Fianna Fáil has demanded that Eirgrid engage with communities over concerns around overhead pylons and stop “dismissing people’s concerns out of hand”.
Eirgrid has been charged with rolling out Grid25, which will see €3.2bn of investment in electricity transmission projects by 2025.
Voltage lines, some as high as 135ft, are to be erected across Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, and Kildare.
Fianna Fáil’s jobs spokesman, Dara Calleary, said Eirgrid needs to start engaging with the public in affected areas both about the health and visual concerns posed by overhead pylons. Those people want the pylons laid below ground.
Their concerns have seen a number of protests held in recent weeks including one in which 1,500 people staged a walk through the Comeragh Mountains where a network of pylons is planned.
Mr Calleary conceded that in areas where there was no impact on populations, amenities or scenic areas, there was an argument to keep it overground.
“But where you are driving it through communities, where you are driving it through schools, where you are driving it through areas of high scenic value, which in turn contribute to the tourism industry economy, and where you can’t absolutely give guarantees around the health side of things it should be underground,” he told RTÉ radio.
However, on the same programme, Pat Rabbitte, the energy minister, said it was not necessary, nor does it happen elsewhere in Europe, that the system be put underground. He said international experts had established it would cost just over three times the cost of overhead power lines.
Mr Rabbitte expressed confidence in Eirgrid saying: “If we want a modern economy, we are going to have to have a modern energy system and that has to be delivered by the agency charged and acknowledged to have the professional and technical competency to do it.”
For its part, Eirgrid said it had been consulting and listening to people and it did accept “there is a visual amenity issue with overhead structures”.
John Fitzgerald, director of grid development, said it had been established that energy costs are key to our economic recovery.
“We have to think about the cost, the reliability,” he said, adding that Eirgrid works very closely with ESB networks to maintain an electricity supply around the clock.
“That is something which can be taken for granted because people are not suffering power outages,” he said. “This infrastructure is required to do that into the future.”
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