North-south interconnector is approved in major boost to island's power supply

The interconnector will involve the construction of more than 100 towers to carry the line along 34 kilometres
Gary McDonald Business Editor

PLANNING approval has been given for the Northern Ireland section of the north south interconnector, which will create an overhead cross border electricity line with the Republic.

The £200 million project, which was given the green light following a public enquiry held last February, will see the electricity grids between the two jurisdictions connected and strengthened by the addition of a 400-volt overhead line running the 34 kilometres between Moy and Crossreagh.

The scheme will remove blockages on the electricity system, significantly reducing costs to consumers and improving the efficiency of the all-island electricity market.

The delivery of the interconnector has been among the top infrastructure priorities for the NI Chamber of Commerce and a number of other business bodies for around a decade.

Chamber president Ellvena Graham said: “We welcome the Department for Infrastructure’s decision to grant permission for the project despite the lack of an minister at Stormont – an action which will significantly speed up the delivery of the project.

“The north south interconnector is urgently required to improve security of electricity supply in Northern Ireland. To this regard, the timely delivery of the proposed scheme will allow the all-island wholesale electricity market to work more efficiently, enabling wider competition between power generators and electricity suppliers throughout the island, and therefore ensuring that future electricity prices will be as competitive as possible."

She added: “Businesses and employers need access to electricity in the most cost efficient manner possible, and the interconnector is key to achieving this.”

The System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) is responsible for the planning aspects of the project and will soon hand over to NIE Networks to build and maintain the interconnector.

SONI general manager Robin McCormick said working with landowners and the community will remain a priority.

“We welcome this positive outcome from the Department for Infrastructure. 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.

“It has received strong support from businesses and employers because of the positive impact it will have on the economy, and from consumer groups as it will help reduce the cost of electricity.

“While we recognise this project is to the benefit of everyone, we will continue to work to ensure that it is delivered at the least possible impact to the communities and landowners who are hosting it."

He added: “In the coming months we will hand over the project to NIE Networks who will construct the interconnector. In the meantime we will be on the ground engaging with landowners and the community, ensuring they remain up-to-date on progress and time-lines.”

Richard Murhy, head of energy for Ireland at law firm Pinsent Masons, said: “Although long overdue, today’s decision is 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. Operational from 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.”

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