The Energy, Environment and Climate Action Division of Engineers Ireland has welcomed the publication of the North-South Interconnector Project Independent Experts Review 2021, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications.

The independent review was undertaken to assess whether the principal findings of two previous studies by an international expert commission in 2012 and 2018 remain valid. These findings followed assessment of the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the north-south interconnector.

Building north-south interconnector above ground

Professor Barry McMullin, chair of the Energy, Environment and Climate Action Division, said: “The publication of the North-South Interconnector Project Independent Experts Review 2021 is the third independent review to recommend the option of building the north-south interconnector above ground.

“While we recognise that there continue to be differing, good faith, views on the merits of overground versus underground grid infrastructure from key stakeholders involved in the project, continued delays in proceeding with the interconnector have already incurred higher emissions, reduced system security and significant costs for all electricity consumers across the island of Ireland.”

Costs for consumers were outlined in the Single Electricity Market Committee’s Constraints Costs and Reforecasts Report, which was published in September 2022 by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities.

The so-called market imperfection/constraint costs have increased from €331m in 2021/22 to €835m for 2022/23. These costs arise from frequent constraints on the use of the cheapest and cleanest sources of electricity generation in the system, in order to maintain a stable grid.

These operational constraints are due to a number of factors, specifically including the absence of the north-south interconnector, but also issues such as the lack of low-carbon sources of system stabilisation (inertia).

Prof McMullin added: “We must prioritise developing our grid infrastructure. It is vitally important that early progress is now made on deployment of the north-south interconnector to support and improve our energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible and to avoid further unnecessary costs for consumers.”