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.
To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will explain the differentiation in lower urban and higher rural standing and usage charges applied by Electric Ireland to its customers; and if this price gap will be reduced in favour of rural consumers if and when the existing transmission infrastructure is upgraded.
Reply from Minister Rabbitte: I have no function in this matter. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is an independent regulator.
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. Since April 2011 prices in the electricity market have been deregulated and business and domestic customers can as a result avail of competitive offerings from a number of supply companies. It is a function of the CER to regulate the electricity market.
Questions regarding the pricing practices of electricity supply companies should be directed towards the relevant companies or addressed to the CER.
I have no statutory function in the matter of the regulation of electricity prices.
Answered on June 11, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of funding County Waterford operators has received from his Department under the rural transport programme in each of the past seven years.
Reply from Minister of State Alan Kelly: As Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to the Rural Transport Programme (RTP). The RTP including allocation of funding was managed on behalf of the Department by Pobal until 31st March 2012. Following the Government Decision of 26th January 2012 in relation to integrated local and rural transport, responsibility for the management of the RTP was assigned to the National Transport Authority (NTA) with effect from 1st April 2012. The Programme is currently managed by Pobal in conjunction with the NTA as part of the Programme transition.
Noting this I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA/Pobal for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.
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.