Interconnector: ‘Earliest possible construction date is 2020’

The earliest possible construction date for the controversial North South Interconnector is early 2020, according to Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton.

The minister revealed the news in response to separate questions from deputies Niamh Smyth and Thomas Byrne.

“There are currently a number of ongoing procurements in relation to the project being undertaken and managed by ESB Networks, such as tower design,” Minister Bruton said.

However, no critical procurement contracts such as construction will be concluded until all legal proceedings are resolved.

“The earliest possible date for construction is early 2020.”

Providing some background to the plans, the minister noted that the project will provide a second high-capacity electricity interconnector between the two transmission systems of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“Following a rigorous planning process which included an 11-week oral hearing, the section of the project in Ireland was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanala in December 2016.

This decision was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court and judgement is expected in the coming weeks.

Planning permission was also granted for the Northern Irish section of the project but a judicial review of this decision was begun in Northern Ireland which is expected to conclude later this year, the minister added.

Following motions passed in Dail and Seanad Eireann in early 2017 calling for further independent examination of the project, two studies were commissioned by Minister Naughten and were published on October 2, 2018, following consideration by Government, Minister Bruton added.

“The study conducted by an international expert commission determined that, from a techno-economic point of view, an alternating current overhead line is the most beneficial way of meeting the need for enhanced power transfer capability between Ireland and Northern Ireland,” the minister concluded.