate that there is any strategic need or financial model that shows any form of cost-benefit analysis to justify this proposed interconnector and that technology exists to upgrade existing infrastructure, Mr Andrew said. This upgrading would offer substantial savings over the lifetime of the project resulting in significant reductions in power costs to the end user and being of significant benefit to the economy.

In conclusion Mr Andrew said the “open cheque book” approach by EirGrid to a “white elephant” project such as this was not only spendthrift but wholly unnecessary as it faced universal opposition from threatened communities and virtually all landowners. Thus the project even if permitted cannot be built as EirGrid have admitted. If the need really existed, then the only solution was to adopt underground cables or to upgrade existing infrastructure.

Earlier the hearing was told that the EirGrid plan is a key project forming part of the government’s energy policy. It would allow access to a wider electricity market in Europe and would bring benefit to all electricity users.

The overhead power line with up to 300 pylons in the Republic would run from Woodland near Batterstown in Co. Meath through part of Cavan and into County Monaghan, where 42 townlands would be affected. It would cross the border at Lemgare near Clontibret, into County Armagh and would terminate at Turleenan near the Moy in County Tyrone. The proposed interconnector would be in addition to the current double circuit AC 275 kV overhead transmission line that runs on a single set of pylons between the Louth sub-station in the Republic and Tandragee in Northern Ireland.


Day four began with a section on the need for the development. The first person to address the two Bord Pleanála inspectors was Kevin Brady, principal officer in charge of strategic energy policy at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. He said a green paper on Irish energy policy had been issued in May 2014. Ten weeks had been given for comments to be made in response and during that time 1250 written submission had been received. Four regional workshops had been held and the department had heard the views of a wide range of people including community groups, businesses and trades unions.

In accordance with EU energy policy a white paper on energy (Ireland’s Transition to a Low carbon Energy Future) was approved by the government in December last year, setting out a vision and framework for energy policy from 2015-2030. It set out the context of the significant role played by EU institutions in determining market regulations.

He said Ireland valued its relationship with Northern Ireland including energy matters and they were part of an all-island electricity market. Mr Brady said the need for an appropriate energy infrastructure including interconnectors underpinned all energy policy. But the government was not seeking to determine specific details of the interconnector.

EU energy strategy reiterated support for an all-island single electricity market and this was established in 2007. But the current system did not operate efficiently as there was limited interconnectivity between Ireland and Northern Ireland and it can’t operate as a single system, so it limits the benefits of the single electricity market. A second interconnected was necessary, he said, and this would lead to benefits to energy consumers across the island of Ireland.

The proposal had been designated as an EU project of common interest. They needed to ensure there was access to wider markets and both Ireland and Northern Ireland would benefit from security of supply by having a single system across the island.

EirGrid was the established national transmission operator. It played a key role in economic and social development, creating a modern (transmission) infrastructure. Effective management of it was critical to achieving Ireland’s strategic energy objectives.

In conclusion, the Department’s representative said the interconnector would help to reduce electricity transmission costs across the island and ensure competitiveness. It would ensure the efficient working of the single electricity market to the benefit of all users, offering access to a wider electricity market. It was a key project supported by government policy, Mr Brady said.

Nigel Hillis of the County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee later welcomed a clarification from the Department of Energy representative. Kevin Brady said national policy does not seek to determine the specific details of schemes. The policy statement clearly states: “The Government does not seek to direct EirGrid and ESB Networks or other energy infrastructure developers to particular sites or routes or technologies”.the white paper on energy gave very clear direction regarding government policy. The department was very much involved in energy policy but it was not directing EirGrid regarding sites, routes or technology or where to draw lines on a map regarding the interconnector.


Next to address the hearing was the chair of the Commission for Energy Regulation, Gareth Blaney. He outlined the role of the Commission as a regulator. The CER is the independent economic regulator responsible for the natural gas and electricity sectors in Ireland. Its remit is to ensure the security of supply of Ireland’s electricity system and that Irish consumers have access to fair and reasonable electricity prices.

The CER is also a member of the Single Electricity Market Committee which is the body responsible for implementing and overseeing the electricity markets of Ireland and Northern Ireland as a single All Island electricity market (SEM), and thus must protect consumers across the island.

The CER reviews and monitors the expenditure of Eirgrid, which has a statutory role to develop the electricity transmission network, to ensure that these are delivered efficiently and so minimise the costs to the Irish and all-island consumer.

Mr Blaney said the regulator believed that the North-South Interconnector was an important development for the electricity network and would provide a range of benefits for the electricity consumers in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The interconnector would increase the security of supply of electricity against both long term and short term events. It would also help to reduce the wholesale cost of electricity on the island of Ireland, by allowing the system operator to have better access to the most efficient set of electricity generators for the whole island, benefitting both electricity consumers in both jurisdictions.

Mr Blaney said the lack of a second interconnector was a major constraint on the all-island system. This results in additional constraint costs that are borne by the all-island consumer.

The cost of this constraint would be in the order of €20m p.a. in 2020 rising to €40-60m by 2030. This figure was based on constraint costs alone and did not value the other strategic benefits from the development proceeding, including security of supply benefits.
In terms of numbers, the ESRI looked at this in 2013 and estimated that the new North-South interconnector would reduce wholesale electricity prices by 0.9% by virtue of being better able to schedule the most efficient or lowest cost generators.  Wholesale prices make up about half the electricity cost to consumers. On an average household bill of €1,200 per year that would equate to a saving of €6 per year.

Mr Blaney explained that the CER had approved an allowance for the expenditure on this project on the basis of the application EirGrid had submitted to An Bord Pleanála. “We will encourage EirGrid to ensure all transmission developments, including this one, is delivered in a cost effective manner”, he said.

On the basis of those benefits, the CER considered there was a clear need for the construction and commissioning of the North- South interconnector. Material delay of the North South Interconnector is, in our view, against the interests of Irish and all-island electricity consumers.


Chief Executive Owen Wilson spoke on behalf of the Electricity Association of Ireland, representing over 90% of electricity generation and supply activities and all distribution activities within the Single Electricity Market. Neither EirGrid nor SONI are members.

In considering compliance with EU and national policies, Mr Wilson said the development as proposed was confirmed Governmental policy, and was central to the delivery of a number of key government objectives in the field of energy and environment, in particular the maintenance of a single market. It was in the national interest both in terms of Ireland’s strategic economic and social development and Ireland’s relationship with a neighbouring state.

He explained that approximately 70% of electricity demand on the island lay east of a line from Cork to Belfast. The proposed development would provide the backbone for this corridor and create the opportunity to maximise the efficient development of renewable generation. It would also support growth in demand through substitution of fossil fuels by low-carbon electricity in line with the expectations of the EU.

In parallel with developments in energy policy the EU Commission has been undertaking a review of energy markets, including electricity. The review again highlights the critical importance of interconnection if effective balancing and intraday markets are to be established and the goal of a fully integrated energy market achieved. Legislation in this area is anticipated towards the end of this year, which will again reiterate the call for cross-border interconnections to be further developed.

Regarding complince with national policies, the EAI Chief Executive said documentation supporting the proposed development had highlighted the need for the project to support national energy and environmental policy in Ireland. The most recent reiteration of policy support for the proposed project had been given in the Energy and Climate White Paper published in December 2015. This commits the Government to promote and facilitate interconnection with other countries and regions and reaffirms the July 2012 Government policy statement on the Strategic Importance of Transmission and other Energy Infrastructure. This Statement specifically endorsed delivery of the North-South interconnector as Government policy.

With respect to Northern Ireland, the EAI said the development was in the strategic national interest of Ireland as it maintained and enhanced a critical relationship with a neighbouring jurisdiction. Non-delivery of the project or even delayed delivery beyond 2020 would have energy, environmental, economic and social policy implications for the North that were proportionately much more significant than those arising in Ireland. It would place a significant cost burden on Northern Ireland electricity consumers and taxpayers as the region attempted to meet its Renewable Energy Sources and Greenhouse Gas emission reduction commitments and maintain security of supplies locally.

Northern Ireland Ministers, policy makers and regulators have expressed with increasing frequency their concern and frustration at the delayed delivery of this infrastructure, the costs already being incurred as a result of this delay, the longer-term risk it poses to the security of electricity supply and affordability of that electricity and the consequences for more general social and economic development and the delivery of climate and renewables policy obligations in Northern Ireland.

The NI Utility Regulator commented in October at an EirGrid conference in Belfast that security of supply was becoming a dominant concern of the energy “trilemma” in Northern Ireland and emphasised that the North- South Interconnector must be delivered by 2021. In her view an underground solution cannot be delivered in sufficient time to avoid a real risk of blackouts. Her view has been endorsed by Minister Bell (DETI) who commented in December 2015 that “The requirement for this project is irrefutable as it is critical to long term security of supply for Northern Ireland.” and that “We all need to do everything we can to get behind bringing it to fruition”

In addition to the above, the previous comments in respect of European policy have similar effect in NI and the development of the proposed project will have equal benefit in this regard. While we in Ireland have time to make decisions on this proposal that luxury does not exist for our neighbouring jurisdiction whose future economic well-being is intimately linked to this project. EAI is of the view that a loss of trust by Northern Ireland policymakers arising from the delay or failure or delay in delivering this infrastructure risks significant damage to the national interest.

In terms of the need for this development from an industrial perspective I would like to draw the Board’s attention to a report published in January 2015 by EY “Powering the economy” which was commissioned by EAI. It noted that:
“The high quality of its electricity system plays an important role in the All-Island’s economic competitiveness. Surveys carried out by the World Economic Forum for their Global Competitiveness Report rank ROI and NI highly in terms of the quality of electricity supply compared to many other countries. The survey asked participants about the reliability of electricity supplies in their country, specifically in terms of supply interruptions and voltage fluctuations. The results show that the quality of electricity supply in the All-Island market is high.”

Using data from the updated 2016 WEF report, Ireland’s electricity system maintains its ranking at 17th among the 151 countries surveyed – ahead of Germany, Italy, and Spain and equal with the USA. The EY report also noted that two-thirds of indigenous and multinational companies view access to a high-quality electricity supply as ‘very important’ to their continuing operations in Ireland. This is reflective of Government policy in seeking to attract energy intensive, high-technology companies.

The proposed development enhances the robustness of the network infrastructure on the island ensuring the needs of the exiting industrial base continue to be met and maintains the relative advantage of both jurisdictions in attracting FDI.

The National Competiveness Council, which reports and makes policy recommendations to Government, notes in its latest Competitiveness Report published in December 2015 that: “Ireland remains a relatively expensive location for energy compared to most of our EU peers. Electricity costs are a particular issue for energy intensive sectors and many SMEs. Average SME expenditure on electricity amounts to 9 per cent of total non-wage costs”.

It further notes in respect of Grid 2025 that:
“it is important that investment to address key competitiveness gaps is prioritised and the investment is efficient.” adding that “Competitiveness, sustainability and security of energy supply are critical issues for Ireland and for enterprise. Achieving an appropriate balance between these three pillars requires the availability of an adequate energy infrastructure framework. It is important that such investment is at least cost and delivered in a timely manner.”

In its “Electricity Costs and Competitiveness Bulletin” published in June 2015 the NCC commented that:
“Changes in relative energy price competitiveness can have far-reaching effects on investment, production and trade patterns in internationally trading sectors, and directly affect the ability of enterprise to retain and grow output and employment.

The NCC recommended that: Policy should aim to deliver energy infrastructure investment at least cost: Ireland needs to ensure adequate network capacity to meet additional enterprise demand, especially in the main urban centres. This is particularly relevant for large, energy intensive manufacturing activity.

In the context of the NCCs commentary it is important to recognise that the electricity system in Ireland and Northern Ireland is structurally different in a number of respects from our competitors in Europe and elsewhere. These structural differences relate to the island’s remote geographical location and small size, topography unfavourable to hydro development and a geographically distributed population that increases the length of network required to serve customers. Our position in the investment cycle relative to international competitors is also a factor. All of the foregoing mean electricity prices are already structurally more expensive in Ireland and emphasise the need for cost efficiency in all aspects of the sector in support of national competitiveness.

The project as proposed will enhance and ensure into the future the quality and stability of the electricity network, improve system efficiency and reduce costs. IN so doing it will also improve the electricity price competitiveness of Ireland. Alternative measures do not provide the same level of quality, efficiency or cost saving.

Additionally, because of the relative ease and low cost of making new connections to the development as proposed along its route, the overhead line provides an easily accessible gateway in support of economic and industrial development in line with the BMW regional and county development plans for Monaghan, Cavan and Meath. The opportunity to access the proposed infrastructure becomes significantly more expensive and, consequently, of reduced value in terms of supporting such regional and local development, where underground cabling is used.

Home energy needs

The members of my Association engage with almost every household on the island. These companies are acutely aware of the weakened financial circumstances of a significant proportion of electricity customers, exacerbated by the recent severe recession. As an organisation we have put in place on a voluntary basis additional measures to support those customers experiencing difficulty in paying their bills.

I raise this point because we are not talking here about a small minority. The 2015 CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions indicates some 16% of individuals suffer energy deprivation in Ireland rising to 31% for those at risk of poverty (income below 60% of the national median). Statistics are calculated on a slightly different basis in the UK, nonetheless the 2015 Annual Fuel Poverty report published by DECC indicates that while in the UK on average some 17% of households experience fuel poverty this rises to 42% in Northern Ireland. Thus a significant cohort of the population North and South have difficulties paying for energy today.

The Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty, published by Government in February 2016, highlights the significant consequences of fuel poverty for individuals and families, stressing in particular the negative health impacts of such deprivation and the additional strain imposed on the health services as a consequence. The Strategy specifically states that “the portion of energy costs that DCENR can control, i.e. those related to the delivery of Government policy on climate change and security of supply, need to be minimised as far as possible. This will involve ensuring that the energy market works for consumers, and that the distributional impact of policy decisions, which have an effect on energy costs, are assessed”.

Government Strategy notes that fuel poverty is a function of the thermal efficiency of dwellings, household income and energy prices. The proposed development, if constructed as submitted, will directly affect energy prices as it will deliver savings to customers from avoided costs in the order of €20m by 2020 and incrementing annually thereafter as a result of the more efficient operation of the electricity system on the island. It also has the potential to indirectly impact household income as it improves the competitiveness of the overall economy which in turn improves the employment environment.

As a consequence of the scale of the numbers of people affected by energy poverty and Government policy as articulated in the Fuel Poverty Strategy, it is appropriate for Eirgrid to ensure that the proposed project is delivered at the lowest practicable cost. This, in our view, is the case with the current application. Imposing additional costs can only exacerbate an existing challenging situation.

EAI suggests that the Board, in taking its decision in relation to this application, should also recognise the need for this project in terms of improving energy affordability for households and in particular the significant proportion of households affected by fuel poverty.

EAI wish to make a number of points In terms of the technical need for the project.

  1. The latest Generation Capacity Statement (2016-2025) published in February 2016 confirms that under all growth scenarios there will be a shortfall in generation capacity in NI from 2021 absent completion of the proposed development. This Statement incorporates the current out-of-market intervention by the Utility Regulator to assure supplies over the coming 3 years which is adding costs for consumers in Northern Ireland.
  2. An AC connection permits the full integration of NI and RoI networks and the additional system stability and supply security this provides. A less robust level of integration is delivered using a DC option.
  3. We note that current modelling indicates unconstrained flows in a meshed system of more than 1,000 MW. In our view this supports the scale of the proposed project and reflects a prudent assessment of future demand. In this context we would suggest that confidence in the demand forecasts is improved as a consequence of additional recent policy decisions including:
    1. The delegation of powers to adjust Corporate Tax rate to the NI Assembly which all policy-makers anticipate will add to economic activity and
    2. The impact of EU 2030 framework and related implementing measures on encouraging the provision of future energy demand in the heating and transport sectors from low-carbon electricity
  4. We are conscious that the capacitance factors place a physical limit on the length of underground AC cable nationally and are of the view this resource should be kept available for locations where public safety is an over-riding factor
  5. We reiterate our previous point that an OH AC option facilitates quick, low-cost tie-ins in support of local economic development along line route
  6. We are not convinced that the availability and average repair times for DC cable approximate to that of OH lines (it is too early to say given the very limited amount of cables installed in Europe to date and their age). This is relevant given the importance of enhancing security of supply as a feature of this development
  7. We are satisfied the development proposed by Eirgrid is in line with ENTSO-E standards.

The original evaluation of the regulatory authorities in 2004 still stands in that a strengthened meshed network on the island will best protect the interest of electricity consumers – which is their principal duty. Upgrading the exiting interconnector would assist in this regard, however this would not remove the risk associated with failure of a single line, including through physical damage. Given the social and economic importance of secure electricity supplies a physically separate second interconnector minimises this risk.

In conclusion, EAI members remain convinced that the development as proposed by Eirgrid fully respects Government energy, environmental, economic and social policy, supports the national interest in respect of Ireland’s relationship with Northern Ireland, meets the needs of affected regional and county development plans and is in the best interests of our domestic and business customers across the island.