The North South Interconnector project will provide a second high-capacity electricity interconnector between the two transmission systems of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Following a rigorous planning process which included an eleven week oral hearing, the section of the project in Ireland was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála in December 2016. This decision was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court and judgement is expected in the coming weeks. The section of the project in Northern Ireland was also granted planning permission. A Judicial Review of this decision was commenced in Northern Ireland and I understand that this is expected to conclude later this year.
Following motions passed in Dáil and Seanad Éireann in early 2017 calling for further independent examination of the project, two studies were commissioned by my predecessor and were published on 2 October 2018 following consideration by Government. The study conducted by an International Expert Commission determined that from a techno-economic point of view, an Alternating Current overhead line is the most beneficial way of meeting the need for enhanced power transfer capability between Ireland and Northern Ireland.This is consistent with previous studies on the matter.
I understand that EirGrid are continuing with landowner and community engagement programmes in areas of Meath, Cavan and Monaghan in order to address the concerns of the local communities, including the deployment of Agricultural and Community Liaison Officers on the ground.
There are currently a number of on-going procurements in relation to the project being undertaken and managed by ESB Networks, such as tower design. However no critical procurement contracts such as construction will be concluded until all legal proceedings have been resolved.