The Independent MEP, Nessa Childers, has called on the EU Commissioner for Energy to ensure that EirGrid and the Government fully comply with the socio-economic and environmental criteria recently established by the EU for the approval and funding of major electricity projects.

In a detailed three-page letter to commissioner Günther Oettinger this morning, Childers said: “I request your assurance that the commission will insist on full compliance by the Irish authorities with the criteria for funding set out in the commission Decision of 29 October 2012 establishing the 2013 annual work programme for granting financial aid in the field of trans-European networks.”

In her letter to the commissioner, Childers identified 11 major electricity infrastructure projects submitted by Ireland for approval and funding under the EU programme for developing trans-European networks in the field of energy.

AgriLand understands the projects listed are:

• The proposed controversial cross-border interconnector between county Meath and county Tyrone

• Around 40 individual onshore wind farms in the midlands of Ireland to be connected directly to the UK national grid

• A previously unannounced further cross-border interconnector between  county Sligo and county Tyrone

• Two further unannounced interconnectors between the North West of Ireland and Britain that will traverse the island of Ireland

• Installation of massive new wind and hydro-generating capacity in county Mayo

• A subsea interconnector of approximately 600km between Ireland and France.

Speaking to AgriLand, she said: “I am asking you to confirm to the Irish authorities that none of the projects I have listed will be considered for support under the annual work programme for granting financial aid in the field of trans-European networks, unless they have submitted to you, and published, an approved programme for evaluation of the socio-economic and environmental effects of these projects, in consultation with affected stakeholders. In preparing such evaluations, they should prioritise those projects that are in the early stage of the public planning and permitting process.”

She continued: “I wish to convey to you the extreme concern of many of my constituents, and my own concern, in relation to the manner in which these projects are being progressed by the Irish authorities, notably the Transmission System Operator, EirGrid (which is entirely owned by the Irish State), under the oversight of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.”

Childers pointed out to EU Commissioner Oettinger that EirGrid and private sector companies are rapidly moving the proposed interconnector between counties Meath and Tyrone and the wind farm projects in the Midlands to the public planning approval and permitting stage.”This is all without any proper consultation with stakeholders in the affected communities; without adequate assessment of their environmental effects and; without any assessment whatsoever of their socio-economic effects, including – for example – devaluation of farms and homes, loss of earnings in agriculture, tourism, negative effects on areas of natural or heritage conservation and public health,” she outlined.

“The majority of the projects I have listed have not even been put into the public domain by EirGrid yet and citizens are completely in the dark in relation to the full, radical extent of their proposals.  The Irish authorities have made no real attempt to progress these projects in a manner consistent with meeting the commission’s criteria of evaluating their socioeconomic and environmental effects.”

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