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Underground ‘still an option’ say Interconnector opposition groups.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

UNDERGROUND electricity cables linking two power grids in Moy and County Meath is still a "realistic and achieveble" option, campaigners opposed to the overhead North-South Interconnector have insisted.

Their continued opposition comes following a delegration, made up of a number of campaign groups from both sides of the border, which travelled to Brussels on a fact-finding exercise - including learning about an interconnector on a similar scale that will operate underground between Belgium and Germany.

This project, campaigners believe, forms the basis of an model that could be replicated locally, as an alternative to the erection of 138km of overhead lines between counties Tyrone and Meath as part of a £200m scheme - which is being overseen by SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) in the north and Eirigrid.


Two members of SEAT (Safe Electricity for Armagh and Tyrone), Jim Lennon and John Woods joined the delegation of around 20 people, including fellow anti-pylon campaigners, that was led by Carrickmacross man and Sinn Féin MEP, Matt McCartney, accompanied by his party colleagues Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan, MLA Jemma Dolan and TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Peadar Tóibín.

They met with members of the European Commission as well as Elia, a Belgian transmission systems operator, at the Belguim National Control Centre to discuss its ALEGrO Interconnector plans, which is a 90km route that runs across Belgium into Germany - all of which will be laid undergound.

"The interconnector will be similar to the North-South Interconnector in distance, capacity and function, but crucially it will be underground.

The experts in Belgium stated that undergrounding such an interconnector is both technically and financially feasible," explained a SEAT spokesperson.

"Their assessment of underground versus overhead is that an underground cable is very practical and reliable method of interconnection, not subject to excessive breakdown and any fault can be easily traced and be repaired within a short space of time. Elia stated that typically a breakdown would be expected to happen once in every 120 years. Due to public acceptance, the Elia project will be delivered seven years faster than the Eirgrid project.

"Another key point that Elia demonstrated is that due to energy efficiency and local microgeneration of energy the necessary peak capacity of the grid does not have to be as high in the future as originally forecasted. The delegation saw first-hand examples of new technology that has been developed that can double the capacity of existing electricity lines." The delegation also participated in a hearing in the European Parliament with Kurt Glaeser, Deputy Head of Unit Networks and Regional initiatives, European Commission, the Irish Government Permanent Representative and Eirgird.

Padriag O'Reilly from NEPPC (North East Pylon Pressure Committee) in Meath, Nigel Hillis from the Monaghan Anti-Pylon group and Jim Lennon from SEAT together gave a comprehensive presentation detailing the public objections to the planned overhead line and why they feverently believe that the North/South interconnector should be place underground. "Eirgird reiterated that they were not going to consider underground as an option," claimed the SEAT spokesperson.

"We were happy to have brought the interconnector debate to the highest level in Brussels and we hope that they can encourage Eirgrid/SONI to treat the people who live along the proposed route of the North-South Interconnector the same as the people in Belgium. We made it clear to the EU Commissioner that the EU needs to show leadership on this issue." Anti-pylon campaigners suffered a set-back recently after a High Court in Dublin upheld planning approval for the scheme in the Republic.

Meanwhile, a recommendation on the northern element of the scheme is expected to be reached by the Planning Appeals Commission this autumn, after it held a public inquiry earlier this year.

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