The Government has paid €150,000 plus VAT on outside consultants in relation to plans to erect a €500m electric pylon corridor from Kildare to Cork, via Wexford.
The development comes as local community groups continue to gather to fight the new network, despite the insistence of electricity bosses that living near pylons was “completely safe”.
Eirgrid, the State-owned electric power transmission operator, is carrying out a public consultation process on the project, which is part of a €3.2bn investment in the electricity infrastructure.
The Grid Link project will link the national electricity grid in Leinster and Munster. It consists of a new high-voltage 400KV overhead power line linking Knockraha in Co Cork to Great Island in Co Wexford, and on to Dunstown, near Kilcullen, in Co Kildare.
Eirgrid said putting high-voltage lines underground would add €2bn to the cost of upgrading the network.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said his department had spent €148,000, plus VAT on consultants to examine the benefits of putting electricity cables overground.
He told Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív, that his department commissioned an independent study in 2008 on Comparative Merits of Overhead Electricity Transmission Lines versus Underground Cables.
In a reply to a parliamentary question, Mr Rabbitte said: “The analysis was undertaken by international consultants Ecofys, in partnership with an expert in underground cable technology, Professor Heinrich Brakelmann of the Univer-sity of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, and with Golder Associates, a global group specialising in ground engineering and environmental services. This total cost of that work was approximately €123,000, plus VAT.
“In addition, in 2011, I appointed an independent international expert commission to review the case for, and cost of, undergrounding all or part of the Meath-Tyrone line, as committed to in the Programme for Government. This was at a cost of €25,000, plus VAT for each of the three experts involved. The Meath-Tyrone Report — a Review by the International Expert Committee — was published in 2012.”
Mr Rabbitte previously said the Meath/Tyrone report had shown it was three times more expensive to bury cables underground.
He said the demand by rural politicians to put the cables underground would mean higher electricity prices for all households.
“If it were decided to put any part of the transmission underground, and it is possible to part underground or go overground as is the preferred option of Eirgrid, it has implications for the ESB bills, the electricity bills and energy bills of consumers.”
Last week, the designate chairman of Eirgrid, John O’Connor, admitted to an Oireachtas committee he would not like to live near pylons. He acknowledged his preference for not having pylons close to his home as they were visually intrusive and could cause shadows.
Eirgrid does not expect to submit an application to An Bord Pleanála for planning approval before 2015.
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