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To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if, in the face of massive public opposition the Government will consider at least the partial undergrounding of the Eirgrid cable network.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 4th December, 2013.    

REPLY In the Government Policy Statement on the Strategic Importance of Transmission and Other Energy Infrastructure of July 2012, the imperative for the State companies, and all developers of energy projects, of early, transparent engagement and consultation with local communities and stakeholder was emphasised.

It is expected by Government that EirGrid will undertake objective and authoritative analysis, thorough impact assessments and wide ranging pre-planning consultation in arriving at optimal routes, technology choice, design and costings for the projects concerned.

I am aware that EirGrid have been engaging in a comprehensive process in regard to the Grid Link project. EirGrid's consultations have involved opening five regional information centres at Midleton, Carlow, New Ross, Carrick-on-Suir, and Kilcullen, a lo-call project information telephone line, local radio advertising, and national and local print advertising. I understand that thirty-three open days were held within the project area over the last 16 months and that since autumn 2012, the Grid Link Project team has visited marts, shopping centres and agricultural shows, attending over 120 events to date where thousands of stakeholders have engaged with the team.

I am also aware that EirGrid’s report on Stage 1 of Grid West identified a number of route corridor options for the new line. Eirgrid recently announced the Emerging Preferred Route Corridor following extensive consultation on 16 potential route corridors. EirGrid have held five open days in October in Moygownagh, Ballaghaderreen, Swinford, Foxford and Carrick on Shannon to discuss the preferred route. Residents from the project area were invited to view maps of the route corridor options, and to provide feedback on any constraints near or on the corridors. EirGrid has also taken observations and feedback at a project information centre in Linenhall Street, Castlebar. The preferred route will be the subject of further public consultation between now and spring 2014.

The current consultation process is a key opportunity for public input as no decisions have been made regarding the final routes of these electricity lines. EirGrid has stated that it will fully take on board information and views in relation to the projects which are still at an early stage. Ultimately, it will fall to An Bord Pleanála to determine whether the views expressed have been adequately taken into account in the final project design.

The Government does not seek to direct the energy infrastructure developers to particular sites or routes or technologies as was made clear in the 2012 Government Policy Statement. That Statement emphasises that these are matters for the developers and for the forward planning process through regional and local development plans and at project level through the development management process. The Government does, however, require EirGrid to take account of all relevant national and international standards, to follow best practice and ensure value for money.

EirGrid has confirmed that its planning applications will have to include a published formal assessment of the available alternatives as regards each project, for consideration by An Bord Pleanála.

Conventional overhead line is still the most common solution adopted both worldwide and in Europe. In excess of 95% of high voltage transmission lines are overhead in Europe and construction of 400kV overhead lines is continuing in all EU countries.

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Namaleaks is a project that seeks to uncover possible injustice and poor practice related to NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) and financial institutions in Ireland.


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