Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the recommendations from the International Commission of Experts’ report on the possibility of under grounding all or part of the Meath-Tyrone interconnector he consider applicable to the proposed Grid Link overhead power line route linking Munster and Leinster.
Deputy Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if there have been any advances in technology to change the accepted view that the cost of underground cabling is multiples that of transmission via overhead powerlines.
Deputy Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the Government policy regarding to the erection of electricity pylons and overhead lines in areas of outstanding natural beauty and high scenic amenity generally.
Reply from Minister Pat Rabbitte: The "Government Policy Statement on the Strategic Importance of Transmission and Other Energy Infrastructure" (July 2012), made it clear that the Government does not seek to direct energy infrastructure developers to particular sites, routes or technologies. These are matters for the developers and for the forward planning processes through regional and local development plans and at project level through the development management process. In this context, energy infrastructure developers are encouraged to work with the those forward planning processes to set clear contexts for assessment of individual applications for planning consent and to facilitate as wide a degree of consensus as possible as to how and where to meet grid development needs.
The Government, as detailed in the July 2012 Policy Statement, expects the companies, including the State energy companies, in making their choices of project specific technologies and routing, to take account of all relevant national and international standards, to follow best practice, to ensure value for money and to be informed by detailed consultation at local level. Using the best available advice and expertise the companies are required to address and mitigate, as necessary, human, environmental and landscape impacts in delivering the projects concerned.
I understand that there is no single ‘right’ solution for any particular development and that technical solutions must be project specific. I also understand that conventional overhead lines are still the most common solution adopted worldwide and still offer significantly lower investment costs than any underground alternative.
EirGrid and ESB Networks are mandated to plan developments in a safe efficient and economic manner in accordance with their licences from the Commission for Energy Regulation.
The Grid Link Project is a key initiative under EirGrid's Grid25. Without this project, the electricity grid in the south and east of Ireland will not be sufficient to meet the region’s future electricity needs. The project will facilitate both conventional generation and renewable energy projects. It will reinforce the grid in Leinster and Munster and support future interconnection with grids outside of Ireland. It is a significant upgrade of the electricity grid and is the largest project under the Grid25 programme. The project will involve an estimated €500 million investment and will enable Ireland to meet its 40% renewable electricity 2020 target, while also reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels.
EirGrid is committed to public consultation and has been engaging in a comprehensive process with regard to the Grid Link project. EirGrid's consultation process has involved opening five regional information centres, providing a lo-call project information telephone line (1890 422 122), local radio advertising, and national and local print advertising. The company welcomes observations and views in relation to the Grid Link Project which is still at an early stage. The identification of route corridor options is a key opportunity for public input given that the decision regarding the final route of this electricity line is yet to be made.
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a breakdown of income generated by Electric Ireland from residential electricity charges in the 12 months up to 1 October, 2012, and in the subsequent 12 month period to 1 October, 2013.
Reply from Minister Pat Rabbitte: Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), the independent National Regulatory Authority for energy.
The CER was assigned responsibility for the regulation of the Irish electricity sector following the enactment of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999 and subsequent legislation. The CER's responsibilities include the liberalisation of the electricity retail (supply) market in order to encourage the entry of competition and new investment.
Market rules have been established for the retail electricity and gas markets. It is a function of the CER to regulate the electricity and gas markets, to monitor competition and to monitor compliance by industry with legislation. This is a matter in which I, as Minister, have no statutory role or function.
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will request Eirgrid to grant an extension on the current deadline for submissions for the gridlink project for the South East to allow members of the public ample time in which to make their submissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister Pat Rabbitte: This is a matter for EirGrid and one in which I, as Minister, have no function.
Dáil Éireann allocates a certain amount of time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during which Deputies may ask questions of Members of the Government relating to Public Affairs connected with their Departments, or on matters of administration for whch they are officially responsible. The Taoiseach answers questions on his own Department on Tuesdays/Wednesdays.