North-South Interconnector: NEPPC calls on Commission for Regulation of Utilities and on European Commission to investigate unauthorised interference and non-compliance with the planning conditions.

February 6, 2019

Request for Eirgrid also to be investigated for facilitating ESB ownership of discharge of planning conditions .

Letters of Complaint:

NEPPC notice to EU OF CRU complaint EU DG Energy February 2019

NEPPC Complaint to CRU February 2019

NEPPC has issued a formal complaint to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU, formerly CER), requesting an immediate investigation into the following:

  1. The unauthorized carrying out by ESB/N of the independent functions of Eirgrid, as specified in the Regulations of SI 445/2000, and the systematic failure of ESB/N to comply with the terms of the Infrastructure Agreement, and
  2.  The dereliction of duty by Eirgrid in not fulfilling its responsibilities under the Infrastructure Agreement and its collusion with ESB/N in intentionally facilitating ESB/N to act in an unauthorized manner

Background:

The European Commission has been very active in addressing potential monopolistic situations in the internal market for electricity. In particular, it has enacted legislation to ensure strict and full separation between the ownership of electricity transmission networks and supply/generation activities. The system as currently applied in Ireland was established in 2006 when Eirgrid was formally appointed Transmission System Operator (TSO) and the licence obligation on ESB, as transmission asset owner, to enter into an ‘Infrastructure Agreement’ (IA) with Eirgrid as transmission system operator became effective. Eirgrid is independent of ESB, with the relationship between the two companies confined to their common public ownership. The European Commission recognises that almost all tasks of transmission system operation rest with Eirgrid and that it was specifically established in order to ensure maximum independence in the carrying out of those tasks. The IA governs the relationship between Eirgrid and ESB. It defines the rights and obligations of the parties to enable them to discharge their statutory duties and responsibilities and it provides detailed definitions and procedures for carrying out such activities.

 

Investigation

 The An Bord Pleanála approval for the North-South Interconnector (NSI) in December 2016 carried with it nine strict Conditions, many of which were subject to agreement with the Local Authorities (LA’s) prior to the commencement of the Development. The implementation of and compliance with these Conditions primarily rest with the Developer – EirGrid. ESB/N is solely the contractor on the project.

It has come to the attention of NEPPC, through AIE requests, that as far back as September 2017, ESB/N took charge of managing the NSI project, including all meetings and discussions with LA’s related to discharge and management of the planning conditions. The IA forbids ESBN from dealing with planning officials because it clearly specifies that dealing with planning officials and any planning permission and other consents necessary for the development of the transmission system are solely the functions of Eirgrid:

IA Clause 7.6.1:          All activities connected with seeking and obtaining Planning Permission (if needed) and any other consents required by the TSO to discharge its Transmission Obligations shall be the sole responsibility of the TSO. These include:

(g) discussions with local authority officials including planning officials;

ESB is required to wait for Eirgrid to provide it with copies of planning permission documentation, including any details of compliance with conditions received by Eirgrid from the Local Authorities. ESB is neither entitled nor allowed to become involved in discussions with the planning officials because that is solely an Eirgrid function. The engaging by ESB/N with planning authorities, over a sustained period of time, including submitting significant variations on discharge of planning condition proposals, in order to carry out Eirgrid’s functions, is open to serious consideration as a criminal offence.

It is of equal relevance that the apparent facilitation by Eirgrid of ESBN’s leadership of the project at LA level, and the support in allowing the production of the Planning Conditions variations report is an action of negligence and a dereliction of duty by Eirgrid.

It is the contention of NEPPC that both ESBN and Eirgrid are in serious breach of the Infrastructure Agreement and we are proceeding to make an official complaint to the EU  Commission. The collusion between Eirgrid and ESBN in relation to addressing the discharge of the Conditions on this project are contrary to the spirit and direction of the EU Commission rulings on unbundling.

NEPPC has requested the CRU to carry out a formal investigation of the above matters in an expeditious manner, given that ESB/N continues to manage the project and is planning further meetings with LA’s.

NEPPC has also requested Monaghan, Cavan and Meath LA’s cease all discussions with ESBN and Eirgrid until the outcome of complaints have been decided and/or criminal proceedings actions have been reached.

NEPPC will be making a further submission to CRU regarding the specifics of the variation on planning Condition proposals made by ESB/N and presented to the LA’s, which contains outrageous proposals to circumvent a number of the An Bord Pleanála key planning Conditions attached to the approval and which request the LA’s agreement to and facilitation of their implementation.

Finally, NEPPC has written a letter to Minister Bruton and to the Cabinet Ministers in the North-East requesting that a meeting be held with Eirgrid and ESB/N in February holding them to account for their actions and directing that both ESB and Eirgrid cease all communications with the Local Authorities.

ENDS

Padraig O’Reilly, on behalf of NEPPC

NOTE:

The approach taken by ESB/N to take over the NSI project at such an unauthorized early stage is very pertinent to the challenges faced concerning landowner access. The IA states  that all arrangements made with landowners in relation to acquisition of wayleaves or land must be negotiated by EirGrid (not ESB) with the relevant landowner and all relevant agreements are entered into between EirGrid and the relevant landowner. ESB are trying to muscle in on this process but they have no authority to do so and will be challenged by NEPPC if any attempt is made.

Letters of Complaint:

NEPPC notice to EU OF CRU complaint EU DG Energy February 2019

NEPPC Complaint to CRU February 2019

Filed under: Press Releases 2019


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