Independent Expert Panel Comment on Eirgrid "Regional Option"

The DCENR press office has issued a Press Release on the Independent Expert Panel comments for Eirgrid options.  

The Independent Expert Panel established by DCENR in January 2014 to consider Eirgrid's Grid West and Grid Link options has concluded its work and submitted its final report. 

Earlier this year, EirGrid published a Discussion Paper on Ireland’s Grid Development Strategy – “Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow”.  That Discussion Paper introduced the prospect of an option for addressing the Grid Link transmission needs not previously known to or anticipated by the Panel.  The new option, which is additional to the previously known options of Overhead Line and Underground Cable, is known as the “regional option”.  

Grid Link Regional Option

The regional option proposes to use the existing 400kV grid infrastructure from Moneypoint to the greater Dublin area instead of constructing any new overhead or underground solutions for Grid Link. EirGrid’s Report on Grid Link to the Panel highlights: (i) that many respondents to the Grid Development Strategy Discussion Document welcomed the regional option, and (ii) EirGrid’s preference for the regional option as the optimal solution for Grid Link at this time.  The Panel reflected on the EirGrid Report on Grid Link, and the clear preference for the regional option to address the Grid Link transmission needs, before arriving at its opinion

Grid Link – Opinion of the Independent Expert Panel

The Panel’s Terms of Reference do not extend to consideration of a plan by Eirgrid that is essentially different in several ways to that which the Panel was originally asked to consider.  Given EirGrid’s clear preference for the regional option, which does not involve any development of any new overhead lines or any significant sections of underground cable, it would appear that the Grid Link Overhead Line and Underground Cable options are unlikely to be implemented in the short to medium term.   In the longer term, should such options be revived in the future, it is likely that there would be need for considerable scrutiny at that stage.  Any comments by the present Panel would be likely to be out-of-date, or surpassed by new technical developments at that time.

Accordingly, and having reflected on the EirGrid Report regarding the Grid Link project, including the references to the unanticipated regional option, the Panel is unanimously of the view:

  1. that the Panel’s work in respect of Grid Link has been overtaken by the emergence of the regional option.  The regional option is different in several ways to that which the Panel was originally asked to consider;
  2. that the regional option has created an expectation that neither the Underground Cable nor the Overhead Line options, both of which would have required development of significant new transmission routes, will be progressed in the short to medium term;
  3. that EirGrid are highly unlikely to progress either of the Underground Cable or the Overhead Line options in the short to medium term;
  4. and consequently, that the Panel should not undertake any further analysis regarding the completeness, comparability and objectivity of the Report.

This opinion has been conveyed to the Minister today.

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What effect the Regional Option will have on Renewable Energy Development in Clare or Limerick etc. is not clear. However The 400 kV power lines are restricted in what they can carry and their use for renewable energy projects in Clare, Limerick and other counties had previously been rejected by Eirgrid.