Consultants appointed to undertake transmission network study


Energy Minister Eamon Ryan TD has announced that international consultants Ecofys have been appointed by his Department to undertake the independent study on the comparative merits of overhead electricity transmission lines versus underground cables.

The consultants were appointed following a tender process launched on 29 February on the Government’s eTenders website.

The study is to be conducted on a national basis and its purpose is to provide the best available professional advice to the Minister on the relative merits of constructing and operating overhead transmission lines, compared to underground cables, having regard to technical characteristics, reliability, operation and maintenance factors, environmental impact, possible health issues and cost.

The planning, development and routing of transmission line infrastructure is a matter for EirGrid, which is a wholly State-owned company. EirGrid has responsibility for operating the electricity transmission system in Ireland, including the wholesale electricity trading system. It delivers connections, transmission and market services to generators, suppliers and customers, using the high voltage electricity system. It is also responsible for planning the construction of high voltage transmission lines.

In the course of EirGrid’s pre-planning public consultations on proposed routes for the North-South and Meath-Cavan transmission lines, concerns have been expressed locally as to the impacts of overhead transmission lines. Noting that these concerns are likely to be common to all transmission line projects - and in order to provide clarity on issues in relation to overhead versus underground transmission lines - Minister Ryan announced that his Department would commission an independent national study on this issue.

“The aim of the study is to provide further clarity and information on all of the issues in relation to underground cables and overhead lines. In so doing, we can help inform decisions on all current and future transmission line projects” - the Minister said.

In tandem with the tender process, the Department placed advertisements in nine national newspapers requesting submissions from the public on the issue. Over 500 submissions were received by the closing date of 7th March. The consultants have been furnished with these submissions and will consider points raised, in their analysis of the merits or otherwise of underground and overground options.

The consultants will also be available to meet with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, to discuss the details of the report, once published. It is expected that the report will be finalised by early June.

Ecofys specialises in energy solutions. The company was contracted by Sustainable Energy Ireland, following a competitive tender process to provide the final report of the All Island Grid Study in 2007.

Ecofys will also utilise the services of Golder Associates - a global group of consulting companies specialising in ground engineering and environmental services. Golder has provided environmental consultancy services for a range of electricity generation and transmission-related projects both in Ireland and the UK.