EIRGRID DEFENDS OVERHEAD INTERCONNECTOR IN ANNUAL REPORT
Michael Fisher NORTHERN STANDARD Thursday 2nd June 2016 p.14
The EirGrid Chief Executive Fintan Slye has said the proposed North/South electricity interconnector will secure energy supply across the island of Ireland. His comments are included in the company’s recently published annual report 2015 ‘Connecting Jobs and Prosperity’.
Mr Slye attended the oral hearing in Carrickmacross twice in the closing stages in May to observe the proceedings and to talk to the company’s representatives. But he made no comment on the hearing itself.
Chairman John O’Connor presented the EirGrid annual report to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White, following the company’s annual general meeting. Mr O’Connor said: “delivering the right electricity grid and operating it securely and efficiently for the entire island of Ireland, north and south, is what guides us in EirGrid Group.
Last year continued a trend of strong financial performance. Group revenue was €706.2m, making it €37.9m (5.7%) higher than 2014. Profit before tax was €40.7 million, with underlying profits at €16.9 million. Based on this strong performance, we are able to deliver a proposed dividend of €3.5 million to our shareholder (the exchequer).”
Mr O’Connor continued: “in the previous annual report 2014, I said that the EirGrid group of companies were on a constant mission to improve how we do things and that this requires us to embrace change. A year on, I can truthfully say that this commitment can be seen across all aspects of our business.”
“It is evident in the way we are planning for the future needs of the electricity transmission grid. It is evident in the way we are reaching out to and consulting with communities and individuals who are affected by, or have an interest in, our projects. It is evident in the way we are breaking new ground in accommodating an ever higher share of renewable generation on the grid. It is evident in the large investment in new wholesale electricity market systems to ensure we have the most competitive prices possible,” he added.
EirGrid Chief Executive Fintan Slye commented: “throughout 2015 we have worked closely with some of the biggest companies in the world to foster jobs and prosperity in communities across the island. Much of this work has focused on the development of data centres, for example, Apple in Athenry, Co. Galway, Facebook in Clonee, Co. Meath and Microsoft in Grangecastle, Co. Dublin. Large data centres are high energy users, so they will often connect directly to the electricity grid. Developments such as these bring construction jobs, long-term employment and increased rates to fund local council facilities.”
“Though electricity is just one element of the critical infrastructure that underpins these investments, we work hard to ensure that power quality, energy prices and security of supply bring such customers to the table. I would like to thank Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White, and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, Jonathan Bell, for their positive engagement throughout the year”, the CEO added.
In the annual report Mr Slye said 2015 was a milestone year for the North/South Interconnector project, as the company submitted a planning application to An Bord Pleanála in June. In the same month they also submitted the necessary paperwork to the Department of Environment in Belfast, thus completing the information required for recommencement of the public inquiry into the project in Northern Ireland. The North/South Interconnector will secure energy supply across the island of Ireland, Mr Slye said.
EirGrid Chair John O’Connor said the North/South interconnector was the single most important and most urgent infrastructure project on the island of Ireland. Designated a ‘Project of Common Interest’ by the European Commission, the interconnector was urgently needed to secure adequate electricity supply in Northern Ireland. It would facilitate the optimal operation of the all-island electricity market, for the benefit of people and businesses everywhere.
According to Mr O’Connor the interconnector also provides a local benefit to the people in the North East, by increasing the capacity of the electricity network in the region. In turn, this would help to attract inward investment and jobs. Subject to the planning process now underway, EirGrid were committed to delivering this project as soon as possible for the benefit of electricity consumers in both jurisdictions.
Rosemary Steen, EirGrid’s executive director of external affairs, said the launch of their draft grid development strategy, “Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow”, in March 2015 was another significant step forward for the group. This draft strategy was a response to feedback received from the public during consultations on major grid development projects. It also represented a key part of their efforts to encourage greater participation in the decision-making process.
Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow reflected an updated view of the economic context for developing the grid. The strategy further incorporated EirGrid’s growing experience of promising new transmission technologies. It included a new Regional Option for the Grid Link project and a hybrid option for the Grid West project. It also concluded that overhead lines were the best solution for the North/South interconnector.
Ms Steen said: “we continue to engage with local communities on this key project and have recently initiated a wide-ranging outreach and information campaign. This has resulted in meetings and dialogue with many community members on issues including undergrounding, environmental interests and health concerns. We are staffing community offices, holding regional discussion forums and are communicating more widely to better explain our plans. A key initiative has been the appointment of Agriculture and Community Liaison Officers across the island, as well as a public affairs lead in Northern Ireland. The development of a consultation handbook and toolkit, plus the adoption of “plain English” in our publications, further reflects our commitment to meaningful and accessible engagement.”
She added: “we seek to engage early with public representatives in Stormont and the Oireachtas, and across local government. This provides government feedback while also acting as an avenue to engage with local communities. Our Chief Executive appeared twice during the year (2015) at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. This was accompanied by outreach and walk-in sessions with Senators and TDs, which provided some valuable feedback. We also worked within the framework of the government’s new Regional Action Plan for Jobs. We were delighted when the North South Interconnector was identified as a key enabler of jobs and development through this forum.”
“In Northern Ireland, we carried out a significant body of political engagement, which included briefings with all tiers of elected representatives across each political party; from Councillors to MEPs. We were honoured when Minister Jonathan Bell opened our new SONI offices in June. We also briefed several of the new local government districts or ‘super-councils’, a programme which will continue throughout 2016.”
“As we look forward, engagement, consultation and outreach will continue to form a key part of our grid development strategy. While further consultation is not required as part of the planning process for the North/South interconnector, we are committed to continue informing and engaging with local communities.”
John Fitzgerald, executive director grid development and interconnection, explained how the company had been delivering the grid to meet future needs. In co-operation with NIE and ESB, they identified and submitted an application for planning approval for the North/South 400 kV interconnection development. The interconnector, he said, would increase the security and reliability of electricity supply to households and businesses throughout the island of Ireland. It would support growth and boost existing industry in the North East region and ensure a continuing reliability of electricity supply. It would enable the all-island wholesale electricity market to work efficiently, allowing for increased competition in electricity supply, thereby offering consumers choice and competitive prices.
The annual report also gives some details regarding remuneration. The Chairperson’s fees were equivalent to €21,600 per annum during the year (2014: €21,600). Directors’ fees were equivalent to €12,600 each per annum during the year (2014: €12,600). The only executive Board Member during the year was the Chief Executive, Fintan Slye.
The Chief Executive’s remuneration is set by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The remuneration of the Chief Executive consists of basic salary, taxable benefits and certain retirement benefits. The retirement benefits of the Chief Executive are calculated on basic pay only and aim to provide in retirement a pension of one-eightieth and a gratuity of three-eightieths of salary for each year of service as Chief Executive.
The increases in accrued pension and accrued gratuity excluding inflation during the year to 30th September 2015 were €2,125 (2014: €2,125) and €6,375 (2014: €6,375) respectively. The total accrued pension at the end of the year was €16,170 (2014: €14,045) and the total accrued gratuity was €53,660 (2014: €47,285). The transfer value of the relevant increase was €28,541 (2014: €27,141).
The Chief Executive’s remuneration:
Basic salary €170,000 30/09/15 (€170k 2014)
Annual Bonus – –
Taxable benefits €18,000 (€18k 2014)
Pension contributions paid €29,000 (€26k 2014)
Director’s fees – –
TOTAL: €217,000 2015 (€214,000 2014)