Thursday 1 July 2010

Key electricity link faces long delay over Eirgrid error

DEVELOPMENT OF a critical piece of the State’s electricity network faces a long delay as a result of a mistake by the State company responsible for building it.

An error in the application for planning permission to build a high-voltage power line through Meath, Cavan and Monaghan forced the State’s electricity network operator, Eirgrid, to withdraw the application yesterday, midway through a Bord Pleanála hearing into the issue.

The public notice, which is part of the application, stated the pylons supporting the power lines would be between 23 and 37 metres high, but it should have read 23-44 metres.

Eirgrid will have to resubmit its application for permission to build the €200 million power line to An Bord Pleanála and go through a second public hearing.

A spokesman said it would resubmit the application within months. He confirmed the error has left the project, which Eirgrid says is critical to developing Ireland’s electricity network and guaranteeing northeastern power supplies, facing a serious delay.

The original application was made last December, and the public hearing began last month.

An Bord Pleanála may not now be able to make a decision until next year, when the lines had been scheduled to be in place.

The mistake only appeared in the public notice. Measurements in all other elements of the planning application were correct.

The mix-up was put down to human error. A spokesman said it ultimately intends to “assign blame” for what happened. He said Eirgrid takes full responsibility for the mistake.

The line is intended to continue into Tyrone and forms part of a second connection between electricity grids in the Republic and Northern Ireland, both of which Eirgrid operates. Along with supplying power to key population centres in the northeast, the line is crucial to developing the all-Ireland electricity market, which is designed to boost competition and help control energy prices.

Yesterday’s development will not affect the planning process in the North, which Northern Ireland Electricity is managing.

Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan said he was disappointed at the delay and stressed the line is a “crucial part of our energy infrastructure”.

The North East Pylon Pressure group (NEPP), which opposes the development and wants the line placed underground, described what happened as a disgrace and called for a full investigation. It pledged to continue its opposition.

Irish Times

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