Planning permission granted for 'significantly strategic' Irish electricity interconnector

Out-Law News | 26 Jan 2018 | 4:34 pm | 1 min. read

Full planning permission for the Northern Irish section of a planned electricity interconnector between the north and the Republic of Ireland has been granted.

The project is of "significant strategic importance" to Northern Ireland, and there is an "urgent and compelling need" for it, according to a Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) report, commissioned by the Department for Infrastructure (DFI).

Energy expert Richard Murphy of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said that the "long overdue" decision was "welcome for the energy sector as well as engineering and construction".

"The interconnector is vital if the new Irish Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) is to realise its full potential," he said.

"Operational from 23 May, I-SEM is the single biggest change in the island's energy market for a decade, and the efficient movement of energy is at the heart of those reforms aimed at maintaining a downward pressure on consumer bills," he said.

Irish planning authority An Bord Pleanála approved the southern section of the scheme in December 2016. The Court of Appeal upheld planning permission in response to a judicial review challenge earlier this month.

Once complete, the North-South Interconnector will link the electricity networks in Northern Ireland and Ireland, helping to ensure that I-SEM operates efficiently with no restriction in electricity flow between north and south. It is a joint project between the system operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) and its southern equivalent, EirGrid.

The planned project consists of a 400KV overhead electricity line. The Northern Irish section runs for 34.1km between Moy, County Tyrone, and Crossreagh, on the border with the Republic of Ireland.

SONI is responsible for the planning aspects of the project, which will be built and maintained by Northern Ireland Electricity Networks.

"The North South Interconnector is undoubtedly the most important infrastructure scheme on the island today and will deliver very real benefits to domestic and commercial consumers," said Robin McCormick, SONI general manager.