Thursday, 26 June 2014
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Electricity Transmission Network
129. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an update on the work of the expert panel that was appointed to review the routes for the Grid Link project, with specific reference to considering underground routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27763/14]
The Independent Expert Panel considering the Grid West and Grid Link projects has held five meetings between 10 February 2014 and 10 June 2014. At its meeting on 2 May 2014, the Panel finalised and approved the terms of reference for comprehensive, route specific studies and 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 terms of reference were published on 7 May 2014 and are available on my Department's website.
The studies and reports will be undertaken or commissioned by EirGrid in accordance with those terms of reference set by the Panel which will also oversee EirGrid’s study and reporting process. In due course, the Panel will provide an opinion to me on the completeness, objectivity and comparability of the studies and reports undertaken or commissioned by EirGrid and will oversee the publication by EirGrid of the two studies and reports prior to EirGrid proceeding to public consultation on the two projects. I also asked the Panel to consider what, if anything, it can do with regard to the North South Transmission Line project. Although the North South project was not covered by the Government’s decision concerning the appointment of the Panel, having discussed my request, and in the light of the finalised terms of reference for the studies of the Grid West and Grid Link projects, the Panel decided that it would provide an opinion to me on the compatibility of the methodologies to be employed on the Grid West and Grid Link projects with what has already been done on the North South Transmission Line project.
I understand that the Panel wrote to EirGrid shortly after its May meeting to convey its requirements in regard to Grid West, Grid Link and the North South project and that EirGrid is attending to those requirements. I am advised that EirGrid, in response to the Panel's enquiry regarding the compatibility of the methodologies, provided a detailed submission to the Panel. This submission was discussed by the Panel at its meeting on 10 June. I understand EirGrid made a detailed presentation at that meeting and that the Panel requested additional written material from EirGrid. The Panel will continue it work at its next meeting on 30 June 2014.
On 23 June 2014, the Panel welcomed the announcement by EirGrid of an underground route option for the Grid West project. EirGrid also announced a number of changes to the overhead route corridor and will now conduct public consultation on this underground route for Grid West and also the proposed amendments to the overhead route corridor, following which both the underground and overhead route options will be brought together into a single report which will be presented to the Panel so that it can review the options side by side, as per its Terms of Reference.