So, approval for a new north-south interconnector has gone through, without a Sinn Fein minister in charge, at the Department of Infrastructure. Robin McCormick, general manager of SONI (Northern Ireland’s equivalent of Eirgrid):
“we very much welcome this positive outcome from the Department for Infrastructure. The North-South Interconnector is undoubtedly the most important infrastructure scheme on the island today and will deliver very real benefits to domestic and commercial consumers.
“It has received strong support from businesses and employers because of the positive impact it will have on the economy, and from consumer groups as it will help reduce the cost of electricity.
However, south of the border, Eirgrid is still running into cross-party resistance in the Republic:
Last August, Mr Justice Barrett rejected a challenge to An Bord Pleanála’s grant of permission brought by the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign Ltd (NEPPC) and a local resident, Maura Sheehy.
The applicants then sought the necessary certificates to appeal that decision but, on Thursday, Mr Justice Barrett ruled no substantial grounds of appeal had been raised.
He also, in a separate judgment, dismissed the second challenge to the project, brought by Val Martin, a farmer and environmental campaigner.
The judge held Mr Martin, representing himself, was not entitled to be granted leave for judicial review of the Board’s December 2016 permission for the project. Even if he was entitled to leave, the court would have rejected his case on all grounds, he added.
There were, he said, “significant” deficiencies in Mr Martin’s pleadings and they did not meet the criteria required by the relevant court rules.
The core issue for local is the use of pylons to carry a very high tension 400kV circuit linking an existing substation in Woodland, Co Meath, with a planned substation in Turleenan, Co Tyrone.
As noted earlier, the only significant political party that hasn’t protested this proposal is the DUP.
The island imports almost 90% of its energy, so fast and efficient distribution is clearly a big economic factor. Poor distribution east-west also means a poor use of renewable energy sources.
Burying cables is not only expensive, it also creates rigidities in the system meaning that it is hard to develop any future spur lines to carry green energy sources from the west into the national network.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty