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All-Ireland electricity Interconnector project could be ready to go by 2024

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Plan: Jo Aston

Plan: Jo Aston

Plan: Jo Aston

The North-South Interconnector for electricity supply on the island of Ireland could be built by 2024, it's been claimed.

Jo Aston, managing director of the System Operator for NI (Soni), which runs the electricity grid, said it hoped to win planning permission from Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon by the end of the summer.

Procurement would then need to take place before consent was sought from landowners between Co Armagh and Co Meath, where the power lines will begin and end.

The project has run into opposition from some landowners, and while planning permission was granted by civil servants in 2018, that decision was then overturned.

The electricity network is owned by NIE Networks, but is operated by Soni, which matches supply from generators to demand from consumers.

Updating Stormont's economy committee, Ms Aston explained that both jurisdictions on the island were part of a shared market for electricity, which will continue in the event of a no-deal Brexit. She said the interconnector was needed for future stability of supply.

Alan Campbell, Soni's head of grid infrastructure, said getting the go-ahead would kick-start the process of procurement and securing landowner agreement for access to the land before construction would start. And he was "hopeful of a positive planning decision this summer".

"We would look at construction starting 12 months after planning permission, so then we'd look at a period of three summers, so that would feed into 2024/25, where we'd be hopeful of energisation of the project."

But Ms Aston said she could not say whether Ms Mallon was in favour of the project.

"We can't speak to ministerial support as the minister has to make a decision on information put in front of her by her department officials and colleagues," she said, and could even be put to a vote in the Assembly.

Belfast Telegraph