SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) has welcomed today’s decision by the planning authority in the Republic of Ireland to approve the southern element of the North South Interconnector project.
It has described the consent from An Bord Pleanála as a “milestone for the project”, which will see the electricity grids between Northern Ireland and the Republic “connected and strengthened by the addition of a new overhead line”.
If approved in both jurisdictions, the line will start at a substation in South Tyrone before running into Counties Armagh, Monaghan, Cavan and Meath.
As this is a cross border project, progress is also dependant on the outcome of a Public Inquiry in Northern Ireland, which is scheduled for February 2017.
The North South Interconnector remains SONI’s priority grid development project, not least, it says, because of the “urgent need to address security of supply problems facing Northern Ireland”. It says it will also “significantly reduce costs to consumers in Northern Ireland by improving the efficiency of the all-island electricity market”.
Robin McCormick, General Manager of SONI said it is now essential to see the project progressing in both jurisdictions.
He commented: “We very much welcome the positive outcome from An Bord Pleanála; it represents significant progress for the project. The North South Interconnector is undoubtedly the most important infrastructure scheme on the island today and will help deliver very real benefits to domestic and commercial customers.
“While this decision is encouraging, at SONI our focus remains on the planning process in Northern Ireland.
“We are putting every effort into our preparations for the Public Inquiry, which is due to begin in Armagh in February.”
The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also welcomed today’s announcement.
Christopher Morrow, Head of Policy, said: “Given that planning permission for the southern section of the North South Interconnector has now been granted by An Bord Pleanála, we must now receive a positive decision from the Northern Ireland Planning Inquiry to be held in February 2017.
“Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry has for a long time highlighted the North South Interconnector as one of the key infrastructure projects that will benefit our members.
“The North South Interconnector is vital to ensure the effective operation of an efficient all-island electricity market, to exert downward pressure on electricity prices for business and domestic consumers throughout Northern Ireland, and to utilise renewable energy resources.”