ESB needs to take responsibility for its ownership of the Grid and for its reputation at community level

November 24, 2014

 

EirGrid on course to cause irreparable damage to credibility of ESB by refusing to engage or consult with people of the North-East

 

The ESB submission to the Energy Green Paper highlighted a number of major concerns related to EirGrid’s Grid 25 strategy for upgrading the electricity grid infrastructure. These concerns carry significant weight in light of the fact that ESB is actually the asset owner of the transmission grid. The main issues outlined by ESB are that:

 

  1. The scale of the Grid 25 plans far exceeds what is now actually needed. Grid 25 is founded on a projected 60% increase in overall electricity demand by 2025, whereas EirGrid’s own latest projections now declare a mere 5% projected increase.

 

  1. The significant reduction in overall demand results in a reduction in the level of renewable energy required to meet our binding EU targets. Hence there is a need to reassess the timing and scope of plans for many of the proposed wind farm developments.

 

 

  1. The delivery of major energy infrastructure projects has become a serious problem because of public concerns and a fundamental breakdown in trust between all the various parties involved. ESB states that ‘trust is critical and in this regard decision-making must be fair, transparent, participatory and informed by evidence’.

 

NEPPC wishes to make the following comments regarding the ESB submission, particularly in relation to the North-South Interconnector Project (NSIP):

 

  1. ESB has explicitly highlighted many key issues related to Eirgrid’s Grid 25 strategy and, by implication, EirGrid’s mishandling of public consultation and public acceptance. ESB gives the impression, in outlining the major issues, that it is a neutral observer in this debate and that it has no responsibility to solve any of the issues. This is not the case. ESB is the owner of the transmission infrastructure. It should be calling on EirGrid for an immediate review of Grid 25 scale and strategy. This would carry significant weight and would ensure that EirGrid is not allowed to carry on existing in a parallel universe, where boom-time projected demand remains unchallenged.

 

  1. The second reason ESB needs to get off the fence relates to the critical area of public trust, collaboration and consent. The ESB has nurtured good relations within local communities for many years. It has taken a long time to build this trust, which is a critical component to the long-term success of the company. EirGrid’s steadfast refusal, however, to listen to or engage with concerned communities will become very damaging for the ESB, unless there is a serious change in approach taken. Has ESB thought through how it will contemplate managing to establish an overhead lines and pylons approval for the NSIP, when 95% of the landowners directly affected are refusing to entertain this option? EirGrid plans to plough ahead and submit for planning approval to An Bord Pleanála, despite the fact that the only land ‘access’ they can currently achieve is to use helicopters for aerial photography  over the proposed route. In 2011 EirGrid attempted to intimidate landowners by sending each one a certified letter stating that if landowners did not allow voluntary entry of EirGrid personnel onto their lands that EirGrid may force its way onto the land using its alleged statutory powers: ‘In the event that entry onto lands for the purpose of surveying the route of an electric line across such lands, is not forthcoming on a voluntary basis, then EirGrid may require entry, pursuant to section 20(4) of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1927, as amended by Regulation 8 of S.I. 445/2000’. This heavy-handed approach does not bode well for the reputation of the ESB, or for making any progress on the NSIP.

 

 

  1. ESB states that ‘Ireland needs a comprehensive communications programme, including facilitated national debate…’ But what is ESB itself actually doing in this regard? Is it even challenging EirGrid to step up to the mark? EirGrid was lambasted for its appalling lack of genuine public consultation in its original planning application for the North-South Interconnector Project (NSIP). In particular, its bogus claim to have carried out landowner interviews and questionnaires was heavily admonished by the An Bord Pleanála inspector at the oral hearing in 2010. NEPPC has highlighted to EirGrid and to the political establishment on many occasions the complete lack of proper consultation on the NSIP, especially in relation to an underground route option. The company has refused, even once, over the last 7 years to meet the affected landowners as a group. It refuses to debate on radio with the public on the issue, and prefers to take an ivory tower approach. This is very much at odds with the ‘comprehensive communications’ and ‘national debate’ proposals from ESB.

 

 

  1. NEPPC has argued for many years that the scale of the NSIP is far beyond what is necessary in reality. This can easily be proven by examining EirGrid’s own projected figures specifically for this project. Scaling down the project to a realistic level has major implications on cost and makes the undergrounding option even more attractive. EirGrid has taken out the need for a substation in Kingscourt from the original plans, but has refused to re-examine scale. The ESB needs to challenge EirGrid and the Government on this refusal to accept that the project is over-specified.

 

  1. NEPPC will be writing to the ESB, highlighting the urgent need for the company to take responsibility for ensuring that a proper undergrounding analysis of the NSIP is performed. Otherwise, its statement that ‘decision-making must be fair, transparent, participatory and informed by evidence’ will ring very hollow in landowners’ ears.

 

North East Pylon Pressure Campaign Limited

087- 680 36 66         pjboreilly@eircom.net

Filed under: Press Releases 2014


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NEPP is the overall representative group for the people of Ireland's North East who advocate that high power electric cables should go underground.

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