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Statement by the Independent Expert Panel on Grid Link

8 October, 2015

 

Background

The Independent Expert Panel (the Panel) considering EirGrid's Grid West and Grid Link projects was appointed by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, on foot of a Government decision in January 2014. 

 

In line with the Government decision, the Panel was asked to oversee the integrity of a process to be undertaken by EirGrid to report on the Grid West and Grid Link projects.  That process has been underway since January 2014.  In May 2014 the Panel approved the Terms of Reference for comprehensive, route specific studies/reports of fully undergrounded and overhead options for each of the Grid West and Grid Link projects, including assessments of potential environmental impacts, technical efficacy and cost factors.  The Panel's requirements in terms of the studies/reports are set out in those Terms of Reference.  The study/report for Grid West was undertaken by Eirgrid and the Panel oversaw EirGrid's study/reporting process.  The Panel provided its opinion on Grid West to the Minister and issued a Statement on 29 April 2015.  A similar process was undertaken in respect of the Grid Link project.

 

Grid Link Study/Report

EirGrid provided its report on the Grid Link project to the Panel 28 September 2015.  The Panel's members considered the 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.

 

Final Report

Having now completed its work on the North South Transmission Line project, the Grid West project, and the Grid Link project, the Panel has provided its final report to the Minister.  A copy of that report is appended to this Statement.

 

Conclusion of the Panel's Work

The Panel's provision of its opinion on Grid Link to the Minister, along with its Final Report, concludes the work of the Panel.

 

ENDS

Issued by the Independent Expert Panel considering EirGrid's Grid West and Grid Link projects:

  • Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness, Chairperson
  • Professor Keith Bell
  • Professor John FitzGerald
  • Dr. Karen Foley
  • Mr. Colm McCarthy

 

Queries may be directed to the Secretary of the Independent Expert Panel at: expertpanel@dcenr.ie


 

Appendix to Statement

 

Report of the Independent Expert Panel

to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

8 October 2015

 

  1. The Independent Expert Panel (the Panel) is required by Panel's Terms of Reference to provide this Report to you, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

  2. The Panel oversaw the integrity of a process that was undertaken by Eirgrid to report on the Grid Link and Grid West projects.  The Panel is satisfied regarding the integrity of the process. 

  3. The Panel approved the terms of reference for comprehensive, route specific studies/reports of fully undergrounded options for each of the Grid Link and Grid West projects, including assessments of potential environmental impacts, technical efficacy and cost factors.  The studies/reports were undertaken and/or commissioned by Eirgrid in accordance with the terms of reference set by the Panel.  The Panel oversaw EirGrid's study/reporting process and deemed it to be acceptable and appropriate.

  4. The Panel is satisfied regarding the completeness, objectivity and comparability (underground with overhead) of the studies/reports undertaken and/or commissioned by Eirgrid.

  5. The Panel oversaw the publication by EirGrid of the Grid West Report prior to EirGrid proceeding to public consultation on the project.

  6. The Panel noted in the Grid Link Report the reference to EirGrid's Discussion Paper on Ireland's Grid Development Strategy – "Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow".  That Discussion Paper introduced the prospect of a previously unanticipated "regional option" for addressing the Grid Link transmission needs.   The Panel also noted in the Grid Link Report (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.   

  7. The Panel is satisfied that EirGrid may proceed to publication of the Grid Link Report prior to EirGrid proceeding to public consultation on the project.  However, given the unanticipated development highlighted immediately above, the Panel does not deem it necessary that the Panel would oversee the publication by EirGrid of the Grid Link Report.

  8. The Panel provided an opinion to the Minister on the compatibility of the methodologies employed on the Grid Link and Grid West projects with what had already been done on the North South Transmission Line project.  The Panel was unanimously of the opinion that, in all material respects, the methodologies employed on the North South project, were compatible with those that were to be employed on the Grid Link and Grid West projects.

  9. This concludes the Panel's work and reporting.

 

ENDS

Note to Editors

The Statement by the Independent Expert Panel  on Grid West dated 29 April 2015 is available here.

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