The East West Interconnector is a strategically vital energy project for the island of Ireland and is financially supported under the European Energy Programme for Recovery.
The Interconnector will bring many benefits to Irish electricity consumers over the decades to come, benefits such as increased competition, secure supplies of energy and the opportunity to export indigenous renewable energy.
While responsibility for non-ionising radiation lies with the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government, I agreed with the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, TD, to the appointment of an independent expert panel. That panel was mandated to consider and comment on data and report on Electro Magnetic Field (EMF) emissions in relation to the East West Interconnector (EWIC) electricity cables. The independent panel comprises three experts; an expert in epidemiology (appointed by the Minister for Health); an electrical engineering expert (appointed by me as Minster for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources); and a third member (chosen jointly by both Ministers) who is an acknowledged international expert in high-voltage electricity grid systems. I would emphasise that these are three independent highly qualified experts who will report on and publish their findings on EMF emissions in relation to the EWIC.
The independent panel met for the first time on Friday, 23 November 2012. The work programme of the panel is being progressed and further meetings are planned throughout the course of 2013. It is anticipated that once the panel has considered and commented on the first sets of data, those datasets and commentary will be made publicly available.
As the Deputy is no doubt aware, arising out of the High Court proceedings taken in respect of the EWIC, Mr Justice Peart, held in July 2012 that the Interconnector was not operating outside its planning approval and dismissed the action. The Judge stated that there was a “complete absence of any evidence of health risks associated with the Interconnector”. However, my Department will continue to facilitate the work of the independent expert panel in fulfilling its mandate.