Business

CBI-Ibec report sets out economic importance of north-south power link

Computer generated imagery of the proposed north south interconnector
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A PROPOSED 250-mile overhead line electricity interconnector running from near Moy in Co Tyrone to Kingscourt in Co Cavan "remains Ireland's best chance of keeping the lights on", a new report claims.

And business bodies CBI in Belfast and Ibec in Dublin are urging politicians on both sides of the border must rail behind the project, given that an adequate supply of energy underpins all economic activity, prosperity and jobs growth.

Prepared by Grant Thornton, the report sets out the economic importance and urgency behind the proposed 400kV overhead north-south power link.

The document demonstrates how the proposed interconnector - which would cost an estimated £200 million - will not only safeguard electricity supply and increase efficiency of delivery, but it now essential to keeping business across the island competitive in the face of prevailing challenges from Brexit.

Proposals for a north-south interconnector to improve the connectivity across the electricity grids on both sides of the border have been on the table for more than a decade.

The plans are considered critical, particularly as the capacity reduces dramatically at the north's biggest power station at Kilroot to comply with EU regulations.

But the proposals have been delayed as objectors claimed it will be a blot on the landscape, with some saying it could pose a risk to health.

Last year the man responsible for the north's grid, Robin McCormick said the region was "on the verge of an electricity supply crisis" if the plans didn't get the go ahead.

Responding to the latest report, CBI NI regional director Angela McGowan said: “The single electricity market is an excellent example of how working in collaboration can provide tangible benefits for citizens and businesses across the island of Ireland, but its success is underpinned by effective infrastructure.

"Sufficient electricity supply is essential for growing our economy, allowing local companies to thrive, and is a significant attraction for inward investors.

"The successful delivery of the proposed north-south interconnector by 2021 will improve market efficiency, drive down bills and guarantee Northern Ireland's future security of supply."

She added: “The business community is justifiably concerned that Northern Ireland is projected to face an electricity supply deficit from 2021.

"But the interconnector can address this problem, as it will reduce the risk of power shortages and blackouts, while simultaneously reducing costs.

"In fact, it will result in all island annual savings each year in the region of £25.5 million (€30m), which is likely to grow over time. Poor interconnection at the moment means that generated electricity is regularly unused - a high cost customers are paying for on their bills.”

Last year, in a survey of CBI members in the north, some 87 per cent named the north-south interconnector as the leading infrastructural priority for the island

Danny McCoy, chief executive of Ibec, agrees, and insists delivery is now what matters.

He said: "An adequate supply of energy underpins all economic activity, prosperity and jobs growth, and the north south interconnector is one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure needed for Ireland in the coming years.

"Its construction is essential for the successful future operations of the all-island single electricity market."

He added: "As we face into the uncertainty of Brexit negotiations, we must progress its construction with added urgency.

"So it's crucial business get behind this project, because any disruption to its delivery will lead to an inferior grid and significant cost increases, which will ultimately negatively impact all electricity users.”

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