Belfast Telegraph

Government’s green light for north-south interconnector ‘critical’ boost for NI economy

By John Mulgrew

A £200 million electricity project linking Northern Ireland and the Republic has been given the green light.

The North-South interconnector, which will go through Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan, Monaghan and Meath, will meet the energy needs of households and businesses here, it has been claimed.

Yesterday the Northern Ireland element of the scheme was granted approval by the Department for Infrastructure following a review by the Planning Appeals Commission.

The project will see 85 miles of overhead cables erected. Work is expected to begin this year.

North Down DUP MLA Gordon Dunne said the decision will "open up competition within the energy market and will create further opportunities for more competitive pricing, with benefits for both domestic and commercial customers in Northern Ireland".

Addressing concerns about the impact on those people living in the shadow of the pylons, he said: "It is important that the land acquisition required for the proposed new network construction is carried out with full consultation with the local farmers and the rural communities to ensure the work is carried out efficiently and effectively, while assuring a fair return for all parties involved in this huge investment within our energy infrastructure."

Residents in border areas of Tyrone, Armagh and Cavan are opposed to the scheme, arguing that the electricity cables should be laid underground.

But SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland), which is overseeing the northern half of the project, has said that is not feasible.

Ellvena Graham, president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the project has been among "the top infrastructure priorities for our members since 2009".

"We therefore welcome the department's decision to grant permission for the project despite the lack of an Infrastructure Minister at Stormont.

"It is an action which will significantly speed up the delivery of the project," she added.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said the decision was "excellent news for our economy".

"It is an investment in the future of our energy infrastructure, securing electricity supply and, in the longer term, lower energy bills for our members," he said.

"Despite no minister in place, the Department for Infrastructure made the right call to give full planning permission for this vital scheme."

Strangford Alliance MLA for Kellie Armstrong said approval for the project "will help create a vital piece of infrastructure for Northern Ireland".

"The interconnector is crucial to ongoing energy security, diversification and keeping costs as low as possible for domestic consumers," she said.

"Energy infrastructure is a clear demonstration of practical North-South co-operation.

"We must remain vigilant against a hard or no-deal Brexit putting that in real jeopardy."

Roger Pollen of the Federation of Small Business Northern Ireland said the interconnector had the "potential to ensure security of supply, while at the same time creating downward pressure on energy prices and relieving the cost burden on small businesses".

Angela McGowan, director of the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland, said it "represents a critical piece of infrastructure for the Northern Ireland economy.

"It offers the potential to secure our electricity supply for years to come, drive down energy prices for everyone and deliver tangible benefits to an array of important sectors," Ms McGowan added.

Belfast Telegraph

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