Proposed cross-Border electricity connector could cut energy bills by €30m

Proposed cross-Border electricity connector could cut energy bills by €30m

(From The Irish Times article on 10th April 2017)

A proposed high-powered electricity connector between North and South will cut energy bills by a total of €30 million a year, a report commissioned by business groups on both sides of the Border says.

According to a study by accountants Grant Thornton for employer lobbyists Ibec in the Republic and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in the North, a proposed 400 kilo-volt interconnector running between counties Meath and Tyrone should cut costs and help secure power supplies across Ireland.

Authors Peter McArdle and Neal Taylor say that its construction will ease some supply costs and will save all electricity users €30 million a year, a figure they believe could increase over time.

An Bord Pleanála recently granted permission for the interconnector and the report urges the Northern Ireland Planning Appeals Commission to do the same.

Local groups along the interconnector’s route oppose its construction on environmental and health grounds. They have called for the line, which will run on overhead pylons, to be placed underground.

However, the Grant Thornton report points out that a study by engineers Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2013 found that this approach could cost €810 million. “Compared to recent estimates of the cost of an overhead line solution, an underground option could be up to three times that amount,” McArdle and Taylor say. “Constructing an underground cable of this size would also need a 20-25 metre wide strip of land cleared along the entire length of the route during construction. This would have a further environmental impact on the local regions the interconnector is proposed to travel through.”

Security of supply

The Republic’s national electricity grid operator, Eirgrid, and its subsidiary, System Operator Northern Ireland, want to build the interconnector to tie the two power networks closer together.

Ireland has had a single electricity market for North and South since 2007. While there are existing interconnectors, the Meath-Tyrone link is needed to integrate the networks. This would maximise the flow of electricity between the two, creating a more efficient market and cutting costs.

Inward investment opportunities

McArdle and Taylor point out that cutting costs and increasing security of power supplies should boost Ireland’s ability to attract investment and create more jobs.

Angela McGowan, CBI director for Northern Ireland, said the interconnector would cut consumers’ bills and guarantee security of power supplies.

“The business community is justifiably concerned that Northern Ireland is projected to face an electricity supply deficit from 2021,” she said. “To address this problem, the interconnector remains the best option in terms of cost, reliability and impact on the consumer.”

Ibec director general Danny McCoy said the major competitive challenges that Brexit poses made the interconnector’s construction more relevant than ever.

“Sufficient electricity supply is essential for growing our economy and is a significant factor in ensuring we seize the inward investment opportunities that will arise in the next few years,” he stressed.



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