EirGrid officials are expected to tell Meath county councillors that construction will start on the controversial North South interconnector next year, despite local opposition.
There was tension in the council chamber earlier this month, after news that the construction of the controversial pylons, placed above the ground, would begin in 2024.
As reported by the Anglo Celt this month, representatives of Eirgrid confirmed that the interconnector would go ahead in a presentation given to members of Cavan County Council at their May meeting.
However, the councillors went on to pass a motion rejecting the overhead line – which has already secured planning permission.
Groups including the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign (NEPPC) and locals have accused the government of focusing only on the technical aspects of overhead lines or undergrounding, and failing to analyse the overall risk benefit of the project on the environment, communities who will be affected, on landscape and heritage, along with on farming practices and livelihoods in the areas of Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.
Despite backlash from the local community and their representatives, Eirgrid CEO Mark Foley insisted that constructing the system above ground remains “the only way to do it.”
Mr Foley claimed that completing the project has taken on increased importance due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. He also said he believed that Ireland could face blackouts in as close as two years time.
“This needs to be done to make sure the lights don’t go out,” Mr Foley said.
The EirGrid CEO insists that the project, when it reaches completion, will help Ireland in reaching its 80% emissions reduction target, and in lowering the cost of electricity to the consumer.
He said he had to “look at the facts” of the matter – and reached the conclusion that an AC line “overground is the only solution that will work,” as per a recent report in the Anglo Celt.
He said that from his own experience he was aware that the alternative HVAC lines – which would run underground – would not be secure enough to support the system. He said such an option would fail and “bring the community to blackout.”
While he said that a two-part system would be “the only option,” the system in the Republic and in Northern Ireland would then be separate.
EirGrid is anticipated to make a presentation on the project to Meath County Council within the next week.
Spokesperson for the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign (NEPCC), Padraig O’Reilly, has said there has been a long-running lack of engagement with the public.
“There was zero weighting given to landowners’ concerns or rights for the last 16 years,” he recently said, adding: “The talk now of compensation shows how out of touch the company is with the reality on the ground.”
In March, the campaign group issued a warning that the decades long dispute over the North South interconnector was heading for a “very confrontational stage”.
The NEPCC accused Eirgrid and ESB of “bloody mindedness”.
“We are heading for a very confrontational stage, based on a bloody mindedness of a semi-state company to have their way and ignore the people who are more than willing to work with them if they use modern technology,” said Padraig O’Reilly, NEPPC spokesperson, as per a report in the Ango Celt.
“Nobody can argue that resorting to using thousands of tonnes of steel and concrete and displacing some of the best soils in the country is the way forward,” he said.
Mr O’Reilly said the Government has been consistently misled by EirGrid and ESB on the project, telling the regional newspaper: “The two companies have historically been granted powers of authority that are no longer fit for purpose in today’s world.
“NEPPC and local communities have been quiet on this issue for the past three years, but it would be a major mistake to think there is any lessening of resolve to ensure it will be undergrounding or bust for EirGrid.”
“Let us not forget that EirGrid ruled out undergrounding from the outset in 2007 prior to informing the public about the existence of the project and without any public consultation process.
“The argument that cost of undergrounding would be prohibitive is no longer valid. Eirgrid’s own statements related to the Meath-Kildare underground project argued that undergrounding is now competitive from an overall cost-benefit analysis.
“Either they are correct or they are making it up as they go along,” Mr O’Reilly told the Ango Celt.