Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Questions (827, 828, 831)

Matt Carthy

Question:

827. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the North-South interconnector; if he will meet with representatives of the campaign groups that wish to see the project proceed using underground technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9185/20]

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Matt Carthy

Question:

828. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the North-South interconnector is still considered an EU project of common interest following Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9186/20]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

831. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if approval issued in January 2020 by the CER on the procurement process for the proposed North-South interconnector; his views on such approval issuing prior to the planning process being completed here or in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9291/20]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 827, 828 and 831 together.

The North South Interconnector is critical to improving the efficient operation of the Single Electricity Market and increasing security of electricity supply across the island of Ireland. It will also help us to move towards 70% renewable electricity. A resilient and well connected energy infrastructure is vital for Ireland’s economic well-being and the ability to respond to the future needs of energy consumers.

I have previously met public representatives in relation to the possible undergrounding of the north south interconnector and my Department has published an independent study on this in October 2018. It found that an overhead line remained the most appropriate option for the proposed interconnector. The study report is available on the Department's website at

https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/energy/publications/Documents/20/IEC%20Final%20Report%20North%20South%20Interconnector.pdf.

EirGrid is the designated Transmission System Operator and its role includes the operation, maintenance and development of the electricity transmission network in Ireland. The construction of the North South Interconnector, and all related procurement activities, is an operational matter for EirGrid and ESB Networks and one in which I have no function. I am advised that due to the very long lead times that can arise in relation to projects of this nature and the benefits of a single joint procurement process to be undertaken and managed by ESB Networks, EirGrid sought approval from the regulators in Ireland and Northern Ireland to commence procurement. Following this approval, in September 2017, ESB Networks commenced a number of procurement processes in relation to the project. In June 2019, ESB Networks awarded a framework contract for the design, test and supply of steelwork in relation to the project. However, under this framework there will be no supply of materials and no critical procurement process for construction will be concluded until the planning process in Northern Ireland is complete.

The EU Projects of Common Interest (PCI) process seeks to encourage interconnection between Member States. The process is updated every two years and in the current, fourth, instalment, the UK was a full participant in the process as it reached its conclusion in late 2019.