Living next to pylons is safe, says Eirgrid boss

Living next to a pylon is “completely safe” and putting high-voltage lines underground would add some €2bn to the cost of upgrading the electricity network, it has been claimed.

Speaking to the Dáil transport and communications committee about the controversial pylon-based €3.2bn Grid25 electricity network upgrade, Eirgrid CEO Fintan Slye acknowledged concerns about the adequacy of the company’s public consultation process but said that it was “not possible” to place the high- voltage lines underground.

Mr Slye said to transport electricity across the large distances planned in the project, underground lines would require building huge converter stations “larger than Croke Park” around the country at a significantly higher cost — with the works overall adding about €2bn to the bill.

Responding to health concerns, he said a “huge body of scientific evidence” had shown that pylons posed no risk to public health.

Mr Slye pointed out that Eirgrid complies with the most up-to-date national and international guidelines and Ireland operates at 50 times below the exposure limits set by the World Health Organisation.

Labour’s Ann Phelan was critical of Eirgrid’s engagement with the public on the project. “There is zero public acceptant of this project because people feel their concerns and fears have not been addressed,” she said.

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley hit out at Eirgrid for being “less than forthcoming” on other impacts pylons would have on communities — such as the value of property and the impact on the environment.

Fine Gael’s Michelle Mulherin said the only way the public would have faith in the project was if Eirgrid put forward a full evaluation of all options — including putting the power lines underground.

Mr Slye said the need for clear and easily understandable information on all the options was an issue the company would take on board.

“The need for an analysis of underground versus overground is one of the themes that is emerging from this meeting, from the public and from the ongoing consultation process. We need to reflect on that and work out how to provide people with objective, balanced information that is easy to understand,” he said.

When asked by chair John O’Mahony if he would live near a pylon, Mr Slye said he would have “no issue” living near a power line.

“In terms of my personal view, I would have no issue living next to a pylon. In the first instance, I know it’s completely safe. I have no issue with that,” he said.


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