Thursday, 28 November 2019

Ceisteanna (35)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

35. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding the North-South interconnector project. [49417/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The North South Interconnector has been designated a Project of Common Interest (PCI). PCIs are cross border energy projects deemed by the European Commission to be of the highest priority within the EU. The fourth PCI list was published in October 2019 pending ratification in early 2020.

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. A resilient and well connected energy infrastructure is vital for Ireland’s economic wellbeing and the ability to respond to the future needs of energy consumers.

In December 2016, An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the project in Ireland, while in January 2018 full planning permission was granted for the section of the line that lies in Northern Ireland. Both of the planning decisions have been subject to legal proceedings in each jurisdiction. In Ireland, a Supreme Court appeal of the planning permission was dismissed on 19 February 2019.

In Northern Ireland, on 8 February 2019, the Department for Infrastructure asked the High Court to quash the planning permission given so the planning application can be re-determined under new legislation introduced by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in November 2018. On 24 July, SONI/EirGrid submitted an addendum to the Environmental Statement to the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland. That Department subsequently carried out a consultation process in Northern Ireland to provide members of the public with the opportunity to review and comment on the addendum and is now reviewing the submissions received. The Department for Infrastructure will determine in the coming months as to whether there is a need to re-open the public inquiry or if a final planning decision can be taken by the Permanent Secretary under the NI Planning and Functions Exercise Act.

In June 2019, ESB Networks awarded a framework contract for the design, test and supply of steelwork in relation to the project. I am advised that the detailed design is currently in progress. However under the framework there will be no supply of materials until the planning process in Northern Ireland is complete. The earliest possible date for construction to commence is 2020.