New power lines unavoidable, says Eirgrid chief

Building new power lines is unavoidable but Eirgrid must get better at persuading communities of their benefits, the State grid operator’s CEO has said.

Eirgrid boss Mark Foley said that the company “really have to up our game on trying to engage and win the hearts and minds of communities”.

The grid operator has faced substantial opposition on various projects in recent years.

But Mr Foley said that “there’s so many more people now engaged in the narrative around climate change and decarbonisation that I’m hoping we can leverage off that”.

The shift to renewables and the emergence of power-hungry data centres mean Ireland’s power infrastructure will need substantial upgrades in the years ahead.

Mr Foley said that insofar as is possible, Eirgrid will look to use technology to make the grid more efficient and avoid the need for new lines.

“Putting in new transmission lines is clearly an option of last resort but with 40pc growth in electricity demand in front of us in the next five to seven years, and then the need to decarbonise the system, more transmission infrastructure will be needed. It would be wrong of me not to say that,” Mr Foley said.

He was speaking at the Irish Wind Energy Association’s spring conference in Dublin yesterday.

Speaking to the Irish Independent on the sidelines of the event, Mr Foley said the transmission upgrades would be “a mix of different solutions”.

“Where it becomes absolutely compelling and there’s no choice to have a new line, we’ll look at how do you do that in the most sensitive and least impacting of manners”.

The semi-state company is currently carrying out a strategic review where it will look to assess what upgrades are needed and how much they will cost. “Generally the work that we do around capital infrastructure is paid for by our customers, the generators of electricity,” Mr Foley said.

He said Eirgrid will look for grant aid from the European Commission this year for the so-called Celtic Interconnector project, which proposes to link Ireland’s grid with France via a subsea cable.

“The project’s €1bn and we’re looking to get a sizeable sum of money,” he said, without revealing the specific amount being sought.

The project will ensure Ireland remains linked to EU power after Brexit. Mr Foley said the lights will stay on here “even in the hardest of Brexit scenarios”, as there was agreement to continue the single electricity market on the island.

Source: Gavin McLoughlin, Irish Independent