Eirgrid misleading public and misinforming Minister Rabbitte on true costs of Underground cable technology. Undergrounding option is 2-3 times cheaper than overhead lines options

November 16, 2013

Media Release from North East Pylon Pressure campaign (NEPPC)


16th November 2013


Eirgrid misleading public and misinforming Minister Rabbitte on true costs of Underground cable technology

Undergrounding option is 2-3 times cheaper than overhead lines options


The North East Pylon Pressure Campaign group (NEPPC) is the overall representative group for the people of the North East who advocate that high power electric cables should go underground.   It has active, local committees in more than thirty towns, villages or parishes, representing more than 45,000 people potentially affected. NEPPC  believes that new giant pylons carrying 400,000 volt overhead lines are inappropriate for rural Ireland. Numerous advanced and more practical options exist. Since our campaign began, NEPPC has amassed a vast amount of international data and research in support of our case for undergrounding.


The Transmission System Operator (TSO) approach to the grid development has been both biased and blinkered. EirGrid has clearly stated and has shown by its actions that it has an absolute preference for overhead lines in rural areas. EirGrid has steadfastly refused to take account of the advantages and benefits of undergrounding, for our environment, for our landscape and for the communities of the North-East. Instead, it has approached the projects solely on a one-dimensional engineering basis.

The battle lines have been drawn. The key arguments centre around 4 main aspects:

  1. Technical feasibility & reliability
  2. Cost & affordability
  3. Health risks
  4. Public acceptance


Initial arguments from EirGrid focused on claims that undergrounding cable technology was not technically feasible or reliable. Advances in underground technology and the publication of an Independent Expert Commission Report (IEC) has led to the concession by Eirgrid that the deployment of underground cable technology is both feasible and reliable. The key issue is now down to cost and affordability.


The statements and claims by EirGrid on cost of underground cable technology have varied wildly over the last 6 years. Despite its refusal to carry out a site specific underground route and cost analysis for the North-South interconnector EirGrid has not been shy in making apparently authoritative statements on cost.


In 2007 EirGrid estimated the cost of underground cable technology to be 25 times that of overhead lines and pylons. In 2009 this figure was reduced to 7 times the overhead line cost. The most recent statements by EirGrid and by Minister Rabbitte refer to 3.5 times the cost. All of these cost claims are based on hypothetical estimates from various reports.


The reality, however, is very different. EirGrid has direct knowledge of the construction costs of overhead transmission lines. EirGrid recently completed the construction and installation of the underground and undersea 256 km East-West interconnector1 from Wales to Woodland in Meath, and therefore has direct knowledge of the construction costs for undergrounding, especially HVDC cable systems. This is exactly the same system that the Independent Expert Commission report is recommending as suitable for the North-South interconnector.


All of this information is now in the public domain. The average cost for EirGrid’s planned overhead lines Grid West, Grid Link and North-South interconnector is €2.1M per kilometre. The construction cost for the East-West HVDC underground and undersea cable is €2.2M per kilometre. Hence, based solely on EirGrid’s own cost figures the construction cost of overhead lines and underground cables is similar.


These costs refer to construction costs only. EirGrid has refused to accept or factor in any devaluation of property or land caused by extra high voltage overhead lines. It also refuses to accept any tourism or landscape impact. EirGrid refuses to accept any health risks associated with these overhead lines.


A large number of international studies have been carried out over the last fifty years to assess the impact of overhead power lines on the value of residential property and land in close proximity to pylon towers. NEPPC, using international studies criteria, has performed a very detailed analysis of land and properties along the proposed route of the North-South interconnector. This analysis found that property and land losses can be expected in the order of €310Million.

The delays incurred in upgrading the grid also carry a significant cost element. EirGrid and Chambers of Commerce Ireland, estimates this at circa €30Million per year. Planning delays on the North-South interconnector, self inflicted by EirGrid, are now running at a minimum of 7 years behind schedule at best, totalling €210 Million. Undergrounding, however, does not require planning and so provides an immediate solution to this problem.

‘These real costs, which EirGrid refuses to recognise, means that undergrounding is at least 2-3 times more economical than overhead lines, and carries none of the real health issues that the public is concerned about’, stated Aimée Treacy, chairperson of NEPPC.


‘It is high time that EirGrid is taken to task for misleading the public on the important argument around costs, when the company itself possesses accurate figures on both underground and overhead options’ she further stated. ‘The Minister is being badly misled, but he needs to get a hold of his brief and not be a mouthpiece for EirGrid and its misleading statements’.


‘These figures explode the myth being peddled by EirGrid and by the Minister that undergrounding is too expensive. On the contrary, it is more economical. When you factor in the huge public acceptance value of the technology and the elimination of any health risks it really is a simple solution. Undergrounding makes sense and is the solution to a successful Grid 25 roll-out’, stated Ms Treacy



  1. 1.   EirGrid press release 20 September 2012






Filed under: Press Releases 2013

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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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