Northern Ireland Utility Regulator’s statements deplorable and represent a gross interference in the planning process

October 30, 2015

At EirGrid’s annual customer conference held in Belfast the CEO of the Utility Regulator for Northern Ireland, Ms Jenny Pyper, has announced that the option of undergrounding the North-South Interconnector Project (NSIP) was ‘a myth’ and that the pylon option needed political support to ensure it is built. She made further incorrect and misleading statements on costs of undergrounding being five times more expensive than pylons and about the overhead lines being preferred on a speed of delivery basis.

Ms Pyper’s statements on urgency were echoed by the EirGrid CEO, Fintan Slye, who confirmed that the undergrounding alternative would delay the NSIP too long for it to be considered an option.

NEPPC wishes to make the following comments on these statements:

  1. The NSIP is currently going through the planning process on both sides of the border. It is wholly unacceptable for the regulator to make biased and deliberately misleading prepared statements on the planning application in a deliberate attempt to influence the planning authorities. It represents a gross interference in the planning process and deals a hammer blow to any hopes the public might have had in receiving a fair hearing with the planning authorities.


  1. The Utility Regulator’s statements on undergrounding being a ‘myth’ are incorrect and dishonest. Even EirGrid has conceded the undergrounding is feasible and reliable.


  1. The regulator’s comments on cost comparisons are also deliberately misleading, in line with EirGrid’s irrelevant unrealistic cost comparisons over the last eight years. How can a company which refuses to factor in any costs for property and land devaluation, tourism impact and heritage impact have any credibility on costs analyses?


  1. The affected communities are sick and tired of being lectured to on the costs of undergrounding by a company who has wasted millions of Euros on a botched original planning application in 2009 and which continues to spend vast amounts of unnecessary PR monies on such events as pumpkin festivals and Aussie rules. The same communities are sick and tired of having a 5% PSO levy imposed on our energy bills by the Regulator without any discussion or input.


  1. The Regulator and EirGrid remain in fantasy land in their assumptions that an overhead line and pylons will be built quicker than an underground option. This above all highlights both their contempt for people’s concerns and their total disconnect with the affected communities.


  1. This latest statement from the NI utility regulator follows on from a statement by Deputy Rabbitte that the NSIP ‘cannot be undergrounded’ and more recently from John Fitzgerald, a member of Mr Rabbitte’s appointed panel, where he has stated that: “And it’s not so much for the people of this part of the Island, but for the people of Northern Ireland. If it is not completed rapidly, the North will be at risk of losing power, which could seriously damage the Northern Economy, and risk life and limb in Northern Ireland.” NEPPC wishes to make it clear that the claim of urgency should not be used as a tactic or an excuse to try and force through an overhead lines NSIP without due process, which includes a proper examination of the alternative of undergrounding. This argument is particularly impudent when one considers the fact that EirGrid has wasted 5 years in correcting its original shoddy application and that communities had to raise hundreds of thousands of Euros to challenge this application that was then abruptly withdrawn. Telling the public in so many words now that undergrounding is feasible, but we have not got time to consider it is arrogance personified.


  1. NEPPC notes the contradictory situations whereby the regulator feels free to make broad subjective announcements on the NSIP to the national airwaves, yet Minister White cannot answer any of our questions because he “ will not trespass on these issues, given that there is a statutory body, namely, An Bord Pleanála, dealing with the application”.


-       Ends –

Further information:

Padraig O’Reilly, NEPPC

087 – 680 36 66

NI Utilty regulator interference with due process


Filed under: Press Releases 2015

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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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