EirGrid’s Grid25 plan to upgrade the national transmission system between now and 2025 is a major initiative which will put in place a safe, secure and affordable electricity system throughout the country.
On 28 January last, in response to EirGrid’s recent public consultation process, I announced that I had appointed an independent panel of experts, chaired by Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness, to decide the terms of reference for, and to oversee the integrity of, a process to be undertaken by EirGrid to report on comprehensive, route-specific studies of overhead and underground options for both the Grid Link and Grid West projects under the Grid25 programme. The outputs from those studies, which will be required to be complete, objective and comparable, will be published before proceeding to the next stage of public consultation on the two projects. The two studies will take account of environmental factors, including visual amenity impacts, technical efficacy and cost factors. The panel will have power to commission its own work if there is any perceived deficiency in the studies as presented.
The panel has commenced its deliberations, including settling the terms of reference to oversee the integrity of the process being put in place and considering what work, if any, it might usefully undertake in regard to the North-South transmission line project. The panel’s terms of reference will be published by the panel once they have been agreed. Similarly, the panel's position regarding submissions of material to it, and third party requests to meet it, will also be published once the panel has finalised and agreed its position on these matters.
I should mention that the report to which the Deputy refers was reviewed by the international expert commission for the Meath-Tyrone project in 2011 as part of its work reviewing all relevant reports. The commission questioned the findings and the methodology of the Askon report and reported its observations at some length in its report, which was published on 17 January 2012.